Category Archive: Tips

Call For Discounts

This tip is an oldie but a goodie – and it works for me:

From time to time, I call the companies with which I do business – and ask for discounts.

I just (literally, one minute ago) got off the phone with our television provider – and was able to reduce our monthly bill by nearly 30%.

All I did was call the company – and after trudging through their labyrinth of language-selection, account number-entry, and option-choice – I managed to speak to a customer service representative.

I then had the CSR explain to me, line-by-line, the details of my bill.  (I had a copy of the bill pulled up on my computer so that I could see what we were discussing.)

I then asked about the “end date” of my contract – and soon…

I was transferred to another department – and after going through my bill a second time – I was offered both a credit on my current bill, a selection of free channels, and an ongoing monthly discount.

I usually call every 6 months or so.  I am always polite and I always ask questions about various charges, discounts for e-delivery of statements, discounts for paying online, discounts for loyalty, and for free upgrades to equipment or services.

I’ll take the money saved and put it towards long-term saving and mortgage-debt reduction.  Be blessed.

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How To Save Money On Repairs

Here are a few tips and tricks for saving money on repairs –

Keep track of your manuals.  I have a binder wherein I keep the manuals for all of the tools and appliances that we buy.  Quick tip – If you’ve lost your manual, check online.  Search by manufacturer and model number.

Check to see if the item is under warranty.  Remember those little warranty cards that come with the stuff you buy?  They’re important!  Keep up with them – and register stuff.  If something breaks, and it is still under warranty, you may have it repaired, or replaced, for free!

See if you paid for the item with a credit card.  I know, I know.  I’m no fan of credit cards, but, that doesn’t take away from the fact that several credit card companies offer extended warranties on items purchased with their cards.

Take a look on youtube.  If you have a bit of a “DIY” spirit – search for the repair that you need to make on youtube.  I’ve learned how to replace the drive belt on my dryer and to repair our garbage disposal, simply by watching videos on youtube.  What an awesome resource.

Talk to friends and neighbors.  I was talking to my neighbor the other day, telling him about building a small desk for my son.  A few days later, he stopped by – and asked if I could help him with a small project, repairing a broken board on his front porch.  He saved a few bucks – and I got to repair the board and look like a hero in front of my boy!

tool wall repairs

Visit your local library.  This is old school – but very, very practical.  I love old woodworking books, and our local library has several of them.  I’ve learned how to frame up a shop, install an electrical outlet, and lay shingles, all from books available at most libraries.

Check out the bulletin board at a home center, lumber yard, or feed store.  I live in a rural part of the state – and there are dozens of carpenters who tack their business cards to bulletin boards in local stores.  Grab a few of these and make a few calls.  You might be surprised by the reasonable rates some will offer – especially if the job you need doing is a one-person gig.

Discuss the cost for parts and supplies before hiring a contractor or carpenter.  Often, these folks will be able to buy parts and supplies (think lumber, paint), cheaper than you can.  However, in some cases, if you are willing to do a little legwork, you might find better deals.  Discuss this with your carpenter and figure out what works best for you.

Buy new?  This can be a tough one – but there are times when purchasing a new item is actually cheaper than fixing an old one.  So, do a bit of research and make sure that a repair is worth the money.  Blessings.

Find out if the item has been recalled.  I almost forgot this one.  It’s a good idea, any time you have a product that isn’t performing like you think it should be, to check for a recall.  A simple internet search will reveal several sites where you can find recall information.

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My DIY Adventures

Over the past few years, I’ve worked to improve my DIY skills.  Here are a few of the projects I’ve tackled – with an eye towards saving money and doing it myself.

I replaced the garbage disposal below our kitchen sink.  This project was relatively simple.  I worried a little bit about the electrical connection, but I figured it out.  The disposal connects to the bottom of the sink via a special bracket and connects to the dishwasher via a long hose.  Prior to disconnecting the old disposal, I snapped several pictures of its various connections.  When connecting the new disposal, I referred the the pictures, and installation was a snap.

I built three shelving units for our kids. We have three kids and they have stuff. This past Spring, I built each of them a shelving unit. Using my Kreg Pocket Hole Jig and the table saw, these were simple, easy-to-build projects. My real struggle – I like to build but I’m not much of a fan of painting!

