I try very hard to be a minimalist. First, because I like to practice what I preach; and second, because leaving a colossal carbon footprint negates the simplicity I try to reflect in my lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I like to have nice things, take vacations and treat myself to meals at a great restaurant, but there is only so much money available.
In terms of budgeting, each person has to make the decision for themselves whether or not it is worth shelling out that “extra” money for the extras we like to enjoy.
If you are charging your extras on credit cards and hoping you’ll figure out how to pay the bill at the end of the month… it is nearly impossible to know what you can actually afford.
This is an example where living within your means and having an actual budget in place will help you know if you do, in fact, have the extra money to dole out. If you are charging your extras on credit cards and hoping you’ll figure out how to pay the bill at the end of the month, or the following month, it is nearly impossible to know what you can actually afford.
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Do you find it hard to decide whether to spend the “little” extra money for a “quality” item or to save your money and go the “no frills” route? What about when you have to purchase something you actually need?
Case in point: my refrigerator. The refrigerator (purchased new over 20 years ago) has been leaking for a long time (years, not months), but it was working, so I did not take action. I guess I could have called a repair service, but since it was so old, I determined that I could squeeze whatever remaining life I could get out of it, and purchase a new machine when the day finally came.
That day came about a month ago, on a Friday night (of course). Actually, Friday morning I noticed the milk felt warm. I was wondering if maybe I had left it out on the counter overnight, but that thought immediately left my mind as I absentmindedly continued on with my morning chores and the rest of my day. That evening, however, as I prepared dinner and noticed the butter was mushy, I knew the time had come. I lowered the temperature dial (thinking it might somehow have been magically raised) and hoped that in the morning the contents would, again, be cold. No such luck. Time for a new refrigerator.
I didn’t need the most expensive refrigerator out there, but there’s something to be said about paying for quality, too.
The space where my refrigerator stands is tight, as it is under and between cabinetry and the stove. So, I was limited to a tiny space. My initial instinct was to go with a name brand, but to keep the cost down. I didn’t need the most expensive refrigerator out there, but there’s something to be said about paying for quality, too.
When I started my investigation, I was shocked to learn that I could actually buy the most expensive refrigerator, a Meneghuini La Cambusa Sub-zero, for over $40,000! Okay that version was completely over the top and could be customized to house a flat screen TV, a coffee maker and a microwave oven! I then saw the Sub-zero Pro sells for the downright “bargain” of $16,000. Equally unreasonable, in my mind, for my present needs.
As I continued my online search, I looked at each of the features and competing options to determine what it was that I was looking for in a new fridge. Did I need an ice maker? Did I require internal LED shelf lighting in the refrigerator and freezer?
Did I care about digital temperature control (instead of the previous dial turning)? Multiple temperature zones? The advertisers had me thinking that if I did not buy the most expensive refrigerator, EVER, and take advantage of these features, I would be putting my family in jeopardy. Did you know the “right” temperature “dramatically” affects the efficacy and shelf life of the contents?
The advertisers had me thinking that if I did not buy the most expensive refrigerator, EVER, and take advantage of these features, I would be putting my family in jeopardy.
Also available these days are the “power chill feature” to speed the chilling process and Wi-Fi connectivity, which will alert you regarding power usage, and if the door is left open.
But did I really want or need any of these fancy, deluxe features? Would they cost me more in the long run? Because when the electronics “freeze” (pun intended), what will it literally cost me to sit home all day waiting for the repair service? Were these inviting components going to improve the quality of the food, or my life, in any way?
I decided for me and my space (and money) constraints, I was going to buy “basic” all the way, and put my money where my mouth was. All I needed was a working refrigerator that fit in the space. I could make my own ice and I would turn the imprecise dial. I hoped that, even if I did not know the exact temperature at which I was storing my cold-cuts and vegetables, I would not be poisoning my family. I decided it was a risk I was willing to take. After all, I survived my entire life without these alluring features, I knew I could do it again!
I simply needed a place to keep my food cold, delivered as soon as possibly possible, and at the least cost- not the most expensive refrigerator on the planet, regardless of the bells and whistles. After doing some more research, I found a basic refrigerator that fit in the spot and ordered it (sight unseen) for delivery. My order, which included a “ten percent” appliance discount, installation and removal of the broken unit, totaled slightly less than $600.
I survived my entire life without these alluring features, I knew I could do it again!
The refrigerator was delivered 3 weeks ago. As excited as I was for “basic”, I was initially a bit taken aback at its actual basic-ness. I didn’t realize that there would not be any separate compartments, other than the two on the bottom. I didn’t realize that there would not be a light source upon opening the freezer. And, I didn’t realize that it was not going to stay closed.
After the excitement of the delivery, I ran right out and purchased a week’s worth of groceries to fill my new basic fridge. How devastated was I the next morning when I went into the kitchen to find the refrigerator door was slightly ajar? I knew I was doomed when the milk curdled in my coffee!
I immediately started thinking, was I penny-wise and pound foolish? Should the money I just lost in one week’s worth of groceries have been added to the cost of this appliance that I’d hoped to have for another 20 years? Or did I just put too many groceries in it?
I spent the next two weeks making sure that I was securely closing the door. Yet, every now and again when I walked by I would notice the door was open. I yelled at my family to make sure the door was closed. I started thinking about writing this column, it occurred to me … this refrigerator was under warranty.
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Maybe I bought a lemon? Maybe the magnetic strip (or whatever mechanism that keeps the door closed) was defective? I had better call the store and complain. After all, I do know how to close a refrigerator door and a new refrigerator shouldn’t require a giant rubber band to stay shut.
Fast forward to today and guess what? The machine was not defective. The installers were. Instead of leveling the machine so it sits back and gravity ensures the door closure, the installers had plugged the machine in and left it leaning forward! So, while I am annoyed that I had to waste 2 days, one for the original installation and one for the “fix”, I am still happy that I spent the lesser amount for a solid, working refrigerator, rather than 30 (or 70) times that amount for the most expensive refrigerator or even any extra, fancy gadgets.
How much time will it take you to make enough money to justify buying those add-on gadgets? How much are they worth to you? Are you working day (and sometimes night) to keep your fruit happy?
I do not know always know the right answers, but I do know that you have to at least ask the right questions to arm yourself in making the right decisions. Do you think you sacrifice quality for price? Or is “quality” a misnomer? Remember: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should; and just because you have it, doesn’t meant to have to spend it.
I’m a debt settlement and bankruptcy attorney who negotiates resolutions between clients and their creditors. I am also a real estate attorney involved in both sides of purchasing and selling distressed real property. I am passionate about teaching people about money and helping individuals of all ages achieve financial independence and success in a "no…
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