Ms. Emotional and Mr. Practical struggle to buy a hot tub. Sound familiar?
We all have had weak moments and made purchasing decisions based on emotion. Recently in our home, emotions were working overtime as we debated the “want vs need” for purchasing a hot tub. My wife’s voice echoes in my memory, “Live a little, a hot tub will bring us closer together!” All the while my head is screaming, “Or one step further from retirement.”
This is our struggle, and this is how we resolved it.
3 Stages to Smart Hot Tub Ownership
Stage 1: Dream It
We both agreed that soaking in a warm tub together, with a wine in hand, provides a level of connection that is seldom experienced in our day to day lives. It’s like taking an hour to recharge your soul, hit the pause button and disconnect from the craziness of everyday life.
We have spent many hours with friends in their hot tubs and have so many great memories: some loud and crazy; some calm and relaxing. That hot tub has given warmth after a cold dip in the lake, hosted deep conversations between friends and provided a place to recharge after being surrounded by several children that want something RIGHT NOW. We’ve watched snow storms, fireworks, sunsets and shooting stars all while sitting in that hot tub.
I don’t know if it is the physical closeness of sitting with someone in a hot tub and the fact that I’m sitting half naked which completely removes inhibitions or the wine (yes, more than likely it’s the wine), but whatever it is, you will feel a connection with friends, loved ones and even yourself at a far deeper level after a good soaking.
So, how to start:
- Talk to your hot tub owner friends. Invite yourself over, bathing suit in hand and experience their hot tubs, the enjoyment and any struggles they may have had throughout their day.
- Imagine a hot tub in your yard. Is there privacy? Is there easy access from the house? Do you need a gazebo?
- Gather pictures of hot tubs you like from anywhere you see them. The pictures will help shape your dreams.
Stage 2: Plan It
Once I was convinced of the emotional decision to owning a hot tub (I think the wine had something to do with it), I needed to satisfy my practical side and become completely informed on hot tub ownership. My wife told me that I should be alone with Mr. Practical while she went to our friend’s house for a hot tub!
I never go on a trip without knowing my destination, the cost and the time it will take to get there so, logically, I would never start a project like this without knowing the budget and timeline. The budget has to not only consider the fixed cost to buy and install a hot tub but the variable and recurring costs associated to maintaining it.
It is also important to organize ideas, plans, all the information. This will facilitate the decision making process. Using a tool such as quinju.com allows that. It is an easy home renovation planner tool, no matter which store, site, place you find something for your project you can store it there and have your online home remodeling info all in one place.
Operating Cost: Variable and Recurring
This is not meant to deter your decision, but just arm you with the proper information so that you can plan. If this reality check has you feeling depressed, go back and read Stage 1: Dream It.
Electrical: Depending on your climate, the daily cost to keep water heated can seem quite expensive but really is less than a cup of coffee a day.
Many manufacturers like to brag about the horsepower of their motor but please remember large motors mean larger electrical bills. Focus on the GPM (gallons per minute) or volume of water on the wet-side of the pump. The GPM, not the horsepower, is what determines the pressure at the jets.
Maintenance: Chemicals, filters and test kits can all add up quickly and, therefore, need to be part of the budget. I added 50 cents a day to my budget but I know this cost will vary based on my experience level and usage.
Repairs After Warranty: Common challenges are motor failures, control panel issues, heater failures and jet replacement. It is impossible to predict or budget for these issues, your only recourse is to ensure the manufacturer and dealer have a good record in assisting when repairs are needed. Do your due diligence by checking references and online media posts.
Fixed Cost: Installation & Hot Tub Purchase
You’ve spent considerable time dreaming about this project, don’t destroy those dreams by cutting corners on the install or spending beyond your budget on hot tub “lipstick” options.
Foundation or Base: Considering a hot tub loaded with water and people can weigh several thousand pounds, decks should be evaluated by a professional engineer to ensure they are up to standard. If your considering a deck, check out our series of on building a deck.
