7 Things I've Given Up to Prune My Expenses

By glblguy

Tree Pruners

Getting out of debt is much harder than getting in debt. I know, I know that’s obvious right? Well sure it is. The problem is people don’t seem to think about it when they overspend, buy things they don’t need, and live for the moment.

We live in a “I deserve it now, therefore I’m getting it now” world. Living this way is not honoring God first with your wealth. Deuteronomy 8:17-19 says: “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth…It shall come about if you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish“.

God expects us to be good stewards with our money, and if we don’t honor Him and acknowledge that all income and weath we may have come from him, than the outcome won’t be pleasant. Deuteronomy 8:18-19 is a stark reminder that we should not forget where our money comes from and is a warning of what can happen when we do.

As part of honoring God and being a good steward, my wife and I have been working very hard to eradicate our debt. Next to making more money, the best way to do that is to prune your expenses. Here are 7 things I’ve done to do just that:

1 – Eating lunch in the food court

We have a really nice food court in the building where I work. There’s an Italian place, a Chinese restaurant, a fast food chain, and a chain hot sandwich shop. It is so tempting to just grab something to eat downstairs and bring it back to desk. The problem is, it’s expensive. I like eating at the hot sandwich place, as they have really great salads. The salads are $5.00. On average, I work about 20 days a month. If I eat there everyday, that’s $100/month or $1200/year. So I stopped. I now pack my lunch, and only eat in the food court maybe once or twice a month.

2 – Starbucks coffee

We also have a Starbucks coffee shop in the building. Not to mention the 2 that I pass everyday on my way into work. I absolutely love Starbucks coffee, the smell, the taste…But again, it’s expensive. Even to get just a basic Grande size coffee (as opposed to the more gourmet coffees likes the Latte’s, Cappucino’s, etc.) is $2.00. Assuming you get 1 coffee per day for 20 days, that’s $40.00/month or $480.00/year.

I buy Starbucks pre-ground at the grocery store for about $8.00. Two bags last me a month, so that’s $16.00 per month instead of $40.00. It doesn’t taste exactly the same, but good enough for me.

Yes I know, I could drink Folgers or Maxwell House and get it much cheaper, but I enjoy my coffee and it’s one thing I am willing to spend a little more money on.

3 – Avoid places where I tend to spend money

I wrote a full article on this the other day. But just by avoiding places where you tend to spend money, you can save a great deal of money, and have less stuff which is always a good thing.

Only go to the store when you need something and bring a list. Only purchase the items on the list. If you’re bored one day, don’t go to the mall, go the park, visit a friend, but avoid the stores!

4 – RV Camping

We love to camp and particularly love to camp in an RV. I am just not a tent camping kind of person. I like the outdoors, don’t get me wrong, but only when I can close the door and avoid the nasty side of the outdoors (rain, bugs, critters, etc).

We have had a travel trailer (a pull behind camper) for about 12 years. We made it a habit to try to go camping at least once a month. It was great family time. We enjoyed seeing new places and the adventure of staying in remote locations. Not to mention it’s nice to just bring your own home, bathroom and kitchen with you.

The problem is RV Camping is expensive. Pull behind campers for the size we need run about $15,000 – $30,000. They depreciate like nothing I have ever seen. Camping runs about $30 – $70 per night. Add to that insurance, items required for the camper, well you can see where I am going with this. Oh, and I forgot, you have to have a big vehicle to pull it.

We sold our camper and the Dodge Ram Diesel pickup truck I had to pull it. It freed up more than $700.00 a month for us. We’ll go back to it, but we’ll be a great deal smarter the next time. Anyway, this saved us $700.00/month or a whooping $8400/year!!

5 – Renting Movies

We have all put stopped renting movies. Every so often we’ll watch one and when we do we usually just order it through our cable provider where they are cheaper. We used to rent 2-3 movies a weekend, which works out to be about $48.00/month or $576.00/year. Instead of watching movies, we watch various TV shows, or just turn the TV off altogether and read, work our our hobbies, or head outside with our kids.

6 – Watering the Yard

Not sure about yours, but my yard looks terrible. It’s all dried up and yellow, and I now have more dirt than grass. In the spring it looked like a golf course, now it looks like a desert. The same cycle occurs every year. Spring, re-seed, fertilize and water…grass is beautiful and green. Summer comes, grass burns up and dies. Fall, re-seed, fertilize and water…grass is beautiful and green until it goes dormant for the winter.

