Car Repairs You Can Handle

September 10th, 2009

No, I am not talking about economizing by changing your own oil–quite honestly, it is a messy, aggravating job that for the cost-benefit of it, it is cheaper to go to a garage and have it done. 

The things I’m talking about are often the “add-on” services at the auto service center.  You know, like when you go in for an oil change and they say, “hey, you know you need a new cabin air filter–it’s an extra $40, would you like us to do it for you?”  Next time, you’ll be able to say, “No thanks, I’ll take care of it” and mean it.

All you’ll initially have to know for the following repairs are what kind of car you have and when it was made. So even if you know just about zero about taking care of your car (or SUV), here are 3 things that you can do all by yourself and save a lot of money:

1. Change your own wiper blades.  You don’t even have to go into an Auto Zone for this one.  Walmart has perfectly good wiper blades in their car care aisle (I believe the inexpensive Emco brand received one of the higher Consumer Reports ratings).  They have a little machine that you punch in your year, make and model of vehicle and it will tell you the correct wiper blade sizes for your car.   Then installing them is not so difficult–you pop off the old wiper blade assembly and put on the new one.  That’s it.  (Time saving tip: don’t try to save money by buying and changing JUST the rubber part–get the whole blade ensemble.)

2. Change your engine air filter. This is another “add-on” service that will cost you at least twice as much as the part costs for about 5 minutes worth of work.  Go to your local auto repair store and tell them what vehicle you have–they’ll get you the proper air filter.  Then pull out your vehicle manual, pop open the hood, and find your engine air filter.  Pop it out and put in the new one.  Done.

3. Change your cabin air filter. Cabin air filters are the ones that clean the air you breathe inside the car.  This is the service that really got me worked up enough to write this blog.  Toyota wanted to charge me $40 to change this filter and I told them to forget it.  I went to Auto Zone, picked up a cabin filter for $18, and it literally took me 2 minutes to change the filter, including the time to find how to do it online.  Cabin filters are usually located behind the glove box; later model vehicles have even made it so that it is even easier to pop out your glove box and quickly change this filter.

These are some very basic items that you can do yourself and not worry that you are going to “break” your car.  In coming months, I will add a few more items!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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Saving Big Bucks on the Freezer

September 2nd, 2009

What a great weekend!  In the Turbo-Mom household, we had a great weekend.  We fixed 3 appliances without having to call in a handyman!

The first challenge was the freezer.  Big thanks are owed to www.repairclinic.com (a Turbo-Mom Top 10 website) who correctly diagnosed our problem (bad gear in the ice maker) and who was also prompt in getting us our new part (took only 2 days to receive it!).  With 15 minutes and a pair of pliers, the old ice maker was out, the new ice maker was in, and now we have ice cubes again!  A new ice maker set us back $100, but had we called a repairman, it would have been at least triple.

The next challenge was fixing the washing machine, since for the past couple of months, the fabric softener compartment wasn’t draining. After unscrewing the lid and peeking around, we poked at the valve and tested the electrical connection.  And then I took a toothpick and poked at the holes where the water pushes through to move the fabric softener.  Not sure what happened but FINALLY the fabric softener is draining again.

Last challenge was replacing the ceiling fan in my son’s room.  After attempting to simply changing a fuse and not fixing the problem, we sprung for a new fan at Lowe’s.  And yes, the $20 model (including light!) is really very good.  Minimal hum, and much better than the more expensive fan it replaced.  Yay!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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DIY Haircolor w/ Professional Colors

August 26th, 2009

Sorry to have been behind on my posting–believe it or not, tax work has kept me busy in August!  But I am back, with my newest find…

At the end of July, I had to go to my hair stylist to fix my hair color.  Why?  Because I tried to short-cut the hair coloring rules and paid the price.  What happened was that because of the sun, pool water, etc., my hair was really fading out and I decided that I wanted to return to my natural color (minus the grey!).  So I tried to put a darker permanent color on my roots AS WELL AS the rest of my hair so I wouldn’t get stuck doing permanent on the roots and semi-permanent on the rest to get everything to match.  BIG MISTAKE.  Even after doing test strands, I ended up red.  Rather red indeed.  After trying to fix it and testing swatches of hair with semi-permanent color and not getting very far, I gave up and called my stylist.

Tiffany @ Cosmopolitan in Brewster, NY is excellent and I highly recommend her.  She is a great stylist and manages to cut my stick-straight boring hair in such a way to give it some body.  And she also fixed my hair mishap with a Redken semi-permanent color.  She was also kind enough to write down exactly the color combination she used, because we often chat about my home-haircoloring adventures. 

So I went online and purchased the Redken hair coloring products myself and voila–this time it worked!  So don’t be shy about asking your stylist to give you your color formula–good stylists understand that the economy is tough right now and that they would rather keep you as a haircut client and have you rave about them to your friends than try to keep your color a secret. 

