Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without

My shower is broken. The water comes out just fine, and it doesn't leak. But the temperature control is busted, so it only comes out at one temperature: as hot as it gets.

Here's the embarrassing part: It's been like this for a year.

Frugal or Lazy?

When the temperature thingy broke (and here you see that household plumbing is not my strong suit — a year after this thingy broke, I still don't know what it's called), I made some small adjustments. I went downstairs right away and lowered the temperature on the water heater so that the water coming out would be hot but not scalding. That means no super-hot water anywhere in the house, but since we have small children I was keeping it on the low side anyway.

I let my husband know what had happened, and he declared that he would fix it himself. Household plumbing kind of is his strong suit; he fixed a similar problem with the shower at our old house. It's kind of a difficult job, though, so I offered to have a plumber come in just to spare him the hassle. No, he insisted, he was up for doing it. Just not right away.

Then the task kind of got lost in his chore cloud. We grit our teeth and take hot showers. Every night when the kids take their bath, they make a game of dumping a few buckets of cold water into the tub to get it to the right temperature.

For months I've been embarrassed by this state of affairs. What kind of real grown-up lets a basic household repair go for a year? Clearly, my husband and I are being irresponsible ignoring the broken thingy.

Then yesterday morning, while taking a shower, I thought, “Maybe we're not being lazy and irresponsible. Maybe we're being frugal.” After all, the broken thingy isn't getting any worse. It's not leaking into the walls or damaging the house. It just makes showering extra hot. So far, we've done a fine job of making it do, leaving us free to put our money and time into other things.

Frugality is About Choices

Now, I'm not suggesting that frugality is about ignoring regular home maintenance. One of these days, we'll fix the shower. (And probably soon now that I've confessed to the world that it's busted.)

What I am suggesting is that frugality is about making choices. Every frugal person focuses on what's important to them, and cuts away the excess to do so. In this case, experience shows that being able to adjust the water temperature in our shower isn't very important to my family. We'd rather spend our weekends playing music and gardening than get into this messy, time-consuming repair project. I could hire a plumber to do it, but I'd rather spend the money on yoga classes or a family camping trip. These fun things might seem like trivial luxuries next to the shower repair, but the truth is they add more to my quality of life than being able to adjust the temperature in my shower.

I suspect that every frugal person makes some odd choices like this one.

J.D.'s note: I think so, too. Our clothes washer has a broken knob, for instance. Over the past five years, we — by which I mean Kris — have used a pair of pliers to select the laundry cycle. When we bought this house, the windows were caulked shut. They stayed that way until we could budget to fix them. And so on.

One of the tricks of frugal living is to recognize that with careful planning and savings, you can have anything you want but you can't have everything you want. Making a commitment to conscientious, intentional personal money management means making some choices. You need to develop the skill of discerning what best serves your goals, and keeping your spending and attention focused on those things.

Another part of being frugal is being able to pare back your sense of what you need. My former, spendthrift self would have fixed the shower immediately, the next day, even if it meant paying the plumber with a credit card to do it. I'd have seen it as a need. I would also have needed to immediately replace several kitchen gadgets that broke over the winter, and to take my bike to the shop for a spring tune-up.

There's nothing wrong with doing any of those things. It's not spendthrift to fix a shower or replace a vegetable steamer. But nowhere is it written that they're mandatory either. I've been getting clean just fine with a broken shower, cooking up a storm without those kitchen gadgets, and safely riding the bike that I maintain myself. Turns out, I don't really need any of that stuff.

In contrast, I've been going to yoga classes three or four times a week. I paid for these with a deeply discounted Groupon, but I'll probably buy a full-price membership when that runs out. Yoga is expensive. A few years ago I would have considered it an unaffordable luxury to pay for yoga classes. I could just do yoga workout tapes at home. Even a few months ago when I made it a New Year's resolution to get back into yoga, I was unwilling to spend money on this studio. Now that I've tried it, though, I see what a big difference it makes to my quality of life. It seems like a bargain. I'm calmer and happier — more focused. Not only are those good things in themselves, but they support my career. I'm doing more and better writing because I'm so healthy. That translates to more money. I could argue that the yoga classes pay for themselves.

For me, this gets at the core of frugal living: realigning all my spending to fit with my values. At first glance, the shower seemed like an essential, basic home repair. For me, it turns out, fixing it is really a luxury. I haven't done it yet because it doesn't directly support any of my financial or personal goals. I won't be a better writer after it's fixed, nor will I be closer to living debt-free. As long as we can make it do, getting it fixed is really an extra. One we haven't decided to indulge in yet.

How to Make Frugal Choices

The mechanics of conscious spending are pretty simple. Before you buy anything, ask yourself some simple questions:

  • Do I have the money to cover this expense, or would I be going into debt for it?
  • Does this expense forward my financial goals?
  • Can I get this need or desire met without spending money on it? Could I spend less money?
  • Does this money need to be spent now, or can it wait thirty days?

These questions can be very useful for curbing impulse buys and keeping you focused on financial goals. I'm finding they can also help with less obvious resource sinks.

