One of my father’s golden financial rules is to not buy what you think you need. As I’ve said in earlier posts, my father is an incredibly crafty individual, though I didn’t realize the full extent of his ability to improvise and save money until we purchased our own home.
As new homeowners most couples are eager to make home improvement and purchase stuff to help mend and repair a “new” home. The intention to improve a home is a good one and should stay with the homeowner as long as s/he occupies the home, however the associated behavior to run to Home Depot or Lowes’ for supplies, material, and equipment is questionable and potentially dangerous.
During our first couple of months of home ownership, I felt as though
we needed to buy everything including a new ladder, lawnmower, wheel barrel,
furniture, plants and shrubs, fence, etc. And if it wasn’t for my
father and his philosophy of not buying what I thought I needed, we
would have wasted thousands of dollars. My father, specifically,
convinced me to hold off any major repairs or upgrades for at least 6
months (especially if it wasn’t urgent); he suggested that I wait and
live in the house for a while to gain perspective on what needed work
and what could wait. My father also suggested that I hold off on the
standard home center “runs” to buy stuff, given our family network of
carpenters, metalworkers, plumbers, and electricians. The chances
were, my dad argued, that an old ladder, working mower, painting
supplies, etc. could be gotten from uncles, cousins, grandparents, and
My father’s specific tip was to use your social network for left over
supplies and old home improvement equipment and, boy, was he right! During our first year of home ownership I was able to leverage our friends and family for:
– old drill and drill bits
– cleaning supplies and work gloves
– heavily used tools, including screws and nails
– firewood for our fireplace
– decent carpets for our basement and attic space
– plants and flowers for our garden (you would surprised how easily plants can be transplanted)
Inevitably, there will be improvements and repairs that require trips to
the home center for new lumber, sheet rock, appliances, supplies, etc.,
but the idea is to think about how the folks in your network
could help with stuff, including labor (after all, those plumbers make
lots of money!).
The above tip requires that you have a strong network and
this usually means that you treat your friends and family well
(returning the favor or at the least acknowledging the help with a home
made gift basket or several bottles of wine).