Find Cheaper Solutions to Expensive Problems

By | 2016-11-28

Somedays it feels like the world wants us to blow all our hard earned cash. Shit breaks, banks overcharge, and it costs a ridiculous amount of money to have a family. Awhile back I wrote about Dealing with Spending Outside of you Control. Now I want to take it one step further and Find Cheaper Solutions to Expensive Problems.

The more I pay attention the more disappointed I am in my old money spending habits. Sure, I price compare and seek multiple bids when I am making a decision. But for the majority of my life, I didn’t look for creative ways to save money. I did what the majority of the population did and took the easy way out.

The easiest solution is probably the most expensive one

Call it the convenience factor, just about any problem can be called with a few minutes of research and phone call. Then boom, hundred to thousands of dollars are shipped out of your bank account.

A few Examples:

  • Child Care – Call up a few centers, find one close by – get a “deal” and pay $300+ a week for someone to watch your child.
  • Furnace – Call around and get quotes, weigh your options. Pretend you are some sort of furnace expert and can tell the difference between a quality furnace and a crappy one. Make a decision and pay up.
  • New Gutters – Yep, you guessed it, call around and get quotes to have someone provide and install.

I could go on, and on, and on about all the problems that are easily solved by a few phone calls. Car and home maintenance come to mind right off the bat.

Finding Cheaper Solutions

Take the same 3 situations above and apply some creativity.

Child Care

One of our family members is quitting their job to stay at home with their baby. They also happen to live close to us which got my brain wheels turning.

Maybe they would be willing to watch ours and make a little income on the side. I decided to throw the idea out there along with how much we would be willing to pay – after a 15 minute conversation we are saving over a $100 a week and our kid is going to be with someone we know. They get to make up a bit of the lost salary without sacrificing their goal of being home.


The furnace in our old house went out the second year we owned the house, this was before we were money pros and didn’t have an emergency fund.

The quotes I got ranged from $2,000 to $3,500 to have it replaced. We didn’t have that kind of money laying around and decided to make a few calls – my uncle happened to know a guy who refurbished furnaces and installed them. He also gave his opinion on which ones were of better quality (I trusted his opinion as he didn’t sell a particular brand and was HVAC certified). $500 and 2 days later we had the heat on again.

New Gutters

We built our own house last year and realized that gutters don’t come standard. After finding out that gutters are insanely expensive to have installed I started seeking a cheaper option. Turns out, one of my softball teammates is a roofer that knows how to install gutters.

Instead of overpriced custom gutter, we bought the standard cheap ones from Menards and he came over and did them for a case of beer and a bench I made ($35 in materials).

I should note that I am not a fan of heights and don’t have a ladder tall enough – this was a sweet deal. I also found out I have a certified electrician that takes side jobs.

One thing that is consistent across these 3 stories is we knew someone that could help us out. While that could be a barrier to some, I bet if you ask around you will be able to track someone down and make a deal.

If not, you can find a lot of people doing side work on craigslist or other forums. Just make sure they have the proper certification and insurance if they are going to do work on your property as a contractor.

Should also highlight that this falls in line with getting a raise at work, you don’t know if you don’t ask. Push your comfort zone and network to save yourself some cash.

Put value on your skills

A lot of people have hobbies that they enjoy doing and don’t monetize. I get that you want it to be fun and don’t want to turn it into a business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to your advantage and create a few win-win situations. If you don’t want to sell, look for trades. Your friends and family have different skills and you may be able to work out a few deals.

I laughed a bit this weekend when my mother in law told us she refused to sell her homemade pickles to someone for a ridiculous price ($10 a jar!). But subsequently agreed to trade a few of them for walleye fillets instead. She has enough pickles to last for the next 5 years. Might as well trade some off!

I like to try the DIY route and rely on youtube videos to show me the way, but there are some problems that I don’t want to try and tackle myself. That is when it is time to seek a creative solution.

The Challenge

Next time you find yourself with an upcoming expense that you would usually solve with a few phone calls, take a step back and see if you can find another, cheaper way to solve your problem.