What a waste. Every summer, we are under water restrictions, and frankly watering my lawn really cranks up the old water bill. To the point of doubling it.

I am tired of fighting and endless battle, so we stopped watering it. I’ll still do some basic maintenance and watering in the fall and spring as we live in a neighborhood and I respect my neighbors enough to keep the yard looking nice, but I refuse to work so hard and pay so much money for it. It just isn’t worth it.

By not watering my yard every night, I save about $40/month or $480/year on my water bill.
7 – Buying generic brand clothing

In the past, I always purchased brand names. Not for vanity reasons, but because I thought the quality was better. In same cases this is true. For example, I have had a pair of Doc Martin dress shoes for about 6 years. I wear them practically everyday. They are reaching the end of their life, but have been an incredible pair of shoes. I mean 6 years!

In general though, you can get just as good of quality from non-name brand versions. I now own 2 pairs of Sam’s Club member mark jeans. They are in the closest next to my Levi’s. My Member’s Mark fit better, have heavier material and seem to wear far slower than the Levi’s. I have worn Levi’s all of my life, but no more. Member’s Mark for me going forward.

I am not sure of the savings per month, as I don’t buy clothes for myself monthly. But I would suspect just comparing item to item cost, I have cut my clothing expenses in 1/2. So being conservative, let’s assume I spend $500/year on clothing, I now only spend $250. That’s $21.00/month or $252.00/year.

Using these numbers, but following these 7 steps, I now save at least $949.00/month or $11,388/year!!!! Those are huge numbers. I say at least because I really can’t account for how much I have saved by avoiding places I like to spend money.

Take a long hard look at your expenses. Look for any opportunity you can to prune your expenses. This might involve making some really hard choices, like we had to do with our RV. Sometimes you have to sacrifice in the short term to gain in the long.

What have you done to reduce your expenses? What tips can you provide to other readers? Jump in, we would love to read about your ideas!

49 Responses (including trackbacks) to “7 Things I've Given Up to Prune My Expenses”

  1. Pinyo Says:

    Glblguy, thanks for sharing. Wow, I didn’t know RV camping is so darn expensive. I guess it’s not a poor man hobby.

    I agree fully with avoiding places where you spend money. We also recently canceled our NetFlix account and put a freeze on buying new movies.

  2. justin Says:

    Checkout ebay for Starbucks coffee. No joke.

    I got 10 pounds for $56. Which equates to 5.60 a pound. Shipped. Much better than the 8 bucks for 12 ounces at Kroger.

    Also… RVing is not camping. No matter how you try and justify it. If you’re not sleeping on the ground, it’s just a vacation. ;)

  3. Heidi Says:

    We’re thinking about selling our car. HOw did you sell yours?

  4. glblguy Says:

    @Pinyo – Well, it wouldn’t always be I guess. I have a big family, so a big camper is required. With a big camper you need a big pull vehicle. I had a $30,000+ full size Dodge Truck I bought new (when I was living in the land of stupid).

    @justin – Thanks, I’ll have to check that out. Never even thought to look on eBay. On camping, I agree…we always tell people we go “camping” (note the quotes) :-)

  5. glblguy Says:

    Hi Heidi, I had a 1 year old truck, and fortunately had put a large down payment on it. So I traded it in for the 2001 Nissan Sentra I now drive and they paid me an additional $1000 or so for the equity.

    The best way, in my opinion to sell your vehicle is list it the Autotrader (http://www.autotrader.com). Trading is not normally a good option as the dealership won’t give you as much for it as a retail buyer. You can try your local paper as well.

    One the best and cheapest ways is to put a sign in, and park it somewhere visible. I told a car a few years back, put a sign in the window and parked it at the entrance area to where I work. If you know someone that lives on a busy street, see if they will let you park it in their front yard or driveway.

    Good luck! Oh, to research its value, check out http://www.edumunds.com.

  6. Lynnae @ Being Frugal Says:

    Tent camping is not that bad! :)

    I’ve been trying to convince my husband to let the lawn go brown for some time now. He’s not buying, though.

