One of the unsung benefits of frugality is that you end up doing a broad range of things in addition to your work speciality. This has the added benefit of adding novelty to my week which I really enjoy.
For example, just this past week I changed the oil in the car, mowed the lawn, planted grass seed, baked a casserole and perform a variety of similar tasks.
Each of this were challenging, unique and the results were satisfying. It is easy to imagine that anyone of these tasks repeated 8 hours a day would become boring and then feel like a job. Instead they are interesting, productive and tax free ways to save money.
Tips for making the most of novelty
For me there are a couple of things that really making saving money fun:
I don’t take on too much. I leave the high pressure stuff for the workplace and try out money saving tasks that you enjoy. Your financial security and contentment will both increase.
I purchase (or borrow) great tools. It’s no fun to mow the lawn with a beat up device and usually a good tool pays for itself in weeks.
I calculate your hourly rate for those DYI tasks. For me it is usually more per hour than I make at work.
I take your time and do the job you are proud of your small task. This is, after all, my leisure time.
Have some doubts? Trust the fine folks at Harvard who report that works make you happy. Don’t let someone take away your happiness and your money just to windex your windows. Do it your self and grow your contentment and your bank account. Better yet try it out and see for yourself!
There is a mathematical model that joins space and time into a continuum. The physical manifestation of this truth is the rate of time observed depends on an objects velocity relative to the observer.
By NASA/Crew of Expedition 22 – Public Domain, Link
This theorem is also the basis for the original planet of the apes movies (must see!) where Charles Heston and his costars were flying really fast for a bit and when they return home, planet Earth had experience thousands of years where they experience only a few. And during that time difference the Apes took over. Not intuitive but that is how space-time works.
The Money Space Time Continuum is the similar and indicates that the lowest cost route is often also the fastest route to accomplish something. Cheapest should be slowest, and it often is, but not as often as one would expect.
Being clever (or so I thought) I picked up a pair of factory seconds Road Warriors for a fraction of the cost of regular new shoes. Usually a factory second has some minor unbelievable small defect – like a small nick or tiny
discoloration that only an expert can see.
Not in this case. These factory seconds squeaked. And I mean duck—honking-loud-all-day-long. I figured they just needed to break in. Weeks later I realized this problem was here to stay and it was starting to raise eye brows as work.
No problem – factory seconds don’t quite meet the high standard of the fine Allen Edmonds Shoe Company. They are low cost and usually still better than regular dress shoes but occasionally you will get a dud. Time to watch for a sale and drive to a shop to replace them. Their stores are really far from me so it was going to be an all-day affair that I was dreading.
Double Spend Problem Avoided
And then I remembered the Money Time Space Continuum. This theorem that I just made up (but others have observed and reported on) states that the lower cost solution is often faster. And the low cost option is to repair stuff. I rushed online to see if anyone else in the world ever had squeaky shoes and if so, did they invent a way to fix them? I am not the first and apparently the solution was to add baby, talcum or baking powder under the insert and where the leather touches. This does two things – absorb any moisture and lowers the coefficient of friction between contact points resulting in noise free movement. Being the proud owner of talcum powder I distributed it liberally in the all the hidden squeak zones. The next day I walked the halls of my office complex in Ninja like silence.
I save the trek to the store and the after tax hours of labor to pay for a new pair of shoes. Hours, stress and the environment impact saved by remembering the Money Time Space Continuum.
Before you have to take a bunch of time to spend a bunch of money – stop and consider alternatives. Often you will end up with time saving alternatives that keeps more cash in your pocket.
 “Space-time.” Wikipedia. October 05, 2017. Accessed October 09, 2017. https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space-time.
Paying for private school can be challenging but savings can be found in the most unusual places.
A broad category of savings is in that of repairing instead of replacing. The awesome Patagonia company (buy their stuff – it lasts a really long time) has a marketing campaign called “Repair is A Radical Act”.
