DIY

What do you do when something goes wrong?  Who do you call?  How do you get past the problem?

Sometimes problems cost money, when they don’t have to.  For cripes sake we have the internet!  You can solve a lot of your own problems now. 

There may be unique circumstances where a physical condition gets in the way, or even time, where you have to outsource something, but at least look into the answers and try working through it yourself. 

But you have a well paying job you say?  And it is more cost effective to outsource because of how much you get paid at work?  Well that is bull shit and here is why. Because you aren’t working all the time. If you were working 24/7, that argument would make sense, but the time when you are laying on the couch with half of your​ hand in your pants watching American Idol isn’t a particularly high income hour for you. 

There have been two times that I can remember bringing my car to a shop for repairs in the last 15ish years and both were unique circumstances where I didnt have a place to fix them myself. I am not special. Fixing cars is a matter of data, research, and taking things apart and putting them back together. YouTube can get you through a lot of it. 

I have fixed refrigerators, washers, bicycles, lawn mowers, motorcycles, furniture, snow blowers, and dryers too. So can you!

My wife and I have put in flooring, counters, sinks, tile, toilets, vanitys, and doors. So can you!

I have fixed leaking plumbing, burst pipes, running toilets, outlets that don’t work, toys, built speakers, and added breakers to the electrical panel. So can you!

I cut my own hair and my wife just did a great job cutting my son’s too. So can you!

Again, we are not unique and didn’t just go at this stuff without a plan. The information is all out there and it’s never been so easy to access. There is some initial fear that you have to get past and is probably most easily accomplished by working with someone with experience the first few times. Someone who may have gone through these experiences before, just like you are about to. 

You just have to be willing to give it a try and have some confidence in yourself. Just look at some of the yahoos you pay to have this stuff done. Do you really think you can’t figure it out with a freaking guided video online?

Of course not everything is going to be easy and some things might be best left to a pro, but at least look into what it takes before helplessly picking up the phone. 

It’s all about being resourceful and with the abundance of resources available to us now, if you aren’t resourceful, what the hell are you?

You Don’t Have to Pay To Play

I had a great win on the ol’ eBay the other night.  I meantioned at one point that I downsized all of my photography gear a few years ago and have been using the Canon G15 for a while now. I really love​ that camera but don’t like that it is missing an external mic port and a real viewfinder. 

I didn’t want to buy another camera with detachable lenses so I did a little research and found that the Nikon P7800 had a usable view finder and a mic port. This was the one to have, so I fired up my thinking mill and planned what it would take to own that camera. 

Step one, find out how much it is new and used to get an idea of what is considered a deal. Done. 

New, it was over $600 and we already know I’m not looking for a new one.  Used price was $400, consistently.  So I wanted to find one for under that. But I couldn’t. 

I went to Amazon and paid the $390 to be done with it. Then, just for the hell of it I went back on eBay and happened to see an auction ending soon near $300. I though that if I could win this one for anything less than $400, I’d be saving, so I threw down $316.90 and was immediately outbid. Like a squirrel trying to get out of a garbage can I tried to flip in another bid. I was too slow and lost the auction, at a final price of like $320. I was pissed that I missed that chance to save $80, but just for the hell of it, I looked to see if there were any other auctions going on. I happened to look at the right time, because a guy had just posted his camera for $200,  buy-it-now style, which man’s no auction, you just get it. I thoufht, it must have been for parts or something? That was half the price of what they had been going for. 

Fast forward three seconds and I bought it.  It is home now and doing just fine. We actually recorded a video on it this morning for mother’s day. 

Now my G15 is listed on eBay and has 10 bids on it and two days left at $158. I’m expecting that one to go for around $200, which would mean that I was able to slip right into the camera I wanted, for nothing but a little time and research. I got lucky on this one though. 

I ended up cancelling the amazon order of course. 

The point is to make sure you shop around thoroughly before making a purchase. 

Our Kids and Money

We have had a few different plans and oddly enough, the unplanned is what seemed to make the most sense to young Vader. 

He enjoyed played a computer game with me where you have to win events like racing your vehicle, doing stunts off of jumps with it, and collecting coins. You are able to “level up” your vehicle to make it faster and handle better and you also have the ability to buy new ones and many times you have to earn a certain amount of points before you can unlock the next one. Then you also have to have enough money to buy that new vehicle. 

In the beginning, he​ didn’t understand why he couldn’t just get the firetruck. It was right there. He could see it and saw other people driving it in the game.  Everytime, I explained that we didn’t have enough money and showed him how we earned the money and how much we had in the “bank.” Soon he started asking me if we had enough money to buy the next vehicle in the game and I could see that he was putting it together. 

