At various times in my life I’ve lived in apartments with few appliances, dormitories with no amenities at all, and homes with HOA’s that restricted what I could do on my own property. I’ve also worked in offices that had no free parking. Living and working in these places greatly increased my expenses because I had to pay for so many things that I could do myself or for free elsewhere. Without a washer and dryer, I had to pay for laundry. Living in a restrictive neighborhood meant I couldn’t work on or wash my car and I had to pay third parties for those services. Working where there’s no free parking meant a monthly parking contract.
I’m fortunate to have finally settled in a place where I’m free to do as I please on my own property, I no longer have to pay for parking, and I own a full set of appliances. These comforts have ended up saving me money because I can do a lot of things myself that I used to pay for.
Because I remember what it was like to have to pay for certain things and services, it’s not hard for me to sometimes pretend that I still have to pay. The difference is I now pay myself. It’s a little game I sometimes play that helps me quickly increase my savings without having to make more money. I put the money I would have paid for the services into my savings account. Here are a few of the things I pretend to pay for.
Laundry: Remember the days of schlepping your clothes to the campus laundry or to the laundromat because your crappy apartment didn’t have a washer/dryer? Remember saving quarters so you wouldn’t have to rely on the change machines? I hated paying for laundry. It was several dollars per week I would rather have kept, not to mention the time it took. If I need to quickly save some money, a few weeks of pretending I have to pay to use the washer and dryer will do it. Around here the going rates are $2.50 to wash and $2.00 to dry in a laundromat. Each time I do a load I put that money into a cup on top of my machine, as if I really had to pay for my washing. That adds up over several loads per week.
Parking: I used to work in a place where I had to pay monthly for a parking space. There was very limited street parking so if I didn’t want to be late every day due to cruising for a free space, I had to pay for a spot in the garage. (Public transport was non-existent, too, which gave me no options.) Now that I don’t work there any more, I will still sometimes throw that monthly parking fee into my savings.
Car washes: I lived in an apartment complex that did not allow you to wash your own car in the parking lot. That meant I had to pay for a car wash. Even a cheapie wash at the self serve car wash was at least $3.00. It was five dollars if you wanted wax. It’s probably much more than that today. Now that I can wash my car in my own driveway, I will sometimes take $5 out of my wallet and put it into savings.
Car repair: That same apartment complex and one HOA forbade working on your own cars in the driveway. Even oil changes were excluded. Even though I know how to do a lot of my own car work, I had to take it to someone else. Now that I can work on my own car in my own garage, I will sometimes take the money I save and put it away.
Having a car at all: Both when I was in college and when I lived overseas, I didn’t have a car. Part of it was because of the cost, but mostly it was because there was no place to park one even if I did have it. I learned in those years that going out to eat wasn’t an option, neither was a quick trip to the mall or the movies. Everything required me to either beg for a ride or to use public transportation. As a result, I stayed home a lot more and got very good at entertaining myself. When I want to quickly up my savings, I pretend that my car isn’t in the garage all ready to go. Instead I make dinner at home, watch a DVD, and shop in my own closet.
It’s kind of fun sometimes to pretend I’ve gone back in time and still have to go to the laundromat or that I have to have the car washed at the gas station. Instead of actually doing these things, though, I still do them myself but I put the money I would have paid into my savings. If you’ve never lived under these restrictions, lucky you. You can still pretend and use these tricks to pad your savings account, though. Maybe you’ve lived a different life from me and you can recall other things you had to pay for that you no longer do. Add those to your own game of pretend and watch your savings grow.