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Everyday Cheapskate: Don't Let Mistakes Set You Back

Mary Hunt on

I love to watch home remodeling television shows. They give me confidence that I really could remodel a kitchen, build a shed or even install new windows all by myself. Usually, the feeling passes quickly, but I find myself feeling comfortable around power tools, and I do enjoy a good home improvement store.

Recently, the host of one of the more extreme house "rescue" shows said something so profound, I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget how he phrased it. There he was on the roof of a house, totally exasperated by one problem after another created by previous homeowners or contractors, problems he would have to rectify before the job could move forward.

None of these problems on its own was serious, but each piled one on top of the other. This job was in danger of going way over budget. He said, "Lots of minor things become major problems." I got to thinking how that simple truth applies to other areas of life, not just home remodels and repairs.

Take knitting, which I do as often as time permits. Being "off" by as little as one-quarter of an inch in the beginning can grow into a finished project that would fit King Kong once you repeat that minor mistake row after row after row.

Want to know what happens when a quilter repeats a slightly crooked seam or a slightly not-square corner piece? It's called a disaster, as master quiltmaker Ami Simms demonstrated years ago in the "The Worst Quilt in the World Contest" at her website, I'll admit it's not nice to laugh at others' mistakes, but in this case the contestants asked for it by entering their work in Ami's contest.

Then there are personal finance problems. One shopping binge 18 years ago is not likely to have sent you down the path to financial devastation, nor will that horrible auto lease you jumped into before you were financially mature enough to know better. But if those two small mistakes were followed by routine overspending, adding to growing credit card debt, multiple refinances of your home mortgage on top of more car leases, those minor problems grew into major problems.

The antidote is to correct the small mistakes as they occur. Sure, it's not the end of the world if you allow a small credit card balance to roll from one month to the next. The amount of interest for that minor problem could be just a couple of bucks. When you fix the problem by paying the balance in full the following month, you are back to $0. That minor problem is history. Case closed.


But if, on the other hand, you allow that small infraction to create a foundation for one more mistake and then another slipup, in what seems like no time at all you'll find yourself drowning in debt. (I see heads nodding as if you know exactly what I'm talking about!)

When you unravel that sweater, correct your gauge and start over, that sweater is going to fit beautifully.

That quilt? Do yourself a favor. Take out that first row of wonky stitching. Fix the errors before you go any further, and you'll be winning real quilt contests before you know it!


Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.




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