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This is going to sound somewhat simple, but a rule I follow for financial management is the Rule of 3s. It didn’t take me long to realize it could save me hundreds of dollars a month.
What is the Rule of 3s?
The gist of it is that whenever there is something going on that I need to hire somebody for, at the least, I try to get three different businesses’ quotes. It’s not uncommon for me to literally call everybody in my area first and end up with seven different figures for what it’s going to cost to change all four of my car’s tires, but if I’m not getting at least three quotes, I kind of look at it as if I’m not even trying to save money.
The reason I do this is because when I first moved out on my own, I quickly discovered how wide of a difference in prices there were for things just within the same town.
You may need to buy new countertops for your kitchen and find that out of the three options available to you within a 15-minute drive of each other that one place wants $2000, the next $3000, and the third $1750 – for the exact same product.
Different businesses have different markup percentages and different costs that they’re trying to cover. If you want to save money, you have to actively try to. You can’t just waltz on into the first place you see (for a big purchase, at least) and drop several hundred dollars and think, “Well, it’s just one of those things about life,” as you mourn the loss of most of that week’s paycheck.
The same goes for hiring labor.
If I need to hire a plumber to fix a leaky bedroom bathroom faucet, I still try to get at least three different quotes from three different plumbers. The difference you’ll note in just the service trip fee alone can be pretty substantial.
I will add the caveat that hiring labor is slightly different than purchasing product. Buying tires, refrigerators, or dish washers is one thing. You know that regardless of where you get it, you’re going to end up with the same product. But it’s entirely possible for you to hire a brick mason that has a rock bottom price (heh) that nobody else can touch, but to end up with low-quality work. For these types of jobs, my solution is mainly to just ask my friends if they know of anyone.
Now, you may have a friend that’s good buddies with the cruddy rock mason, so you have to be careful with that too, but for the most part, I just go by my friend circle’s word of mouth and add that to the equation as to whether or not I want to hire this particular electrician or not. You can learn a lot about who you’re about to hire simply by asking.
When you find a good thing, keep it.
There are some things I don’t even price anymore too. Take mechanics, for example. It took me years to find a mechanic that I could actually trust. I’ve worked in trades, so I don’t like the mindset people can tend to have that anybody who works with their hands is out to swindle you, but I legitimately had some issues with mechanics not fixing problems and then charging big money.
I’ve found a guy that does awesome work at a fair price, and I’ve stuck with him ever since. If the car needs a repair, the rule of threes goes right out the window. It’s going to him. Why? Because he’s good! Sometimes it’s better to stick with what you know.
Why three? What makes that the magic number?
Nothing in particular. It’s just what I feel is the right balance between making sure I’m getting a fair rate and not spending the entire day on the phone trying to get quotes on fixing the hood of my car that the deer just jumped onto.
You kind of have to have a ballpark idea of how much money you could save with further phone time. If I’m building a new house, then yeah, you’re going to want to spend the time. You could save tens of thousands of dollars with that time.
If you’re wanting a new dehumidifier, at some point you’re going to have to ask how much time you’re willing to invest into a $20 savings.
So there’s something of a balance here, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out.
The rule of three’s has saved me a ton of money in the past, and it can help you as well.
This was actually one of the first things that my Dad taught me when I moved out on my own and I’m thankful that he did. If you’re just now graduating and moving out into your first place, I highly recommend that you make this practice one of your own.
You’ll be surprised at the variation in prices within your community too.
Looking for more new-grad advice? Check out my book What School Should Have Taught You. It’s filled with this kind of talk about the things I soon learned I had no clue about when I got my own place.
What do you think?
And what are your thoughts on the rule of threes here? Do you incorporate a similar policy in your budget? Do you have any particular advice on the subject to share? Let others know in the comments section.
Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, What School Should Have Taught You, The Faithful Prepper, An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.