Strategic Frugality and The Tale of Stormzilla

Sometimes, the most frugal option is to spend money. Don’t fall out of your chair or topple over your standing desk–it’s true! Indeed, it’s rare that I advocate for forking over cash, but there are instances where avoiding the cheapest choice translates into frugality in the long run. And that, my frugal weirdo friends, is strategic frugality–also known as the inherent division between the lofty frugal and the lowly cheapskate. To illustrate my point, enter exhibit A: the Frugalwoods storm door.

The Tragic Tale Of Stormling

Stormling the decrepit storm door

Stormling the decrepit storm door

Our erstwhile storm door, we’ll call her Stormling, was the quintessential example of the dirt cheapest storm door on the market. Stormling (who was installed by the previous owners of our house) was rickety, thin, and altogether not fit for our excessive northeastern winters, as evidenced this year. She met her demise thanks to a few hearty (by which I mean outrageously gigantic) wind gusts, not to mention the borderline inappropriate amounts of snow and ice we received here in Cambridge this winter. Mr. Frugalwoods, my inveterate handy person, did his best to repair Stormling, but to no avail.

The door was far too shoddy to bear up under his repair efforts and one day, another piece broke off. Yep, a piece of the door fell off. Stormling also no longer closed properly, which meant the seal that a storm door is intended to form betwixt your front door and the great outdoors was no longer happening. Being frugal weridos who don’t rush out to buy things the minute something breaks, we bided our time. Buying in haste often yields poorly thought-out decisions and overpayment.

Stormling no longer closed tightly...

Stormling no longer closed tightly…

We considered toughing it out with Stormling–after all, frugal weridos are no strangers to coping with mild inconveniences (hint: this is what separates us from people who constantly separate from their money in order to make their lives easier, which I like to call “less realistic, more materialistic”). But after about three months, we realized that we weren’t going to be able to 1) repair Stormling or, 2) make it through another winter with her. Plus, her frame was bent to such a crooked degree that we couldn’t replace the glass front with a screen front as we’re wont to do in the hotter months in order to avoid incurring yet another expense known as air conditioning. Boo, Stormling.

Can We Find It Used? Pretty Please?

Mr. FW gamely scoped Craigslist, garage sales, and the side of the road for possible replacement doors. Since we’re willing to wait for a good deal, it wasn’t an issue for us to sit tight and see if an excellent used option popped up. Sadly, it turns out that the only people getting rid of, or selling, storm doors were in the exact same position as us–trying to offload a busted door. We nearly toted a door down the street (which was in the trash of an open house we went to a few weeks ago), but then measured it (never leave home without a measuring tape!) and realized it was far too large for our humble entry.

Craigslist couch! And side table. The coffee table was handmade by Mr. Frugalwoods

All brought through our door: Craigslist couch and side table. The coffee table was handmade by Mr. Frugalwoods.

Fun fact: we know exactly how big our front door opening is thanks to the exorbitant number of items we’ve carried through it ourselves, including: two beds from Craigslist, a couch from Craigslist, a leather armchair from Craigslist, a dining room table from Craigslist, a hand-me-down crib & changing table (thank you awesome friends with older kids!), and a slew of other sundry bits. At any rate, suffice it to say that thanks to our house’s advanced maturity (ok I won’t play coy, it’s over 120 years old), the door frame opening is rather petite.

After this enthusiastic but ultimately futile attempt to obtain a used/free door, we trekked out to Home Depot (on a Saturday, no less… I still have shivers thinking of all those crowds) in Frugalwoods-mobile (aka our minivan with all the back seats taken out, which makes it a sort of oddly-shaped, covered flatbed truck). Mr. FW, being a planner and researcher, mapped out online which door he wanted to buy and even wrote down the aisle in which it resided. After circumnavigating the parking lot on foot to find one of those flat, roller cart-thingys, we dashed into the appointed aisle and started inspecting doors.

We discovered that Home Depot helpfully has all of their doors out on display, so we were able to run them through their paces. We looked disgustedly at Stormling’s new facsimiles and migrated our way up the price chain (for reference, these cut-rate doors are $104). The door Mr. FW had originally designated for us was fine and as advertised. However, we noted that one model up was significantly sturdier. The doors looked nearly identical, but the slightly more expensive pick was remarkably better made…

Enter: Stormzilla

Behold: Stormzilla

Behold: Stormzilla

In light of our travails with Stormling, we started to seriously consider this pricier door. At $317, this door (henceforth known as Stormzilla) was $81 more than the $236 door we’d originally selected. And so, we debated the merits of this $81 price increase. Stormzilla was clearly of a higher quality with the most significant difference being a much thicker gauge of aluminum. Since thickness is what you might call a mission critical element of a door, we felt the additional expense was warranted. Stormzilla also has dual weatherstripping, a separately installed and very hardy handle, and an awesome slider to transition from glass to screen (genius!).

