So last week, I had to get my iPhone fixed. Why? Because my speaker broke down. I knew I had to get it fixed when my girlfriend (who has never seen Star Wars in her life), called me and claimed that Darth Vader answered the phone:
What I thought I sounded like: “Hey so I’ll see you for lunch at 2.30?”
What I actually sounded like: “(HEAVY MECHANICAL BREATHING) YOU DON’T KNOW THE POWER OF THE DARK SIDE!!!”
The Phone Chronicles
So being the personal finance geek that I was, I did a rational cost-benefit analysis and decided that instead of getting a new phone, I’d save way more money by fixing my old phone – if the price was right. I set myself a budget: If my phone repair cost more than $100, I’d screw the old phone and get a new one instead.
So I did what any normal Singaporean does when he wants to get his phone fixed. I paid a visit to
the Den of Snakes Sim Lim Square.
Now, some context: I don’t play computer games, and I take good care of my gadgets, so there’s hardly any occasion where I have to visit an electronics repair shop. The last time I walked into Sim Lim Square was to get my old Game Boy fixed (Remember those?). That was probably way back in like, 1992.
So I walked up to the first shop I see on the ground floor, and approached an honest-looking dude who seemed really nice. He told me that if my phone’s thingamajig was broken, I should just forget about fixing it. But if it was only the thingamabob that wasn’t functioning, he could get it fixed for a low, low price of $70.
“Dang,” I thought, “This dude is honest and it’s within my $100 budget. Where do I sign?”
The girlfriend, who is way smarter in these sort of situations than I am, told me to stall the dude for 10 minutes while she walked around for a better deal. That resulted in 10 awkward minutes of me trying to converse in Mandarin with Honest-Looking-Ground-Floor-Dude about topics I couldn’t care less about, like why OEM parts for Apple phones were way cheaper than those for Samsung phones. (Betcha didn’t know that!!)
10 minutes later, I got a text: “Found a guy who can repair your phone for $40. 3rd Floor”
That’s right. With just 10 minutes of effort, my girlfriend got me a 43% discount on my phone repair service, proudly provided by Chubby-Third-Floor-Dude.
On hindsight, that solution was painfully obvious. It was simple economics:
Honest-Looking-Ground-Floor-Dude had a stall in a prime location to lure in suckers like me who didn’t want to spend 10 minutes looking around.
For that privilege, his landlord charged him a crazy high rent (I found out this could amount to as much as twelve times what Chubby-Third-Floor-Dude was paying), which he passed on to suckers like me who didn’t want to spend 10 minutes looking around.
Totally a vicious cycle.
And all I had to do to break free was to go upstairs.
Remember how I was talking about Small Tweaks a couple of posts ago? Well, going upstairs to save $30 is a perfect example of such a Tweak. On the surface, it seems like a pretty duh thing to do: Obviously, shopping in areas with less traffic will dramatically increase your likelihood of finding a lower price.
But think about other areas of your life where you could save a substantial amount of money for the rest of your life, if you only got off your ass to make a small adjustment. Think about:
- That insurance policy you don’t need but you keep on paying for, because you’re too lazy/embarrassed/shy to call your agent to cancel it
- The gym membership you don’t use but keep on paying for anyway because you’re hoping to guilt-trip yourself into getting fit
- Those funds sitting in a crappy, low-interest account when they could be transferred to a higher-interest account earning hundreds of dollars more in interest per year
In all of these cases, it doesn’t take much effort to improve the situation you’re in. Most of the time, a simple phone call, or a trip to the bank, would do the trick. But yet, the inertia to get off your ass is surprisingly strong. Performing a Small Tweak means acknowledging that you were living with a problem for a long time, even though the simplest solution was staring you in the face.
Do yourself a favor today:
- Think about one problem/outstanding item in your life which could be solved with a small, simple solution. It doesn’t have to be financial. For example, you might have a stack of magazines in your room that you really wanted to clear out but just never got round to it.
- Figure out exactly what you need to do. Picture yourself actually doing it.
- This may sound dumb, but it’s really the hardest part: ACTUALLY DO IT. Stop reading this blogpost and go cancel that insurance policy, clear out those magazines, and fix that lightbulb. If it’s an inconvenient time right now, schedule it into your calendar to get it done at a specific date this week.
Climb That First Step
Sure, not everything has a simple solution. But I’ve found that many of life’s little annoyances can be solved with a simple, Small Tweak, if we only just got round to doing it. So try targeting just one or two this week – you might be surprised at how much better you feel once you tackle them.
And if you managed to find, and implement one that actually saved you money, let me know by emailing me or leaving a comment. I’d love to hear from you.
Okay, even if you can’t think of any Small Tweaks right now, at least you’ll know that if you ever need to get your phone fixed, all you have to do is head upstairs.