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Avoiding a Common, Costly Budget Mistake

By Matt Bell

Homes and cars are typically two of the biggest expenses for most people.

With a house, just think of the mortgage, the property taxes, and the insurance.With a vehicle, even if you don’t have a loan, just think of the fuel expenses and the insurance.

But wait. I missed something. Did you notice?

I missed maintenance. Lots of people do. In fact, as I’ve reviewed countless spending plans over the years, failing to plan for home and vehicle maintenance costs is one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen.

The Dangers of Not Maintaining Maintenance Budgets

If you don’t plan for maintenance expenses, you might not keep up with basic maintenance.With no money budgeted for oil changes, you’ll let it go. Until you hear a strange banging noise coming from under the hood. What I’ve discovered is the louder the bang, the bigger the bill.

Then, you may find yourself having to replace something expensive, like a kitchen appliance, when you could have paid a lot less by keeping it maintained.

How Much to Budget for Maintenance

In my Recommended Cash Flow Guidelines, you’ll see that I combined home maintenance with utilities and vehicle maintenance is part of the transportation category, which includes vehicle insurance, fuel, and fees.

Here’s some more specific guidance.While maintenance costs vary, depending on the age and condition of your home and car, a decent average is to assume vehicle maintenance expenses of $50 to $75 per month per vehicle and $100 to $200 per month for home maintenance. There are many months when you won’t spend any of that money, but there are others when you’ll spend a lot more.

With our home, I’ve found that $100 a month is what it takes to keep up with the basics – furnace filters, staining/weatherproofing the deck, the daredevil who clears the gutters of leaves each fall on our two-story house. But we budget $200 and transfer unspent money to our savings account. Every home has lots of expensive repairs lurking around the corner.

Of course, if you rent an apartment or own a condo, your maintenance and repair costs will be lower.

With vehicle maintenance, there are plenty of months when we don’t spend anywhere close to $75.But throw in the need for new tires every five or six years, the occasional major tune-up, and replacing the side view mirror that we scraped off our vehicle backing out of our own driveway, and $900 per year comes out about right.

Where to Keep Maintenance Money

Some people let unspent maintenance money build up in their checking account. But what I’ve found is that idle money leaks. Other needs come up and it ends up not being there when you need it. So, my recommendation is to transfer unspent maintenance and repair money to a savings account where it’ll be safe and sound until you need it for its intended purpose.

How much do you budget for vehicle and home maintenance?

Matt Bell is a biblical money management author and speaker who has been featured in USA TODAY, US News & World Report, and many other media outlets. Learn more at www.mattaboutmoney.com.

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