Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Nickel and Diming Ourselves

I'm sure you've heard the phrase (or read the book) about "being nickled and dimed" by the small expenses adding up and costing a fortune. However, I'm going to come at this from a backwards perspective. Rather than worrying too much about the $5 or $10 transactions, maybe I should let those ride a bit and focus more on the bigger ticket items.

For instance, some of our neighbors were complaining to each other last fall about not watering the lawn or washing cars because they were watching their water bill. Considering that the water bill is likely no more than $50 or $60 (unless they have a leak in their house), this argument was over a relatively small amount, about $10 a month at most, or $120 per year.

Now, I'm not against conserving water from an environmentalist standpoint, but they were concerned primarily from a financial standpoint, based on the argument. As a counterpoint, they also shop at the most expensive grocery store in the area. So their focus is on saving $10 a month on water, when they could likely save $80-$100 a month simply by switching grocery stores.

The other day, I was wondering about our grocery bill, and decided to add up the dollar amount for the blueberry muffins I was making for group, to ensure it was a good decision to make rather than buy (if anyone is curious, even with 2 full cups of blueberries, they were only $3.72 or so for a dozen, or $0.31 each). So, as I noted the prices for where I bought everything (frozen blueberries were 33% off at Kroger, flour and sugar are cheapest at Aldi's regular prices, eggs have been going up, but the milk was on sale) I determined that in our current lifestyle, I truly can't save much more money on groceries. So why do I still worry so much about it? I already know the lowest prices on most items in my head. We stock up when our "regular" purchase items go on sale. I'll skip something at Aldi's or Kroger if it's on our list, but I know I can buy it cheaper at the other store. Why am I wasting my valuable head space on these small, regular items when I ought to be focusing more on saving money on the bigger ticket items.

For instance, we need to get our house painted relatively soon. This expense could be anywhere from $7,000-$10,000 including some wood repairs that we expect to have and depending on the company we choose to use. I have a recommendation for someone who does it relatively cheap and does a great job, but I know that since he's a one-man company, we may have to wait awhile. So why do I worry so much about the inconsequential ($10 a week on groceries), rather than taking some brain power and initiative to try to save thousands on our house painting and repairs?

I would argue that it's likely a combination of personality and humanity. My personality is thinking and judging, so I naturally sort things out and compare prices in my head. The price of our groceries is something I can control. On the other hand, I don't like to think about the bigger ticket items, because what if there's more wood rot than I think? What if we get a quote from someone that seems cheaper, but turns out more expensive because they aren't insured or didn't plan for the correct amount of repairs. My brain doesn't like to think about these things, because there isn't a clear answer, and the stakes are much higher.

I will try to get the number of the solo house painting guy, and give him a call to set up an appointment, but I also need to stop worrying about money - whether it's the nickles and dimes or the thousands of dollars. I know that with my personality, I will make the best decision possible, and my humanity will just have to deal with whatever underlying unforeseen consequences that may exist.

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