Concrete slabs, interlocking stone or gravel bases need to be level and in good condition. Ensure the area is properly drained so that rainwater does not sit around the tub skirt.
Delivery and Installation: Make sure details of delivery and installation are clear and in writing. Is the tub being put in place or road side/driveway drop off? Discuss any approach challenges that may interfere with accessing where the tub will be set.
Electrical Hook-Up: This is not a do-it-yourself part of the project. Talk to a qualified electrician or contact your electrical authority for information.
Permits: Often permits are required so check with local building department.
Fencing: For safety reasons (or taxation) more and more municipalities require perimeter fencing around a hot tub. Personally, I think the extra privacy is nice to have and you avoid that worry should you ever travel or need to be away from your home. Discuss the requirements with your local building department. Privacy fencing is a personal touch and may be added at any time. If your putting wood posts in the ground take a look at this Post Protector.
Price of Unit: This is a big ticket item. Take your time and get to understand your dealer and/or manufacturer. Be cautious to identify your wants vs needs and ultimately your total budget for the tub purchase not just monthly payments as unneeded options will be harder to say no to when seen as a monthly payment. Therefore, options from the number of jets, DVDs, TVs, remote controls, sound systems and LED lighting are still all available. Basically some of these tubs do everything but supply you with beer… wait, there are some with beer fridges!
Why 3 Simple Questions Can Save You Thousands
- What is my budget for the hot tub purchase _______?
Defining your budget keeps you away from an emotional purchase.
- How many people do I see in the hot tub at one time _______?
Knowing the answer to this gets you what you need and nothing more. No sense heating a hot tub for 7 when 2 is the most you see in it.
- Why do I want a hot tub ______?
A) connection with loved ones B) health benefits C) a party place
Question 3 may seem silly; however, writing it down and taking it with you to the hot tub dealer may solve an argument.
Q #1 Answer: “So my significant other and I can spend quality time together.” Then a smaller, quieter unit without TV’s or integrated sound systems may be the answer.
Q #2 Answer: “So I can have block parties every weekend.” Then, I would suggest you need a big tub with lots of accessories to include the integrated bar fridge. Also, budget more for chemical usage.
Q #3 Answer: “To deal with a medical condition like arthritis.” Then jets and a recliner may be the answer.
Things to Remember:
Sales staff have strategies and practice their trade often. To even the playing field and protect your money, follow these suggestions:
- Promise yourself not to make a decision for 24hrs after leaving the store.
- When offered a sale/discount or promotion to make a decision today, ask for the “everyday price.” The way this question is answered will tell you who you are dealing with.
- Every time the salesperson wants to discuss options, bring them back to what really matters: quality of insulation, motors, heaters, energy efficiency and warranty not the TVs, waterfalls, number of jets or the integrated sound system.
- Be careful of questionable awards like “Best Rated”, “Independent Testing”, “Consumer’s Choice”. Even comments on message boards can be manipulated. I found consumersearch.com helpful as they effectively rate the best places to find independent hot tub or spa information.
Stage 3: Record It
Like any major purchase or home renovation, it is so important to properly record the details during construction. Basically the Who, Where, When, What, How and How Much provides some insurance for the future.
Maintenance is relatively simple ensuring the unit is properly cleaned, heavy snow removed from the cover and the cover helper is in good working order, replacing filters and ensuring chemicals are at proper levels.
I discovered that hot tubs are not something that you simply wake up one morning and plan to have installed in a week. Careful planning to understand the true cost is the only way to really enjoy the hot tub experience.
At this point you are likely wondering if we bought our hot tub, did Ms. Emotional have her way or did Mr. Practical (bah humbug) choose investments over “living a little”? Well, we both got our way. We purchased the hot tub of our dreams, one that fits our needs and budget. We purchased our hot tub logically and enjoy it emotionally, often with a nice glass of wine!