    Heidi, another good way to sell a car is to list it on Craigslist.org. We sold my father-in-law’s truck that way. There are no listing fees, and lots of people look for cars on Craigslist.

  7. glblguy Says:

    Lynnae, I agree but not as nice as in an RV :-)

    Thanks for suggestion Craigslist. Given I sold my camper on there, I should have recommended that too. It’s free as well, so Heidi, I’m with Lynnae, try Craigslist first.

  8. mapgirl Says:

    I can’t imagine buying 10#’s of coffee all at once. I have one bag of Starbucks coffee that I bought in April. I still have it on my desk at work. I get it french press ground and then brew it in a tall cup. Really cheap.

    Having done the RV and tent camping, I see the appeal of the RV, but you can also rent them if you want to do a once a year splurge.

  9. glblguy Says:

    mapgirl, I’ve tried french press…didn’t care for it. I always got grounds in my coffee which I can’t stand. Is that typical for french press?

    Yes, renting is a good option if you have a smaller family. They don’t make a rentable model that will haul all of us (there’s 8 of us).

  10. mapgirl Says:

    Grinds on the bottom are typical for french press, but very tiny ones, like silt. Are you getting a french press grind, or using espresso/drip grind in a french press? That will make a huge difference. French press grind is much larger than drip coffee grind.

    The trick for me is to use a very tall narrow mug. Let the grinds settle before drinking, and skip the last 1-2″ and dump that out. Getting a mouth full of grinds is gross, but I’m learning just to eat them for the anti-oxidants instead of spitting them out, which is far more disgusting, IMHO. I admit, it’s not for everybody though.

    8? Yeah, that’s a lot. I don’t think I’ve seen one that has riding seats for 8.

  11. glblguy Says:

    Ah, that was probably my problem. Now I feel stupid :-) I was using drip grind coffee. I’ll give the french grind a try…now if I can just find that french press…

    re: RVs. Nope, none with 8, at least none of that I am aware of. You have to go with a pull-behind, either a travel trailer or 5th wheel, which of course requires a big pull vehicle.

  12. Justin Says:

    @mapgirl: We drink starbucks at work in our group, so we go through a pound every couple of weeks. However, you can get smaller amounts. The coffee arrived in 1lb bags, just like you buy at Starbucks itself.

    @glbguy: That RV stuff sounds like it will be much cheaper once some of those kids have left the nest. Wow, that’s a litter and a half.

  13. mapgirl Says:

    Justin – LOL. I thought you meant 10#’s for YOURSELF.

    Glbguy – Don’t feel stupid. It’s a pretty common mistake. I used to get drip grind too. Occasionally I would make french press, and suffer the same problem. It’s a pretty common thing to do. I never knew that the size of the grind mattered till I started making it with a press.

  14. glblguy Says:

    @Justin – Yep, they’re great kids though. They keep us busy, but wouldn’t trade them for the world.

    @mapgirl – Ok, I feel better now! Thanks for the suggestion, might have to try it this weekend.

  15. Matt Keegan Says:

    For those uncommon times when my wife and I want to watch a movie, we find one through the cable company and download it. This avoids going to Blockbuster to look through endless titles and coming away with more movies than we could possibly watch.

  16. Justin Says:

    The problem with watching pay per view is, more often than not the aspect ratio is Pan and Scan. Give me original aspect ratio or give me death!

  17. glblguy Says:

    @Matt – Exactly what we do.

    @Justin – I agree, there are a few available on the HD pay per view, but not many. Hoping they fix that soon…

  18. Erin Says:

    I was thinking about Tip #6 today as I went for a walk around my neighborhood.

    We seem to do the same cycle as you, seed, water, have green grass, water some more, and it still dies. So I stopped watering a few weeks ago. My grass looks just like all the others who do water. (except for the ones that have irrigation systems and are able to water at night and have the high water bills to show for it too). We’ll wait a few more months, reseed, lay some sod in the back and hopefully nurture our lawn back to pretty again. Just in time to sell in the spring :) But for now, we are saving money by not watering.

  19. glblguy Says:

    @Erin – We have an irrigation system that came with our house when we bought it. I used it for a month, got the water bill, hardly used it since.

