Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spending to Save

"You can get one free if you buy two," the clerk told me as she scanned my candy bar. I thanked her graciously but I told her with a little laugh that if I got three, we would eat them. That kind of spending to save doesn't usually work, unless you normally eat those candy bars often, yet have the self-discipline not to eat all of them that day. So, no, that's not how I "spend to save".

Another thing, "spending to save" often is not an option for those who are struggling just to survive. That's one of the (many) reasons I don't feel we should ever say, 'poor people could help themselves if they wanted to'.  Really? With what? So if you're one of those who is struggling to put food in your mouth, please don't get annoyed at my post about spending to save. Maybe if I can encourage myself and others to save, maybe we will have more to share with you or with someone else who could use a little help.

Okay, here are some of my miscellaneous ideas for spending in the short term in order to save in the long term...or for "spending a little to save a lot":

1) Recently one day, my husband went to zip up his 'decades-old-but-still-very-good' down jacket and the zipper jumped the track (or something like that). I thought maybe I could fix it, but it didn't look I was going to conquer that learning curve in a hurry. So, after calling around a bit, we took it to a dry cleaner that does alterations. They fixed it for him, as good as new. I could hardly believe it cost only ten dollars! Replacing it with a new, comparable jacket would have probably cost at least a couple hundred dollars, maybe more. Back in the days before he had business casual dress at work, he also used to get his dress shoes re-soled, saving a lot of money by not needing to buy expensive new shoes very often.

2)  Ah, and my favorite fence post story.  We once had a large house on a large lot, where we were somewhat "house poor", meaning the house payments, insurance, and repairs were eating away at our discretionary income. We had an essential chain link fence which had a rotting post, rusting out at the bottom where it goes into the ground. Someone suggested we repair it ourselves and told us how to do it. We took off the top of the post; measured the diameter of the pipe; measured the height from the ground to the top. Then, he told us, go to the hardware store and buy a piece of hollow pipe, slightly smaller in diameter and about 2-3 feet longer in height. We climbed a ladder, put the new pipe into the hollow post, and watched it slide down. With a rubber mallet, we pounded the extra couple feet down, down, down into the ground. (Now, had there been good concrete in there, it might not have worked, but the same man who suggested this repair had noticed that the concrete base had worn out along with the pipe.) So the new pipe went in very nicely and held our fence strong for years. Like the jacket zipper, it cost only a few dollars...maybe $20 or $40 to fix all four posts, but in this case - by the time we had fixed all the posts - we may have saved as much as a thousand dollars or more, considering that, without those repairs, we would have had to get a whole new fence.

3) You've all heard this one, but it's so true: An oil change is worth its weight in gold...or at least in oil. My husband and I don't get oil changes every 3,000 miles but we do get them on a regular basis (you can usually check the recommendation in the owner's manual for your car).  My '93 Pontiac minivan made 17 years and just under 100,000 miles before we had to replace it. My husband has driven his 2001 Jeep over 200,000 miles so far, and it's still going strong. That half hour in the quick lube place is so worth it and that 30 to 50 dollars may have saved us tens of thousands of dollars over the years. (But I'm careful about how much extra work I let a quick lube center do...and if they say something major is wrong, I say, "Thank you. I'll tell my mechanic."  We do also have a good mechanic.)

These are just a few of the ways we have saved money by spending money.  Of course, you can also save money without spending money, but I just wanted to share these thoughts for now. How about you?  Are there ways that you have saved a lot by spending a little?

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