Modern automobiles do not require significant maintenance. Meanwhile, the days of the ‘shade tree mechanic’ are over, as fewer maintenance or repair tasks can still be performed by individual owners. Nonetheless opportunities still abound to save on auto maintenance.
First and foremost, become familiar with your car’s maintenance schedule
This is usually found in the back of the owner’s manual. Don’t have an owner’s manual? You should be able to get a maintenance schedule for your make and model online. Even if you have a mechanic do everything on your car, you still need to be familiar with the maintenance schedule.
Cabin filter – modern cars have a cabin filter for the ventilation system. It is typically behind the glove box. Trust me. It does get dirty! Here’s a photo of one from our Subaru: So…. the Subaru dealer charges $60 to change it. A replacement filter from Walmart or AutoZone costs $15 – $25. It takes 15 minutes to change it: 5 minutes to watch the YouTube video on how to change it and 10 minutes to actually do the swap-out. Savings: $35 -$45! P.S. vacuum out the leaves and debris before inserting the new filter.
Air filter – generally quick and easy to change but it can be a bit messy in the engine compartment. Be careful not to scrape your knuckles. If you can’t figure out how to do it, watch a YouTube video.
Oil changes – oil changes are often a loss leader for auto shops (be on guard if the shop recommends a bunch of other repairs while you’re in for an oil change).
The opportunity to save money by doing it yourself is not as significant. But maybe you want to bond with your car. Be warned: it can be messy; it’s often difficult to access the filler plug or oil filter without a lift. And it’s absolutely essential that you recycle the used oil, not pour it down the drain or gutter.
Other repairs – we once owned a 1994 Infiniti J-30 (list price new: $37,000). We bought it for $8500 when it was 9 years old and kept it for 11 years.) A power window motor went out. I bought a used motor assembly on Ebay for $40 and it took an hour or so to replace. I’m sure a dealer would have charged at least $500 for the repair!
YouTube is Your Shop Manual – not sure how to do something on your car? There’s probably a YouTube video out there that will show you the way! Even if you decide to take the car to the shop, it’s still worthwhile to have an idea of what gets done.
Subaru Window – building on the point above, the driver’s window on our Subaru lost its automatic function and wasn’t working properly. A YouTube video pointed out that it simply needed to be reset rather requiring repair. It was a 30 second fix.
A car is a major expenditure for most households. Yet, if a modern car that is well maintained, it should last 150,000 – 200,000 miles – or more. Keep yours in good condition and save a bit of money along the way by doing the simple tasks yourself.
Mention the word ‘co-op’ and readers of a certain age will recall hippies in a college town selling granola.
But cooperative efforts are still relevant today. And they can save you considerable money and time.
Here are twelve ideas for co-op efforts you can organize with neighbors and friends; they can benefit all parties involved!
Baby Sitting – alternate date nights with another family who has children of similar ages. With the going rate for a babysitter at $10 per hour, a date night might cost $30 or more just for the babysitting. By alternating baby-sitting duties once a month, two families would each save $360 per year!
Pet Sitting – use the same strategy as co-op baby sitting. Boarding fees can range from $20 – $50 a day, or higher. (This arrangement would be contingent on all the pooches or kitties getting along.)
Tools – Form a tool co-op; borrow and lend tools with neighbors and friends. Frequently an expensive tool is purchased for a project and then gathers dust for years. I’m guilty; I once bought a mitre saw for a project. The saw then sat in the garage for 10 years until I sold it on CraigsList. But do exercise consideration when borrowing: return the tool promptly in good condition. Lend as well as borrow. When returning a tool, give the lender a $10 -$25 gift card to Lowe’s or Home Depot. That’s still far cheaper than renting.
Rent tools together – a variation on #3. Join with neighbors when renting a specialty tool (say, a tiller, log splitter or lawn aerator) Typically, a full-day rental is not that much more than a half-day rental.
Gardening – community gardens yield a bounty of benefits: a source of fresh produce, savings on groceries, a great experience for kids, bringing a neighborhood together and reducing crime.
Gourmet Supper Club – rather than dining out at high end restaurants, form a gourmet club that rotates hosting. It’s an opportunity to practice and showcase your culinary skills.