DIY Bookshelf Shelving UnitI replaced our dishwasher’s drain hose. This hose connects the dishwasher to the garbage disposal. This was a bit of a challenge, because I had to unscrew the dish washer from the kitchen counter brace, roll it out, and then remove the drain hose. The drain hose was filled with water, and removing it caused a bit of a mess. If you plan to tackle this project – be sure to have plenty of towels on hand! Side note: Finding the correct size hose was a bit of a challenge. For some reason, the fitting-size (on the end of the hose) isn’t universal.

I replaced the dryer belt on our dryer. Now, this one was a bit of a struggle. For some reason, the dryer belt on our dryer was slipping. (I’m pretty much convinced that it was over-stretched when the dryer was built – or damaged during transport.) I took dozens of pictures during dis-assembly. I had to remove the dryer door, the metal casing, and the back panel. Then, I had to figure out how to support the drying drum, removed the old belt, and then put the new belt on. It took me some time (and a few skinned knuckles), but I managed to replace the belt – and put the dryer back together. Now, it works just fine!

I repaired the trim around our back door. Our back door is exposed to the elements – and water had damaged much of its trim. I replaced the wooden trim with vinyl. This was a super-simple repair, made much easier because I could rip the trim with my table saw.

I (tried) to repair our toilet. This was a huge fail. Our toilet needed a new wax ring – and after watching several videos and talking with a couple of friends – I was convinced that this was a project I could tackle. Well, I manage to break one of the bolts needed to attach the toilet to the floor, drop a wrench down the toilet drain, and buy, not one, but two incorrectly sized wax rings. In the end, I called a plumber – and $75 later, the toilet was repaired. Lesson learned.

I like DIY projects. It feels good to fix something – and to save a little money.  Most of the time, I can figure things out, but there are times when I get in over my head, and it’s good to have professionals to call.

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Get Rid Of The Stuff You Do Not Use

Several years ago, I decided to take control and rid myself of the stuff that I did not use.  I gathered some cardboard boxes, and went to work, removing the clutter from our home.  I went through our closets, cabinets, dressers, and drawers.  I separated our unused stuff in to four boxes.

Box 1 – Give It  – I encourage everyone to consider donating a portion (or all) of any unneeded items to a local clothing bank or homeless shelter.  Many of the folks who live in shelters need office-appropriate attire, for when they go to job interviews.  We also try to find good homes for our kids’ used toys.  We only donate items that are in usable, wearable, or working condition.

Box 2 – Trash It – I am amazed by how much stuff we have – stuff that no longer works or no longer fits.  We recycle and reuse what we can, and get rid of the rest.

Box 3 – Sell It – We have two garage / yard sales per year.  We sell baby clothes (and other items) on eBay.  We have even listed items on our Facebook pages.  Check online and in the local paper for free classifieds.  The main purpose of selling our unnecessary stuff is to get rid of it – but it’s cool to make an extra buck-or-two, too.

Box 4 – Store It – We have stuff in our house that we don’t need, right now, but we might need it at some time in the future.  So, we’ll store it in the shed or in the kids’ playhouse – up high and out of sight.  Once a year, I’ll go through our stored stuff, see what we have, and purge what is broken or unnecessary.

Now is a great time of year to get rid of unnecessary clutter.  Plus, if you make a few extra bucks – that’s more money for your debt reduction or savings!

I have found that there are several advantages to a life with less stuff:

1 – With less stuff, organization is rather easy.  We do not have to invest in elaborate shelving, giant plastic tubs, or thousands of labels.  Instead, we have removed the clutter – and what is left can be place neatly in our cabinets and closets.  In other words, we’re not just moving piles of stuff around.  We actually got rid of some stuff.

2.  Our kids are organized.  I have three kids, ranging from ages 3 to 12 – and all three of them keep their rooms neat and tidy.

3.  Evenings are relaxing.  Straightening up our entire house takes less than 15 minutes.  Cleaning the house (with vacuuming, dusting, etc.) takes, oh, maybe an hour – thirty minutes if the kids pitch in.  So, each evening, we cook a meal, clean that up, wash a couple loads of clothing, make lunches for the kids, and then we can relax.

You might be asking – What does removing the excess clutter from my home have to do with personal finance?  Well, it’s hard to communicate, exactly – but there’s something… liberating… about a clutter-free home.  It just feels better – and when we feel better, I think we make better decisions.  We have more energy and enthusiasm to devote to more important tasks – like the management of our personal finances.  So, the relationship isn’t direct, but it is indirect, and it is real.

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