Does It Pay to Spend Less?
by Dan Derkum
It pays to spend less whenever you can, right? Well, not necessarily. There are some cases where the "less is more" principle doesn't work.
Being cheap cuts costs for the moment, but usually cause you to incur additional greater expenses in the long run. That ends up being the antithesis of frugality. In other words, you’re throwing money down the toilet.
Here are a few instances where thriftiness can backfire:
10% off, free plans, free sink, free toilet, free granite, free $500 upgrade, free, free, free. This is couponing.
Are you saving money? The answer is no. Let me ask you a simple question: Do you know of any store that allows you to walk inside, take something off the shelf, and happily walk out the door with it? Nothing is free. People can’t pay the mortgage, pay the utilities, or put food on the table by giving stuff away for free. You’re paying for it somewhere. The problem is you don’t know where. It’s hidden. That’s dishonest, deceiving, and just plain wrong. Is this the type of person that you trust in your home with your family? Is this the type of person that you trust you’re hard earned dollars with?
The moment of truth always comes once the job is started and out comes the change orders, ever increasing demands for cash to “buy materials”, things don’t get done that were promised and materials you thought you were getting are not what’s installed. Worse, you can’t see the work that was done behind the walls – and this is what’s going to get you big time down the round – and boy will it cost you. Of course, the cell phone number of the person who did the work is no longer in service – how convenient! That's not to mention the hours of your life you’ll spend doing it all over again and the frustration of being out of pocket all that money. And for what? Nothing, it all goes in the trash. What a waste and what a tragedy.
The choice is yours, but I suggest you conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the hours and dollars spent on couponing are worth it. Does it really make sense to spend $10 today and another $20 tomorrow along with all the frustration? That’s $30 vs. the $20 you would have spent in the beginning to have it done right the first time.
2. Adopting a deprivation budget
When you decide on a budget for your project, whatever the amount, you will find a line of people ready to take your money; especially when it’s far too low for what you want. I can promise you that you’ll never experience a shortage of people ready to take, and I mean take (more like steal) your money. In your effort to get diamonds for the price coal, you curb spending and willingly accept the guy who says “not a problem, I can do it! I’ve found the secret to building and remodeling using only the finest materials at the cheapest price. I’m just brilliant. Wait and see!” It’s tempting to go with it, after all, they’re telling you exactly what you want to hear . . . your job and all its glory can be done for the leanest figures imaginable. Really? Here’s a secret for you: We all pay the same for that 2x4, screw, paint, etc. So, what’s the difference? The difference is (a) the quality of that 2x4 – is it firewood grade or quality building grade? Is it Dunn Edwards Suprema paint or something from a discount dollar store? (b) Is the person installing the product an experienced craftsman or some guy just plucked from the corner earlier that morning?
I totally understand cutting costs, but being unrealistic means you’re spending plan will fail. For example, if you typically spend $600 at the grocery store for a family of four, what sense does it make to shave that number all the way down to $200? The answer is simple: None at all. You’ll save $400 on the grocery bill and spend $5,000 on the doctor when the kids are sick from malnutrition. How much did you save now? And the kids are injured for life!
3. Buying inferior big-ticket items
If frugality is deeply embedded in your genetic makeup, it's no surprise that big-ticket items with low sticker prices may be enticing. However, cheaper is not always better, especially in building and remodeling.
A perfect example is the purchase of a cheap bathroom remodel – just reface the cabinets, paint, and install new tile in the shower and on the floor. It may look good, smell great and be priced at an incredible point, but you’ll soon discover the meaning of a “tail light warranty.” Within a year or two, you’ll have me over wanting to know why after remodeling your bathroom a year ago, the tile floor is cracked, the shower leaks, the shower door no longer closes, and the toilet requires “jiggle the handle technology” to make it work. When I see you in a year or two, I’ll refer you back to this essay.
You cut costs today but end up where you started when it's all said and done. Cheap and inferior is just that. Something for nothing is a con job.
4. Cutting corners
Are you riding the wave of luck when it comes to your remodel? Do you remodel the bathroom and not replace the shower valve or install an inferior brand? Wait until you have to tear out your new shower tile to replace the shower valve that you got for a great deal. Better yet, when you convert your tub to a shower and don’t increase the size of the drain from 1-1/2” to 2”, let me know how that works out for you. Oh yeah, you got a great deal! A great deal more expense and heartache!!!
It’s like this: consider those who ignored dental visits to save money for so long that they now must live with gum disease and costly deep cleanings for the rest of their lives. Just think about those individuals with debilitating medical conditions who could have detected them earlier with routine blood work. How much did they save in the long run?
About the Author
Dan A. Derkum is the owner of DAD's Construction, a leading South Orange County, California design-and-build remodeling and renovation contractor.