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How to Save Money: Spend Money

When I would rather spend than save

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.

Think Long-Term

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?


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About the Author Laurie

Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.

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22 comments
Brian @ Luke1428 says April 30

I can see how you would have been hesitant to not spend the $800 considering what you’ve been trying to accomplish with your debt payoff. The emotion of that money flying out the window probably kept you from seeing the bigger picture and thinking about a worse case scenario (like you had with the cold winter). I’ve certainly been a victim to letting the emotion of spending money cloud my judgment.

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    Laurie says April 30

    Thanks, Brian – glad we’re not the only ones who get caught up in letting our emotions manage our money. We’re learning, though. 🙂

    Reply
declutterbugcouk says April 30

We need to exchange our single-glazed windows for double-glazed. A huge one-off expense (at least $10,000) but it will save us money on heating every year afterwards, and also add value when we come to sell the house.

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    Laurie says April 30

    That’s something important to think about, the re-sale value. Some expenses won’t help re-sale, but better windows absolutely will.

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Lauren says April 30

You make some great points, Laurie. With big expenses like the wood stove, you really do have to think about the long term benefits and how it can actually help your overall goals, rather than hinder them.

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    Laurie says April 30

    So true, Lauren, and we are finally learning to do that. We may be slow, but we get there eventually. 🙂

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@WilliamLipovsky, First Quarter Finance says April 30

My cousin’s large house is heated entirely by a wood-burning stove. Besides the tiny hassle of waking up once a night to add wood, he loves it. It’s basically free heat!!! Do it!

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    Laurie says May 1

    Can’t wait for that, William. Next year’s heating bills should be beautifully low. 🙂

    Reply
Tonya@Budget and the Beach says April 30

4k ouch!! But you’re not the first person I’ve heard who had to pay that much. Stupid polar vortex. My car would be a great example of how I should have spend money on better maintenance to protect it from huge future repairs, oh, and paying for the AAA upgrade for more miles of towing. Long story but that could have saved me thousands. 🙁

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    Laurie says May 1

    Cars are another terrific example of how spending money can save money. We’ve had those same experiences too, Tonya. Oh well, we live and we learn. 🙂

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John @ Frugal Rules says April 30

I would’ve likely made the same decision Laurie as I would have hated seeing that money go out the window. Even if we have it saved for it can be a challenge for me at times to justify spending the amount. That said, I’ve gotten better with it and it’s important to be able to look at the long term impact. The cost may hurt in the now, but if it’s going to save you a good bit in the future then it likely makes sense.

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    Laurie says May 1

    Yeah, I agree. It’ll be painful to write that check this summer, but I’ll bet we’ll be SO glad we did come winter. 🙂 Thanks, John, for weighing in.

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Shannon @ Financially Blonde says April 30

We needed to replace our washing machine recently and even though the initial cost was painful, our new machine is water efficient and we have actually already seen a significant drop in our water costs.

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    Laurie says May 1

    Wow, that’s amazing, Shannon!!! Our washer and dryer are going to need to be replaced soon, and I know that picking more energy efficient models will be totally worth it.

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Tanya says April 30

Ouch! That is quite a high bill. Thinking long term really does pay off.

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Kim says April 30

I would have probably not paid for the installation either if I were in your shoes. Who could have know what a bad winter you would have had. I shelled out for new snow tires this year, and it didn’t snow that much, but if I hadn’t had them it probably would have been a blizzard every weekend.

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    Laurie says May 1

    LOL, it seems to go that way, doesn’t it?? If we would’ve had it installed it probably would’ve been the warmest winter on record. 🙂

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John Schneider says April 30

Nice job making the big decision. I think it’s important that often times reaching financial goals is a marathon and not a race. When we try to achieve financial goals too quickly, i.e., hot stock picks, buy cheap over quality, etc., it can push achieving our goals further out. Enjoy a toasty winter.

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    Laurie says May 1

    Great point, John! You’re right about the toasty winter: it’ll sure beat keeping the heat down super low. 🙂

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Dee @ Color Me Frugal says April 30

I’m with Kim- I swear sometimes things happen just because you either did or didn’t prepare for them! If you HAD installed the stove, it probably would have been a lovely winter and you would have wished for your $800 back. 🙂

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    Laurie says May 1

    LOL, yeah, I don’t wonder if that’s true, Dee. But whaddya do? 🙂

    Reply
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