We quickly decided it was worth it to us to get a door that was obviously better made, would last longer, and endure our winters. Another reason we’re so wedded to having a superlative storm door is the fact that our house lacks any type of porch overhang or entryway. We depend on our storm door to keep the rains and snows off of our interior wood floor–not to mention to serve as a barrier against drafts and general cold air infiltration. And so, we bought Stormzilla.

If we were cheap, and not strategically frugal, we would’ve gone with the least expensive, flimsiest $104 door, which likely would’ve encountered the same traumatic fate as Stormling… And then we’d be right back in that same Home Depot aisle again next year. But, in considering the long-term potential of the products we purchase, Stormzilla was the undisputed victor. Since we plan to rent out this house in a few years, we felt all the more vindicated in our selection. Renters are typically hard on a house and having a rugged, well-made door in place will hopefully ensure its longevity.

Stormzilla's handle

Stormzilla’s righteous handle

Another factor we considered with our purchase of Stormzilla is that she greatly improves the curb appeal of our house. When we first moved in, we changed the house numbers and mailbox from dreadful black and white metal (the mailbox even sported wretched faux metal lace) to sleek, but relatively thrifty, stainless steel. The difference in the outward appearance of our house was astounding. And, we knew Stormzilla would have a similar impact. Stormling was trimmed in that unfortunate black, lacy trim as well, which made our front door look like the entrance to some sort of third-rate cantina. It was not so good.

Don’t Cheap Out On Home Repair

Something we were reminded of (yet again) in this process is that the people who formerly owned our home–though they were lovely folks–did just about everything as cheaply as possible. While they obviously did the work themselves (not exactly something you want people to say when they see your handiwork…), they habitually cut corners, avoided fixing the root of problems, and essentially glossed over anything amiss with paint. Lots and lots of paint.

Mr. FW, who prefers to deconstruct down to the core of an issue and fix it from the inside out frequently invokes the former owner’s name in vain. It’s not that they tried to do the wrong things, they just did much of the work haphazardly. Seeing the results of those quasi-labors around our house are constant reminders to us that cheapest is usually not bestest. Cutting corners in home repair isn’t a viable way to save money–it’s a way to absolutely ensure you’ll spend more money and time over the years fixing what you should’ve fixed properly in the first place.

Oh yeah, that's glue slathered on unpainted trim

Oh yeah, that’s glue slathered on unpainted trim

Installing Stormzilla naturally yielded a number of such exciting discoveries, including the fact that they’d glued (glued??) Stormling to the trim and furthermore, hadn’t painted the wood trim underneath the door enclosure. You always want to paint bare wood since it seals out moisture and prevents rot.

And so, Mr. FW’s supposedly quick task of installing Stormzilla morphed into an hours-long ordeal of fixing the short-cuts of the previous owners. Fortunately, he enjoys this type of work and we’re both committed to leaving things better than we found them. There’s no sense in installing a new door improperly.

Another fun revelation was that the screws attaching Stormling to the trim had been badly stripped and then painted over. To get the screws out, Mr. FW had to Dremel a slot in each screw and then back them out. Who knows how the previous owners managed to strip screws when installing them, because if you install something properly and with new screws, they shouldn’t be stripped… They also used what could only be described as waaaaaay too much caulk under the flange of Stormling, where is wasn’t actually doing any good and just created a giant mess for Mr. FW to peel away while installing Stormzilla.

The trim after Mr. FW stripped off the glue, sanded, and painted it

The trim after Mr. FW stripped off the glue, sanded, and painted it

Once Mr. FW corrected the eccentricities of the previous installation, he found the new door very easy and straightforward to install. Stormzilla and her instruction manual were clearly not the bargain basement option.

Given our commitment to insourcing, we saved the $200 that Home Depot would’ve charged us to install the door. Plus, I bet if Home Depot installed the door, they wouldn’t have fixed the surrounding door frame. Yet another example of why it’s best to do things yourself–not only did we save money, we prevented future problems from cropping up with our door frame. When you pay someone to do something for you, they’re typically looking to complete the project as quickly and as cheaply as possible. After all, they’re not the ones who have to live with opening and closing that door every single day.

Strategic Frugality (aka the point of this ramble)

While this is a ridiculously long description of our storm door adventures (and hopefully you’re still reading…), I think it lends a broader lesson on strategic frugality. Even though I evangelize spending as little as humanly possible on a regular basis, I also recognize that spending can be shrewd. Knowing when to pay for long-term quality is a key element of living the successful frugal life.