Their focus is on the incredible environmental benefits of first looking to repair items before deciding to replace them. It’s also cheaper for you. Here at Paying for Private School we do it to save three environments: a child’s, a private school whose values we resonate and the world at large.
A tale of two tables
When we bought our current home ten years ago and the patio furniture conveyed with it. Not because the previous owners thought it would help sell the place but because they didn’t really want to take it with them. Nor would the table have survived the trip. Low on cash we took this rickety table and continued to use it for a decade. Over time squirrels also used made use of the furniture to sharpen teeth and claws. Bits of sharp wood were sticking up on the surface. It had come unscrewed and it was time to be replaced. Ominous squeaking sounds omitted from the gray thing every time we sat down on it.
Our glorious refinished table. Finished by hand!
Believing repair as a radical act I bought a $24 palm sander and learned how to use it on an unsuspecting wooden cutting board that had broken in half early in the week.
Armed with below-novice knowledge, a sander, a hammer and low expectations, I hammered the nails back in, sanded it and re-stained it with a protective outdoor stain. For about $80 bucks in total I now have a table that would cost $300 new. And I get to keep the sander should I need it again for some future project.
And I saved $220, we learned a new skill (a number of us took a go with the sander) and delayed the need for a new table to be created, stored, marketed, shipped and sold. In the short term this will help us pay a tiny bit of the tuition bill and over the longer term, in aggregate, this will result in less stuff being created from the natural world. One table is enough.
You can do this too and start saving money *and* the environment.
Or you can spend time away from work really helping out a cause, group or individual in need. Take a sabbatical to care for a loved one instead of travelling the world.
Are you concerned about running out of money or having enough for health care expenses? No problem! Keeping saving and investing as long as you can. Perhaps move to a part time schedule but keep at it. Sign the giving pledge and make a difference if you are so fortunate to have some extra cash available after you are gone.
We are all a spot on the brain or block in the vein away from trouble and tribulation. Recognize and be thankful when you are aren’t in that situation and help out others who going through a tough spot. Use your good fortune to keep working and share the proceeds. Be happy with that gift.
Won’t working too long be bad for me?
We are meant to be productive and to a contributor in a group. I am not saying you should avoid a special trip or something you were really looking forward to in retirement. Or even that you have to get paid for your work. But do something structured to help others out. And retirement can be lethal.
When we purchased the battlewagon with row boat like styling it was certainly out of style. And, at that time, reliability was the name of the game. Top of reliable heap cars were expensive used and new. Yet pretty reliable cars were being sold for a substantial discount.
So how did it work out for us all these years later. Fine. No major repairs or problems as of yet and it keeps on rolling. It has hauled tons of stuff (literally) without complaint. The years have rolled by too. The battle wagon is now on it’s 15th year of problem free operation.
What is out of style today?
In our last update electric cars were really out of fashion and could be had for a song. Times have changed. Now it is giant truck things with orbiting moons and electric model cars of awesomeness are all the rage.
Sedans and, battle wagons and now mid sized gas powered SUV’s and mini-vans are out of vogue. Used ones may be a good starting point if you need a new ride.
The Best Car
The best car is often the one you already have – but if not – take a look in the unloved areas of the market for safe and reliable transportation.
If you combine a reasonable purchase price with other cost saving measures (e.g. That is One Long Cable!) the savings can be redirect to tuition payments.
“You must teach the people to labor with their hands and realize the dignity of work” – Mahatma Gandhi
There are distinct phases of ones work experience. These are surviving, trying, striving, diving, thriving. And being aware of which one you are currently in can help you better plan your finances to ensure you can still pay for tuition over time.
When you first start working – or start a new job – you are working to survive. It’s a challenge to find the bathroom much less determine where to add value and understand the social norms of the new group. Mistakes are plentiful and humbling experiences occur daily, sometimes hourly.
Accept that this will happen and don’t worry too much about it.
