To Be Frugal, You Need Time

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? 

 

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19 Replies to “To Be Frugal, You Need Time”

  1. Look at you over there in the corner with your cute self! Cute picture:)

    Oh how I can relate to this one and this is really the main reason I’m not as frugal as I know I can be. Time is not something that I can just whip out my brush and paint into existence. Especially being a blogger, freelancers, mom, wife, and full-time employee. I’ve found myself spending more money lately just to outsource so I can juggle all the things I need to do.

    It really makes me mad sometimes knowing that I can get things for cheaper, but I always gain perspective when I think about the fact that I’m still saving money and hustling towards freedom – something that isn’t happening for many people.

    It totally sucks you were stuck out in traffic (I remember those days in college when I would drive home in my lemon that I named Sue Lee). Glad you were able to get it fixed and save a little money too!

    1. Sue Lee! Very cute. I hope to hold onto my car for another few years, and i also hope to chuck it off a cliff. 🙂 I sometimes feel rich in time and poor in actual money, but my hustle is in my hands. We both have out heads on straight though, and that’s a huge pro for us!

  2. So true! There are so many options to save money but aren’t necessarily worth the time it takes. With a full schedule you need to choose your frugal battles, sounds like you won this one! I’m glad it all worked out for you, I think we all have been there before and it’s definitely not enjoyable to have car issues back to back.

    1. I get so frustrated with my car! I depend on it for my catering job and it’s nice to have for convenience, but it is so expensive. I often find myself weighing a million options to save money with the time I give in exchange.

  3. I must admit I struggle with time and patience when it comes to frugality. Hopefully I make up for it in other places like never hiring a cleaning person because although it does take time, I like doing it. I know, I’m weird! But I might have easily paid the $67 for the convenience of just getting it done. BTW, I totally stalled on the 405 freeway here in LA at rush hour once and it’s freaking scary! I feel your pain!

    1. Ah, stalling in LA traffic definitely seems like it would be way worse! I think a balance of spending and saving is the best anyone can do. I want to be the best frugal saver ever, but it’s not always possible. Ps- i really like sweeping and dusting!

  4. Hi Kara, I know what you mean about car hassles. I once had a really good (older) Mazda that was great on gas and generally very reliable except…every now an again the immobiliser wouldn’t unlock and I was going nowhere until it decided to accept my key. I had mechanics pull the key sensors apart, replace other bits but still couldn’t tie it down. And it only chose to stop working when it was most inconvenient. Never did find out what the problem was. In the end I had enough and traded it for a newer, more reliable set of wheels.

    I know what you mean about being able to be more frugal if you have more time. I will spend too much time researching prices online before buying but I am determined to find the best price even if the research time is worth more than the saving. In saying that, the time spent is not earning me anything anyway so it doesn’t really count as lost income. And on top of that, there is s certain principal in getting the best price available so I think it’s worth it.

    1. That car sounds frustrating! It would drive me nuts. If you feel good about how you divide your time and your spending, that’s all that matters!

  5. When I was in highschool, and even with my college car, I ahd the CHilton’s manual for it. It shows every part and how it’s connected which lets you figure out how to take it out and replace it. It saved me a lot of money and I only had to take it to a shop once to repair what I was trying to fix. I couldn’t get the wires backk on the starter and pre starter correctly, and this was pre-cell phone days so I couldn’t just snap a pic. Sigh…

    I hear you about frugality taking time. When the garage door springs broke on a friday afternoon, both cars were trapped inside, and I was the solo parent for the weekend. While I could have ordered the parts and repaired it for half price, I couldn’t wait and be stuck car-less on a solo parenting weekend, so I paid to get it done and done quickly. I still called for estimates, but quickly realized it came down to who could get there before it turns into a weekend -overtime cost.

    I can’t wait to have more time to DIY more stuff around the house.

    1. That manual sounds like just what I need! I just want to know the basics of my car and I really dont. Time is key- gotta have the time to learn, and then the time to fix it!

  6. I definitely can relate to this. I hate having to get things fixed on my car.

    1. It always feels like a rip off. Even when necessary! *dreams of being car free*

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  8. I am sorry to hear this, but it is happening. This is the argument for some friends to buy a new car: low level of risks!
    I have no car so there I habe no risks like this. But when the transport was blocked because of the strike / bomb incidents, to walk 6 km up/go or use a bike was the only solution.
    So… for young dynamic people there is a solution to move close to job, to use public transport or just to walk, to pay extra for the rent but not for the car + gas + assurance + incidents, but to gain time, confidence, and calm.

  9. Yeah, I experimented with couponing and those grocery store apps. It’s not worth my time as most of the items I don’t really buy on a regular basis. Being frugal can help with large purchase, but smaller ones, saving a dollar here and there doesn’t matter much to me, as long as I’m not mindlessly spending.

    1. I’m inclined to agree with you these days. I was super hardcore when paying off my loans, but I haven’t maintained that well. It’s too consuming to worry about every dollar!

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  11. […] one day to own a home in a neighborhood just like this, and be a one car household. God knows that cars are the opposite of frugal. I would love to be a biker for years to come, and use it as my primary mode of […]

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