One of the reasons why Mr. FW and I buy so few things is that we own a number of rather expensive items that have lasted us, and will continue to last us, for years. But beware: if you’re going to go the route of buying more upscale, durable options, you’re committing to those items for the long-haul. You can’t be sashaying out to replace them every few years because you want something new, shiny, or in a different color. Nope. You’ve got to be in it to win it with your swanky items.

If you’re curious about the other not-so-cheap stuff we’ve purchased over the years, check out 10 Shockingly Expensive Things We Own. But please note, I’m not advocating that anyone buys any of these things to replace perfectly good items you already own.

Incorporating strategic frugality into our lives is a classic long-play. There’s usually no short-term, immediate gain in this approach. Rather, the savings are reaped over time. Much like saving over 70% of our take-home pay (and that’s not even counting maxing out our 401Ks) every year will pay off in the future, strategic frugality is all about calculated, intentional actions that are focused towards your overarching goal in life. You could say it’s like being a frugal ninja.

How do you employ strategic frugality in your life? How’d your storm door do this winter?

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92 Responses

  1. Nicola says:

    We don’t live in a place where a storm door is necessary, but I am an advocate of buying more expensive items if they are going to last longer, and therefore, over time, cost less than replacing cheaper alternatives multiple times. The people we bought our house from did everything on the cheap, as we are slowly finding out to our cost, unfortunately. We are taking our time to replace things that need replacing, and have never gone for the cheapest option so far. As we plan to live in this house for at least the next 10 years, we want things to last us all of that time, plus the obvious safety measures also come into play. I think that that is more important then the cheapest thing at the store.

    • Nicola’s point about “buying more expensive items if they are going to last longer and therefore over time cost less than replacing cheaper alternatives multiple times” is spot on. That is the reason that for our recent roof replacement we opted for higher grade, longer rated (and better warrantied) shingles. The extra expense means that we should NEVER have to pay for another roof replacement on this house. To us, that was a smarter way to go and a better investment of our home repair dollars.

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Absolutely! The cheapest option is not always the most frugal. I think it’s great that you’ve both made those long-term decisions with regard to your home repairs. It can definitely pay off in the long run. And, Nicola, you make a great point about the importance of safety too.

  2. D says:

    I think we may have had the same previous owners. Do you happen to have any crooked “cabinets” made of 1/4″ plywood with mismatched black lacy hardware?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We do, we do!!! They’re down in our basement and they work well for storage, but it’s a serious mismatch. There are just bizarre little things all around our house that we’re continually discovering… 🙂

  3. Kalie says:

    In the end, having to buy the same thing twice is not more frugal. So going for the long-lasting, quality product is often the better deal. It is helpful to think through which categories this most applies to, and I’d agree home repair is one. Especially if you’re DIYing and saving a ton that way. Shoes is another area that I no longer completely cheap out; I’ve found the strategic price point at which they last longer and don’t hurt my feet, without being too expensive.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Shoes are another great example. We don’t cheap out on our hiking or walking shoes either–just not worth it. You’re right about the “strategic price point”–there’s definitely a happy medium to strike.

  4. Mrs. PoP says:

    It’s astonishing the corners we’ve found that the builders/previous owners of our house cheaped out on (the worst was a section of ceiling drywall that was completely uninsulated to the attic!) that we’re filling in and fixing along the way of our remodel. And the money we save by doing the repairs ourselves definitely enables us splurges on higher-end materials that should last a long time and ensure we’re not re-doing these repairs in five or ten years.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      It can be terrifying when you start ripping away walls, as we too have discovered… people do really odd things when fixing houses. I’m with you on saving money by doing the labor yourself but with nicer materials. Makes sense for the long-run to pay for what will have a lasting effect.

  5. It says a lot about your writing ability/style, that I enjoyed reading an entire post about a storm door!

    My parents – who are very frugal – often said/say, “Cheap is expensive.” This is exactly the type of thing they were talking about. I generally think this rule applies to car repairs, as well. I prefer not to take the cheapest route in fixing things like tires, brakes, etc.

  6. Heather says:

    Agreed! Much cheaper than buying something twice! Also likely less time consuming, given the installation adventures!

  7. Heidi S says:

    I too have an old (115yr old) house with a tiny front door and previous owners who took terrible shortcuts (they cut through 7″ of an 8″ joist to run plumbing?!?). I have a similar front storm door to your new one, and a horrible Stormling type back storm door. I love the sliding glass/screen part of the door! I am looking to replace my Stormling-twin door this summer, and have seen bunch of storm doors at my local ReStore (Habitat for Humanity store). If you have a ReStore in your area, check them out next time!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh old houses… it’s always an adventure. Good luck with finding a good replacement for your Stormling!

  8. Fiby says:

    I will probably own a home at some point in my life, but having to do my own repairs is definitely something I do not look forward to.

