January 24, 2010

Sometimes You Have To Spend Money To Save Money

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Spend Money Save Money

Sometimes You Have To Spend Money To Save Money

Many years ago my grandfather shared this phrase with me.  And while I love my grandpa, I was a teenage and thought he was out of his mind.  It sounded like double speak.  How do you spend money to save money.  Even thought I was a teenager I knew about saving money and putting it in an account and getting interest, and because of the fact that I was a teenager I thought I was smarter than everyone else, grandpa included.  So I lived with my ignorance for quite some time, blissfully.

Then I got a car when I graduated from college.  My first ‘real’ grown up thing to take care of.  I lived in apartments so I didn’t have maintenance or repairs to deal with.  But with my car it needed some TLC.  But I still didn’t understand the spend money to save money concept.  I was still naive and, well, regardless of that college degree I had, ignorant.  Besides, it was a new car and didn’t need anything special.

Then I bought a house.  To be factually correct, CycleGuy and I got married and then we bought a house.  My grandpa had passed away but when I walked in to my very own house that day I heard those words – Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.  I started to understand what that meant.  I didn’t really get it, but I was starting to.

My house was an unfurnished shell, it felt like Gilligan’s Island — no phone, no lights, no fridge, no washer, no dryer, no this, no that and definitely no other thing!  So in to the appliance store CycleGuy and I walked.  We now had to spend money.  But where was the saving part?  This was long before the internet and the concept of comparison shopping meant driving around town trying to compare apples to oranges.  There was no comparison shopping website.  I was left to my own notebook and long hand of what all the bells and whistles were.

I slowly began to understand the concept of spending money to save money.  My grandma suggested we look at a certain brand of washer and dryer, she said they last a long time.  STICKER SHOCK!  These Maytag puppies were almost twice the price of the seemingly-off brand that sounded more like a 1980s sitcom family than a brand of sturdy appliances.  My first lesson in spending money to save money.  Grandma was very generous and helped us buy the Maytag washer and dryer, which, by the way, we still have 15 years later and they work perfectly .  Other than a $25 repair, they have definitely been worth the price paid.

But, that was then.  How does it still apply?  Well, let me tell you.  About 6 months ago I kept hearing water run and it seemed like the water softener was working over time.  Maybe I was just going insane?  I’ve been accused of being hyper vigilant (that’s nice for ‘crazy’) before, so maybe I’m just hearing water in my head.  Then the water bill came.  It seemed high, but I’ve been washing clothes and CycleGuy was working from home now and BabyGirl seemed to have an urgent need to bathe her Barbies much more frequently.  It was fine!

And the water bill arrived the next month and was a little high.  Or so I thought.  But I didn’t want to call the repair guy because I imagined it would cost over $200 and, well, I could use that money on my vacation.  And then I didn’t call the next month because I didn’t want to spend the money since we had other things that seemed to be more of a priority (dare I say, Wii?).  And another month came and went.  I didn’t want to spend the money and be told there wasn’t anything wrong (I’d already done that on something else and this time I wasn’t going to be foolish!).

But I kept hearing that darn water softener running.  Here I am, 6 months later and I still was rationalizing not spending the money.  At this rate I must have had the softest water west of the Mississippi!  So I broke down and called the softener repair guy.  Super quick service and $120 later my water softener stopping running 24/7.  Ahhhh, quiet!

I got my water bill yesterday.  In one month I lowered my water consumption by 70% and my total bill was about 30% less.  If only had sucked it up and called the repair guy when the problem started I would not have (1) wondered if I was crazy for hearing water run all the time, (2) wasted so much water, and (3) wasted money.  At least I didn’t wait a year, right?

It taught me a very valuable lesson.  The reason I have a maintenance fund is not to spend it on vacation or other things.  I have it for a reason.  I should have used it after I investigated and determined the softener didn’t seem like it was working right.  In addition to being fiscally imprudent, I also wasn’t being a very good conservationist.  I live in the desert (although with all the rain the past few days you’d never know), I should know better than to waste water.  If only I had heeded my grandpa’s advice – Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.  It will take me about 3.5 months to recoup the cost of the repair by having lowered my water bill.  I can deal with that!

Next time something comes up around the house, or really anything for that matter, ask yourself if you’re being fiscally responsible in the larger scheme of your budget by choosing not to spend the money at that time.  This is something that will be especially important to consider within the next few months as the new round of government rebates for household ‘clunkers’ is rolled out.  Don’t look solely at what is coming out of your pocket.  Instead, take a more global view and factor in the long-term savings and remember, Sometimes you have to spend money to save money!

Thank you, grandpa!  It’s taken me this long, but I finally got it.

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