Making the transition to real money was easy. He knows that he has $11 and now we are working on him not wanting everything in the store and on YouTube. 

If someone told me that they used a videogame to try to teach their kid about money, I probably would have thought it was a bad idea, but, whatever works. 

Two of My Recent Mistakes

Isn’t it nice to be able to learn from other people’s mistakes?

1. I upgraded a part on a friend’s car, which left us with a perfectly fine and functioning original part. He said he didn’t want it and told me I could sell it if I wanted to.

I listed the part on eBay to cast a wide net to prospective buyers and used eBay’s recommended shipping cost to let sellers know how much it would cost to ship it to them. That was the mistake. 

I had received a few bids on the part and it ended up selling for a little over $20, so the buyer sent me $30-something total to cover the shipping. Here is where the first mistake really presents itself…
When I got to the post office, I learned that the box was a little oversized for their standard shipping rates and that when that is the case, they double the shipping weight too. Shipping to FL from NY was $40 using priority shipping, which is what the listing said I would be using. I could have saved a little money using ground but that would have been 6-10 days, with the risk of receiving negative feedback on my eBay account, which has a lot of sales with 100% positive feedback.  I decided to eat this one and learn the lesson.  I will now weigh and measure every box to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

2. This touching story should have never happened. Remember the post where I found all of that scrap metal on a walk and was going to get paid after bringing it to the scrap yard?  Well, it wasn’t aluminum. It was steel, which is nearly worthless. Thankfully, I caught this before making the trip to the junker. I’m not great at identifying metals, but I should have known this wasn’t aluminum tubing while I was loading it into my car. It was too heavy.

The way to avoid this one is to keep a magnet in your car. If the magnet sticks to the metal, don’t pick it up.

Lessons learned. Do you have any that you’d like to share that might help someone out?

What DO We Spend $ On?

Aside from the basic needs, we usually will spend some extra money on footwear. It’s not that I’ll go seeking out a specific brand, it’s just that the really cheap stuff just never seems to fit right or be very comfortable.

I do tend to hang on to shoes and boots for several years, usually until they start falling apart or begin to take on water.

Something I’m having a hard time letting go of are my coats and jackets. I have a black wool dressier coat that is my main winter coat, a light rain coat wind breaker thing I wear a lot, a waterproof winter coat, a Dickey’s work coat, and this green army looking coat. I considered buying one coat that has a fleece jacket inside to get the two in one deal, but I never did it.

I don’t spend extra money on tools, car parts, clothes in general, furniture, electronics, anything really. I think I’ve gotten along just fine not going top shelf. Well, there are a few consumables that we do spend money on. Those are beer, wine, and I have some nice bottles of scotch in the cupboard. I have a plan to cut back on the beer spending because the craft stuff is so damn expensive. I will be saving those for special occasions rather than making it a weekly expense. As for the wine, my wife has been getting boxed wine and it lasts way longer, so you don’t have to pound the bottle in a couple of days. Don’t judge the box, it’s becoming more popular and there is good stuff you can now buy in the box. If it tastes good to you, then it’s good.

We did recently sell all gas powered lawn equipment and replaced it with electric. We started with the snowblower. It was big and heavy, sucked to store, and it seemed like everytime I needed to use it, we were out of gas.  Not to mention, you smelled like an asshole after you used it and it was loud as hell. Well, not anymore!  The Greenworks 80v snowblower only weighs 30lbs and had enough juice to clear our driveway out after a big storm this year. I can fold it up or hang it on the wall too.  Here is Darth Vader and I doing a little demo of it.

The same goes for gas mowers. They suck. We will be getting the Greenworks 80v mower this week that will share the battery with the snowblower.

With this technology being somewhat new, finding used units is very hard. I haven’t found any near me at all, so this time it will have to be new.

Earlier I said I don’t spend extra money tools. Let me clarify that. I have spend a shit load of money on tools, just not more than I needed to. I buy anything I can from Harbor Freight, as long as the online reviews are good. If not there, I’ll look at Amazon. If you were going to bring your car to get the brakes replaced, you’d probably be looking at between $300 and $1000 to get them changed. Why not put that money toward the equipment needed to do it yourself?  Everytime something comes up where I don’t have what it takes to get a job done myself, I make that investment. It is always wayyyy cheaper than paying someone else to do it and you also have the option of recouping some of that money if you decide to sell the item when you’re done with it.

Remember that a lot of outsourcing isn’t necessary with the internet around. Look at it as a task before sending the work off to a “professional.” You might find that it’s not as tough as you think. Have some confidence in yourself and have a back up plan if you do get stuck. This is a huge area of savings that could even turn profitable for you if you end up liking to do the work.