    I agree – true frugality sometimes involves paying more at the onset but less over the lifetime of the product! In high school I ran into this article “how to afford anything,” and in it the author says the poor man pays twice.

    Frugal tip for you – for more “specialty” stores like Home Depot, as opposed to all purpose/general stores like Walmart or Target, you can often get a good deal by buying a used gift card at a discount. Go to and search for the store in question. Currently there are Home Depot gift cards offered at a 9% discount from Gift Card Bin.
    Then, take that gift card and go through a shopping portal to make your purchase whenever possible. A shopping portal is a website that has affiliate links for a bunch of different online stores. Every store that has affiliate links pays out a commission for sales made their through affiliate links. The shopping portal then turns around and gives you a cut. Everybody wins!
    In the case of Home Depot, I have ordered things online through their shopping portal and picked it up in store, allowing me to get the portal cash back and still get it within 24 hours.
    So for this example, go to and search for Home Depot. As of this time of writing, Discover Deals is the best at 5%, but you can only access that if you have a Discover card. The next best seems to be SavingStar, but among one of the options is Top Cashback, which has up to 6%. When you go to TopCashback we see there’s a buy online pickup in store category at 6% cash back. Perfect! You would need to create a Topcashback account and click on their link to get to the Home Depot website. Place your order, and within a couple days TopCashback should say you have 6% of your original subtotal as pending cashback.
    I only actually use two shopping portals – eBates and TopCashback. This is because many shopping portals have a minimum amount before you can cash out. However, TopCashback lets you cash out for any amount via PayPal or ACH transfer. eBates officially says you must reach $5 and they will cash you out once a quarter, but in my experience you will get cashed out once a quarter even if you don’t reach the $5 minimum.

    • AJ says:

      Yep, I was just about to chime in with this same suggestion. If you’re ever stuck in a situation where you *must* buy new, and you have a few days to wait, you can save a few percent by buying gift cards at a discount. DH and I keep a pouch of gift cards in the car so we don’t lose or forget them.

    • Fiby says:

      And here’s another example (Home Depot again!) He combined a sale, gift cars, and a cashback portal for a 47.7% discount from the normal price.

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Good advice, thank you both! We’re definitely no strangers to gift card hacking, but just didn’t happen to go that route this time around. But, it can be a great way to save when you have to buy new.

  9. Well this is timely. We are having a guy come out to give us an estimate on two storm doors, an entry door (onto our deck), and (most likely) a sliding door set in the basement. We figure that having them do all of the work at once will help us drive down some savings.

    “an awesome slider to transition from glass to screen (genius!).” HOLY CRAP RIGHT?!?!?!

    As cat owners, we can’t wait to have these doors in place so we can keep them open and won’t have our (sometimes asshole-ish) cats try to scratch at the screen. It will be glorious!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha, yes to the glass-to-screen transition, it’s pretty awesome. The only animal-owner caveat I have now with the fully glass door is that Frugal Hound likes to stand there staring out at the world with her damp houndy nose on the glass… which leaves delightful little nose streaks on the glass. Good luck with your many doors!

  10. bev says:

    Agree agree! Being married to an engineer and machinist, I can tell you that he always looks at the quality of how something is made. He will analyze a spoon to death! We have learned in our long lives, that buying a quality item will give you far more satisfaction than something cheaply made. That being said, however, everything must be considered within your own budget. If you can afford the $80 more, especially for something as important as a storm door, in winter climate, then it makes sense. If you’re looking at a purse, for example, perhaps not! But for an item that you expect to work hard for you, quality is always better.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Great point about the value of the item–I agree that an expensive purse doesn’t yield the same type of return because it’s not an item that “works hard.” My current purse was $8 about 10 years ago and it’s still trucking along just fine (I even threw it in the washing machine recently and it did well 🙂 )! Your husband sounds a lot like Mr. FW–he too can analyze a spoon to death!!!! I do love that efficient engineer approach though (most of the time 😉 ).

  11. bev says:

    P.S…..your door looks great….and Chris at Flipping a Dollar made me laugh as he describes his cats’ personalities!!

  12. Shannon says:

    With my first home I owned in my 20s, I typically went for the cheapest option due to the budget. It [aka lawnmower, weed whacker, power tools, garden tools, garden gloves, cheapo wood flooring, etc] will crap out on you in no time. Second cheapest is somewhat OK if you must, but we learned our lesson.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      So true–the cheapest tools just do not have lasting power. There’s a reason they’re so cheap!

  13. Linda says:

    The door is lovely as well as sturdy. But shouldn’t the doorknob be on the same side as the other door?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha, you’d think that, but, our porch railing is positioned such that the door can’t open the open way. So, we have opposite handles. Just makes it more unique, right ;)?

