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Spend money to save money

Grocery shopping, home décor -- of course you can do these yourself and find great ways to save money. But what if you find yourself buying and returning curtains that don't work, or you're constantly throwing away food because you just don't have the time to cook it?

This is where hiring an expert could help you be smart about spending and even save some money. In this situation, we're talking about consulting with an expert with the intention of doing the project yourself (however, for specialized tasks, such as skilled home improvement projects, it is recommended to hire vetted experts).

We all know that working with a financial planner can help you save money but what about non-financial experts or organizations? When does it make sense?

"It makes sense to spend money if the expense will help you avoid additional costs in the future or increase your net worth," say finance expert Shannon Lee Simmons.

Expensive projects require expert advice
This guidance can help save money on projects, such as interior decorating. If you're not an expert, instead of buying and returning items because of a lack of fit, spending the cost of two hours in consultation with a decorator can provide a tailored plan and even project costs.

For example, I recently consulted with a decorator about my home. For two hours at $55 per hour, the decorator got a sense of what I wanted, my colour scheme, my storage and lighting needs. Thanks to the money spent, I now have a plan that will help me avoid additional costs.

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Save on food
A report released in 2012 from the Natural Resources Defense Council found that Americans wastes 40 per cent of the food they buy: The average American family throws in the garbage $2,275 worth of groceries each year.

If you fall in this category, there are services that will, for a price, prepare food into ready-to-be-made meals for you, with minimal wastage.

However, Mairlyn Smith, TV cook, author and professional home economist, says that while meal preparation companies do offer a good service, it can get expensive when you break down the cost per meal. The same goes for eating out, even if you budget for it.

"The cheapest way to eat and not waste food is to have the supplies," says Smith. She recommends keeping a protein, a carb and vegetables in your fridge, freezer or pantry for when you're hungry.

If you do have to spend money to save money on food, Smith suggests getting your groceries delivered. Most grocery deliver services charge a fee but, as Smith explains, you can plan your meals and order from the comfort of your home without organizing your day around going grocery shopping.

Of course, you do have to cook once you've done all the planning and arranged for the food to be delivered. Smith points out that you could calculate how much money you lose when you throw out food and use that for take out, but she prefers paying a little extra for grocery delivery and having the ingredients at hand.

She recommends bulk food preparation and cooking -- that way, you don't spend as much time cooking and you have food ready for the week.

So does it make sense to pay an expert so you can save money? In some cases, it can. Decorating and financial advice makes sense, but paying someone to cook for you, while convenient, will drain money out of your pocket.

Renee Sylvestre-Williams is a Toronto-based journalist

-- Posted May 13, 2013
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