One of things you hear pretty often when it comes to trying to save money is the concept of “just skip it”. You know what I’m talking about here, don’t you? Like when you’re on your way to work in the morning if you “skip” that stop at 7-Eleven and forgo the cup of coffee and that bagel you’ll save yourself about $5 bucks, right?
Or say, how about when you are at the restaurant and you opt for that tasty glass of Chardonnay with dinner and tack on an extra $14 to your bill? “Skip it” and have a glass of water with a twist of lemon instead, right? That’s fairly good advice and when you do it you will definitely cut costs and save some money. And truth be told, no real harm or suffering comes from that. But, and it’s a big but, sometimes we are “penny wise and pound foolish” as the old saying goes.
Taking action to save money can be a great way to get your finances on track. But there are some ways we try to cut costs that are actually harmful to our financial well-being and our life. Doing some things or actually not doing them or “skipping” them can really backfire on us.
Not sure what I’m talking about? Here are some things we “skip” in life and often live to regret it…sometimes to the point of disaster!
Skipping an Education
College or even trade schools can be very expensive, so you may think the best plan of action is to skip it and save the money. That’s the smarter move, right? Uh, probably not. Depending on your chosen career field, a degree can mean the difference of more than $1 million in income over the lifetime of your career. So while going to college is expensive, you’ll also earn a lot more with a college degree, even considering the salary you miss out on during the years you are in school. Think carefully before you skip on it.
There are lots of ways to limit student loan debt…starting with a community college and transferring, working while attending school, testing out of required classes, applying for scholarships and grants. Get creative because this expense is worth it!
Skip a Grocery Trip and Stock Up
Food waste is a big problem, and this can be exacerbated when you decide to stock up and buy lots of stuff in bulk. It can seem smart to load up with bulk foods at lower cost-per-pound prices and save time by doing so, skipping the weekly local market for the big warehouse club. But ask yourself this: how many pounds of bananas are you really going to eat before they go bad? Do you need five heads of lettuce even if it costs 30% less each when you buy five vs. one? Oh and did I mention that you have to pay a fee for this privilege by way of a membership too? Do this kind of thing often enough and you’ll be driving your grocery bill through the roof.
Feel free to stock up on non-perishables…if you have the space to store them! But a weekly trip to your local supermarket for your perishables still makes good sense.
Skipping the 401(k) Plan at Work
You’re struggling to make ends meet every week because you’re underpaid and they’re hitting your paycheck with taxes, Social Security, FICA, and other expenses before you get your money. Your gut instincts may be to try to keep your paycheck as fat as possible by not contributing to your employer-sponsored retirement plan. In the long run, this move is almost guaranteed to backfire. Not only are you hurting your own financial future, but 401(k) contributions are tax-advantaged, and if you keep the money in your paycheck, you are more likely to spend it and then have little or nothing long term.
If your employer matches your contribution, it’s even worse because you are walking away from free money. Free! That just cannot ever happen.
Figure out what expenses you can cut (or extra income you can make) and contribute something to that 401(k), even if it’s only 1% of your salary to start. Future you will thank you.
Skipping or Skimping on Your Car Insurance
First of all, it’s simply illegal to drive without car insurance in the U.S. If you plan to save on that obligation, good luck with that. You’d better hope and pray you never get stopped by a cop and checked on it or plan to pay a big fine and perhaps have your license suspended. That could wind up even costing you your job!
Skimping? Yeah, you can save money on insurance payments every month by purchasing the very minimal car insurance. But if you have an accident that results in major damage or injury, minimal insurance could leave you with big bills and cost you way more in the long run. Buy what is the appropriate amount based on your specific driving habits and comparison shop for the very best deal…every time you renew!
Skipping on Your Car Maintenance
Speaking of autos, you can try to save money by not getting regular oil changes, new tires, and other routine maintenance on your vehicle, but this strategy will cost you way more than it saves. Keeping up with maintenance on your vehicle will extend its life, lower the likelihood of an expensive breakdown, and can make your vehicle run more efficiently so you reduce fuel costs. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot safer and can actually save your life.
Skip the Experts and Do-It-Yourself
You can save a lot of money doing projects yourself instead of hiring a professional, but DIY projects still cost a lot of money for materials, not to mention your time and effort. I know from my own experience that I don’t have the chops to do most things myself and if you think you do and you do something wrong, you may need to hire a professional anyway to fix your mistake. Before you take on a project, make sure it is something you can actually do and is worth doing. If not, get a pro and save the extra repair money and the grief!
Skipping the Credit Card Payoff
Making minimum payments on credit cards? Check that little box on the bill that tells you exactly how long it’s going to take to pay off your balance and see if you’re still standing upright after you do!
