When It’s Worth It

David Gartland

REGULARLY CHANGING the oil is the most important step you can take to extend your car’s engine life. Oil is the engine’s life blood and changing it is one of the least costly maintenance steps. It’s also one of the dirtiest, crummiest, least pleasant jobs you can do.

Before I got married, I lived in a six-story apartment building in Brooklyn, with a parking garage in the basement. A friend of mine lived in the same building. One day, he was complaining about the cost of keeping his car running, especially the amount he was spending on auto mechanics. I offered to help him change his oil. He thought that would be wonderful.

We bought the oil and oil filter at a local auto parts store. I brought down a lifting jack and support to the garage, so we could lift the car up to gain access to the drain plug. But I didn’t crawl under the car to get to the drain plug. I let my friend do that, along with everything else, but with my supervision.

After we’d drained the oil, replaced the oil filter and filled up the engine with fresh oil, my friend looked at me and said, “What a dirty job that turned out to be.”

“Now you know why you pay a mechanic to change your oil,” I replied.

“It doesn’t seem like such an expensive job, after all,” he concurred.

I look carefully at what items cost, what someone is charging me to perform a service and how much I’m tipping a waitress. I’m cheap. There, I said it. I hate spending money.

But the cost is always relative to the alternative. That alternative could include cuts and scrapes on your hands from doing the job yourself. Buying a cheaper item can result in it quickly wearing out or breaking, requiring you to buy another one. Waiting at a fast-food counter, instead of sitting in a quiet white-tablecloth restaurant and enjoying a nice meal, also has its costs.

Everything has a cost and a reward. The reward should exceed the cost. Otherwise, it isn’t a good purchase. The cost is usually known. The reward is subjective, based on the purchaser’s needs and wants.

The reward for doing a job yourself is the satisfaction of knowing you can do it on your own, along with the cost savings from not paying others. But if the quality of the work is inferior to what a professional could do, the reward is diminished. On the other hand, if you’ve been ripped off by professionals in the past, the quality may not be as important as the satisfaction of knowing that, this time around, no one took advantage of you.

Hiring a financial advisor may be a good use of your money if you panic every time the stock market nosedives, or if you can’t seem to put away enough money to afford the finer things in life. But there’s also the cost, including the risk of being sold something you don’t need.

As with most things in my life, I take the DIY—do it yourself—approach to managing money. I feel better finding out I made a mistake with my money, rather than learning someone else made a mistake for me. So, I go it alone. That’s required me to spend a great deal of time and money studying investing and deciding what’s a good approach to managing my wealth. To me, it’s worth it.

I might have had a larger pot of gold if I’d used a financial advisor. But I’m happy following the immortal words of Frank Sinatra, when he sang, “I did it my way.”

David Gartland was born and raised on Long Island, New York, and has lived in central New Jersey since 1987. He earned a bachelor’s degree in math from the State University of New York at Cortland and holds various professional insurance designations. Dave’s property and casualty insurance career with different companies lasted 42 years. He’s been married 36 years, and has a son with special needs. Dave has identified three areas of interest that he focuses on to enjoy retirement: exploring, learning and accomplishing. Pursuing any one of these leads to contentment. Check out Dave’s earlier articles.

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