In getting ready to plant my garden, for example, I found that several of my large pots had broken during the winter. My first thought was that I needed to replace them, right now. On second thought, I was able to dig up a bunch of old plastic storage bins that will serve perfectly well as replacement containers for my garden. They're not as pretty as new flower pots, but they were already here. Now I've got less clutter, more money, and a garden that's ready to plant.

The core motto of frugal living is “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”. How you'll choose to live that motto is up to you. It's important to question every expense and ask yourself how necessary it really is. Sometimes, the answers will surprise you.

J.D.'s tangential note: You have no idea how excited I am that after all these years, I'm finally able to link to my chore cloud concept. The chore-cloud is well-known among my friends, who find it amusing, but I've never found a way to bring it up at GRS. Now my life is complete.
More about...Frugality, Home & Garden

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SF_UK
SF_UK
9 years ago

Oh, so true (and I love the images in the linked post about the chore clouds!) I remember growing up that we *had* a shower, but we didn’t use it. This is because it didn’t work. The water flow was slow, and the temperature control was frightening (turning the knob changed the temperature, but not in a predictable way, and it tended to go from freezing to scalding without stopping at bearable). After a few years, we discovered that polystyrene balls from the loft insulation had got into the hot water tank (it started coming out of the taps!), and… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago

Hm… more evidence that I’m a man. That chore cloud is precisely how I tackle household chores. DH, on the other hand, has a nicely organized list and gets things done. It’s so weird that I’m the one who gave birth. If I believed the blogosphere and all its, “men do this, women do that” me giving birth just wouldn’t be possible because of my Y chromosome.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Yeah, that’s why I’m careful to point out in that post that I’m being sexist and making generalizations. I know there are people out there like you, Nicole, who break the mold.

It cracked me up that yesterday, after editing this post, Kris and I went into our respective modes. I was using a chore cloud, and she was using a list. 🙂

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Right, except, you know, I don’t think I break the mold. MOST people break the mold. *Most* people are not the stereotype for whatever group they are in. There are generally slight differences in averages across groups but the majority of people aren’t in one of these stereotypical tails. It is irritating to spread a culture that suggests that if you’re not in one of these tails you are somehow not a good representation of your gender. Starting with, “I don’t mean to be -ist, but…” doesn’t actually help a whole lot. Besides, Kris and Punch Debt in the Face’s… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

You’re right. You’re absolutely right. The J.D. of today wouldn’t frame this as a gender issue. He’d frame it simply as “some people have chore clouds, and some people have chore lists”. But the J.D. of 2006, while progressive, was not the J.D. of 2011.

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Yay JD of 2011!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

What the hell is a chore cloud? Is my manhood in danger for not knowing this? 😮

Luke
Luke
9 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I think it’s like cloud computing for chores?

I leave my chores for a few weeks and eventually some other guys will complete them for me 😉

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Alright, I read the chore cloud bit and I am relieved to know my manhood is safe.

WOMAN! GET ME A BEER! AND MAKE ME A SAMMICH!

El Nerdo Es Muy Macho.

Seriously, it’s a demented “theory,” but amusing in the sense that it illustrates the lengths that people will go to make excuses for their procrastination.

I SPENT THE MORNING WITH VIDEO GAMES. TESTOSTERONE MADE ME DO IT.

haaa haa haa. good one!

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

ROFL. You are awesome.

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

seems like some chores just aren’t suited to “the cloud” and they’re mostly things women are usually in charge of – people would be pretty sad if “make dinner” was done on a “as long as it happens sometime” basis.

LauraElle
LauraElle
9 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

That’s how I make dinner, though. 🙂

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago
Reply to  LauraElle

don’t you get hungry?

I have started pre-emptively making dinner on time even when we don’t have a set bedtime to meet, because otherwise by the time I make dinner everyone else has filled up on raw hot dogs and tortilla chips.

Danielle
Danielle
9 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

Good point, Rosa. JD, not to be a hater (I actually love your blog), but perusing your chore chart vs. chore cloud — great concept — reminded me how hard it is for people following different chore approaches to live together. Please notice that Kris scheduled her chores earlier in the day, got them done, and then made time for fun in the afternoon and evening. Your chore cloud had the fun items crossed off (check email, etc), while chores were not yet done. This is what’s frustrating for those of us following the list approach: clouders can choose to… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Danielle

Oh, yes, Kris gets frustrated, especially when I do the “fun” stuff first. And I don’t blame her. I’m working on it! I’ll never be a list-er, but I can try to tackle my “cloud” in a more efficient fashion…

Sara
Sara
9 years ago
Reply to  Danielle

Ditto, Danielle. I do find this analysis of chore types fascinating, though, as there really is a spectrum of how people work through tasks.

JD, your chore cloud sort of reminds me of people who go to the grocery store without a list and just end up buying whatever looks good at the time, versus people who come prepared and stick to the plan.

Another Dave
Another Dave
9 years ago

That’s nothing… My Mother went 7 years without an Oven. After the last of her 3 boys moved out, the control board on her stove malfunctioned and prevented the Oven from working. She was saving up to get it fixed and had a large toaster oven handy. Since they were empty nesting… it just NEVER got fixed. I ended up fixing it last year when she started complaining that she couldn’t host holidays anymore. I get alot of pies now 🙂

elena
elena
9 years ago
Reply to  Another Dave

Our oven stopped working several years ago. It broils. I haven’t missed it, either. It’s just the two of us and everything is grilled or done on the stovetop. Holiday and other baking I do with my mother in law now and it’s a nice side benefit of being ovenless. I’ve learned so much. (I don’t think she knows our oven is broken, though.) We’re planning on remodeling the kitchen in two years. I’ll replace it then.
MMM, our kitchen remodel fund has been renamed, “The Pie Fund.”