  14. I’m so sorry you had to go to Home Depot on a Saturday. It wasn’t a Saturday morning, was it? I hope you are recovering alright.

    My strategic frugality wasn’t really frugal, but when I graduated from law school and needed a computer to study for the bar and beyond. After buying PC laptops that crapped out in a year or 2, I got a Macbook Air with the hopes that it would last much longer and provide fewer headaches. So far so good. I’ve had it 2 years and I’ve had no issues 🙂

    Our next big purchase is furniture. Hubs wants to go new and I don’t want to pay new prices. So far I’ve talked him down from buying new with all the fancy gadgets. (Did you know they have electronic recliners?? To me that says, ‘I’ll be broken soon”) Now to work my magic to see if we can go Craigslist.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Go Craigslist!!! It’ll save you a ton and we found we were able to get higher quality stuff on Craigslist than we would’ve if we’d shopped new (if you’re interested, here’s my post about Craigslisting it up: 12 Ways to Get a Steal on Craigslist). I believe in your powers of persuasion to convince him :)!!! Also, I’m a Mac person too–my last Mac lasted 7 years before finally biting the dust.

  15. Kim from Philadelphia says:

    Great job on the door!

    I’m fairly certain we have the same door in black ( even the same handle). After 10 years tolerating Northeast winters, it’s holding up beautifully!! Plus it’s actually pretty well insulated, which has cut down on drafts that pass through our front door.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Awesome! So glad to hear your Stormzilla is holding up after 10 years–that’s what I like to hear ;).

  16. LilliV says:

    I cracked up at”frequently invokes the former owner’s name in vain” – we do the exact same thing at our 150 year old house! The previous owner did everything himself including plumbing and electrical. Oye. We’ve successfully tackled the plumbing ourselves but I have a healthy fear of electrocution so that we do outsource.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh wow, sounds like we have the same previous owners! Old houses are such an adventure 😉

  17. I love when you guys share your strategic frugality tales because it’s true, sometimes in the name of frugality, you can end up spending too much money when you could have made the correct strategic choice to begin with. It takes time and energy upfront, but it certainly pays off later.

  18. Hey you guys put a lot of thought and effort into it, which is what most people don’t do. It makes sense that some things you do want to spend a little bit more for quality and have things last.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Totally! Plus, Mr. FW and I have the ability to over-think and over-research just about everything 😉

  19. Veronica says:

    Nice article! You guys should a “house tour” article. Since you brought the couch off craigslist and made the coffee table, I’m interested to see how you have frugalized other parts of you house that have indeed worked out in the long run.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks, Veronica! That’s a great idea for a post–many thanks! I hadn’t thought of doing that, but I guess we do have a lot of frugalized aspects of our home.

  20. Zoe says:

    I totally agree with the sentiment of this post!! I have been fortunate enough to be in college for a while with a lot of non local classmates who buy junk and then sell it for cheap, so I’ve gotten on the cheap quite a few nice things. However, I finally had to draw the line at my vacuum. My roomie assured me that her vacuum was perfectly good! And would work like a charm! Well let me tell you it SUCKED. I would always become so frustrated in a dusty house with hair all over and just overall cranky by cleaning. Finally I researched and found a coupon to buy a new vacuum and have never looked back.

  21. Norm says:

    Ha! Your new storm door looks exactly like our storms. I guess that’s what happens when you shop at the big boxes. We had one like that one downstairs when we moved in. Then we replaced an ancient wooden storm door upstairs with the same thing to match the downstairs. And yeah, it was expensive. But it’s an investment in your home and you don’t want something that’s going to annoy you every time you use it.

    I have a post coming up soon about how we’re spending a buttload of money on something for the house, but will hopefully be very worth it. Right now, I’ll just say it has to do with bats…

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Bats! OMG! You know how to leave a person in suspense…. Hopefully Maeby wasn’t menaced by a bat! Frugal Hound is terrified of pigeons, so I can’t imagine how she’d do with a bat…

  22. Jeff says:

    I agree here 100%. Just about every single project I’ve done at our place involved fixing some cheap short cut (that was typically not safe at all) that the old owner (a 92 year old whose dad built the house) or one of her kids fixed. Im convinced when presented with 15 options, she picked based on price and price alone (which is why i’ve got a 17′ long trench in the back yard awaiting a french drain). Her method (or her kid’s) was never to really find the issue and fix it, it was just to try and stop the problem.

    It gets old, very quickly.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh yes, I feel your pain entirely. Our previous owners were also older and they or one of their kids clearly picked the cheapest route every time. Good luck with the french drain!

