Updated on 10.08.14

The Real MSM: Maintenance Saves Money

Trent Hamm

Five minutes of maintenance can save hundreds of dollars, lots of time, and tons of heartache.

For me, maintenance of the things I rely on in life has become a complete no-brainer. Spending a bit of time here and a bit of time there on the valuable things and the important things in my life extends their lifespan. It helps them to keep running great. It makes sure those important things are there when I need them. It extends the time between serious repairs and replacements. And, in the end, those little bits of maintenance save me tons of money and make my life better.

Health Maintenance

The first thing to maintain is you. If you’re lacking energy or feel poorly, it’s pretty difficult to be as productive and active as you might wish to be. Spending even a little bit of time each day maintaining your personal health goes a long way toward extending both the length and the quality of your life, from the great span of the years to the simple enjoyment of getting out of bed with a healthy amount of energy.

Ten Simple Steps to Get Started

1. Take a walk each evening and listen to music or podcasts or the radio while you stroll.
2. Eat smaller portions of what you already eat.
3. Toss out preprocessed food and replace it with raw foods like fruits and vegetables.
4. Eat less meat.
5. Drink moderately and give up smoking.
6. Eat a healthy breakfast – say, a banana or an apple.
7. Address the stresses in your life head-on.
8. Reduce your responsibility load.
9. Use less salt to season your food.
10. Stretch fully each morning.

Skill Maintenance

Your skills are your ticket to earning income and building new professional relationships. The more skills (and the better skills) you bring to the table, the more money you’re going to make over the long run. I’m not just talking about the specific aspects of whatever your job is. I’m also talking about communication skills, planning skills, information management skills, presentation skills, and so on. The more you shine these skills, the better off you’ll be in every professional context.

Ten Simple Steps to Get Started

1. Practice your skills regularly.
2. Volunteer the use of your skills.
3. Do things yourself.
4. Use your skills and talents to help your friends.
5. Push your skills by taking on challenging projects.
6. Take classes.
7. Read about the changes in your fields of interest.
8. Adopt the skills that match the changes in your fields of interest.
9. Master transferable skills.
10. Use your skills as a source of personal amusement or entertainment.

Home Maintenance

Your home is likely the biggest investment you’ll make. Maintenance protects that investment from countless disasters and malfunctions, things that eat money like mad, eat up time, and cause countless headaches. With just a little bit of effort, you can make such disasters occur quite rarely. What’s better: a bit of leisurely time around your property or panic while your basement floods and you calculate the bills?

Ten Simple Steps to Get Started

1. Check and replace furnace and air conditioning filters.
2. Examine the foundation for any cracks.
3. Examine exposed wood (attic, etc.) for insect damage and do any insect preventative maintenance that is needed.
4. Drain off a pan full of water from the clean-out valve at the bottom of your hot water tank.
5. Test all fire/smoke/carbon monoxide detectors in the house.
6. Check all visible pipes for leaks (don’t forget under sinks, etc.).
7. Check the gauge on all fire extinguishers and replace if needed.
8. Check all faucets for dripping water and change washers if needed.
9. Check all gutters for blockage and clean as needed (bird’s nests, leaves, etc.).
10. Remove screens, clean window wells, and dry them.

Auto Maintenance

For most of us, our car is our key to much of our life. It takes us to and from work. It takes us to and from our sources for food. It helps us run countless errands. It keeps us safe while we’re doing this. Unsurprisingly, we want it to be reliable. We don’t want it to break down on us when we least need it. A bit of maintenance can help insure just that.

Ten Simple Steps to Get Started

1. Check the tire pressure and air them up to the recommended maximum.
2. Check, clean, and perhaps replace the air filter on all automobiles regularly.
3. Monitor the fluid levels in your car (and know how to do this yourself).
4. Replace the oil in your car yourself.
5. Wash your car regularly to prevent rusting and exterior damage.
6. Rotate your tires regularly.
7. Listen carefully as your automobile runs, both inside and outside.
8. Replace spark plugs regularly.
9. Keep jumper cables in your vehicle and know how to use them.
10. Follow your cars’ maintenance schedules to the letter.

Relationship Maintenance

Our connections with people need maintenance, too. A friendship unnourished is a friendship that withers on the vine, and the same holds true with marriages and other relationships. The end of a relationship can be very painful, personally, professionally, and financially. Investing a bit of time regularly into the relationships that matter can make all the difference.