PB
PB
9 years ago
Reply to  elena

We are living without an oven at the moment (although it works, in theory), because my husband’s chore cloud includes getting rid of the mice which are using it as a dog food storage locker. Guess what is not crossed off his list?

Jane
Jane
9 years ago

I agree with this to some extent, but since this is a repair that absolutely has to be done (at the latest when you go to sell the house), I personally would just suck it up now and do the repair. I guarantee you when you pay for it say a year from now and realize how much nicer it is to control the temperature of your shower, you will say, “Why didn’t we do this sooner?” Because the repair is really a sunk cost. The same was true of our ripped and falling apart peel and stick floor in… Read more »

Laura in Cancun
Laura in Cancun
9 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I have to agree with Jane. It’s something that has to be fixed at some point, so why are you just torturing yourselves by waiting? It sounds more like procrastination than frugality to me because no money is being saved.

Then again, this is coming from a girl who has been heating up shower water on the stove for 6 months because her husband hasn’t found the time to fix the boiler yet… so maybe I’m just a little biased haha

CEE
CEE
9 years ago

This is laziness, or procrastination (or both) disguised as “frugality”. I don’t think it’s a good example to make your point.

I do agree that frugality is about making choices, this just isn’t one of them.

J
J
9 years ago

I wonder how much $$ was wasted on non-essential hot water?

Stephanie
Stephanie
9 years ago
Reply to  J

I wonder how much money was saved by turning the hot water down for the entire house?

SF_UK
SF_UK
9 years ago
Reply to  Stephanie

Depends whether you lose that saving by getting a legionella infection. Ideally, you want to be storing at 60C and distributing at 50C, as a minimum (legionella thrives at 20-45).
Having said that, there’s useful information in the link below on how long it takes to kill legionella at different temps. You could maybe have a good halfway-house by turning the temp up to 60 or 66C every week or so for an appropriate time, also reducing the scald risk.
http://www.ciphe.org.uk/Global/Databyte/Safe%20Hot%20Water.pdf

Anna
Anna
9 years ago
Reply to  SF_UK

Yes, our plumber says that since people have gone all ‘energy saving’ and been turning down the temperature in their hot water systems, there are a lot more cases of legionella.

Kaytee
Kaytee
9 years ago
Reply to  SF_UK

This. One of the senior engineers in my office gives talks about legionnaires disease because of hot water heater temperatures. It’s nice to see the topic show up on a site like this. Most people have never heard of it before, and it’s not something that is regularly tested for.

Katja
Katja
9 years ago
Reply to  SF_UK

Is this a concern for on-demand water heaters? I’m curious, because my boyfriend turned ours down to 40 Celsius, while I prefer at least 45 Celsius.

BIGSeth
BIGSeth
9 years ago

Yeah… you really should just get it fixed. Frugality is looking like laziness here.

And JD, get the knob. They’ll probably even ship you one free.

Thrifty advocate
Thrifty advocate
9 years ago

This is for J.D… I know that post is from 2006, but this should be “discrete,” not “discreet.”

Women have a list of chores. Each chore is a discreet item

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago

I know. I winced when I saw that yesterday. That particular part of the blog is broken, so fixing the typo is tough. (And it’s not a typo; it’s an early example of my homonym problem.) I should fix that at some point…

Fernando Seixas
Fernando Seixas
9 years ago

I just found your post contradictory – you consider fixing your shower a frugality and yet you think of your yoga class as a must-have. And you only changed your mind about yoga the moment you started doing it, because the benefits you receive are worth the money you spend. You even said that after the discount is over you will continue doing it because you are happier now. And let’s be honest – if you really consider fixing your shower a frugality, you would not write such a long post about it. In my opinion, you really think it… Read more »

Confusador
Confusador
9 years ago

The apparent contradiction is why she points out that you can have anything but not everything. Neither a shower control nor yoga are necessities, she has been able to get by with neither. Now she has chosen, in some sense, to go without the shower repair so she can have yoga. Eventually, she’ll find something that she can give up (some activity, since the shower just needs time) or more money from some source so she can afford a plumber, if she chooses. Frugality means sacrificing some things so you can have others, whether they are needs or wants.

Cliff
Cliff
9 years ago

Great Post! This is the type of deeper level thinking and application that I appreciate at GRS and what keeps me coming back every day. Living in South Africa for a year working in informal settlements highlighted so many aspects of my life that I thought were necessities, but were really things I could really do without. It has been incredibly freeing to let go of things I thought I had to fix, maintain, upkeep or buy in the first place. Life is a lot more simple now, but my spending is in line with my values and goals, which… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
9 years ago

As long as you know the difference between an optional repair and something that *should* be basic home maintenance and feeling comfortable that when you choose to repair it, that it won’t be more expensive to do so due to letting it go. But the other side is how much you’d gain in daily happiness if you didn’t have to “grit your teeth” during a daily shower. We had a dimly lit kitchen for a number of years. I convinced myself that it wasn’t a real issue…. for years. When we allowed ourselves to give ourselves new recessed lighting in… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

You always want to have bright light wherever you’re handling sharp knives and boiling liquids– especially oil.

