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Making Maintenance a Priority in Your Budget

The following post is from Christina of Northern Cheapskate:

wrenches on a window sill
photo credit: Eugene Peretz

A car won’t run without oil.  A body will get sick without a healthy diet and exercise. A roof will leak if old shingles aren’t replaced.

It doesn’t matter what you own – you’ve got to take care of it if you want it to last.

Unfortunately, this was a lesson we had to learn the hard way.  I remember gently telling my husband that I thought the brakes on our SUV didn’t feel quite right.  He put off a trip to the service station because the brakes seemed okay to him and we had a lot of other bills at the time.  Eventually, the brakes starting making a lot of noise.  The end result – a repair bill of nearly $600 – much more than if we had brought it in for maintenance weeks earlier.

We have since seen countless of examples of this in our lives.  Eating poorly and not exercising has caused health problems that need costly medication.  A family member did not take her vehicle for regular oil changes, and the engine had to be replaced.  Something as simple as fixing a leaking a toilet can have a major affect on your energy bill.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Spend a little bit of money and time now, and avoid a huge expense later.

But how do you do make maintenance a priority when it feels like you’re always a day late and a dollar short?

Figure out what needs to be done.

Take a close look at your life and the things you own.  What tasks need to be done?  List car and home maintenance tasks.  Be sure to include taking care of your appliances, heating & cooling systems, and outdoor maintenance (like staining the deck or tuning up the lawn mower).  Consider all of the tasks that help maintain good health:  Annual physicals, eye exams, and dental check-ups.   Be sure to include the maintenance care of any pets you have, too.

Create a sinking fund.

A sinking fund is really just a pool of money that you’ve set aside that you can draw on for future expenses.  Once you know what maintenance tasks need to be done, you can establish a budget for them, and set aside aside a little bit of money each week in a sinking fund to pay for those tasks.  Some people set up a separate bank account to handle their sinking funds for things like insurance, taxes, or even Christmas shopping.  Others prefer to maintain one account for all of their savings.  It doesn’t matter how you save for those maintenance tasks.  What matters is that you are saving!

Set up a maintenance schedule.

When you’re taking care of a household and a family, it can be a real challenge to keep track of what tasks need to be done and when they should be done.  Write tasks on a family calendar or set up reminders on your phone.  Use printable lists such as a car maintenance log or home maintenance log.  Remember that some maintenance tasks will change as the seasons change.  Schedule projects like tuning up the snow-blower before the first snow fall.  Make sure those annual physicals are taken care of before the kids sign up for sports.

Maintaining your health and your stuff can feel like a bit of a chore sometimes, but when you make it a priority, you will find that it saves you time and money.

How do you make maintenance a priority in your household?


Christina Brown is the creator of Northern Cheapskate, a blog dedicated to frugal living through coupons, freebies, and money-saving ideas.  She lives in the rural north woods of Minnesota where she clips coupons, pinches pennies, and chases her three boys (a 6-year-old and twin 4-year olds) as a stay-at-home mom.