I have been doing my best to eliminate unnecessary consumerism from my spending routine over the past nine months or so but the empire is crumbling. Click HERE to read my reasons behind why I decided to do this. I have certainly had some success overall, but I have also experienced failures and seemingly unavoidable purchases. The first six months went particularly well in the sense that whatever I owned that broke or wore out, I found an easy replacement or found I could simply live without the item in question. Click HERE to read Update Number Two.
I have also noticed that I am remarkably better at improvising and repurposing items to get the most out of what I already own or have available to me. One profound realization I came to is that sometimes it is just easier and cheaper to buy something. And, for those of you who do not know me, this whole challenge derived from my immense cheapness. The whole point of this is to reduce spending; at least for me personally. A big part of my retirement plan is to simply reduce the need for money.
I have had many, many things break over the past few months. For starters, my blender and TWO food processors. Turns out, I don’t really need this stuff. We still own a stick blender with multiple attachments. I also have a couple of handy dandy manually powered food choppers. A little elbow grease can easily accomplish anything I could do with my food processor. Oh, and it seems that my regular kitchen knives still work just fine.
I will eventually need a blender, but I have several substitutes that will get me by for the next months and possibly years to come. Meanwhile, I am de-cluttering my house by attrition. If something breaks or is not useful to me, I will simply throw or give it away. One item at a time, I am getting rid of things that are not useful.
I have had troubles outside the home this fall as well. It seems I will need a new ice fishing shack of some kind. This is a tough one, because the cost can be fairly high. Read Malcolm’s post on Fishing Without Breaking The Bank. I could probably get into entry level aquaponics for the price of a new ice shelter. I will think about this one for another month or three.
The garage is not exempt from providing challenges either. My garage door has broken twice so far this winter; once only yesterday. I have luckily been able to repair it both times without having to hire a professional. Again, SAFETY FIRST! If I cannot handle a job safely, then hiring a professional is an absolute no brainer EVERY TIME. I assess my skill level, the danger level of the project (which is significant with those giant springs and such), and the estimated cost/savings. The garage door and automatic opener seem to be functioning as a cohesive unit at this point, so keep your fingers crossed on that one!
As soon as the snow and cold air began to really fly, both my garage heater and my secondary vehicle acted accordingly. My garage heater decided to go on vacation. I immediately fell into old habits, read the error code, and decided to track down a new pressure switch. I went out to my truck to leave, but my vigor to fix my heater was met by the cold indifference of a dead car battery. This was, it turns out, a blessing in disguise.
This time out gave me a chance to think, and start doing research. It turns out that a clogged air exchange line can cause the pressure switch error code on my particular propane heater. I cleaned out both ends of the line and restarted the heater. The result was a properly functioning heater with ZERO out of pocket costs. Now, on to the car battery…
I removed my old battery for comparison and core exchange purposes. Your new battery will cost an additional $10 to $20 without your old one in exchange. So, as I left the driveway, I realized that my options were likely limited at 5:45 pm on a Sunday evening. I decided to (begrudgingly) head on down to everyone’s favorite superstore. I loaded the old battery into an abandoned cart in the middle of the frozen tundra of a parking lot and headed on inside.
The greeter put a sticker on my old one, because the dirt and grime from the engine wasn’t enough apparently. As I headed on back to the automotive department, I noticed that my old battery was actually purchased at the exact same store. I also noticed that the sticker date was exactly three years ago, and there is the claim of a full replacement warranty in fairly close proximity to the date sticker. I loaded the new battery into the cart, and headed for customer service rather than the checkout, just in case.
The CSR behind the counter scanned my battery code and found I was indeed still under warranty. I walked out of the store with a brand new battery, and $10.52 back in my pocket. The battery was actually CHEAPER than it was three years ago!
Sometimes it takes careful planning; and sometimes it takes plain dumb luck. Either way, I have managed to get through several challenges without a large out of pocket expenditure. This challenge will wrap up on January 31, 2014. At that time I will provide a final review of the project. I know this already: avoiding a purchase for a whole year is next to impossible, but the attempt alone has taught me new skills and sharpened older skills that will allow me to save money month in and month out.
Malcolm is a Foreclosure Prevention Counselor at LSS Financial Counseling and an important part of the LSS Blog Team.