When is it good to pay more than you are charged? Answer: when your credit card bill comes. Making minimum payments on a credit card seems like a way to spend the least amount possible, but interest charges pile up (sometimes at 25% or more) and it can take decades to pay off a credit card by making minimum payments. Can you say financial disaster?
Skipping Medical and Dental Appointments
Believe me, I know about the cost of medical care. I spend way more than I ever thought I would on it but that’s primarily because I skipped on the deed when I was young and “immortal”. Don’t do that. Visits to the doctor or dentist can be unpleasant and expensive, but you are better off taking care of your health the way you are supposed to and not paying the piper later. Failing to go for routine health screenings and teeth cleanings can lead to more expensive problems down the line and even, gulp, death.
Whether it’s neglecting your health or things like the maintenance on your home just to save a few dollars, you are just asking for trouble. Doing those kinds of “skips and skimps” will come back to bite you in the ass, sooner or later.
As much as I do believe in saving money and being really careful when I do spend, there is such a thing as just plain being stupid about it. Don’t wind up in trouble just to save some money. If you have to face a financial obligation, get a game plan and do it. Prioritize the important things in your life like your health, your job, your education, your home, your car, and your family. The bagel and coffee each morning…not so much.
Are you paralyzed by money decisions? Are you skipping things that can or have damaged your finances and your life? What are your plans to avoid such issues now and in your future?
I’ve always gotten my hair cut at a reasonably priced salon, but “rinsed” the grays out at home with a hair coloring kit. Skipping the professional coloring at the salon has saved me a lot of money. But now that we have a septic system. I don’t want to risk putting harsh chemicals down the drain. I’d rather pay for coloring at the salon now (and support my new neighbor who owns it) than pay for fixing the septic system later.
That’s probably a good idea, Mrs. Groovy. I don’t know how long it would take for any damage to be done to the system, but it certainly seems prudent not to contribute to it if you can. It’s the little things that can make a big difference.
The car points are so true! It wouldn’t be smart to skip either of those. Where I live it’s just $20 for a 10-minute oil change, and you only have to do it every few months. They are also very good at catching any other issues that my car has, the earlier they catch it the better!
Maintaining your car will definitely help keep it running well and prevent contributing to its ultimate replacement. The safety issues are really the most important and I’m glad you’re taking care of that. Thanks so much for your comment.
In most of your examples, you were not saving anything. You were deferring expenses which eventually resulted in costs which exceeded your expenses.
Education – it doesn’t make sense to pay for an education (with student loans) which will result in a degree that doesn’t pay for itself. However, some college degrees lead to jobs where the increased lifetime salary exceeds the cost of the loan.
Grocery – it pays to buy non-perishable items on sale or in bulk.
Car Insurance – if you rarely file a claim with your insurance company (I went almost 20 years without filing a claim), it makes sense to increase your deductible which will result in a lower premium. Side note: if you file too many claims with your insurance company (even if you are not a fault in the accidents that cause the damage), you will likely see your premiums increase. I don’t know the magic number but at some point, you move out of the normal range to the abnormal range of the actuarial table which will result in higher premiums.
First of all, Dan, I appreciate you taking the time to express your comments. I think we’re basically in full agreement. When it comes to education, advanced degrees will ultimately add to your income. There are many alternatives that limit and spread the costs so that it isn’t as big a burden as it could be. My statements on car insurance and groceries are in alignment with what you have said, so I hope you will also find we are on the same page on those points.
“Skip the experts and DYI” I agree but i had to learn my lesson! I did some tile work a while back and after the nightmare was over I told myself never again! I’ll pay someone the 1,000 or 2,000 to do it next time. It would be done faster AND I could spend that time doing value-add activities like drumming up some sales or content creation!
Michael, I definitely have felt your pain. It’s an excellent point to also say that your time has some real value and ultimately you gain when you don’t waste it. Thanks so much for your comment.
This is so spot on.
More of us need to go back to the drawing board.
Identify what our core values are, then make choices aligned to our values.
Do it, Delegate it or Drop it should be the only 3 questions we need to ask ourselves from there.
Thank you, Peter. It’s definitely valid to remind folks of exactly what you’ve stated. Sometimes though people have to learn that the hard way, although I hope it’s not too hard.
I can attest to skipping car maintenance! That is like not paying for healthy food.
Isn’t it surprising how foolish it sounds not to take care of an item that you put your life in the hands of every day? I hope people will see how silly it is to skip car maintenance just to save themselves some money.
I expected to see Life Insurance, but I can see why you may not include it. After all, it might be just fine to skip it. No one knows. =)
Life insurance will certainly be important to the beneficiaries, so in a way it doesn’t help you the insured, haha, but I do get your point. I definitely say that life insurance is a way to protect your family.