As those of you who follow me on Twitter may know, I had some car troubles last week. (Cars are annoying and expensive, and I can’t wait to get rid of mine someday.) My car simply shut down in the middle of traffic on three different occasions last week. Twice on the highway!
Anytime something goes wrong with my car, I feel two major emotions: 1) annoyed at myself that I don’t know more about cars and 2) like the repair shop is ripping me off. I know I can fix number one, and that can help with number two. As I was promising myself that I would read everything ever published on my car’s make and model, I was also realizing just how much time you need to be frugal. All that reading was going to suck up a lot of hours.
As I was promising myself that I would read everything ever published on my car’s make and model, I was also realizing just how much time you need to be frugal. All that reading was going to suck up a lot of hours. True frugality is hugely dependent on having a large amount of time to spare.
I spent almost $400 on my car last week. After my car pooped out the first time, I spent some time googling to see where I could get a free check of my car. AutoZone was the answer. I managed to make it down there, and they ran a very brief test on my engine and battery.
Turns out the battery was running at 73%, which is not good. They also told me that I’d have to replace a cranksahft sensor sooner rather than later, but they couldn’t do it there. So I shelled out $146 for a new battery. I was happy to do so, as my battery was five years old, and I thought I had seen the end of my car dying on me.
Not so dear friends! I stalled out the very next day on my way to catering. And this time, there was no coming back. I sat on the upper deck of the highway in the 103 degree heat for 40 minutes, dripping sweat and waiting for my tow truck to come get me. I had to miss my work shift.
That stupid crankshaft sensor was the root of the problem. It had to be replaced. For those that don’t know, a crankshaft sensor sends the message to the computer that ‘hey, the car is on! Power up and go!’ Everything to start the car was starting, but the computer wasn’t getting the message to stay on.
I got to the repair shop just before 5pm, so I had to leave my car there overnight. The shop quoted me at $302 total for repairs: $95 for the new piece, and $207 for labor costs. That seemed high, since I knew from my AutoZone check that a crankshaft sensor cost only $51. Being a frugal ninja, I called around a bit and managed to find another shop that would do it for $229.
I called my original shop back to see if they’d meet that price. They agreed, and I saved myself $67.
I spent at least an hour on the phone comparing replacement costs, and at least 30 minutes doing research on different shops around town. I had also already spent time on my computer, looking up what a crankshaft sensor was, and average repair costs for my car. For me, that’s not a big deal. It’s worth it to save the cash. But for people who keeper a tighter schedule, they can’t spare an hour and a half to be able to save $67.
For me, that time is not a huge deal. It’s worth it to save the cash. But for people who keeper a tighter schedule, they can’t spare the two hours to save $67. They might not be able to go without a car for a day. They might not be able to afford missing a work shift.
Frugality takes time, planning and foresight. I saved $67 throughout the ordeal, but I gave up time in order to do so. In any other frugal matter, it’s the same trade off. Comparison shopping at stores or online means you have the time to do the research. Going without a car means you can plan out the bus route that will take you to work (and the time to spend on the bus.) It means missing a work shift isn’t a huge deal, because you had the foresight to spend months building up your emergency fund.
People who work three jobs, or are the sole breadwinners for big families, or who are students and employees- these are the people that don’t have the time for frugality. My having it is just another iteration of my privilege, and I wanted to take a second to talk about it.
Making money takes time. Saving money takes time. Time is most valuable currency out there, no matter where you are in your money journey. How much time does your frugality take?
Kara Perez is the original founder of From Frugal To Free. She is a money expert, speaker and founder of Bravely Go, a feminist financial education company. Her work has been featured on NPR, Business Insider, Forbes, and Elite Daily.