Would love to hear some more personal examples if anyone has any


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18 thoughts on “Find Cheaper Solutions to Expensive Problems

  1. Amanda @ centsiblyrich

    My husband is awesome at this (thank goodness)! Since we bought a boat in September, we needed to winterize it. After getting a quote from a local boathouse for $300 to winterize and change the oil, my husband took to the internet to research how to DIY it (it’s not easy). We invested a bit into equipment we will use again, but still saved $150 by DIYing it (and next year it will cost us less than $50 since we have the necessary equipment).

    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      That is awesome! Being handy with a boat is a huge plus, they can definetely get expensive (especially if you don’t maintain them – my parents have learned that the hard way).

      Thanks for the comment Amanda

  2. Team CF

    Nice couple of moves here AE! Well done you.
    We do try to do the same here, with mixed results 😉

    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      Thank you – haha, sometimes it doesn’t work out or takes a lot longer than you anticipated. Live and Learn I guess

  3. Ty

    I’m a huge fan of DIY for almost all projects. YouTube how-to vodeos makes tackling projects so easy!
    Also, planning ahead is the best way to avoid paying the ‘convenience fee’ for most things.

    Planning ahead and DIY aren’t very creative, but they’ll still help you overcome expensive problems most of the time!

    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      I stay away from most plumbing and all electrical. Outside of that I try to do everything myself. Good call on the Planning Ahead, last minute solutions are definetely more expensive.

    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      Thanks Fritz, going to have to start making more things in the garage I guess, they are as good as cash for favors

  4. [email protected]

    I like to get creative with free and inexpensive things to do with my kids. It can be easy to fall into the trap of spending a lot of money on experiences with them, but with a little creativity I’ve found you can make ordinary things (like eating breakfast) more fun (by making something homemade and eating in a park). I only wish I could find people to barter with!

    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      Creating memories with your kids is great, and if you can find a creative way to do it free EVEN BETTER

    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      Mrs AE. would love that, she would be making quilts for massages weekly

  5. Andrew

    Loved the stories! I find that referrals often provide great service at a good value. I helped out a friend with some numbers on his business a few weeks ago and got a great home cooked meal in return 🙂

    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      Once you find a good resource spread the love! I pass friends along to my family to do side jobs and they return the favor. Its a great cycle.

  6. Passive Income M.D.

    Awesome, I find that I end up paying more for services I could find for much cheaper when I wait til the last moment to address them.

    A lot of issues in life can somewhat be planned for, and sometimes you don’t need to put in any more work to find a better solution, you just have to pay attention to earlier. Happens all the time to me. For example, I have a great handyman that works for a great price but I always call him last minute and he’s booked. So I end up having to go the 2nd or 3rd person on my list who doesn’t do as good a job and costs more. All cause of procrastinating. When will I learn?

    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      Thats a good point – once you find someone you trust for a great price you better snap their services up when you need them. We used to do this with an auto-mechanic, he got our entire families business until he retired.

  7. Divi Cents

    Being a true DIY guy, YouTube is my best friend.
    I can honestly say that I don’t think there is a job I can’t do with the help of YouTube.
    Being a very frugal dude, I am always looking for the cheapest way to do anything. I hagel with everyone.
    I just recently changed the rear bearing on my honda for $56. The Honda dealership quoted me over $400!

    I’m going to do all new windows this summer by myself! It should be…interesting 🙂

  8. J

    Earlier this year, our cat scratched her cornea and needed it sewn shut to heal. She had to have a cone on for an entire month and she was miserable. The first day she had a terrible time eating or drinking because the cone would push her food and water bowls away from her. It was comical to watch but only for minute before it was sad. We called the vet and they suggested we buy another cone, but before we did, my partner rigged up a food station for the cat. He took the top of a plastic storage container and used masking tape to tape a solo up upside down on it. We put the food on the cup and Bones was able to get her cone over the cup so that she could eat off it. Her paws were on the lid so it didn’t slide or move when she was eating. She was still miserable, but at least she was able to take comfort in food again. We would spend the money if we needed to, but it was nice that he was able to make something work with things we already had in the house.


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