    The big question for me is how much effort should I put into in the fall…we may be selling in the spring too…

  20. Cheufong Says:

    For me, books used to be a major expenditure. I just love the feel of new books and the prospect of discovering new info, new places through the books. I could spend up to $100 a month on books. Sadly, of all the books I bought, there are still some sitting on the shelves waiting for me. Now I go to the library. So that saves me $100.

  21. glblguy Says:

    Same here, I think books and electronic gadgets are my biggest weaknesses.

  22. Kat Says:

    @glblguy: books are my big weakness, too, and my husband is a sucker for the latest computer parts. I have a field day with our online library catalog now, instead. Occasionally I have to wait a while for a book (bestsellers), but usually not long. I’ve found if I get them in the large-print edition, they’re almost always available either right away, or I’m next on the list. There’s also a “nextbook” wait list option for books that haven’t been published yet. Considering I often go through 15 to 20 books a month or more (especially in the summer when it’s hot, and in winter when I knit while I read), that’s a biiiiig savings! Our library also has a huge collection of movies on DVD, as well. Another shameless plug for libraries, your local Friends of the Library probably has used book sales every so often, too. At ours, which we have at least quarterly, hardbacks are $1 and paperbacks and kids’ books are 50 cents. Magazines are 10 cents. Super deal.

    Re the “camping,” yeah…..my days of sleeping on the ground are OVER. Ten years ago, I took one of my exchange students camping on the Alabama coast. It was beautiful, but the lightning storm that night brought back just why I’d quit doing that in the first place. First we broke the tent pegs trying to hammer them into rock-hard ground…then laid awake under a canopy of HUGE pine trees during one of south Alabama’s famous lightning storms. Then finished the night in the car. Nope, not me. No more.

    Two years ago, hubby and I were at (no lie!) Paw-Paw’s Camper City, looking at RVs and tow-behind trailers. A week later, Katrina hit, and my sister has been stuck in one of those trailers for 18 months while she rebuilds. And knowing what we do now about the outgassing of formaldehyde, I’ll never look at them the same again. Uggh.

  23. glblguy Says:

    Thanks for the great comment Kat. I need to check-out (pun intended) the library a little more. Great suggestion too about the “Friends of the Library”, I’ll have to look into that some more.

    As for camping…wow, we’ve had some bad trips but not that bad….”outgassing of formaldehyde”…YUCK! Have to admit, that part of RVing is the least pleasant.

  24. Kat Says:

    @glblguy: I have to admit being biased toward the library and Friends organizations, as I’ve been a director on the board for years. Our library system, while not large, is pretty spectacular; they were one of the first places to get power post-Katrina (after hospitals) and phone service, and they scrambled to get more computers so people could communicate. So obviously, I have an extra attachment to them. :) We have tons of other free entertainment through our library system, as well: scads of children’s programming, arts outreach programs, including a mini-performance of the Nutcracker at Christmas, a host of speakers, from women’s studies to the Master Gardener programs, online (free) connection to the Rosetta Stone language program (helpful for those of us scrambling to learn Spanish as the face of SE Louisiana changes), International Film Nights and teen Mystery Night dinners. All this, and we only have one relatively small branch library at our end of the parish (the other was a storm casualty).

    Re the formaldehyde: yes, I was stunned to learn the federal government didn’t seem to know of the outgassing problem in trailers. Hrrmph. That was what kept us from buying one in the first place; when we were looking at campers, going into them made my eyes and nose burn fiercely, and nixed the idea of buying one.

  25. glblguy Says:

    Great info on libraries, thanks!

    Good thing about outgassing is it goes away quickly…I just hate they use it. There has to be a better way…

  26. Kat Says:

    A better way? One can only hope. After a flood 12 years ago, I redid the house completely in ceramic, and it’s cut way down on allergies, etc, which made me wonder even more about all the chemicals. Not anxious to repeat the tile-laying experience, though.

    I so hear you on killing off the lawn. We’ve had enough rain lately that ours is still determinedly green, and my husband always fusses when he has to cut it. He, of course, belongs to the “pave it over and paint it green” school of horticulture. Our water bill went up when we watered, but not as much as yours. His rationale against watering was that it just made it grow that much faster. Obviously, ours is NOT the house with the golf-course-like lawn! Weed-free, neatly edged, and that’s about it.

