Thoughtful Spending to Save Money
I spent a significant amount of time this week dealing with home technology issues, some of which involved the concept of spending money to save money. I believe everything has turned out for the best – both the technology solution and the money savings – but it took me a while to reach that conclusion.
I also believe I slightly improved my spending habits by a process of thoughtful subtraction. More about that at the end of the post.
A related development was that we had bought our youngest son a new bargain-priced HP laptop from Best Buy. His old one had broken and he had no money to replace it. He has been spending the summer working 60-80 hours per week at an internship that is valuable to his resume but paid him an amount that works out to about $1/hour. He never complained. So Mrs. ToughMoneyLove, being the proud parents, wanted to reward his work ethic and stepped up with the money. That bargain laptop was awesome. With a decent processor and 4GB of RAM, it outperformed everything in our house, except for my wife’s Mac. I had to admit to having some computer envy.
Returning to the netbook/desktop replacement effort, I started having my doubts almost immediately. First, the netbook hard drive started throwing off error messages and failed a self-test. That caused me concern about sustained durability. I sent the netbook back to Lenovo for warranty repair. I also concluded during my brief tryout of the netbook/desktop setup that the netbook was going to struggle to keep itself cool during operation with all of the external devices (keyboard, mouse, monitor, external HD) connected to it. That, I was afraid, would add to the durability issues. I really enjoy that netbook for traveling and working while sitting on the deck. Perhaps that it is what I should keep it for and forget the full-time use concept.
Meanwhile, I re-positioned my old laptop in the desktop position, and was reminded of how slow it was, having only 500 MB of RAM. Thoughts of our son’s new computer re-emerged. Meanwhile, Mrs. ToughMoneyLove began talking about eventually replacing her old Dell laptop (5+ years old), so that she would have something to use to browse and check email at the lake. That laptop had only 256 MB of RAM and it operated at an intolerable snail’s pace. This is what happens when too little memory meets memory-hogging newer software.
Thus, my “spend to save” plan emerged. I would try to speed up our old laptops with more memory. I researched and found that I could max out the memory capacity on both the Toshiba and the Dell for approximately $100. I ordered the memory and installed it on Friday. The Dell loved it immediately and now runs acceptably fast for routine computing tasks. The Toshiba was not so sure about its new memory. However, after removing and re-seating the new memory modules several times, they now seem to have been accepted into the family. The performance improvement is just what the technology doctor ordered. So I have installed the old but refreshed Toshiba as my desktop replacement. It has plenty of self-cooling to do the job and the failing display is irrelevant. My wife now has something to use at the lake while I use my netbook. Two older computers brought back to usability for $100.
As a final step, I went on a brief trip to our local mall area last night to gas up at the Costco bargain pump and to buy a couple of things we needed at the house, including a cooling pad for the netbook. I visited three stores, looking for the best price on the things on my list. All of this was to save $5-$10. I found what I needed and headed home.
Then the hunger and spending temptation hit me. I was going right by a fast food mecca. Normally, I would have stopped and spent $5 to satisfy my hunger, rather than wait 5 minutes until I made it home. But then I thought: I just power-shopped to save $10 –how illogical would it be to take 50% of that saved money and immediately spend it on an overpriced convenience food item? Not very logical. So I decided to deal with my hunger for a few extra minutes, skip the treat, and eat at home.
I learned that thoughtful spending to save money is a full-time job. Saving $5 on Monday so that you can frivolously spend it on Tuesday is not going to work. In the long run, it may lead to frustration with the entire concept of saving because progress is not evident. For me, there is nothing wrong with saving on one item to spend on another as a plan, but not as an impulse.
Have any of you learned lessons this way?