JR
JR
9 years ago

This is approach is short-sighted. Maintaining good-quality equipment in perfect working order is more frugal in the long run. You never have to replace it and can enjoy equipment functioning as intended. Ignoring something simple like a shower faucet is not admirable.

smirktastic
smirktastic
9 years ago

Oh for heaven’s sake, fix the thingy! Save money by heating less water. You are grown-ups and if you have either the means or ability to do so (especially if you have both) then there’s no good reason not to fix it. Having said that, your point about what went into that decision was well taken.

Another Kate
Another Kate
9 years ago

I’m another person with a broken washing machine knob. For us, the knob is on the temperature selector. We rarely wash on any temperature other than “cold,” so we rarely have to get out the pliers.

Wende
Wende
9 years ago
Reply to  Another Kate

Me too with the broken knob, except I used a knife to move the knob instead of pliers. When we moved, I taped the ‘special’ knife to the washer so we wouldn’t lose it. We all got a laugh out of that!

Luke
Luke
9 years ago
Reply to  Wende

Love it!

Sarabeth
Sarabeth
9 years ago
Reply to  Another Kate

Us too, but my husband actually hand-machined a little plastic replacement. Who knows if we could have gotten a free replacement, but he would rather spend the time making something than waiting on the phone with the company.

OK
OK
9 years ago

While it’s possible to delay unimportant repairs due to frugality, the shower example here is definitely not one of them. There are two reasons for this. First, the choice to not repair it was not made consciously, it just happened to get lost in the list of things to do. Second and more important, not fixing it is causing you to spend more money. You are taking hotter showers than you would have before, resulting in more energy used in heating water than would be used if a colder shower was taken.

Sara
Sara
9 years ago
Reply to  OK

I agree. Sierra, you also write, “So far, we’ve done a fine job of making it do, leaving us free to put our money and time into other things.” How exactly are you saving time by not fixing it, especially if every time you bathe your kids you have to fill up buckets of cold water to put in the tub? I bet if you add up all those minutes of bucket-filling over the course of a year, that time exceeds the time to repair.

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago

I just worry that, since it’s the grownups setting the priorities, we’ll hit something like this that *we* think is an amusing eccentricity and he will grow up feeling that we were misers, not frugal. My (very frugal) mother has a “funny” story about her dad, who could afford a boat and a fishing camp in Canada but wouldn’t buy his young family a TV or air conditioner – the kids used to stand in the yard and watch the neighbor’s TV through the living room window. On the other side, I’ve been accused on the internet (maybe in comments… Read more »

LauraElle
LauraElle
9 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

Then call me an abusive mother, too, because we don’t have cable!!!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  LauraElle

What sort of mindless couch potato would do that? Name and shame!

DreamChaser57
DreamChaser57
9 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

We did not have cable growing up and I genuinely believe I’m a better woman for it. It forced me to use my imagination, learn social skills by playing outside -spending more quality time with my Mom. Children on average may spend 2-5 hours in front of a television and video games daily. It’s a sad and unfortunate state of affairs.

Bella
Bella
9 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

We didn’t have cable growing up either, for some reason my sister and I both EXCELLED at our verbal scores on the SAT.

Samantha
Samantha
9 years ago
Reply to  Bella

I was raised on TV, and for some reason I EXCELLED at my verbal score on the SAT, too.

Jaime B
Jaime B
9 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

This is a great point Rosa. When the people in question are parents, the kids’ needs and wants need to come into play too. We get a kick out of teasing our dad about all the times he said “close your closet door, I’m not paying to air condition your closet” or “in or out, make a decision but don’t keep opening the door and letting the air conditioning out.” There are others that don’t revolve around air conditioning but those come to mind first. What I don’t tease about and hated when I was a kid, was the fact… Read more »

fetu
fetu
9 years ago
Reply to  Jaime B

My mother who is English grew up in England during WWII. She says that at that time the people in London had to put a measured mark on their bath tub and could not have more water beyond that mark. It was part of the saving of water for putting out fires as a result of bombing. Even the king at Buckingham Palace had a mark on his bath tub.

Jaime
Jaime
9 years ago
Reply to  fetu

Wow, I’d never heard of that before. LOL, Unfortunately my dad is not that old, nor is he English, so he doesn’t have that excuse. He did grow up in deep enough poverty that “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” was not an environmental issue but a needed cost savings.

Pamela
Pamela
9 years ago

My husband and I have struggled with frugality vs house repairs for the more than 20 years we’ve been homeowners. But as Jane said above, you have to take care of the repairs before selling your house. When I’ve seen how nice things work and look prior to selling, I get a little sad thinking that I didn’t find it worth it to fix those things for myself. I’ve just made this big investment of time and money and I don’t even get to enjoy it. Whether you make the repairs or work around them, they are still taking time… Read more »

cerb
cerb
9 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

I thought you said this beautifully:

“…you have to take care of the repairs before selling your house. When I’ve seen how nice things work and look prior to selling, I get a little sad thinking that I didn’t find it worth it to fix those things for myself. I’ve just made this big investment of time and money and I don’t even get to enjoy it.”

