The Easiest Way to Lose Money

There's a lesson about losing money in today's column. But to get to it, you're going to have to first read my sob story.

Why should you care? Because we've all needlessly lost money, and we can all learn from our mistakes. Here's how I blew it.

A blowout in my wallet
Yesterday, I lost $1,194 when our Toyota minivan needed four new tires.

But these weren't any tires. These were run-flats -- tires designed to stay together for up to 100 miles, even after suffering a blowout. That way, drivers should have enough time to get to a repair shop instead of calling for a tow from the side of the highway.

So much for that theory. For me, run-flats have been nothing but a hassle. This is our second pair on the minivan, which has been driven just 25,000 miles.

If that seems crazy, it is. Toyota updated its warranty for run-flats after receiving numerous complaints about unusual wear and tear. That's what happened to us. Our first pair was replaced after just 15,000 miles.

But this time, our tires wore even more quickly because I failed to maintain the proper air pressure in each wheel. (Tires wear more quickly when they need air.)

Therein lies my problem. Run-flats may need more care than a week-old infant -- so much so that I seriously question whether anyone in his right mind would want to drive on them -- but I failed to deliver the proper care.

Ka-ching! That'll be $1,194, please.

Avoid avoidable losses
And your story? Who knows? Maybe you forgot to regularly add oil and destroyed your car's engine. Or maybe you ignored your shower and let mold grow behind the walls. Or maybe you forgot to blow out the underground sprinkler pipes before the big winter storm and obliterated the system.

Each of these gaffes and others like them cost thousands. Avoiding them costs a whole lot less. Engine oil may run you $30 for a case. A scrubdown of the shower might take 15 minutes. And while blowing out the sprinkler pipes is a little more complex, all you really need is an air compressor and a couple of hours on a Saturday.

Follow the money
So, do me a favor: Take 15 minutes today to think about maintenance work that might save you money over the long term. Start with our Home Center, where there are tips and checklists you can use for organizing maintenance. Then visit the discussion boards for building and maintaining a home and living below your means. Experts there will help you do-it-yourself, or get help, on the cheap.

Finally, if you still need money-saving advice, consider our Motley Fool Green Light newsletter service. Therein, co-advisors Dayana Yochim and Shannon Zimmerman show you how to unlock the hidden fortune inside your paycheck. There's $686 worth of tips in the January issue alone. Click here to get your copy and 30 days of free access to the service. There's no obligation to subscribe.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers, ranked 1,216 out of more than 20,300 in Motley Fool CAPS, didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Get a peek at everything he's invested in by checking Tim's Fool profile. You can bank on The Motley Fool's disclosure policy.

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