  23. Adam says:

    Oh man, I’m actually envious of your storm door saga. We basically had the same storm door replacement last summer (really crappy old door, nice new door that looks identical to your’s). However, we’re in a condo association, so we had to hire out the installation. In our condo association, there’s very much a go-along to get-along dynamic, so even though all along I was pretty indifferent about the doors and only one owner really want to replace them, we easily agreed to the replacement. We replaced both the front and back doors for six units, and the frame needed to be rebuilt and painted because it’s an old building. All told new storm doors (which were never a priority for me) ended up costing us about $6k–$1000 per unit. Ugh. And that’s actually with a really good labor rate, because the work took way longer than expected but the contractor stuck to his quote (he’s a great guy). All of this is to say, you probably save a great deal of money by having a single family home, even if you have to do quite a bit more work yourself. Don’t even get me started on the racket of paying for snow removal…hoping to convince other’s in our association to let me take it over this year (which will also mean extra cash for us). By the way–congrats on the baby!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh bummer, that’s too bad. But hey, at least you now have lovely doors all around! To be honest, condo association rules and HOA fees are some of the primary reasons why we wanted a single family so badly. We really like being able to do the work ourselves and… we’re not great at following rules ;). But, that’s awesome you’re trying to convince them to let you do the snow removal! Sounds like an ideal solution! And, thanks for the good wishes on Babywoods 🙂

  24. Whitney says:

    “When you pay someone to do something for you, they’re typically looking to complete the project as quickly and as cheaply as possible. After all, they’re not the ones who have to live with opening and closing that door every single day.”
    SO TRUE! I believe that some people at times assume that just because you’re paying someone to do something for you, that they have your best interests at heart, or are willing to go out of their way to help you. Some people are the exception of course, but in my experience, when it comes to big businesses at least, I agree that, in the interest of their bottom line, they try to do things as quickly and cheaply as possible.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I think you’re absolutely right. I know that there are plenty of honest contractors who will do an amazing job, but, you’re going to pay for it. I think when you’re doing work yourself (whether it’s cooking your own food or installing your own door), you’re much more invested in the long-term benefits and outcome.

  25. Will L. says:

    Yeah, cutting corners on home repair is akin to cutting corners on your health.

    And that makes me kind of scared Home Depot does installs. I know some people who work there lol.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Well said–I wouldn’t cut corners on health-related matters either! Yeah, I kind of wondered about the Home Depot installation quality too…

      • Greypaws says:

        Awesome post, who woulda thunk you could laugh over a stormdoor sage? 🙂 Unless you know the contractor & his work, I’d shy away from having Home Depot or Lowes contractors do your work. We had Lowes install a 33′ fence to make a dog potty area (decorative slat fence 4′ high) DH & I not up to doing that kind of work anymore or we would have done ourselves, stinks to be old!! The house & garage made a lovely L shape so it was just a matter of doing the other two sides. Took the bums 3 different trips to install posts, 3 – 8′ section, a smaller section & gate and it looks like crud! My hairdresser had the same problem with Home Depot and they did a total remodel of their kitchen, 22,000.00 and it took contractors 3 + months to complete. Due to parts not being delivered, they were without water for almost a month. Not happy homeowners!

        How are you feeling these days Mrs. FW? has the morning settled down to more reasonable?

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          Oh dear–what a pain with the Lowes contractors! Definitely better to go with someone trusted. That kitchen remodel sounds like a nightmare too–eek!

          I am feeling much better, thank you so much for asking :)! The morning sickness definitely seems to be abating.

  26. Nice door you got there. Estimating total costs of ownership going forward really is the name of the game. Hard to do, of course.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks! It can be hard to calculate the cost/benefit, but in general we try to aim for not the cheapest and not the most expensive, which usually seems to strike a pretty good balance.

  27. Frugal is my middle name says:

    We had a terribly cheap storm door on the front of our house when we bought it too! I think it lasted a few years and then would open and slam into the side of the house any time there was a wind gust. We took it off, fixed the frame, and never ended up installing a new one. Even with all the snow we get, it really hasn’t been a problem. We have fixed so many shortcuts of the previous owners! We plan extra for projects as there is always something unexpected lurking beneath the surface!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      You’re smart to plan extra for projects–there really always is some element you don’t anticipate! We find they usually just take a lot longer than expected. Ahh well, keeps life interesting 😉