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  cerb

You know, this is a great point. In our first house, we had a few things that weren’t quite right. The back door was broken. The bedroom light fixture was wonky. And so on. We fixed these things before putting our house on the market, and we said to each other, “Maybe we shouldn’t even move.” We learn to live with the little problems, which slowly build over time. Eventually, our environment is a collection of these problems, but we don’t even notice. We’re like a crab in a gradually boiling pot. Then, when we take the time to fix… Read more »

Trina
Trina
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Yes! We’ve had the same experience in the two houses we’ve sold. I’m determined to learn from that and really take care of the house we’re in now. If only my DW were as convinced as I am … 🙂

Anna
Anna
9 years ago
Reply to  cerb

Somewhere in Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project there is a suggestion to write down all the little things that are on that nagging to-do list, and then do them. I did this a while ago, and while none of them were a big deal in themselves, suddenly having all those small niggles out of my life was marvellous!

Jenny
Jenny
9 years ago

I love this J.D. and Sierra! Now I don’t feel so bad for not fixing the chip in my kitchen countertop that happened when I dropped the heavy Crock-Pot insert two months ago. My husband called immediately to schedule the repair, but I talked him in to cancelling — for now anyways. We’re working on paying off all of our consumer debt this year, and that $150 it costs to have the tiny chipped fixed will do more good going towards the debts we want to rid ourselves of. Besides, it’s not like the counter doesn’t work now, or even… Read more »

Peter Brülls
Peter Brülls
9 years ago
Reply to  Jenny

Yes, but those are different things. A small chip in a counter is, in all likelihood, just an aesthetic issue. Waisting time and energy by pouring cold water into the tub to make a too-hot-shower usable is a major nuisance.

Samantha
Samantha
9 years ago
Reply to  Jenny

THIS is what the post should have been about. A small problem that doesn’t affect her life in any way, that if fixed would have to be paid for with credit. Sierra has a problem that affects her life and that she has the ability to either solve (husband) or pay to solve, and is choosing to live with it instead.

I think Jenny’s making a great decision to let a small, costly issue go so that she can put more money into paying down debt.

Lindsey
Lindsey
9 years ago
Reply to  Jenny

To fix your countertop, just find some nail polish in a similar color–Looks & functions just fine!

Karen in MN
Karen in MN
9 years ago

Hmmm, I’m not convinced. Like Jane above, I think not fixing your shower is just deferred maintenance, not frugality. It’s penny-wise but pound foolish. By not maintaining your home, you’re lowering the value of your real estate investment–it’s the opposite of frugality. Stuff like this will just keep piling up, until it’s too much to do quickly when you want to sell. And then–congratulations! Your home will be listed as a “fixer-upper”! At a discount. It’s far better to do a little bit each year to keep up your home. Homeowners should plan on spending 3% of the cost of… Read more »

cc
cc
9 years ago

i can see where this is going, i’m a rationalizer myself, but the sooner you take care of it the sooner it’ll be done, then you don’t have to worry about it!
i’m a renter so maybe i’m not appreciating the maintenance that goes into a home, but if it were me i would have just called someone to fix the damn thing.

Holly
Holly
9 years ago

I have a broken grandfather clock and a broken doorbell. These are better examples of actively avoiding unnecessary expenses. The clock chime tends to get on my nerves anyway and the dog goes flipping ape-$HI8 when anyone rings the doorbell. So…maybe better off not fixing them. My father was (and still is) an annoying miser…we had heat and a/c, yet he refused to turn them on. We had a big house that he refused to heat or cool and a yard full of rocks and weeds because he refused to modify the clay-like soil to something that would sustain grass.… Read more »

Jane
Jane
9 years ago
Reply to  Holly

We have a broken doorbell as well. I consider it a way to discourage solicitors – that is, if they don’t already heed the “No solicitors” sign. But this is much different than a broken temp gauge on your shower. People can knock.

MK
MK
9 years ago

I’m tempted to agree with what several others have said already. Fix the faucet, or pay to have it fixed. It’s a rather small expense, and just consider how much extra it costs to heat the extra water for showering (since you’re not mixing in cold water to get that more comfortable temperature in the shower).

Hunter
Hunter
9 years ago

Not buying it. Your decision not to fix the water “thingy” was unconscious and not a conscious decision to be frugal.

Try a tankless hot water heater. This will save you money on reduced energy over the long run, and may save you from a nasty hot water injury.

Here is a debate on the line between bicycling frugaly, or crossing over into the ugly cheap. April 9.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  Hunter

Just the other I read a review of tankless heaters in consumer reports and their conclusion is that they are not that great.

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/appliances/heating-cooling-and-air/water-heaters/tankless-water-heaters/overview/tankless-water-heaters-ov.htm

Coley
Coley
9 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I’ve looked into tankless heaters as well. I agree, they’re highly over-hyped. From the simple perspective of engineering thermodynamics, you’re obviously not saving the energy it takes to heat the water; you’re only saving the energy that the hot water tank loses as its contents await use. But the fact is, in the year 2011, we can build ourselves a pretty good thermos, esp. when space and weight are minor factors. And its also important to remember that this energy is only “worth saving” during the summer, assuming your hot-water tank is in the basement. Otherwise, the heat it slowly… Read more »

Courtney
Courtney
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

My in-laws have a tankless water heater. I hate it. It takes at least three minutes to get any hot water out of the tap…so you end up spending 9x longer waiting for hot water than you do actually washing your hands or face.

