Every time I get out of my car, I roll the window down first so I can reach the door handle on the outside. The inside handle broke about six months ago. "How much to get that handle working again?" I asked my mechanic.
"One hundred dollars."
"It's been broken for six months and I think I'll wait until some other priorities are taken care of before I get this fixed," I replied.
The door handle is the tip of the iceberg of my financial quirkiness. Even in the best of times, I drove an old Honda to work that my wife owned when we started dating. People would laugh at me when I pulled into the parking lot. I didn't care. They probably didn't like my food choices either. Every day I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while my buddies splurged. I used the savings to invest in real estate. After a quarter million miles, I traded my car for some landscaping work and transformed my yard into something special. It was a great bargain for both parties.
My frugal ways paid off when I launched a new business with a team of business partners. My daughter wanted a car but I didn't have the resources to help her. My sister and brother-in-law stepped in and made an offer I couldn't refuse: they bartered a used Honda for tennis lessons for their son. The only problem with the deal was that my daughter didn't like the sound of the modified muffler. I refused to buy a new one. She refused to drive the car. The stalemate broke when I decided it would be my new driver. I love the sound of the muffler -- it's a little rough, like me. And I still pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I head off to my day job.
Here are some other quirky things I do in the interest of debt-free living, a dream I'm pursuing daily:
- I learned to clip my own hair between visits to the barber shop. It's not perfect, but it cuts my visits in half. My wife helps me with the back side. I still need the barber shop visits to maintain the style my wife prefers, otherwise, I would go with a shorter look that I can do myself with my home shaver.
- We shop at thrift stores and garage sales. The best negotiator in the family is my youngest son. When we need something, we bring him. He is brutal. I stay out of the way and let him do his magic. Every piece of furniture in our home has a story. The dining room table we use in our basement to play family games was the best deal my son worked out for us -- $10.00!
- We made a commitment to stop using credit cards. This is painful. For me, it requires discipline. To help me stay out of trouble, I don't even know our checking account balances and carry no money in my wallet. I tell my wife in advance what purchases I need to make, like gas and limited groceries and she keeps the checkbooks. We stay committed to the no credit card rule unless it's an extreme emergency, like an auto breakdown. We are approaching combined miles of 300,000 for both our paid-off cars.
- My wife got me hooked on the home improvement channel. We transformed our kitchen by adding a back splash for one hundred dollars. Slowly but surely, I'm learning to do my own repairs.
- I found a tennis buddy who attends the university. We use his student status to cut our indoor court fees from $20/hr to $12. Then, we play doubles and split the fees four ways, reducing my exercise budget to $2.00 per week. Now that the good weather is returning, I can play outdoors for free if we change the venue.