Last week, Mr. T turned on the outside hose for the first time this spring. The water trickled out. After some sleuthing, we realized the pipe had burst and as soon as Mr. T turned on the hose, the water started going in the (newly insulated and beautiful) crawlspace! Upon seeing the water all over, my first reaction was “SAVE THE STUFF!” I mean, that insulation was not cheap. And the boxes sitting in the water weren’t going to save themselves! Mr. T looked at me and said: “First we have to stop the leak.” He’s so sensible. That’s why I married him. Obviously. He made an excellent point. The order matters!
- Stop the Leak – Before you can do anything else, the water needs to be stopped! It’s not going to do any good bailing the water out if it’s still coming in! Your first thought may be “turn off the water!” That will stop the leak, alright, but if you haven’t figured out where it’s coming from, it will just start leaking again when you need to take a shower! Taking drastic measures to stop yourself from spending money can backfire. It doesn’t always lead to productive spending habits because it doesn’t identify the root of the problem. Once we found the burst pipe, we could safely turn off the water for a short period of time and come up with a plan to tackle the rest before turning it back on. Identify your weaknesses first. Why do you spend? When do you spend? What spending do you feel guilty about?
- Assess the Damage – Once the leak was identified and the water was shut off, we had to prioritize the damage and figure out what to save first. This is the equivalent of tracking your spending and knowing your real debt numbers. If you don’t know how much debt you have or how long it will realistically take to get out, you won’t be able to save anything.
- Clean up the Mess – We borrowed a pump from our neighbor and got to work with the kids’ sand buckets and shovels getting the water out. This took work and was messy. We got wet and gross. But the work had to be done. If you really want to see a change in your finances, you have to be willing to get dirty and clean up the mess. I recommend consolidating your billpay dates as a way to simplify. Automate as much as possible so you can see an impact in your debt repayment/savings balance without ever missing the money. And figure out what other messes need to be cleaned up.
- Fix the Leak – In our case, this meant ripping the spigot out of the wall–pipe and all–and putting in a whole new one. Maybe your fix is minor. Maybe it will take something as drastic. This work is tricky, but not as dirty. When you’ve cleaned up the mess, the impact of your leaky spending will be fresh in your mind. That is the best time to fix the leak!
- Don’t Make the Same Mistake Again – We stupidly left the hose attached to the spigot all winter. You can bet we won’t be letting that happen again. Make sure that once you’ve done all that work, you don’t let it all happen again. Leaks will inevitably spring up elsewhere, but once you’ve handled a big one, the small ones will be easier to identify and stop!
I’m glad we had all the plastic down from doing the energy rebate program. It made clean-up way easier than if it was a muddy mess down there! We really only lost a few batts of insulation and about 8 hours of our time. It could have been way worse, so we’re grateful we caught it right away and were able to solve the problem. I don’t wish a burst pipe on anyone! Especially financial ones! 🙂