Hunter
Hunter
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

A conventional hot water heater and a tankless unit should get hot water to you at exactly the same time. There is an equal amount of cold water from the tap to the heater. Mine takes 50 seconds from my tankless unit, and this is the same as th etank it replaced a year ago.

As long as your water usage remains the same, you will save about 30% on your hot water energy. Of course, if you use water all day, your bill will reflect this. I think it’s a pretty good system.

BLG
BLG
9 years ago

As a person who grew up in a house that was in a constant state of repair/renovation, I’d like to say that this pattern of behavior can really influence some kids (and their adult selves, by extension). My parents could never complete a repair quickly – I don’t know if this was frugality or just not being able to get things together. Either way, I didn’t enjoy it, and it made me think that home maintenance was an impossible task. I’ve since learned otherwise, and now I think, “Why couldn’t my parents have just taken ONE weekend to fix some… Read more »

Luke
Luke
9 years ago
Reply to  BLG

I feel exactly the same – I come from a big family and my parents always bought ‘fixer uppers’, because it was all they could afford for their growing family.

They were so drained day to day that a simple job (re-tiling a small bathroom, repairing a loose door handle) could take months at a time to be resolved.

I strongly suspect they didn’t do us any favours with the bad example of procrastinating (but at least they made up for it by showing us lots of love!)

LauraElle
LauraElle
9 years ago

I would be worried about germs breeding in the hot water tank, frankly. If the tank isn’t hot enough, bacteria like legionella (which causes Legionaire’s Disease, a type of pneumonia). It doesn’t need to be 150F but it should be hot enough to retard bacteria growth. From the CDCs website: “The Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. The bacteria grow best in warm water, like the kind found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, or parts of the air-conditioning systems of large buildings. They do not seem to grow in… Read more »

chamoiswillow
chamoiswillow
9 years ago

Just a note – while hot water above 125dF is scalding, below 115dF allows the legionella bacteria to grow, so don’t turn your hot water down too much to save money, you could get very ill with Legionnaire’s disease (pneumonia-like).

Amy
Amy
9 years ago

Hmmmmmm…this is less about use it up, wear it out, or make do without and more about priorities. Yeah, it’s much more exciting and sexy to say that yoga class is the thing that brings you the most quality of life bang for your buck, but sometimes, it’s fixing the broken _______ (fill in the item) that you use every day that brings that much more peace to your family’s and/or your life. I have reservations when someone says they aren’t going to do home maintanence/upkeep in order to save money (this does not include the more cosmetic home maintenance,… Read more »

KS
KS
9 years ago
Reply to  Amy

Very well put. I didn’t find this a conscious frugal choice, I found it lazy and self-indulgent. Yoga 3-4x a week may be all the rage and all about self-centering and what not, taking care of one’s living space is important, if not outwardly cool and interesting.

Naomi
Naomi
9 years ago

It’s a frugal choice to not fix your shower? Nope, you’re just rationalizing your laziness. I think “wear it out” would apply here…you wore it out, so replace it.

It’s a frugal choice to buy a full-price yoga membership because it makes you happier? Nope, you’re just rationalizing your luxury purchase. I think “make it do” would apply here…use your tapes.

Yes, you’re choosing how you want to spend your money, which is fine, but please don’t call it frugality.

SL
SL
9 years ago
Reply to  Naomi

I agree!

since when does laziness = frugality ?

Jo
Jo
9 years ago

With all do respect, I think you are just being lazy and…cheap. You will need to fix it at some point anyways so, why don’t just do it right away? You have the money to hire someone to do it so you don’t use your own time. And I am almost sure this won’t make a big impact in your financial goals situation AND you get to save money from using all that hot water that you don’t really need.

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
9 years ago

I’m not sure if the shower head issue falls into the “frugal” category.

My philosophy for faucets is that they are somewhat high risk because they involve water. If there is anything wrong with a faucet – I like to replace it immediately, since I’m afraid that something else might go wrong and you might end up with water damage.

mike
mike
9 years ago

JD, for that knob on the washer: All you need is the brand of the washer, and the model number.

The part can be ordered online and delivered to your house.

http://www.appliancezone.com/Default.aspx?gclid=CNqCsf6ppqgCFSU6gwod4wJ1HA&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  mike

Awesome. THANK YOU!

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
9 years ago

This post reminds me of a friend, who’s car heater stopped working. She drove through two Toronto winters with no heat for fear that the repair cost would be huge. I drove with her a couple of times and she had lots of blankets and sleeping bags in the car.

