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.
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.
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.
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
Some products that can help you:
Personal Capital: Personal Capital has a ton of great Free features, you can track your spending, net worth and even analyze your portfolio. It has top notch security and I am able to connect all of my accounts. Saves a ton of time!
Sofi – I saved a ton of money using SoFI for a Student Loan Refinance. They were great to work with, the process was super easy (compared to my previous refi) and I got a great rate. If you have student loans be sure to check them out.