Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

The High Cost of Procrastination

Recently, another tale of woe landed in my inbox reminding that it’s a story old as time still being repeated more often you might believe. The scene: A weekend in the dead of winter. The family walks into the house expecting it to be warm and cozy, but one look at the thermostat tells them that it is not.

Within minutes of arriving, the service technician diagnoses the problem. The igniter has failed and must be replaced. He said the igniter failed because the furnace filter hadn’t been cleaned. Filthy. Neglected. What would have taken five minutes to vacuum or replace cost hundreds in “after hours” fees, parts and labor. They know the furnace filter needs to be changed regularly, and usually, they do. But of course, this year, they simply forgot.

If you own a home, a car or simply a human body, the words “routine maintenance” should be part of your vocabulary. Safety and good health are, of course, the most important reasons to keep what we’ve got in good working order. But the financial benefits are significant, too.


A regularly scheduled $35 oil change could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in engine work. Find the recommended timetable for oil changes and the inspection and maintenance of other systems in the owners’ manual. Read it and figure out what you’re supposed to do, then follow those directives religiously.

Have your tires rotated and balanced regularly to extend their useful life and to comply with terms of the warranty. If you’re responsible enough to drive a vehicle, you can also be responsible enough to maintain it properly. Predictive maintenance is cheap insurance.


Replace furnace filters regularly. Most manufacturers suggest cleaning or replacing filters at least every other month. It’s cheap insurance. Bonus: Clean HVAC filters will eliminate the ugly dark shadows around the edge of carpeting, known as filtration soil.


Computers require maintenance inside and out to perform at their peak. Since many of us rely on computers for our livelihood, we stand to lose more in a computer crash than just the cost of repairs when we factor in lost wages and data.

Everyone loses data at some point in their lives. Your computer’s hard drive could fail tomorrow; ransomware could hold your files hostage; or a software bug could delete your important files. Failure to regularly back up your computer means you could lose those files and your photos forever.

If you have an external USB hard drive, you can just back up to that drive using your computer’s built-in backup features. On Windows, use File History. For Macs, use Time Machine. Backing up is cheap and fast.

However, if your house gets robbed or catches on fire, your backup can be lost along with your computer. Rather than just storing your files on your computer’s hard drive, you can store them on a service like Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or a similar cloud storage service. These services are cheap for the peace of mind they offer.

While it may seem like a waste of money, a can of compressed air can safely blow dust and dirt out of your keyboard and away from all the nooks and crannies in your printer and CPU unit/tower. A VaccUFlex attachment for your vacuum cleaner will do a great job on all of those tiny crevices as well. Learn more about required maintenance in the instruction manual or from the computer manufacturer’s technical support department or website.


Don’t ignore seemingly minor issues as they may signal a larger problem. One reader recently reported that two weeks before her washing machine warranty expiration date, she called to complain about a minor squeak during spin cycles.

The technician replaced the motor, which was covered under the warranty. Had she waited until the squeak gave way to full motor failure (as it likely would have done the day after the warranty expired, of course), the cost of replacing that part could have sent her shopping for a new machine.


According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. of people between the ages of 18 and 70 is malignant neoplasms. In short, cancerous tumors. Preventive maintenance for women should include monthly self-examination for any suspicious breast lumps. Get an annual physical that includes a breast exam, and mammograms as recommended.

Unlike many other forms of cancer, colorectal cancer in both men and women typically grows for years before spreading. If caught early, it can be cured. The American Cancer Society says men, starting at age 50, should talk to their doctors about the benefits, risks and limitations of prostate cancer screening.

The cost of these exams and procedures should be seen as preventive maintenance if not life insurance.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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