Our biggest money sapper is still food.  We go out more than we should and we could probably cut back on groceries although we have gotten better about buying less and wasting less by going more than once a week.  We get the bare essentials one day then just make trips while were out and about if we end up needing more later in the week.

We will continue to learn from our mistakes. That’s one of the only things setting us apart from the vast majority of the general population.  You don’t really ever “learn your lesson” if you don’t modify your behavior before the next incident occurs.  Learn and improve.

Your Clothes

I’m going to get fired up while writing this one, I know it, because I know me. 

I rarely buy clothes. I am wearing a belt right now that I got in 1999. I wore pants to work yesterday that I got in the mid 2000s. Why?  Because there is nothing wrong with them. I’m not trying to impress anyone with fancy duds. If my wife is ok with it, then so am I. She happens to be ok with it. 

I own less than 50 articles of clothing right now. That sounds like a lot, but it’s not. I have undies, socks, a few solid color t-shirts, a Beatles t-shirt, a Fender t-shirt, an MS bike tour t-shirt, a pasta sauce t-shirt, two jeans, three sweatpants, a hoodie, five dressy shirts, three dress pants, some undershirts, a couple of sweaters, and three flannel shirts. Even that seems excessive. I think I am going to get rid of all of my socks and just get one color because you can’t really see them, I don’t care, and sorting them sucks. I have a pair of boots, brown and black dress pants (I can probably downgrade here too if I ditch brown related dress outfits), and a couple of coats. 

I got rid of a ton of clothes recently. A ton. People who I work with know I wear the same stuff all the time. Having less makes decisions easier when getting ready for the day. Wash loads are more frequent, but smaller and easier to manage. 

When I do buy clothes, which I don’t, they are from second hand stores or bargain basket sale deals from Walmart or Kohl’s.  I’m not a kid jumping around on my knees worrying about wearing them out. I sit at a freaking desk at work most of the time, so quality means very little to me. You aren’t going to sell me on the “feel” of a $1000 suit. Comfort is super important to me, but so is price. I would wear sweatpants and t-shirts or hoodies every day if I could. And why can’t I?  A few months ago while browsing a Goodwill, I found about ten fleeces in excellent condition by brands such as L.L. Bean, Landsend, and Columbia, all for less than $5. My wife even got a Mountain Hardware jacket for $5 a few years ago!

Rant time – dress to impress, dress for the job you want, not the job you have. BS. Dress me up, I do less work. I’m unconformable. It does nothing to my mind to improve my performance. Stop it. 

I went to a Louis Vuitton store in Phoenix years ago and it turned my stomach. I curiously asked the guy working there how much for the golf bag and he said, “eight.” I laughed and said, “eight hundred dollars for a golf bag?” He did not laugh, but replied, “eight thousand dollars.” I don’t know if it should or not, but that just pissed me off.  I feel like I wouldn’t have much in common with the kind of person who would buy something like that, but who knows?  Wrong. I know, I wouldn’t. Bath towels were $200 and they weren’t spun from unicorns tails. They felt like the ones I’ve been using, since, I don’t know if I’ve ever bought new ones?  I have not personally ever purchased a towel. I think I stole a few from my parents when I first moved out and my wife might have bought some, but they work great!  I can even dry myself off with them after a shower. I wonder if anyone has checked the tags to see if they were designer while they were hanging on the backs of the door?  Probably not. 

I mean, what are you really paying for here?  It’s like you just want to pay the people at the top of a particular company when you overspend on things like this. We KNOW that the cotton in them isn’t magical. So why is it so expensive?  We KNOW that the people who actually made them are not earning great wages or even using some special skill to make them. Where the hell do you think your money is going?  Designer fashion easily makes it to my top lists of useless industries. 

Using your cost-value knowledge, how much “better” are Versace socks at covering your feet than the Berkley-Jensens I got from BJs?  Hmm. You think about that one. 

Summary, get rid of clothes you rarely wear and spend less on the ones you do buy.  

Acorns – Your Digital Change Jar

A few months ago I heard about an app that synched with your checking account, rounded up every purchase made with that account, and invested it for you. The cost is $1/month. I think the name has something to do with squirrelling away money? The app is called Acorns

Here is how I’ve done so far. I don’t miss the money at all because it’s doing all of the work for me and since I rarely have cash on me, this works great.

I will say that the returns aren’t great, but I just use it as another savings account. If you suck at saving or have something particular that you are saving for, this might be a good solution for you. 

Click here to download the app and start to save more tomorrow.