Finally, she took the car in and it was a small $50 repair. 🙂

Jaime B
Jaime B
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Holman

Hahahaha … when I was in high school, my first car had a working defrost but the heater didn’t work. I never cared because cold doesn’t bother me as much (KS not Toronto), the car wasn’t reliable enough to take out of town alone and my hometown is small so no place in town took longer than 10 minutes to reach. But, when I went away to college my parents finally decided it was necessary to get it up to snuff and it turned my radiator just needed to be flushed! It was simple and not too expensive, they felt… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago

This is stupid. “We’d rather spend our weekends playing music and gardening than get into this messy, time-consuming repair project.” Maybe you’d rather spend your weekends watching “Jersey Shore” than cleaning up the giant pile of dishes in the sink with food drying onto them, but you’re not being frugal by sitting in front of the TV, you’re being lazy. It’s pretty well-established by the article that you could afford to both do it yourself and pay a plumber to do it, the only reason it hasn’t been done is because no one feels like doing it. Like that pile… Read more »

The Other Brian
The Other Brian
9 years ago

“Why haven’t you lost that weight yet?
Frugality, I’d rather spend my time with potato chips.”

Now that is funny…

Coley
Coley
9 years ago

Regular access to properly functioning indoor plumbing is one of the criteria for a family to be considered living a stable, first-world lifestyle. It is not a frivolous luxury, and it should not be prioritized lower than yoga classes.

Chett
Chett
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

In your opinion. If it keeps mom’s mental health stable and happy, then yes it is a priority over a perfect combination of hot and cold water.

Coley
Coley
9 years ago
Reply to  Chett

Potential double post, please delete.

Coley
Coley
9 years ago
Reply to  Chett

I suppose if you’re willing to concede that “mom” is mentally unstable, and yoga is absolutely (and solely) necessary to her maintaining her ability to function in life, then, yes, it would make more sense to put up with non-working plumbing to pay for yoga, assuming there was no other cash available whatsoever in order to finance the plumbing repairs. However, according to the author, that’s not the case here–the yoga habit was spurred by a groupon, not a psychiatric referral. In this case, we have a misplaced self-celebration of parents indulging themselves in singing weekends and downward-dog posing, all… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

“Getting Poor Slowly”

Best comment I’ve read on this article so far.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago

I haven’t ready any of the replies yet, but my first reflex is to say that you’re inviting decay. The more things break, the more they break. It’s the law of entropy. Staying alive is all about keeping entropy in check until it kills us. If you own this house, then you might want to maintain it close to new so that things don’t get out of hand. As Kenneth Koch put it, one train may hide another. Here, enjoy this: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/one-train-may-hide-another/ On top of the house thing, I have dry skin, prone to irritation, so I’ve learned that hot… Read more »

Kathy Z
Kathy Z
9 years ago

Maybe if more people here took yoga classes, they wouldn’t be so uptight and angsty about the shower issue. 🙂

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  Kathy Z

Hippie! 😛

shash
shash
9 years ago
Reply to  Kathy Z

Oh, please. I do yoga AND I care about decent plumbing.

Trina
Trina
9 years ago
Reply to  shash

LOL — thanks for that little exchange. 🙂

Sam
Sam
9 years ago

I wonder how much you pay in energy bills for super hot showers vs. cost of fixing it. Letting a chore like this go might not be the most frugal choice.

S
S
9 years ago

“Every night when the kids take their bath, they make a game of dumping a few buckets of cold water into the tub to get it to the right temperature.” http://www.burnfoundation.org/programs/resource.cfm?c=1&a=3 This is a major safety problem and very irresponsible! Fix it today. A temperature knob costs less to fix than trip to the ER for burns. At the very least, add the cold water first and then the hot. Sierra, untwist the knots in your thinking! You have been doing this for a year? When safety is ignored, it isn’t frugal, it is cheap and dangerous. Scalds from hot… Read more »

Troy
Troy
9 years ago

This is the problem with being frugal. Which is different than conscious spending. Conscious spending means spending with purpose on things that provide value. Cost is not the factor. Frugal means saving wherever you can whenever you can, many times at the cost of time, labor or the future. The problem comes when that frugality does lead to increased wealth. Let’s say your plan works and saving money, clipping coupons, not maintaining your home or cars or health or anything else that isn’t immediately necessary and it all leads to piles of money and freedom. Then what. If you are… Read more »

Mary H
Mary H
9 years ago
Reply to  Troy

That’s not frugal, that’s cheap.

Katy @ The Non-Consumer Advocate
Katy @ The Non-Consumer Advocate
9 years ago

Nice title! 😉

Katy Wolk-Stanley
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago

I knew I’d heard that quote. Who said it origInally!

Money Reasons
Money Reasons
9 years ago

Thanks for the confession on the broken shower! A good part of last summer, I was mowing with a broken handle. I made a splint with some black tape and a piece of metal so it wouldn’t be noticable by people driving by when I was mowing. Oh sure I could have bought a new one, but I just couldn’t bring myself to it because it would have been a waste of money… At one time (with the same mower) I also used a paper clip to control the throttle control, but nobody could see that from the road driving… Read more »

Jenne
Jenne
9 years ago

You have to look at each thing like this carefully, and see what it costs you in real-time and money, not just what it feels like it costs you. For instance, in our house, not fixing the shower over the summer would be costing us money– because I take rather cold showers in the summer, though my housemates only take ‘colder’ showers. In a case like this, I’d be hesitant to let the person responsible put off the job infinitely; the longer you keep your hot water heater at a really low temp, the more likely you could get nasties… Read more »

