How to waste money by trying to save money

All of us who are cost conscious have been there.  You believe that you can save a few bucks by cutting corners only to realize that your frugal tendencies didn’t save you anything.  Perhaps it even cost you more money. Don’t do it.

I’m a sucker for discounted bakery items at the grocery store.  Day-old donuts at a deep discount.  I’m in.  I buy six nearly stale donuts for $1.99.  Fresh ones are 69 cents each.  This means that I need to eat three of the six discounted donuts to justify the cost of fresh ones.  Stupid.  If I eat all six of the donuts, I come out ahead financially.  My arteries? Not so much.  Most recently I fell for the discount donut trap and only ate about 3 donuts before tossing the box.  I don’t even think that I was happy afterward.  These grocery store donuts are mediocre at best even when fresh.  And each one of these packs in a jaw-dropping 14 grams of fat apiece!

Lesson learned: If you want a good donut, just go to Krispy Kreme, spend $1.10 for an awesome donut and go on with you day. You’re going to consume 14 grams of fat either way.

Big ticket items can really become money pits.

We all know that “luxury” items like swimming pools, boats, and time-shares are money pits.  Moe, the doctor who spends a $1 million salary, once told me his monthly pool maintenance costs (water, heat, pool guy) costs several hundred dollars a month!  What about items that you purchase to actually save money?

I’m becoming more and more skeptical about expensive maintenance equipment like riding lawnmowers, weed eaters, drills, and chainsaws.  I don’t expect that most of my readers will ever deal with serious manual labor, but this is a clear example of how trying to save money can actually cost you more. Let’s say that you decided to hang up a flood lamp in the front of your garage.  You have no tools, but there is a sale at Costco for a flood lamp so you buy it. You know that power tools can be expensive, so you go to Harbor Freight Tools to buy a drill.  The drill costs $50.  You buy discounted drill bits for $6.  For $56 and 30 minutes of your time, you can have a great working flood lamp. Wrong.  Since you’re an amateur handyman, you don’t realize that your house is made out of stucco, and your cheap drill bits are useless.  You go back to Harbor Freight and buy masonry bits for $19.99.  You spend another hour trying to drill and mount your flood lamp.

Total cost: <$75.

Total time spent installing light: 4 hours including agony and driving to and from the hardware store. You might not ever use the drill any more after this ordeal. Moreover, you probably didn’t even do a great job installing that light.

Solution: If you aren’t much of a handyman, just find a handyman, pay him his rate to install the light for you.

This little guy paired with an inexperienced operator has ruined many a hedge…

Do it yourself is overrated if you know nothing about what you’re trying to accomplish.

Do you want a family practitioner biopsy something that looks like a melanoma? That’s right. You probably don’t want your Dermatologist installing your hot water heater either. You have to realize that not everyone has the time or interest in dealing with unthinkable chores.  And that is okay.  We all specialize in a profession so that we can offer our services for a fee commensurate with our training.  If you don’t want to mow your lawn in a crappy manner to save a few hundred bucks, either hire someone to do it or get rid of your lawn.

Every person has different interests and strengths.  As doctors, we all have different strengths outside of medicine as well.  The plastic surgeon who is an expert woodworker is going to fare better customizing a desk for his daughter in college than the Radiologist  who is an expert painter. What should the Radiologist do? Send his daughter off to college with an Ikea desk and a custom painting if he wants to contribute something unique.

How much DIY do you accomplish?

Note: I haven’t purchased a box of discounted half-stale donuts in 4 weeks! Hopefully I can keep that streak alive!

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