Clothing Exchange – particularly worthwhile for infant and children’s clothing.
Toy Exchange – we all get excited about new toys (or at least toys that are new to us).
Education – home schoolers are known for co-op organizations that teach art, music, drama and science. Swapping books and other educational materials is another option. Do you have a particular skill or expertise? Share it by teaching and mentoring others.
Car Pooling – save on auto expenses – whether commuting, shuttling kids or running errands.
It make a whole lot of sense. And limiting what we send to the landfill saves money!
This Saturday April 22nd is Earth Day – the 48th celebration since 1970. I don’t consider myself a tree hugger but, I am greatly distressed by how much stuff we as Americans throw out every year. Believe it not, we discard 1600 pounds of trash per person per year!
The Frugal and Wise would do well to chant the mantra: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”
Limit your purchases – buy only what you need or will use. Avoid impulse buys. For major purchases, wait a day or two before buying. Sleep on it.
Return purchased items that are not needed or used – how often do we buy things that never get used? Return them and get a refund! Be aware that some retailers place time limits on accepting returns.
However, when you are in the midst of a home project, it may make sense to overbuy materials, rather than make countless trips to the hardware or home improvement store. But be sure to keep receipts and return the unused materials when your project is completed.
Cancel newspaper and magazine subscriptions that rarely get read
Avoid spoiled food – ponder this statistic: 40% of all food in in the US goes to waste! That’s around 240 pounds per person annually. Don’t overbuy foodstuffs that end up rotting in the ‘fridge. Many items can be frozen if they are not to be consumed right away. And serve smaller portions!
Get a Doggie Bag when eating out – restaurant portions tend to be huge. Eat what you want and get the rest packed to go. You’ll have something to look forward to for lunch the next day.
Plastic bags from stores – reused them as trash can liners. Depending upon their size, plastic trash bags cost 5 – 20 cents each, or more. The plastic bags from the grocery store, department store or Bed, Bath and Beyond are free! (And what else would you do with them?)
Take-out and doggie bag containers from restaurants – many to-go restaurant containers are quite substantial. The container that held your Hot’n Sour soup could well be pressed into service storing leftovers.
Used Paper from the Office – bring home one-sided printouts and reports from the office. Print on the other side at home. A ream (500 sheets) of 8 ½ x 11 paper retails for around $7.50 or 1 ½ cents per sheet. Just be sure you don’t bring home anything of a confidential nature. And that you know how to load the paper in your home printer (generally, printed side up)
Turn food scraps into pet treats – our dog loves: broccoli stems, carrot tops, asparagus stalks and sweet potato skins. We’ve stopped buying him doggie treats from the pet store.
Make cleaning rags out of worn-out T-shirts – why buy packets of cleaning or dusting rags?
Sell unneeded items on Ebay or Craigslist – this would be for items valuable enough to warrant spending the time and effort to sell. For Ebay, be aware of the fees for listing, payment processing and shipping.
Donate – put together a collection of clothing and household goods for Goodwill, the Salvation Army or Purple Heart. Declutter and get a tax deduction!
“Rescue” trash picks and donate – see something perfectly fine out at the curb but you don’t need it? Rescue it and put it into your Goodwill collection to up your tax deduction.
Compost grass clippings and leaves – don’t throw them out. Both are great sources of nitrogen to fertilize your lawn. They can be finely chopped with a mulching lawn mower or composted. Why throw away perfectly good (and all-natural) fertilizer?
Same for coffee grounds and egg shells – coffee grounds are a source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. They can enhance composting (This assumes that you brew coffee at home rather than buying a four-dollar latte on the way to work.) Egg shells are a source of calcium needed for flower and vegetable gardens.
Appliances and electronics –Best Buy and Staples accept a variety of electronic items for free recycling and Best Buy recycles appliances as well. Best Buy will also recycle unwanted TV’s and computer monitors for $25. Check with your electric utility about deals to recycle your old refrigerator. PECO in the Philadelphia area will haul away your old freezer or ‘fridge for free and pay you $50!
Recycle hazardous materials and motor oil – never throw out hazardous chemicals. Many communities offer collections stations. Some filling stations or garages will accept used motor oil.
