budget vampires

There are vampires trying to suck your bank account dry. Tweet this!

And it's not your kids, those annoying people that keep calling for you to donate to your alma mater (even though you're still paying down your student loans), or the IRS.

No. It's the elusive, but-ever-present Maintenance + Upkeep Vampire.

I don't really remember the time period when I started thinking that a purchase was a one-and-done thing. But I definitely remember the day when the fact that it typically isn't smacked me in the face. So let’s talk about what sort of products you want to avoid buying if you can so that your monthly cash flow stays as plush as possible.

Budget Vampire #1: Belongings with Lots of Moving Parts

Things with lots of moving parts, all interconnected and necessary for the functioning of the item, have a much higher probability of breaking down. Like electric toothbrushes versus manual ones. Or cars with lots of electrical systems that are great for the first several years, but promise some pricey bills after an accident or from normal wear and tear.

Your Garlic: Beware of movable parts. Of course, that's much easier said than done in our modern times. So what you want to be on the lookout for are really great warranty programs. This doesn't mean you have to buy expensive warranties; many credit cards offer extended warranties just for being a card member. Be sure to check into the details of yours and save receipts as necessary (I have a “receipts + manuals” file in my filing cabinet for this very reason).

Budget Vampire #2: Belongings with Frequent Replacements

Hello Brita Water Filter and the Swiffer Mop!

I thought once I had splurged on these sleek new appliances (I was in my early 20s just out of college, so they seemed like shiny appliances to me), that my investment was done. But anyone with a Brita or a Swiffer knows that the refills can be an endless money vampire. It really rubbed me the wrong way every few months when I had to dedicate more of my paycheck to disposable items just to be able to use my original purchase.

And then one day it dawned on me: after a year or so of buying these refills, I had paid MORE in refills than I did for the dang product! Light bulb moment right there (reminiscent of those BMG Music Club days of my teens).

Your Garlic: Sometimes it's better to pay a bit more upfront for a product that does the same thing, but does not need refills. Such as the Reveal Mop vs. the Swiffer Mop. It is about $10 more to buy, but the pads are washable, and the cleaning liquid container is refillable (we use vinegar and water in ours).

Budget Vampire #3: Belongings with Lots of Maintenance Needs

Pets are the best example for this category (vet appointments, flea medication, carpet cleaner, etc.); however, if you're like me, you consider pets family and not belongings.

So other examples can include cars (oil changes, annual registration/inspections, insurance, gasoline, etc.), or swimming pools (chemicals, water refills, liner repairs, etc.).

Your Garlic: See if there are maintenance plans included. Like when we purchased our central A/C and furnace, there were several cleanings included in the price. After that, definitely shop around for places that have opened up shop to complete this maintenance (typically cheaper than getting maintenance done by the original seller of the item).  

Bottom Line: you better figure in the maintenance and upkeep when you purchase items…which can cost even more than the product itself. Otherwise, prepare to have your monthly cash flow sucked dry!

6 replies
  1. Traci McCaskill
    Traci McCaskill says:

    This article really got me thinking. There are so many items that we, as consumers, buy weekly/mthly/yearly that are a one time use and throw in the trash item. Paper towels, q tips, cotton balls, napkins, toilet paper, diapers and so much more. Even restaurants and businesses spend money on plastic bags, shopping bags, french fry containers, cups, straws! These things are purchased, used once and then end up in a trash can. Sometimes they aren’t even used and put into a trash can. Money literally in a trash can daily happening all over the world. I know that wasn’t exactly where you were going with your post but it triggered me to think about the amount of waste with both money and the types of purchases we (businesses and people) make. Some things obviously can’t be helped but its just overwhelming.

  2. Suzann
    Suzann says:

    Never buy a printer without first checking for ink cartridges on sites
    like printpal or comboink. Never pay full freight at an office supply store.

  3. Bill in Houston
    Bill in Houston says:

    The only reason we have a Brita filter is due to the taste of our water. We bought a ten-pack of filters at Costco for under $20. A filter treats 35 gallons of pitcher water, so less than six cents per gallon of drinking water. Compare to Costco’s bottled water, at 10 cents per half litre, or getting those ten gallon jugs of Culligan. The Brita makes our coffee taste better (drip machine) and lessens the lime buildup. I do wish I didn’t have to clog up my fridge’s top shelf with that huge pitcher.

    Another Budget Vampire #2, speaking of coffee? Keurig machines. People may think they’re saving money over say, Starbucks, but my two mugs of morning coffee costs me a dime (coffee, water, and electricity). The equivalent Keurig (from Costco) would be 85 cents.

    One thing about maintenance (take it from a guy who has written a LOT of maintenance manuals), keeping to a schedule prevents a lot of headaches later. For example, marking a day on your calendar to change your indoor A/C and furnace filters, or rinsing your outdoor A/C filter extends the life of your units.

    People thought that I was crazy keeping to my car dealer’s maintenance schedule. They said I was just writing quarterly checks to the oil companies or car maker. I just brought my car in for its first major repair, at 153,000 miles. I weighed the benefits versus the costs. While I do pay out an average of 25 dollars a month ($3000 over ten years) for car maintenance, I save money on not having to make car payments.

  4. jill
    jill says:

    The first car I bought I did the maintenance and warranty route. 3 months after I had bought the car, with it under warranty, the windshield wiper resevoir pump quit working. The dealership would repar it for a $25 additional fee for somethin or another. I went to a parts store, bought a whole new unit and replaced it in the parking lot for $12. Never went back to the dealership, never had a major repar, sold it 7 years later. Next new car I bought came with warranties for 5 years. Yes, I did oil , filter changes pretty much on schedule, had tires rotated, checkrd battery posts, but I never did the transmission changes or any of that. Never had any major repairs on a vehicle. Sometimes limiting people messing with the car when it has no problems is better than following maintenance schedules that can endanger your cars integrity.
    Maintenance fees collected for bank cards and accounts should just be avoidd, too many feeless opportunities out there.
    My daughter crochets now, and has crochet me cotton pads for both my steamer and my swifter. We just use water or some alcohol to clean with.
    Point being, if you buy something that demands specific and constant replacements, like those coffee pods, there is always alternatives, like the mesh cups. You can avoid ongoing costs if you think and do some research. Personally, most money eaters, like print cartridges, can be avoided by buying alternatives, like laser printers.
    Good article. Perfect for Halloween.
    Written on mobile device with no reading glasses, lol

  5. Mike Rawson
    Mike Rawson says:

    You’re so right – you need to look at the lifetime consequences of a purchase (in time and money) rather than just the ticket price. It’s not easy though.

    A good general rule is to get the simplest and most traditional thing that will get the job done. Some new technology is brilliant, but a lot is unnecessary.


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