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Spending on Maintenance to Save in the Long Run

Spending money to maintain things used to be something I thought was optional.  It took me a while to learn that spending for maintenance was a great way to make sure I could save money in the future. Sure, I knew that it was important to have my oil changed regularly in my car but sometimes I just didn’t have the money to do it so I’d put it off.  I kept delaying the task because I had to pay for other important expenses first.  Then, one day while racing to work because there was an important meeting I could not miss, my engine blew.  Turns out, I put it off so long that my whole engine had to be replaced – I ran it dry.  Now how much was I saving by not paying for that maintenance?  Exactly!

Vehicle Maintenance

So when it comes to our vehicles, those important tools we purchase to help us with our transportation needs, regular maintenance is a must. Follow your auto manufacturer’s recommendations for scheduling maintenance. Spending a little money two or three times a year to make sure your oil is clean and doing the job it is intended to do will help you avoid having to spend money on repairs to your engine parts caused by friction. Automobile engines are highly sophisticated and mechanized pieces of equipment that require free flow of liquids and gasses to perform optimally. Make sure those liquids and gasses can flow as needed and metal parts can turn and connect properly. When they don’t – it is going to cost money to make it right again.

Rotate your tires regularly to keep the wear and tear even and that set of tires should last you a little longer.  In addition, keep your tires inflated to the correct pressure to improve your gas mileage (another no or low cost way to save money). There is also a safety aspect as well – worn down tires can be a road hazard in many ways. Protect yourself, your family, others on the road and your wallet by avoiding a tire-related road incident.

Washing and waxing your car is part of the maintenance – it keeps the exterior and interior in better condition so when you sell it, you can demand a higher price for your quality used car. Washing the love bugs off regularly during love bug season helps protect the paint too. Cleaning up spills to avoid discolored carpeting and bad odors is important. Spending a little on a conditioner for the hard surfaces helps too – no one is going to give you top dollar for your trade in if the plastic dash is faded or cracked.

Home and Equipment Maintenance

In and around our homes are lots of opportunities for saving money by spending on maintenance.  The University of Florida reminds us that it is a good idea to keep our homes in ‘sell-ready’ condition at all times, you can read about that here. However, whether you rent or own your home, you will have maintenance responsibilities.  For instance, changing the air filter on your HVAC system is important.  Regularly replacing those dust-coated filters helps your system run more efficiently and can save you money on your monthly utility bill.  Along with the instant rewards, keeping the dusts out of the ducts helps improve the indoor air quality and helps you save money on health costs for you and your family. Regularly dusting the coils on the back of your refrigerator can help that appliance run more efficiently – who knew!

Making sure that we don’t overload the washing machine is a free way to help ensure that expensive appliance lasts as long as we hoped it would when we bought it.  Similarly, clean out the lint catch in the dryer so your dryer can perform as it was designed. This also helps reduce the chance of a house fire from a clogged lint hose that gets too hot. How about your vacuum cleaner – do you take the time to empty the debris from the bin AND clean around the rotating brushes? When you do that, the vacuum does not have to work as hard so that small, efficient engine can last longer.  There are lots of appliances around the house that need our attention on a regular basis including ovens, garage door openers, pool filters, computers and ceiling fans.

Cleaning sinks and drains to ensure that they are clear of blockages is just plain easy and free.  Those blocked drains can overflow and damage your flooring, baseboards, drywall and more, not to mention causing you to pay more for water. Considering the drains and plumbing, another item to check are the seals around those drains. Regularly caulking those openings can keep insects and other damaging critters from entering your home. Some of those pests can be very expensive to remove.  We also need to check the seals around windows and doors annually so we know that they air we are paying to cool or heat is staying in the areas we need it to, instead of ‘air conditioning the whole outdoors’ as Dad used to say.

There are just a few items mentioned here – we could go on but I will challenge you, dear reader, too look around your house and see what money saving maintenance tasks you can identify.  Plus, click here for tips on yard maintenance savings ideas and here for a handful of resources for home maintenance.

Self Maintenance

It isn’t just things that we need to maintain – it is our bodies as well.  Spending a little time or money on self maintenance is money well spent.  That gym membership is the cost of maintenance – as long as you are using it! Keeping your body healthy and strong helps you to avoid paying for extra co-pays, tests, medicines and assisting equipment. Taking the time to wash our bodies is not only socially desirable but it removes dirt and oils that become trapped in our skin and cause rashes and blemishes that cost to treat.  To oversimplify as an example: keeping your nails trimmed can help avoid a snag to the fabric of that new shirt you are so happy to be wearing (Yes, I learned about this one the hard way myself; $30 for a blouse I only wore once before I ruined it). For a wide variety of self-maintenance suggestions and resources, click here.

Insurance

One brief item to mention regarding insurance.  Our homes and our bodies can be insured so that if there is an issue, our insurance provider will cover, ideally, the cost of resolving that issue. Spending the money on insurance can help keep costs lower when a repair is needed.  Auto insurance, at this point, does not work the same way. There are auto maintenance package options available. If you are considering such a package, try to avoid rolling the cost of the package into your auto financing so you aren’t paying interest on the option. Also, investigate what maintenance is included and what extra costs might be associated before you enroll. For tips on purchasing insurance, click here.

Planned Obsolescence

Even if you are diligent about maintenance, you may not be able to fully extend the life of any equipment, appliance or structure. A lot of us know of that guy who still has the first car he ever bought, 40 years ago, in pristine condition in his garage.  He is the exception, not the norm.  There is a term we should be familiar with: planned obsolescence.   It means that equipment and appliances are eventually going to need to be replaced so we should plan for that.  Knowing this, we can take time to plan their replacements.  For example, I know my tires are rated to last about 40,000 miles. I know I travel about 20,000 miles/year.  Armed with that information, I can start now to put aside a few dollars that will add up and pay for my new tires when I need them. We can do the same for things like lawn mowers, dishwashers, coffee makers and more.  When items last longer than we planned, that is great! That means we will have more than enough to replace that item when necessary.  Failure to plan for the necessary replacement of certain items can severely impact one’s ability to survive and thrive in retirement.