Put stuff out at the curb – got stuff not good enough to sell or donate but too good to throw out? Put it out at the curb for ‘recycling’ by fellow trash pickers.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful for reducing expenses, consumption and clutter. Please share your ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling. Cheers, Paul
I am happy to report that the Weber Grill I trash picked two weeks ago is ready for service!
Details: It’s Weber Genesis Gold Model B manufactured in 2004 (model 6240001). It retailed for $550 – the equivalent of $720 today. (BTW it’s rare for Weber grills to be discounted from list price, maybe for end of season closeouts or model discontinuations.)
Here’s why I believe the previous owner put it out at the curb:
A hinge on one side was broken. The hinge was part of the side endcap casting.
I contacted Weber. The end cap is not available by itself; I would have to buy the entire top lid assembly for around $250 with tax and shipping – but at least they stock parts for a grill made 13 years ago!
I have to admit that I seriously considered ordering a new top. Instead, I came up with this makeshift solution:
I fabricated a new hinge out of an aluminum angle bar and bolted it to the lid (it’s painted black). There was little to lose by trying. The grill also needed new caster wheels.
This past weekend I cleaned and polished it.
The burners and checked out fine. With the lid closed, it gets up to 600° F in a hurry! I also got this cover on Amazon; it’s half the price of an ‘official ‘Weber grill cover.
So, with a little bit of effort, someone else’s trash has been transformed into.. …well, maybe not a gem, but at least a semi-precious stone.
Keep a lookout, folks; you never know what you treasure you might find hidden out in the open! And I do promise you a trash picking post real soon.
Also, here is a great article about a couple who rehabbed a Weber grill they purchased from a thrift store for $50. They put a whole lot more effort into theirs than I did into mine but, their’s looks like it just came from the showroom floor!
It does needs a bit of work (the right hood casting (where the thermometer is) needs to be replaced. It’s heavy and was tough to drag home. Luckily, it was just on the other side of our block!
It’s actually a nicer model than the our current Weber which I trash picked 3 years ago (see below) — It’s a Genesis Gold vs our Genesis Silver; it has 3 burners instead of 2, a stainless steel hood and an extra work shelf.
I promise you an article on trash picking real soon. And Trash Pick of the Day postings, once the Proverb of the Day postings conclude. Meanwhile: keep a lookout. You never know what might be out lurking by the curb…
The April 2017 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine recently arrived. It is a special one indeed: celebrating the 70th anniversary of a venerable publication. To commemorate this occasion, the lead article is 70 Ways to Build Wealth. Definitely a worthwhile read for the Frugal and Wise. (Check for the issue at your local library.)
I certainly cannot claim such ideas as original but neither did I merely copy them from other sources. Any number of fundamental, financial actions can lead to building wealth and living better on less. But there is the satisfaction in knowing what I mention on Frugal, Wealthy and Wise is also being espoused by such a prominent source as Kiplinger’s.
I have been reading Kiplinger’s Personal Finance for at least two decades. It has been influential in my journey towards being a savvy consumer, a shrewd manager of family finances and a builder of wealth. (Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and The Economist are the only two magazines I read.) The introductory rate for a year’s subscription is $15 or less – worth checking out; see if it earns its keep for you.
Words from the Chief
The 70 Ways to Build Wealth article contains 10 saying from Knight Kiplinger, Editor in Chief (page 28). These sayings are comparable to words of wisdom from Warren Buffet, Jack Bogel – or even King Solomon in Proverbs.
1) Wealth creation isn’t a matter of what you earn. It’s how much you save.
2) Your biggest barrier to becoming rich is living like you’re rich before you are.
3) Pay yourself first.
4) No one ever got into trouble by borrowing too little.
5) Conspicuous consumption will make you inconspicuously poor.
6) The key to stock market success isn’t your timing in the market. It’s your time in the market – the longer the better.
7) Diversify, because every asset has its day in the sun – and its day in the doghouse.
8) Keep a cool head when others are losing theirs.
9) Money can’t buy happiness but it can make unhappiness easier to bear.
10) Sharing your wealth with others is more fun than spending it on yourself.