Soon enough you will be part of a team and understand how things work. Here you can add real value. This is when you build some credibility. This is not the time for long vacations. Working extra hours and expecting to be less productive than folks who know the systems well is to be expected. Keep trying. You will get to the next phase.
Eventually, after what seems like a very long time (this can take a year or more) you will be striving. You will know enough to make significant contributions and know to do so without being told or asked. And your successes will actually outnumber your mistakes! Woot!
With striving comes more responsibility. It makes sense to give work to a busy person who can get stuff done. You are now that person.
In the striving phase you are fairly secure but you must continue to work hard.
Inevitably, though, a simple task will be given to you which has hidden career danger. It seems routine but little do you know that it is difficult, high profile and has huge impact. And you will screw it up.
Here you will be diving. How you behave – not what you contribute- will determine what happens next. Do you point fingers or accept where you made mistakes? For items out of your control do you shared lessons learned with others in the organization? Or do you talk about people behind their backs and make excuses rather than find a way forward?
You may not be employed at this end of this phase and need a new job. And that is OK. Either way you should act with integrity, be rationale and search for ways to contribute. Curiously, taking time away from the work place makes sense. Your judicious use of leave and finances stored up in the past should now give you some flexibility to get away to get perspective. And it signals to your employers that you this is a bit much. When colleagues are dishing it out they sometimes forget all the stuff you are actually doing for the team. Moreover, your emotions may be so charged at this point that extra activity will actually be detrimental. Take some time.
If you do well in diving – and build people up around you instead of tearing them down – the next phase can be thriving. Here you have the time in organizaiton, have proven yourself to be a team player and have learned some very difficult lessons that make you much more efficient.
A presumably lighter load is now easier to get done. You work harder and find satisfaction in doing the right things the right way.
Successes build up and compound. Distractions for activity without results will start to appear. Carefully control your fear of missing out and focus on contribution instead. Pulling some of your financial reserves to repair something major you have been ignoring is good to do during this phase. And active community involvement is great here as it helps prevent burn out and boredom – and reminds you of where other folks are in this cycle.
Keep these phases in mind and don’t inflate your life style in good times
Be careful though – these phases bounce around. You could be back diving or surviving without warning – a mistake, a transfer, a new job or simply a change in the economics of your particular field can put you in a different phase over night.
It follows that it makes sense to keep emergency savings, stay in touch with former companies and coworkers and always work hard to provide value. If you are aware of these phases you won’t assume thriving (and the income bumps that sometimes goes with it) will always be the case. This in turn should help prevent you from home and car upgrades to align your lifestyle with your rising – and perhaps temporary – income. Instead, stay the course and realize there will be dips and valleys. Be satisfied to build up reserves and peace of mind. Your goal is to pay tuition, not travel the world. Be satisfied with doing that and then make hay while the sun is shining.
 Imagaes, Paul Harizan/Getty. “Why It’s Smart to Ask a Busy Person for Help.” Science of Us. Accessed September 02, 2017. http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/03/why-its-smart-to-ask-a-busy-person-for-help.html.
 Mickos, Marten. “Focus on contribution.” School of Herring. November 16, 2015. Accessed September 02, 2017. http://schoolofherring.com/2015/11/16/focus-on-contribution/
We often talk about education choice and the financial aspect of paying for tuition year after year. What underlies this – and is critical to understand – is the mind set behind it all. Without you will be in a constant struggle and live a life of deprivation. With it an easy path of increasing quality of life and financial security awaits.
In short when a new technology comes out everyone is very excited and fired up. And they are willing to pay up to get it. For those of use paying tuition and don’t have the resources to benefit from new technology it makes sense. New technology soon has competition and introduce new challenges.
