During the first year of our debt pay off journey, we worked very hard at learning how to save money. We cut our grocery costs, cut entertainment, and dumped cable. We rid our budget of the kids’ work-for-pay program and dumped most all extracurricular activities. However, in year two, we’ve learned that although it’s important to always work to cut wasted money (non value-based spending) out of a budget, it’s equally important to know when it’s worth it to spend the cash. And our lesson came at quite the monetary cost.
You see, we live in the upper Midwest, and winters are never what I would call “fun” here (although some of those crazy snowboard/ski fanatics would vehemently disagree with me ) This past winter, however, was crushingly brutal. The evil Polar Vortex reared its ugly head in the Northern United States and Canada for several months. It was so very cold here that there would be weeks when we couldn’t even send the kids outside to play due to sub-zero temps.
What resulted was astronomical heating bills. The problem really started in the summer of 2013. We’d purchased a wood-burning stove, which, once installed, would save us heaps of money on heating our home. We are fortunate to live on several wooded acres, where heating wood abounds. The problem was that, due to our tight money situation, we were afraid to spend the $800 to get the stove installed. We thought we’d learned well about how to save money, and figured we’d pay for the installation of the wood stove this summer, when things had loosened up a bit financially. The Polar Vortex, however, put a huge damper in those plans.
From November of 2013 through April of 2014, we spent just under $4,000 to heat and provide power to our home via propane costs (which were jacked up big time due to the Polar Vortex) and electric heat, which we alternated with because it cost less this year than propane. Normally we don’t even spend nearly that much to power and heat our home for an entire year! Having that wood-stove installed would have no doubt saved us well over the $800 installation cost, and as such, we’ve learned some new lessons about how to save money via spending money.
When you’re deciding whether to spend money in order to save money, it’s important to look at the bigger picture, or to think long-term. Our experience with the Polar Vortex winter shows the dangers of not doing so. On the flip side, there’s our debate about whether or not to purchase a garden tiller. One could argue that the $900 it would cost for a decent garden tiller would be well worth the spend provided we work to feed our family year-round off of our large garden. However, there’s a neighborhood kid who runs a yard care business, and he’ll come and till up our garden for $50. At that rate, it would take us 18 years to make up the money we’d spend on our own tiller. In a case like this, it might just be best to hire the neighborhood kid.
Weigh Your Options
When we were debating on whether or not to install the wood-burning stove last summer, all we saw was $800 flying out the window. We weren’t weighing our options. What were some of our options? Well, we could have Rick work with a friend to learn to install the wood stove themselves, and then get an HVAC professional to certify it, via state law here. That would surely help us save some cash. Or, if we were set on professional installation, we could’ve side hustled or picked up extra overtime to make up the cost. No matter what the situation, there are usually options available that will help you determine whether or not spending the money right now would help you to save money – now or later.
As you likely suspected, we WILL be installing our wood-burning stove this summer. And we’ll work harder in the future to be more objective in deciding whether or not spending money is indeed saving money, as opposed to simply living in bondage to our short-term vision of spending less.
Have you ever had a situation arise where spending money now could’ve saved you more money later?