Precautionary spending will save you in long-run

My oldest daughter has started high school. For most, this is a fairly unremarkable statement. Perhaps you’ve already sent children into adulthood and beyond. High school is a rite of passage, a new beginning, one step closer to adulthood.

As a child, the new venture brings on all sorts of emotions — nervousness, curiosity, excitement. As a parent of a new high-schooler, you engage a wide range of sentiments, too — pride, terror and, for me, as my husband so graciously pointed out, the need to nest.

Preparing for back to school requires a full-scale battle plan. I’ve shared tips for stocking up the kitchen, budgeting and saving on supplies. One might argue that preparing for back-to-school, and specifically the first day of high school, does not require trimming trees and cleaning out the gutters.

But on the last day of summer I found myself actively engaged in clipping limbs and dragging the ones my dad tossed down from the roof to our curb.

I called it the only day my dad could come help. My husband called it nesting.

Threats over your head

We quickly realized we were out of our league. More than likely, we would need to hire a professional to come and take care of a large limb precariously positioned over our home. One strong wind could redecorate our living room but not in an HGTV sort of way.

Let’s get this straight — no one wants to pay hundreds of dollars to have a tree trimmed. Nor does anyone want to pay for a new furnace or AC unit, buy tires or replace a toilet. But for most of us, all of the above are necessary to keep us from suffering more expense.

Certainly, we could leave that enormous branch hanging over our roof. However, it’s a grave error to mistake hope for wishful thinking or denial. The limb is coming down. It’s only a matter of time.

Precautionary spending

I really do pray you don’t have a tree ready to bite it and dash through your roof. But you may be facing an area of your household expense requiring precautionary spending. The old adage “a penny now, a pound later” sounds like something your grandpa once said, and still rings true.

There are occasions when you need to spend money to prevent yourself from spending even more money. Here are the questions you need to ask yourself before you dig deep and pay out on those not-so-fun purchases.

Is it necessary? Buying a new car because your mechanic has told you the days of your current vehicle are limited is necessary. Upgrading to a comfier ride because you love the interior or the color no longer matches your purse is not necessary. It’s very easy to convince ourselves that we “need” something when it’s really a want.

What do the wise people in my life say? More than likely you’ll need to call in an expert opinion and/or get an estimate for the repair or replacement. Be sure you select someone who really knows the field well and ask for options. The tree removal company who came to evaluate our limb gave us options based on our budget and objectives.

How much can we spend?

The unexpected nature of your expense will definitely throw you and your budget off guard. This is precisely why an emergency fund is so essential as are sinking funds for car and home appliance repair or replacement. Don’t just say yes to the first salesman or repair service. First, take a look at how much you have saved and know what you’re working with.

Should I DIY? Sit in any waiting room and you’ll be bombarded by cute couples installing back-splashes and making renovation look like a walk in the park. If you’re handy, you may be able to navigate the world of DIY. But there’s a high likelihood that DIY should be DI-don’t.

In the end, it might be wiser for you to take on an extra shift at work or sell something you own instead of diving into home or auto repair world laden with hidden expenses and “just one more trip” to the local home improvement store.

How much might I end up spending if I choose not to do this now? There are so many what ifs tucked that your answer will be speculation. But if you don’t fix that tricky transmission now, you could have a breakdown on Interstate 465 when you need to be at a meeting in 10 minutes.

Or back to our limb scenario. Sure, it’s expensive to remove it properly, but it’s less expensive than replacing our roof — both in actual dollars and the inconvenience factor. Your time is valuable, so the dollar-for-dollar estimation needs to take that into account.

These types of financial decisions are difficult for even the savviest of budgeters because of their unpredictable nature. But in the end, you shouldn’t put off to tomorrow what you really know needs done today. Ask yourself the necessary questions and make the call.

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to