Ten Simple Steps to Get Started

1. Have regular conversation that goes beyond small talk.
2. Regularly tell the people you love that you love them.
3. Don’t get angry when you’re criticized.
4. Explain calmly how you’re feeling when you’re perturbed.
5. Go the extra mile to show someone you care about them.
6. Write handwritten notes for every occasion.
7. Touch base regularly with the people that are important to you.
8. When you make a mistake, confess it instead of trying to hide it.
9. When someone you care about makes a mistake, listen and support instead of criticizing.
10. Give the best in you to others.

How Can I Get All This Done?

Maintenance Monday

When do I do most of my maintenance? Well, much of it is done on a roughly quarterly basis and in big batches. I’ll go on a big maintenance tear, tackling all of these categories as intensely as possible. (I also simply find ways to replace normal routines, too, particularly for health maintenance.)

Where do I find the time? Mondays. About once every two to three months, there’s a national holiday that’s celebrated on a Monday. One of them happens to be this coming Monday – Memorial Day. Labor Day. Martin Luther King Day. Washington’s Birthday. Columbus Day.

Utilize those extra days to maintain all of the things that are important in your life. Maintain your relationships, your home, your skills. It’ll make all the difference for having a life that’s happy and stable and without the kind of disastrous emergencies that drain our energy and money and time.

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  1. Money Smarts says:

    The one I struggle with the most on this list is the health maintenance. I spend so much time on other things – work, home, relationships – that sometimes my health seems to take a back seat. Thanks for the reminder that it’s in everyone’s best interest to maintain our health as well!

  2. Adam says:

    A couple suggestions. Just a banana or apple is good, but kind of high in sugar for the morning. Trying to get a complete protein would be good, but it’s hard.

    As far as car’s goes, here is one that I learned recently. Don’t leave your car out and not drive it. I had to have my rotors cleaned because of that just last week. Not too expensive, but we’ll be rotating cars now.

  3. Adam says:

    Great post. I find it’s very easy to replace these constructive maintenence practices with recreation or just plain laziness.

    I’m very interested in the skill maintenence section. That something I haven’t thought much about. But I would assume it could be applied to constructive hobbies as well, no?

  4. Kathleen says:

    Great post, but one nit on the healthy breakfast issue: a piece of fruit is NOT a healthy breakfast! Bananas are nature’s sugar bombs. Apples are a little better (at least the skin has some fiber), but they’re not going to get you through until lunch.

    A truly healthy breakfast should have some protein, a little fat, and some complex carbs. Some fiber to keep you full is a bonus. A truly healthy breakfast could be egg whites (or even a whole egg) on a piece of whole-grain toast, with a little bit of cheese. For people who avoid animal products, oatmeal made with soy milk and a few almonds could be a good substitute. Basically, fruit is healthy but it is not a health stand-alone meal!

    Anyhow, great post. Keep’em coming.

  5. marta says:

    What Kathleen said. I know Trent has said before it works for him, but an apple or a banana aren’t going to work for most people. Better to start the day with a good, healthy and filling meal, to get you going. A piece of fruit alone is better for a snack.

    Remember the saying: breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dine like a pauper.

    I think an important aspect of health maintenance is getting regular checkups. You can be sensible about your diet and exercise, but there are things that you can’t control or find out without a visit to the doctor.

  6. chacha1 says:

    Re: skill maintenance – in this day and age I think the best thing that most people could and should do is improve their computer skills and their language skills.

    There is no highly-paid profession in the U.S. – and probably not in Canada either – where poor skills in these areas are tolerated, except medicine. And that is changing, rapidly.

    Spelling, grammar, vocabulary, accent reduction, reading comprehension (and speed), typing accuracy (and speed), and the ability to respond in a meaningful way to communications received – these are all skills that can be improved by two simple practices: reading and writing.

    Computer skills likewise are mostly a matter of will. Many people know all kinds of tricks to use their computers for entertainment – these people could devote an hour a week to playing around with the programs that come loaded on most PCs (Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel) and become more valuable employees in almost any field.

    Re: Health maintenance, IMO this is the single most important thing you can do. If you’re not healthy, none of the other stuff matters. And what preventive care you do on your own is ALWAYS more effective than what a doctor will do, which is mostly medicate you.