  28. MEL810 says:

    We had a very similar situation with our door as you did with Stormzilla. The previous owner of our condo put a cheapie door on that was falling off its hinges not a year into our residence. We bought a sturdy mid-range door at Home Depot. We were able to tax deduct this door the next year as an ‘energy efficiency upgrade’. Save the receipt. You can probably tax deduct Stormzilla!
    I feel the same way about car and other mechanical repairs, medical care and certain clothes.
    Being cheap on car maintenance can really cost you. We are dealing with that right now. Years ago our mechanic (honest! reliable! good price!) warned the mister about being cheap about routine car care. Did he listen? NO! His penny wise-pound foolish side won and he has had to pay thru the wazoo for expensive repairs such as an ENTIRE ENGINE REBUILD! The mechanic told us don’t wait until the car appears about to die to see a mechanic.
    You can do it yourself and go cheap on things like oil changes, but not on the big stuff. He also said always to try to use reconditioned parts. He said to shop around on insurance because in our area, insurance is much cheaper in one of the surrounding counties than in the city or in our county. He said to look in a junk yard/auto graveyard for good used parts from wrecks. He said re-tread tires are usually okay. He said to never, ever buy a brand new car, as it will lose 1/4 of its value the moment you drive it off the lot!
    I don’t go too cheapie on shoes. Cheap shoes suck. They hurt and they fall apart after a few wears.
    Although most of my bags are thrift shop bags, I did buy one good, sturdy classic yet fashionable leather bag for about $90.00. It was about $350.00 retail but I got it through DSW online and on sale. I had a 20% off sale, two $10.00 rewards coupons, free shipping and got an Ebates back on it. That bag, with good care, should last me for many years. A cheapie bag wouldn’t last near as long nor would it look near as good. Sometimes quality trumps price.

    • Lara says:

      If there’s one thing I never buy it’s re-treads for tyres. I worked in the car industry and everyone recommended buying new tyres. They more than pay back your investment if caught on a slippery road in an accident/emergency.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Quality does indeed sometimes trump price! Totally agree with you on not buying a new car–I can’t think of a worse thing to buy new! And, we’ve had great luck with used parts and junkyard tires too. Shoes are another good thing to buy quality–bad shoes are just not worth it!

  29. Ali says:

    I did a very similar calculation when purchasing my electric toothbrush. I could have gotten a toothbrush for free from the dentist, but elected to pay ~$80 (on sale of course) for a Sonicare toothbrush. I’ve had it for three years and it is amazing. It has cut down on cavities so I have more than compensated for the extra cost of the toothbrush in reduced dental care expenses.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We did the same thing and we both have Sonicares too! We’ve had them for years and neither of us has had a single cavity (knocks on wood…).

  30. Strategic frugality is definitely something I’m big on, though trying to evaluate purchases on a BIFL basis can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes the more expensive one is better, but sometimes not.

    Use case is important too. A more expensive thing might be objectively better, but not used enough to justify the increased price for increased longevity.

    I do wish more of America was based on BIFL items. Everyone would win, except the companies making them perhaps. Though there are certainly companies out there with a focus on durability and no planned obscolence who remain profitable.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh how I loathe planned obsolescence! I agree too that not everything makes sense to BIFL–I’m not going to spend $300 on a handbag because even if it did last me forever, it’s just not worth it to me. For us, it’s usually stuff that’s either very important to us personally or that sees heavy use (like underwear and storm doors).

  31. mike says:

    Never do the mediocre thing. Cheap DIY repairs are good and so are high quality replacements. The trap people fall into is the whole range of options that are neither free or high quality.The “inexpensive” often replaced by re-purchasing over and over item. I learned this (very slowly after many misteps) in buying tools. I would make a tool (free) and use it until I
    could buy a much needed high quality tool (for cash of course).Beware of the mediocre!!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s a good way of putting it. Free is good and expensive is usually good–but oooooo the middle ground is where it gets dicey!

  32. Our storm door held up well this year. Agreed on Strategic frugality, certainly with home items like doors, windows, appliances. you don’t want to cut corners and have to repair/ replace often. Do you homework, shop around, get the best price, but make sure it will fit you needs for the long run.

  33. I am duly impressed. Our skill level is such that when we broke a pane of glass in our old storm door, we were so flummoxed that we asked Grandpa FP to replace it for us. Alas, we know live flying distance from Grandpa FP and are on our own. (In my defense, I was approximately 11 months pregnant and caring for a 16-month-old at the time. And Mr. FP was on the job market.)

    Speaking of Craigslist couches, we just got one! Our new house has basically two living areas, and we had no couch for the upstairs one, meaning there was no good place upstairs (where the boys sleep) to sit down and read stories! Unacceptable! Anyway, Mr. FP rented one of those Home Depot vans, but it was soon apparent that the two of us could not possibly get the couch out. (I nearly killed myself helping with the matching chair.)

    So… Mr. FP, I kid you not, accosted a passing neighbor. At nine pm. Well, that’s one way to meet people! Of course the guy helped. I mean, you would help a stranger on the street, wouldn’t you? Most people are nice!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hey congrats on the Craigslist couch! We love ours! I still have no idea why people are so afraid of getting beds and couches off of Craigslist… but hey, makes them all the cheaper for us frugal weirdos. I love that you accosted a passing neighbor–we’ve done that before too.
      P.S. 11 months ;)??!! Here I’ve only been planning for 9…

  34. Hmm… I went the cheap route ($98 door on sale, I think 1 baby step up from the absolute cheapest one). A little over 3 years later and it’s still nearly brand new other than the slightly busted screen (kids, don’t push on the screen to open the door!). I considered the $250-300 options but I figured they were overkill for what we need.