Leverage the Hype Cycle
This is fine and good and indeed presents an opportunity to purchase these items for a discount in the trough of disillusionment. A recent example is electric cars – at first they were high tech, solve important problems and costs more. And they should have as they have huge and positive implications. But soon enough other challenges (cross country trips) temper the excitement – and the pricing. That is when you can move in to benefit from the new technology while not paying top dollar to be the first one in. After schooling is done perhaps you can be that person – but for now, slow down and simply wait.
For my “something to read” item I usually request some book to totally geek out on. One year, I requested, received and thoroughly enjoyed a book called Salt: A world history.
A Journal of the Plague Year
About three years ago I asked for and received a book by Daniel Defoe (better known for his book “Robin Crusoe”) called “A Journal of the Plaque Year”. Defoe was born in 1660 in England and his book is written in the dialect of that era. Because of the old English writing style, it was a slow read and I just finished the small book this past fall.
Defoe, a journalist, wrote this book in 1722 a full two hundred years before antibiotics were invented. He had access to the stories of those who experienced The Great Plaque of London in 1665-1666, facts in figures in the public record and his own observations of the 1720-1721 Great Plague of Marseille. He admittedly took creative liberties writing the book to write in the first person style that made him famous (and paid) during that time.
Buraun, Kiisu. “Investing Is Like A Bar Of Soap.” Seeking Alpha. Seeking Alpha, August 10, 2015. https://seekingalpha.com/article/3425216-investing-is-like-a-bar-of-soap.
Staying put usually refers to staying in your current place
of residence but the financial benefit principals apply to many situations.
Let’s compare the lives of the Doolittles and Movealots families to illustrate.
The Doolittles are creatures of habits and tend to only make changes when its make a lot of sense to do so. The Movealots are all about improvements – upgrading and updating for the latest benefit.
In 2010 the Doolittles and the
Movealots both purchased a $300,000 house. A few years later the Movealots had some
equity and some raises and went ahead an upgraded to a $450,000 house. Around
that same time both families bought a new car for $30,000.
Oh, and the Movealots just replaced their car with a new ride this past
year with a new and improved $40,000 ride.
At first glance it would appear that the Movealots spent
$190,000 more in the same time period. Is that right? After all, even though
they now have a higher mortgage, they don’t have to pay it back right away.
True – but you still have to pay it back at some point. And that is money that
could have been used to offset other future costs. Let us assume only half of those expenses hit
them during the time they are saving for or paying tuition. That is still
$80,000 which is quite a bit of tuition costs in almost any school.
Second Order Effects
What we didn’t talk about yet are the second order effects
– the tax, tags and dealer fees on new car, the realtor and moving fees. This are substantial but nowhere near the hit
of a third order maintenance fees.
Third Order Effects
That fancy car new car needs fancy new insurance. That
upgraded and presumably larger home will need more care and feeding – from HOA
fees, lawn, heating and cooling. These bump ups are bad – but not as bad as the
fourth order costs.
Fourth Order Effects – The Big One
All items have a useful life, parts wear out and need to be
replaced. And these occasional fourth order costs are the gotchas and they
occur because when we replace an item it is almost always with a better more
complex (and often bigger) item. Here is a real life example from our own
lives. Our postage stamp sized house had to have the roof replaced. This set us
back a mean $3000. Our friendly
neighbors who moved up on up had the same task in the new and larger home.
Although the current cost estimate for our friends is well over $20,000.
That single fourth order effect – a random plus up costs of
$17,000 is huge. Just a few of those will pay for tuition. Got a double oven? Double
trouble! Dual zone heat? – Twice the replacement costs!
So if you are going to be a Movealot family – fine – but avoid being an Upgradealot family so you don’t get hit with huge fourth order costs. Do you make more money then you did ten years ago? Great – keep it. Use it to go on vacation instead. Just kidding – vacations are for wimps.
Consider These Four Factors Before Making a Big Move
So before making a big move consider these four factors
The up front cost
The transaction fees
The regular maintenance
The rare but large one
time expense differences
By doing so you will have at least compared the costs to
see if the move is about the same much more or even saves you money for private