Frugal Investments That Pay Off

Not all investments are big.   One favorite small investment I recently made is changing the oil in my car with Mobil 1 Synthetic.  Why?  Because, IMO, it’s a great investment.  For an extra $30 I get two benefits.

  1. Vastly reduced engine wear.
  2. Longer oil life. (Meaning my oil will easily last 6,000-7,000 miles).

I don’t drive much compared to the average driver.  I drive about 8,000-9,000 miles per year.  But a lot of my driving is short distance, which is harder on the engine.  However the essentially homogeneous medium-length hydrocarbon chains help my engine fare well against frequent “cold-starts.”  That’s what research tells me.  Additionally I inherited my first car that made it to 287,000 miles with no engine work, from my family who used synthetic oil in it.

Another frugal investment that worked out great for me was a 4-year electrical engineering degree from a state college.  Could I have gone to MIT, Cal Tech, Stanford?  Sure… until I ran out of money or went up to my ears and beyond with student loans.  But, guess what?  When I came to interviews, I got job offers when folks from these same great schools as often as not got rejection letters.  Why?  Because it is a waste of time to get an BSEE from a big-name school.  I got a better undergrad education from a state school, at 1/5 the price!  Talk about a good deal.

A third example of fiscal frugality is paying for good snow tires.  I have a car I like, a life I like, and friends that I cherish.  I find good/great snow tires to be excellent insurance.  I want to keep these  safe.  And one easy way I can help do that is by having control and stopping power when the roads turn icy.  I already drive 10-15 MPH below the speed limit in bad winter road conditions… but if I drive much slower I increase the risk of  some huge, out-of-control, SUV rear-ending or side-swiping me.   Having great tires (I love Blizzaks) helps enormously.  The combination of driving for the conditions and being well equipped helps improve the odds.  A very high ROI proposition.

Finally, in the same vein as driving, is NOT driving.  I, for one, tend to believe the per mile statistics about driving vs. commercial flying.  Hands down flying is way safer than driving.  So, given a choice, I will shell out a few extra bucks to fly rather than drive for trips longer than about 700 miles.   Do I hate security lines? Yes!  Do I hate taking off my shoes and belt?  Yes!  Do I like sitting like a sardine in coach?  Hell, no!  But do I think it is safer to fly.  Ya, ya betcha!

So, investing is as much about the little things as the big ones.  Cheaper is not always better.