  27. glblguy Says:

    Wish mine was weed-free. It was in the spring, and now it’s more weed than grass…*sigh* It’s so frustrating, and honestly way too much work…maybe I’m just getting old!

    I like the pave it and paint it green, sign me up ;-)

  28. PaulaB52 Says:

    We don’t do the weed/feed/water the lawn bit. We live on 2 acres and it’s just too expensive! like Kat’s husband, I don’t want to have to mow more often than I do LOL.

    You know what is so frustrating to me about all these frugal tips? I’m already doing them, so I’m not getting any new ideas! I’ve been doing them. Bummer for me, but good for you for saving all that money.

    Goodwill/thrift stores are great places to find name brand clothing for less than 5.00/each. Especially good for kids’ clothing.

    My boys have friends whose parents have drivable RVs. While they are nice, I can’t imagine trying to drive one of those things thru the Smoky Mtns, or up the west coast. I would probably die from a stroke. It was bad enough in a smaller car!

  29. glblguy Says:

    PaulaB52, I cannot even imagine the water bill for two acres of grass! As for doing them already, well…just stop doing them, re-read my articles and then they will be of value again ;-)

    As for RVs, driving them does get a little hectic, but you get used to it.

    Thanks for the comment!

  30. Kat Says:

    @PaulaB52: If you come up with a solution to the two acres, let me know! My family has a 6.5 acre “compound” of three lots; so far, my sis is the only one living on it as she builds on her two acres. And I hear DAILY about the grass situation, even though she’s using one of those zero-radius mowers that goes faster than my truck. Eventually, I’ll have to deal with two of the other acres (realistically, we’ll share all 6.5 because my dad just can’t do it anymore). I fantasize about industrial Round-Up applications. Too bad run-off winds up in the lake. We’d planned to leave it mostly wooded…till the hurricane. With what insurance costs here now, though (3-5x what it did two years ago, for less coverage, IF you can get it), building day is a loooong way off. So I’m stuck maintaining property I can’t even live on. Go figure.

    Years ago, my husband and I tried to take my old 84 Buick LeSabre (inherited from Grandma), through the Smokies. I thought we were going to have to get out and push to get up the hills. :) We are total flat-landers.

  31. Vivienne Quek Says:

    When I want to buy stuff, I’ll ask myself if it is “must have” or “nice to have”. If it is a “nice to have”, I’ll put off the buying decision. The rational is if I don’t think about it that night, tomorrow and the day after, there is no reason to buy it at all.

  32. glblguy Says:

    Vivienne – That is great advice. Sleeping on something always gives you a different perspective.

  33. Greg Says:

    If french press isn’t your thing (it’s not mine), you should look into the “pourover” method (see http://www.coffeegeek.com/guides/howtouseapourover for more info) — it uses regular ground coffee and hot water, and makes one absolutely fabulous cup of coffee at a time. I started doing it a few months back and am just about to retire the old coffee pot from disuse. Around here, you can find the pourover container and filters at most grocery stores (Kroger, Schnuck’s) for about $3. It’s also plastic and fits right on top of a regular coffee mug, so it’s super easy to clean (just pour a little of the leftover boiling water in there) and very durable for travel (as opposed to most french presses that I’ve seen which are glass and metal, etc).

    As far as other money saving tips go, they have a new thing (again) at many of the groceries stores in town where you can rent a DVD from a touch-screen kiosk for $1 a day. You use your debit visa to check it out and when you bring it back, it charges you $1. If you live close (or even reasonably close) to one of them, you can bring it back the same or next day and then the rental only cost you $1. Even if you can’t get back for 2 or 3 days, it usually ends up costing less than a “normal” rental or PPV movie. The downside is that it’s pretty much only recent movies (though for most people that’s not a problem) and quantities are limited, especially on the weekends. But still, $1 a day is hard to beat.

    Don’t remember where I heard it, but someone else suggested going shopping with a friend and swapping lists — because you’re not going to buy extra stuff for your friend that’s not on their list! Doing it at different times (or different stores, I guess) would lessen the chances of tracking them down and going over and putting something “extra” into your basket of items. We haven’t tried this yet, but seems like a really good way to stick to the list and only the list.