Have a great week!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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Rebates: Was I Supposed to Mail That In?

July 27th, 2009

Rebates are great at luring us to buy products.  But getting around to mailing them in can be another story, particularly in the busy lives that we lead.  Here are my “rebate tricks” to getting the most for my money:

  • Make a rebate tracker.  Yes, Excel is used for more important things like quarterly reporting and tracking all sorts of official data, but it works just as well for household items like rebates.  I built a spreadsheet to track my own rebates which includes: date of purchase, where purchased, amount of the rebate, date submitted, amount, and if I received it.  If you want a copy of it, drop me a comment or email and I will be happy to send it to you. 

    I built my “rebate tracker” so that I could have a reference point to make sure that all of my rebates were being paid out to me.  And if there is something that seems to be taking a bit too long, I contact them.  I have saved a couple of hundred dollars this way because there have been times that my rebate was “lost” and I had to help the company “find” it.

  • Use online rebate submission whenever you can.  At least with an online submission you can have a tracking number attached to your rebate as a point of reference.  It tends to be a lot easier as well, particularly with companies like Staples and Rite-Aid helping the process along with their “Easy Rebates” programs.  They aren’t stupid; they know it goes a long way in building customer loyalty if the rebate process isn’t painful.
  • Skip the small rebates.  If you have a rebate that you have to mail in and will give you only 50 cents or $1 back, why bother?  The stamp will cost you 44 cents + the cost of the envelope and your time.  Your time alone is worth more than a couple of cents!

Have a great week!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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Yucky Bathrooms

July 22nd, 2009

Bathrooms, particularly when you have kids can get kind of yucky after awhile, particularly if your kids (and/or your spouse) spend a lot of time playing outside in the dirt!  Here’s how I’ve managed to save both money and time while keeping the bathroom grime to a minimum!

  • Clean while you condition your hair.  How many of us actually leave the conditioner in our hair for the recommended 3-5 minutes?  Try this instead: put in your conditioner, turn off the water and pick up your Kaboom! (an extremely effective cleaning product that won’t burn your lungs like bleach) and a scrub brush and clean while your conditioner is working its magic on your hair.  You are already in the shower anyway, so you might as well make some good use of your time!
  • Replace the vinyl shower liner with nylon.  There is a reason that hotels don’t have vinyl liners–they would have to replace them too often when they get moldy.  Instead of grappling with scrubbing your vinyl liner, replace it with a nylon mildew resistant one instead.  If the nylon liner gets grimy, you can simply throw it in the wash!
  • Keep a container of Clorox or Lysol wipes in the cabinet. These are great for between major cleanings–you can quickly wipe down a sink or toilet without having to drag in the whole bucket of cleaning supplies!  The same goes for one of those Magic Erasers–they work pretty well on grout and paint stains.
  • Use a flushable toilet brush.  These are the kinds that have a handle that releases the flushable ”brush” part into the toilet.  They are more expensive than having a regular old toilet brush, but if you are like me and grossed out by the bacteria & water harbored in that brush holder, this is a much more sanitary solution.

Happy cleaning!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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Tired of Outlook? There is a better way

July 13th, 2009

So I was once again wrestling with Microsoft Outlook.  Tried to send the same email 5 TIMES and my system kept crashing!  The error message from Microsoft was essentially “You have an old version of Outlook, so your system is crashing.  How about going to our website to buy a new version?”

So I looked into buying a new version of Outlook.  I went to Amazon to get some honest opinions…and learned that many of the same problems I was having in Outlook 2002 had not been resolved for the 2007 version (the newest available).  So instead of plunking down $100 for a new version of the same problem, I thought, There has got to be a better way.

And there was.  Enter Mozilla Thunderbird.  Great functionality.  Easy to use.  Doesn’t crash.  And FREE, because it is Open Source software.  It was easy to import all of my folders and addresses into Mozilla from Outlook (when Outlook wasn’t busy crashing in the middle of the process). 

So if you are exasperated with Outlook, know that there is a better way.  You can download it here: http://download.cnet.com/Mozilla-Thunderbird/3000-2367_4-10213643.html?tag=mncol

Have a great week!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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Vacationing on a Shoestring

July 6th, 2009

If you have been hesitating about booking a family vacation this year due to the economic situation, you are definitely not alone.  You know you need to get away but lavish vacations are out this year and possibly for many years to come.  So now what? 

If you are traveling with your family (or extended family), try renting a property instead of staying in an expensive hotel.  If you rent a house, you will also be able to save on things like valet parking, eating out every meal, and if there is a washer/dryer, you can even go home with clean clothes! 