    This one seals air tight. Too tight in fact – we have to wait for it to close or the air pressure won’t let it click into the second locked position.

    In any event, it’s nice to have a decent storm door that suits your purposes (whether it’s $100 or $300) and I’m definitely a big believer in spending up when it makes sense. I’ve slowly learned that lesson the hard way before. 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Makes sense to go with only what you need–our door is really for our mega snow and ice up here. It’d probably be overkill for your balmy NC temps. We’ve come to realize that there’s a pretty big difference between when we lived in DC and up here–the climate is just that much colder. And, we’ve certainly learned strategic frugality the hard way too… 😉

  35. I think I bought the same storm door as you did when I got mine last year. I waited for a sale to buy mine though as I didn’t need by a particular date or to replace one that wasn’t working as the previous owners of my house didn’t have one on there at all!

  36. Kirsten says:

    I like the reminder that cheap is not frugal and vice versa…

    It’s not too much like your story, really, but … We are selling our house and needed to hang some curtains in our bedroom. We had been totally cheap and had foregone the curtains because we had a black out shade (albeit torn). The room needed some staging help, so hubs hung up new blinds and I had to go buy curtains…

    I got to the store and they honest to goodness did not have curtains that would go with our comforter. Like, really. I’m not sure how that’s possible, but it’s no exaggeration. I hemmed and hawed and finally went to the sale aisle and checked out comforters. I found a nice yellow one (yellow is a good color for selling homes, it’s inviting and warm, apparently). Then I checked the price and then glanced over to the not-on-sale comforters. For $10 more, I could get a set that also had coordinating throw pillows and multiple shams. Now we are talking “staging”! I paid the $10 extra and got a great cheaper set of curtains.

    I could have been cheap, but I think in the end, I got a better deal. Our bedroom looks fantastic and is much better staged than it would have been with our old (like OLD) comforter. In the end, that extra money might actually, weirdly, help me sell my home. It was worth the small investment in that grand scheme.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Sounds like a good investment! Plus, now you have a nice new comforter for your next home. Best of luck to you in selling your house!!!

  37. The hinges on our storm door slowly started to give. Then, one day when I was opening it, it actually broke off! The kids now like to remind me, “Mom broke the door.” It’s now been about two months since we’ve had a storm door. We have a lot of credit card debt that we’re desperately trying to pay off, so being strategic for use means waiting to buy a new one. The front of the house looks a little strange without a storm door, but who cares? We don’t really need it during the summer and, unlike you, we do have a bit of an overhang from the roof.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Sounds smart to me; makes sense to wait to buy one until you actually need it. I love that you’re just rolling with the unusual appearance–who cares indeed ;)?!

  38. We actually have no storm door, though it’s been somewhere on the priority list for awhile now along with a replacement front door. Slowly they’re creeping their way up on the list, and I think they will definitely need to be installed before winter comes rolling around again. The storm door we’re interested in appears to be a sibling of Stormzilla, so hopefully it will be similarly sturdy and long-lasting. Truth be told, I didn’t realize there was much of a difference between storm doors, but you can bet I’ll be looking at it closely now.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We didn’t realize how many different types of doors there are either! It’s funny how much you learn when you need something :). We are really pleased with Stormzilla so far–seems to be well worth the money. Good luck with your doors!

  39. ARBM says:

    Some of the comments here were discussing your ability to write… about storm doors… so that we would actually read the whole post… and it wasn’t until I got to those comments that I realized I had just read a quite long blog post… about storm doors… lol! Well done!
    We are getting our roof redone this week and have chosen to not go for the cheapest route for just that reason. Although we are not DIY’ing our roof, we know that the added cost is an investment in our house. We plan to be in our house for a long time, so might as well invest wisely in the materials used.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha, glad I was able to trick you into reading ;). A good roof is a wise investment to be sure. You’ll be thankful for that decision for years to come!

  40. Funny thing is – I think we bought the same storm door for our new place! Ours wasn’t quite as expensive though (maybe $5 less), and it has one large piece of glass that you can replace with one large screen.

  41. Thank you for pointing out the difference between being frugal and being cheap! Too often people focus on the cheapest option instead of the best or most frugal option. Even though you’re frugal, you still have to fork over your money! There’s no point in being miserly over necessary purchases. I almost fell prey to cheapskate-ness when I almost refused to pay a stylist to fix my hair after an at-home haircut gone wrong.

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