John
John
9 years ago

Well that was an interesting article that, in my opinion crossed the line. You’re family is just cheap and lazy about the shower issue. There I said it 🙂

gail
gail
9 years ago

My 5-year-old son broke the knob on my mother’s TV. I offered to have it replaced, but she refused, even though she was in great financial health. For 12 years this woman used pliers to change the channel–she had no remote–and every time we came over, she reminded me, not in a nice way, that my son had broken it. I never could understand why she chose to deal every single day for years with a broken item that cost so little to repair. At first I thought she was just being vindictive, then after I while I thought she… Read more »

Luke
Luke
9 years ago
Reply to  gail

J.D. doesn’t have a broken shower – or kids, that we know of 🙂

Amy
Amy
9 years ago

I chuckled reading this article. Presently, the glove box on my car is being held closed with three pieces of duct tape. It’s been that way since December. A new glove box door costs over $200 which seems ridiculous to me so I’m waiting until I can locate a wrecked Jetta & hopefully obtain a cheaper part (which may or may not match the current interior).

Jonathan
Jonathan
9 years ago
Reply to  Amy

Good luck! My friend’s Jetta has this exact same problem, and he’s passed on getting it fixed for the exact same reason. He uses “The Club,” wedged between the center console and the glove box, to keep it closed. Not so comfortable for passengers with long legs!

Amy
Amy
9 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Yeah – the guys at our garage claim this is a common problem with Jettas. I hadn’t considered the Club but that might eliminate the problem of the door occasionally breaking free from the duct tape and hitting the passengers knees.

Stephanie
Stephanie
9 years ago
Reply to  Amy

What year is your Jetta? You can usually find parts pretty inexpensively on eBay and maybe learn to install on YouTube.

Amy
Amy
9 years ago
Reply to  Stephanie

What a great idea! Thanks!! I’ll see if my spouse will add this to his chore cloud

Kelly M.
Kelly M.
9 years ago

I LOVE the chore cloud – this is SO true of me and my husband! This actually helps me understand the way he works better! (although like you said, JD, he COULD be more efficient at getting the actual chores on the chore cloud done FIRST so we have time together later in the day!) 🙂

Sara Tetreault {at} Go Gingham dot com
Sara Tetreault {at} Go Gingham dot com
9 years ago

Frugality is all about choices and how we choose to live. I think we all probably have items around our homes that need fixing and we all have different tolerance levels for them. I’d fix the hot water before yoga class but maybe that’s your house trick for really fast showers…

Linda
Linda
9 years ago

I wouldn’t assume the real problem is quickly fixed by replacing the mixer. I had a similar problem a few years ago in the basement shower that I rarely use. Some friends who stayed over one night alerted me to it. A few months later when I was getting ready to do do some renovations in my house and would necessitate me relying on that shower I asked the contractor to replace the mixer for me. Well, it wasn’t the mixer, it was a blocked cold water pipe. The house is over 50 years old and it’s pretty common for… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  Linda

Ouch! This is exactly the “one train may hide another” scenario I was talking about in my first post.

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago
Reply to  Linda

Our water pressure got worse and worse and worse over 3 or 4 years, until we were only taking baths at the house and showering at the gym, because the shower was a trickle. We made a couple attempts to fix it, but none of them helped. Plumbers gave us wildly different scenarios, from “dig up the yard to replace the incoming pipe” to “replace the stack, it’s not drawing” to “well, you replaced the pipe I would have expected to go bad, so keep replacing til you hit the right one.” It turned out to be the pipe between… Read more »

Chett
Chett
9 years ago

I don’t have time to read all of the comments today, so forgive me if I’m repeating someone.

Your staff writers are rocking this month. I can tell a HUGE difference in their writing and voice from their first contributions several months ago compared to the recent contributions. J.D. you must have seen potential in their writing styles because they are doing a great job recently.

Des
Des
9 years ago
Reply to  Chett

I didn’t read past the first sentence of your comment, but it bugs be when people start comments with something like: “I’m too busy to read what you folks wrote, but I have time to tell you what I think.”

Chett
Chett
9 years ago
Reply to  Des

My comment wasn’t in response to what everyone else is saying, it was in response to what the author wrote and the good job these staff writers have been doing on GRS.

And no, when I see there are 75 comments and I’m trying to quickly read the topic during my short lunch break I don’t always have time to read every comment.

It appears the only contribution you made to today’s discussion was a criticism of another readers compliment to the discussion. Nice.

Robin
Robin
9 years ago

It may be just me but there’s no way I could live like that. My environment is very key to how I feel and having things broken or ugly really bothers me. A broken shower would be fixed the same or next day and there’s no way I’d wait for my husband to try to fix it. Actually my husband would be the one calling the plumber….

Not to mention having a temperature gauge that doesn’t work in a house with young children is just absolutely INSANE. Not frugal, just flat out crazy and dangerous.

sam i am
sam i am
9 years ago

I love your concept of “Chore Cloud”, seems to be a fundamental difference between the sexes!

Anyway, when things aren’t working around the house, I will hear about it everyday from the dw until it’s fixed, so unfortunately, I can’t really be lazy unless I’m just being masochistic. When she’s not happy, it’s pretty much impossible for me to be.

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