If you rent a house, consider splitting it with another family that you are friends with.  This could allow you to get a larger, better property for less money!  And if your children are too young for full-time school, consider vacationing after Labor Day.  The weather will still be nice and the prices will drop dramatically.

Here are a few websites to help:

1. www.vrbo.com & www.homeaway.com : Vacation rental by owner websites where people list their vacation rentals nationwide.  You can look at the properties, dates available, etc.  You can also try Googling “Rental properties + (destination)” and often you will receive a listing of real estate agents that handle rentals in that area.

2. www.homeexchange.com: If you happen to live somewhere that other people like to vacation (say, Florida, California, near a major theme park, etc.) consider swapping houses with another family who lives where you want to go.  However, even though you can browse for free, there is a fee to actually use the service. Still, for $100/year, it is a lot cheaper than a vacation rental.

3. www.travelzoo.com: When in doubt, try Travelzoo.  It is not a home rental site, but their travel deals are excellent, particularly if you are trying to plan something at the last minute.

Enjoy!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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What to do with the kids now?

June 29th, 2009

Now that the kids are out of school, and the weather is finally turning warm, trying to come up with new ways to entertain them becomes a challenge! And on top of it, since the “spending money” has shrunk for most of us, it becomes really tricky!

What do you do once you’ve hit all of the playgrounds and all of the parks? Try http://www.free-attractions.com! It is a site that gives you the heads up on free events taking place across the U.S.! So if you are bored this weekend or are going on vacation and need some cheap activities to keep the kids busy, give it a try.

Even if there are no events going on in your area, you may discover another park or museum in your area that might be fun!

Sorry this post is so short–finally it stopped raining so Nicolas and I are going to go play outside before the next thunderstorm rolls in!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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“Summer Brains” Out; Saving Money In

June 23rd, 2009

Today I thought I would talk about some fun ways to get kids to use their heads in the summer by helping the family save money without wasting time! 

Throughout my book I have “Kid-tivities” that help get kids involved and making it easy and fun at the same time.

I thought I would share a couple with you: 

The “Getting Rid of Debt” Game: If you are one of the many American families with problem debt, don’t try to hide the situation from your children, because they are smart enough to realize that something is wrong.  Instead, sit down with them and explain that in the past you have spent more than you made but you are trying to fix it, and if the whole family works together to make it better, everyone will be happy.  Then brainstorm with your children what you can do as a family to bring in extra money and pay down that debt.  Whether it is through a yard sale or two (or seven!), or having them help you sell items on eBay or whatever, include them in the process and make it a game, rather than a drag!

Playing “House Detective”: This is a game that can work on those rainy days (like the Northeast has been having for the past 2 months!) when your kids are bored and stuck in the house.  If your circuit breaker box has never been labeled, you have your kids run around the house every time you shut off a breaker so you know which room(s) corresponds to what fuse.  Then you can show your kids how to shut down the breaker box in the event of an emergency.  You can also play house detective to find the source of leaky pipes, since kids are particularly good at crawling in places (such as under sinks) that are hard for us adults to reach!

The goal is to get kids learning financial (and homeowner!) responsibility without it being a drag.  If you have any suggestions to add, please post them!  It looks like it is going to rain the rest of the week so any sort of activities would be greatly appreciated!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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Date Night on the Cheap

June 17th, 2009

Hi all, Sorry for the delayed posting.  I was in  a car accident last week (fortunately everyone was okay) and so my schedule was a bit perturbed.  Back on track now!

If you married and are like us, you enjoy having a date night maybe once in a while, or maybe more regularly.  It is a time when you and your spouse can be adults together and have some time away from everything, at least for a couple of hours.  But in this economy, it’s often hard to do.  We start to think, dinner at a decent restaurant in our area = $100 and then babysitting = $30 and boom, it is $130 for a couple of hours for dinner around the corner!

Instead, if your kids are younger, perhaps what we do will work for you as well:

Instead of going out and getting a sitter, we simply put our son to bed at his regular bed time and then we “eat out at home” afterwards.  We get dressed up, we open a good bottle of wine, and make a easy, but tasty dinner that we wouldn’t usually do unless it was a special occasion and we were having guests.

 We buy filet mignon, for example, and do a simple side dish or two and have simple but tasty desserts that we normally wouldn’t purchase.   (Sometimes, when we reallydon’t want to cook, we get take out from one of the better restaurants in town, so at least we are saving the upcharge on the wine and the tip!)

We set the table with our “good” silverware, use the “good” glasses, and relax in our own dining room or out on the deck.  By making a simple dinner, there is minimal clean-up.  And by staying home, there’s not the worry of driving after a glass or two of wine.  No worrying about checking the clock, rushing out the door, getting home in time for the sitter…because we are already there.  And all at a great savings, which is even more relaxing!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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