Last week, I was contemplating a purchase. The windshield washer pump in our old Honda Element had died. Here is what I did:
- Looked up the price of the part online. Yay, only $13!
- Looked up the repair process on YouTube. Opposite of yay; it looks like a pain in the ass.
- Called a local repair place to get a quote: Between $200 and $300. Ugggh!
- Watched the YouTube video again. Still don’t want to do it.
Money Versus Time
I’ve worked on cars for much of my life. With the help of my dad, I rebuilt an engine on the first piece of junk car I ever owned, a Ford EXP. It was smelly, unreliable, and the front end looked like a frog, only not as attractive:
But our current vehicles have been reliable. I haven’t done much work on them besides changing the oil, rotating tires, and an occasional brake job. While I like to work with my hands, I hate working on cars. My adventures as an amateur mechanic usually go like this.
It’s 18 degrees outside and the starter is dead. (Cars know not to break down when the temperature is reasonable.) I dig out the jacks and raise the car. I lay on the cold ground and stick my hands into a cavity of the engine. I try to loosen a bolt I can barely see. The bolt has been there for 15 years and has zero interest in changing the status quo. I curse at the stubborn bolt loudly. After a bitter, bitter struggle, it suddenly breaks free. The wrench spins with great speed and I crash my knuckles into another part of the engine. Now there’s blood and more bad words.
Back to the current situation. I talked the situation over with Mindy who is aware of how much I despise auto repairs:
- Me: The windshield wiper pump is broken. Should I fix it myself or…
- Mindy (stern and with no hesitation): TAKE IT TO A MECHANIC.
- Me: But it’s gonna cost…
- Mindy: I don’t care. You hate working on cars. Take it in somewhere.
- Me: But, the money…
- Mindy: Zip it!
I’m stubborn, so I continued to ponder the situation. It was then that I had an epiphany.
It’s All About Efficiency
I was severely put out by the thought of paying someone more than $200 for work that I could do myself for $13. But, then my next thought was this:
Dude, you’re not a starving kid at university anymore. $200 won’t affect you in any way.
True enough. Makes perfect sense. And then I realized something else:
It’s not about the money, it’s about efficiency.
Are you like me? Do you:
- Go nuts when your kids leave lights on in the house?
- Plan your auto trips for maximum efficiency?
- leave at a certain time to avoid rush hour or crowds in stores
- plan the route to avoid waiting for lights at left turns
- plan trips to maximize stops (No way I’m driving across town just to go to Costco unless I have at least 2 other stops in the ara)
- Plan out DIY projects to minimize waste? (The instructions that came with my decking and flooring told me to plan for 10% waste. Nonsense. Plan carefully and you can often get by well under 5%.)
- Hate it when people waste food?
- Buy cars that are exactly as big as you need and no bigger?
- Take 5 minute showers?
- Insulate the crap out of your house to minimize the heating bill?
- Wait until you connect to wifi to do stuff on your phone?
- Spend hours trying to get the best deal when booking travel online?
These are the things I think about all the time. I hate waste! And the same applies to money. If I can repair the car for $13, why am I paying someone more than $200?
I’m not trying to save money, I’m trying to not waste a precious resource.
And then I had another thought…
It’s About Time
By repairing the car myself, I would have saved $200. However, it also would take me many hours. The auto repair place told me that the job would take 1.5 hours. It’s going to take me at least twice as long, but probably more. I’m inexperienced, don’t have a lift, and working in the cold slows you down.
So, the next progression in my thinking was this:
You value using money efficiently. Why don’t you value using time efficiently?
There were a million other things I’d rather be doing than working on the car. Why didn’t I value that?
I paid someone to fix the car. While the mechanic wrenched away, I sat in the waiting room with my laptop working on a project.
Money –> Time
I suppose my tale of auto repair is an evolution in thinking that many on the FIRE path will go through. Money has different values at different times. When I was a kid just out of university with a net worth of -$60,000, I would have changed that pump without a second thought. $200 meant everything back then. But now, the money situation is better and I should value time above pretty much everything else. Time to exercise. Time to read. Time for creative pursuits (like typing these words). Time for the family.
It took me a long time to figure this out. (See what I did there?)
Before you go, have another look at my crappy drawing above. See where those lines intersect? Consider if your own life story has already passed this point. It if has:
- Be thankful. Life is pretty damn great when you don’t have to worry about money.
- Start living for yourself. Don’t let those dollars dictate your life. Put money in its place and start using it as a tool to fund quality time.
More 1500 Days!!!
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