    As for books (I’m a computer guy and book fiend as well) — I keep an eye out for Border’s 30% off coupons which they sent out pretty often (if you have a Border’s Bookstore or Waldenbooks near you) and try to buy the (often expensive) books I need only when I have one of those. Also, if you have a Books-A-Million bookstore near you, they run great clearance deals on books that are sometimes old, sometimes not. Much of my book purchases in recent years have come from one of these two categories. Also, if you shop on Amazon and add items to your shopping cart, it can serve as a running wishlist *and* it’ll notify you if the items you have in your cart have gone up or down in price since you checked it last. I believe there’s a site that’ll do it for you automatically, but I prefer to keep tabs on things myself.

    Ebay, pawn shops, thrift stores and used CD’s shops are a great way to get music CD’s at a reasonable price (and sometimes DVD’s, too). And lastly, http://www.slickdeals.net is a great way to find short-term bargains on great stuff. There are a number of sites out there like slickdeals, but it’s the one that I use the most. And if you check them out, be sure to check out the Hot Deals forum as well as their frontpage, as a lot more stuff shows up in the forum than on the front page.

    Anyway, hope this helps! Great blog and site — thanks for sharing.

  34. glblguy Says:

    @Greg – Thanks for your comment Greg…for some reason my current theme doesn’t seem to like your comment…I’m working on fixing it :-(

  35. Jeff Says:

    I really haven’t looked at my water bill for our lawn, that is a great suggestion. However down in the south they say that you only need an inch of water a week and the less often you water the deeper the grass roots grow which allow less watering. I also cut my lawn an inch or so higher then the rest of my neighbors which also allows for less watering.
    Just a little food for though to those of us that still want our lawns to look pretty. :)

  36. glblguy Says:

    Hi Jeff. I know they say that, but in my experience it doesn’t work. The past few years have been so hot and dry, unless I soak it nightly, it just burns up. I also cut mine higher, as I’ve read that’s better for the grass anyway. Great suggestions, but I’ve just found it’s really fruitless unless I spend a fortune.

    I’m going to put some work into it in the Spring, and I’ll keep it nice, just not going to put the money in I have in the past.

    Thanks for the suggestions!

  37. Jeff Says:

    Hi glblguy I think understand what you mean, I am also looking at ways to cut the fat, and the lawn is definately one area I didn’t think of before. I’m going to look into my records to evaluate costs. Great thought provoking post!!

  38. shaleh8 Says:

    I have given up satellite TV for a year now; the internet is my only source of entertainment. $1200 that was cut from my budget. I really miss it because special events such as the Grammys and wanting to watch Dave Ramsey each evening was a huge trade off.

  39. william Says:

    I guess it all depends where you are in life. I enjoy taking the family out in our 5th wheel, yeah diesel is expensive, as well as a whole host of other things, but you have to enjoy life also.

    You can save money all your life just in time to spend it before you become cripple or die. I choose to just try and make more of it, as well as cut back on the things that are just outright ridiculous (starbucks $3.50 cup of coffee).

    But life is to be lived and the memories we make with our kids camping(no sleeping on the ground for me) are worth it.

  40. DollarDream$ Says:

    About renting movies – for $17 a month you can easily watch 8-10 movies without having to go to the store ( not using gas) – try NETFLIX !! It’s great service. Will save you lot of money and least expensive way to kill time over the weekends. For me it’s totally worth it!


  41. Make Friends, Earn Money Says:

    for me its buying coffee out. I haven’t stopped completely but like you I realised I was spending far to much on coffee during the working week. It’s amazing just how uch I’ve saved by being a little more frugal.

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  43. Leigh-Anne Says:

    Costco is a money waster! I used to shop there religiously. For about 6 months now, I have stopped shopping there for most things and find that I don’t spend as much. By buying my meat weekly, I make better shopping choices all around. The only thing I still buy at Costco is laundry soap, cleaning supplies, and shampoo/conditioner.

  44. Andrew Mooers Says:

    You post “The problem is people don’t seem to think about it when they overspend, buy things they don’t need, and live for the moment.” If kids earn their spending money early on, they do. Caution to spend only if they need it, not just want it momentarily. And they get value, or keep looking. Money not parted with like it was water through your fingers. And what you buy, you take care of because you earned it. Not handed money to manage but you actually know that $3.60 is having to pick six 165 pound barrels of potato during spud harvest. One example.