    That is to say, for most people it’s more effective to eat rationally and exercise and get proper rest, than it is to medicate. You can take all the meds in the world but if you’re still fat and inactive and insomniac, your disease risks will still be high.

  7. As mentioned above, and I believe this issue was assaulted to no end in another post, a piece of fruit is not a healthy breakfast. Healthy does not equate to calorie restriction and fruits and vegetables. It is about balancing nutritional needs. Fruit is a good place to start but it doesn’t end there, it is only the beginning.

  8. MattJ says:

    #3 Kathleen:

    nutritiondata.com has the following for 100 grams each of banana vs. apple with skin:

    100 grams of banana:

    3 grams dietary fiber
    12 grams sugar
    1 gram protein
    15% rec. Vitamin C

    100 grams of apple with skin:

    2 grams dietary fiber
    10 grams sugar
    0 grams protein
    8% rec. Vitamin C

    The either/or on that is not so clear to me. Certainly if you’re going to make the call based on fiber content, the banana is the winner.

    That said, my breakfast is usually a fresh orange and a breakfast burrito (I use a variation on Trent’s recipe from a year ago February, and I’ve been doing it for months)

    1 dozen eggs
    1 container of egg beaters (15 egg equivalent)
    2 jars salsa
    1 lb dry black beans, cooked
    1 lb ground sausage

    makes about 40 burritos

    So each burrito has about 2/3 of an egg, an ounce of reduced salsa, quite a bit of beans, and about 1/40th of a pound of sausage, plus a soft-taco sized tortilla. It takes about 2 minutes to thaw it out in the microwave, and I eat it on my way to work.

    For snacks throughout the day, I also eat fruit. A small (4 oz) container of raisins (there’s your sugar bomb!) before lunch, and both an apple and a banana after lunch.

  9. Crystal says:

    Great maintenance reminders…I need to check my house and car out. I also need to start walking more regularly.

  10. EGD says:

    Good tips all around. I’ll add my home maintenance experience: check your toilets regularly for leaking… we ran up a HUGE water bill one month with a leak so minor we couldn’t hear it. Put food coloring in the tank, let it stand for 20 minutes or so, and if the water in the bowl changes color, you have a leak!

  11. Diane says:

    Great Reminders…very good reminders about relationships. I’ll add a monthly home maintenance item for plumbing. Once a month, gently close and open all the shut off valves that are accessible. (Under the toilet, sinks, to the washing machine, water heater, furnace etc…) This saves you the dreaded whole house water shut off when you have a simple repair to make or if you have a problem, such as an overflowing toilet. This is especially important if you have hard water and do not have a water conditioning system as the valves will crust up with minerals and remain in the open position. You might think this is over kill, but for 15 minutes a month or less you could save yourself the cost of a ceiling repair etc… And yes – I had to replace ALL of the crusty old shut off valves in my house, not one was working. So I’m taking good care of the new ones.

  12. Meeks says:

    I liked this post. It was a good reminder to think about what little thing extra we can be doing to improve the different areas in our lives ;)

  13. littlepitcher says:

    Health maintenance from Sad Recent Experience-Get dental problems checked while they’re still small and cheap.

  14. Aunt Jenny says:

    Amen to that Littlepitcher.

  15. Evita says:

    Great post! These are list to keep as a reference and USE. Thanks Trent!

    However, I too totally disagree on the one piece of fruit for breakfast. In the majority of people, 80 calories of fast carbs will not break your fast and will just train your body to hoard fat as a response to perceived starvation. And cause an energy crash an hour later due to the high (albeit good-quality) sugar. To balance, have some milk, cheese, nuts with that fruit!!

  16. Mike says:

    In addition to those who have correctly noted that fruit alone is not all that good of a choice for breakfast, I also challenge the “convential wisdom” that simply eating less meat will somehow make you healthier. Neither meat nor saturated fats are actually the ‘enemy’ of health they are purported to be by the mass media. All our bodies are the result of millions of years of evolution on a hunter/gatherer diet high in animal protiens, animal fats and some fruit and vegitation. See http://www.marksdailyapple.com for a real eye-opening look at what proper diet and exercise really look like.

  17. Casey says:

    +1 for Mike in #16! I’m glad I read his post before writing almost the exact same thing. It should read eat cleaner/leaner meats and more of them! See also http://www.thepaleodiet.com/ and http://paleodiet.com/

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