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Car Fixed . . . Again Using Google

June 9th, 2013 at 11:13 pm

I while back I posted about fixing my car using Google:
http://petunia.savingadvice.com/2009/05/31/youre-crazy-petun...

I didn’t actually fix it, but narrowed down the source of the problem and presented it to my car guys. The problem was intermittent and they had tried several ways to fix it that didn't work.

Yesterday the in-car fan in Mr. H's car stopped working. (No defroster! No air conditioner! No air movement in the car, except the 4-60.) Today Mr. H fixed his car using Google. . . and Youtube. He actually did fix it though. Using Google he found car owners of his make and model discussing this problem, as well as some more technical information. He watched some Youtubes and went out and got the replacement part. Installed the part and his fix seems to work.

The part was $50. I’m guessing it would have been $150 to $200 for the car guys to fix it.

We've Come A Long Way

September 11th, 2010 at 01:29 pm

Our financial life, in a nutshell:

* Mr H's job continues to be stable. I anticipate it will be stable for another five to seven years.

* We haven't had any economic catastrophes. In that way our life is good.

* In March I bought two used curriculum items at the Goodwill outlet for $1 total. I sold them for a total of $8, less 15% (they were sold at used curriculum fair - 15% to the sponsoring organization). Correct my math if it's wrong, but isn't that a 485% profit?

* My brain has been in other places that aren't financial. We have overspent Checkbook Number One for a few months. The big difference between now and a few years ago: Mr H actually knew about it. I have made no progress on any of my goals.

* To counterbalance my lack of progress, Mr H has been consistent in the saving of money for retirement and a replacement vehicle. He has neatly handwritten all amounts in a manual ledger for several months.

* Mr H, on his own, opened up a Roth IRA with the saved money. He has a pretty conservative investment (he's even more risk averse than me) but he is happy with it. It's made more so far than our various savings accounts and CD's. He's tickled by that fact. **

* We meet regularly and have discussions about our finances. Mr H originally said every Sunday night. He's not that consistent, but I take what I can get and I don't remind him. If he "remembers" - great. If he doesn't it irritates me but I try to let it go.

A discussion about finances is really a discussion about future plans, hopes and goals. In that area we have more productive conversations than we have ever had. I wish I could be happier about this, but it feels like the first 16 years of our marriage (we have been married 17 years) were a complete waste of time. But if I set those thoughts aside (hard to do for me) we really have come a long way in the last three years.






** As a side note, I read on The Simple Dollar blog about the blog author's retirement investment strategy. He and his wife vary in their ability to tolerate risk, so they each choose what they want in their porfolio as if the other didn't exist. That seemed like a good strategy for us. It helps that they are reasonably financially sensible people.

Vermin and Used Items

March 5th, 2010 at 09:42 pm

I have had various run-ins with vermin over the years. I stayed with my sister in roach-infested apartment for a while. Years later, I had a mouse visit me in a studio apartment that I lived in. (I shrieked and jumped on a chair, just like in the cartoons. Did cartoons influence me? Or do cartoons mimic life?) Mr H works in a downtown area, has had to deal with vermin as part of his job, and as a result I have learned quite a bit about various kinds of vermin. Previously it's been roaches and rats, primarily. Now Mr H is dealing with bedbugs.

Yes, bedbugs.

Mr H has had to learn about them, and as a result I have learned quite a bit about them over the dinner table in the last few months. You can google them; it might gross you out though. Did you know that cochroaches are one of their natural predators? (This led to a rather amusing discussion about using cochroaches on leashes to take care of bedbug problems.) Mr H has requested that any used clothing items I bring home go into the dryer on high for about 20 minutes to kill any possible bedbug eggs. I'm happy to do this. Now that I know way more than I want to about this topic - I sure don't want to take chances with them getting in my house!

Mr H picked up change the other day. He was cleaning up an area for work. He picked up 115 pennies, 3 dimes and 1 nickel. Wow! I was impressed.

I'm putting my mileage for March on a page. With only 5 days in to the month - it looks like if I get in the car I drive at least 20 miles.

Two Cents' Worth

March 2nd, 2010 at 11:21 pm

The other day I went for a walk after church while Daisy was at Sunday school. As I approached the tattoo parlor what did I spot but two pennies on the ground. Do people lose their change when they go in to get tattoos? I'm sure the college student walking by the other way thought I was nuts but I picked them up and put them in my pocket.

March 1 mileage: 0. We didn't leave the house.

Just. . . Wow

March 1st, 2010 at 03:11 pm

He did it.

The other night Mr H approached me with his old paycheck stub and his new paycheck stub and asked me if I wanted to talk about what to do with his salary increase now or on Monday (the first). Not being one to want to let grass grow under my feet with this one, I said "Now".

Mr H asked me how much I wanted to put towards a new-to-us car. I said that it depended on where else we wanted to put the increase. If we had five items to put it to I would suggest a different amount than if we had 3 items to put it to. After discussion it became clear that we had two items to put it to - retirement savings and new-to-us car. I suggested a dollar figure, he agreed and that was that. 31% of the increase will go towards the car, the rest will go towards retirement.

Mr H will deposit these funds into a somewhat unused savings account and keep a ledger of how much is going to each item. He volunteered to do that. Eventually I'm anticipating that the retirement funds will be automatically invested somewhere. We discussed IRAs. I suggested that we open one in Mr H's name. I do have an IRA - the funds in it came from my old employer. Mr H has no retirement savings anywhere.

I'm still kind of in shock. It looks like Mr H is engaging more, involving himself more in our mutual life. Are things really changing? We've been married quite a while, and his involvement has been extremely limited for most of that time. I'm open, but naturally pretty skeptical. When I first started trying to bring up my car and its lifespan, at least seven years ago, Mr H said that when my car died we'd just buy a new car and take out a loan to pay for it. At the time I said, Mr H - if we can't afford to put money into savings for a new car, how would we afford a car payment? He had no answer. He's come a LONG way since then. . . most of the distance traversed in the last three to six months I think.

Music to My Ears

February 24th, 2010 at 11:22 pm

After reading the comments to my last post, and responding to them, I decided to attempt a(nother) conversation with Mr H regarding my car. I've been attempting these conversations since my car approached ten years in age. Usually my concerns were met with vague responses and when I pressed for specifics Mr H would start to sputter and yell. Not conducive for problem solving, to say the least.

I realize that my last post and my response to comments may have sounded a tad whiney. I'm pretty discouraged in many areas concerning Mr H. All I can say is - if you are single choose your life partner very carefully. I'm a shining bad example of what not to do in that department.

The short version of the following is below the asterisks:

Setting the stage:
I chose a reasonable time (Daisy was in bed) and approached quietly.

When to replace:
I told Mr H that I had been thinking about my car, and what criteria we might use to decide to replace it. He told me about the four vehicles he'd owned: Truck 1 was replaced when he'd spent $500 every six months fixing it. Truck 2 was replaced when he'd spent $500 every six months fixing it, plus he just wanted something new. Truck 3 (purchased a month before he met me) was sold 1-1/2 years ago when gas prices reached $4+ per gallon (truck got 15 mpg). Car 1 is an economical Honda purchased used from his folks, who took meticulous care of it.

I asked if there was a dollar limit in repairs at which he felt my car ought to be replaced. We easily spent $2000 fixing it last year. He couldn't really come up with one. I pondered if the $500 every six months was felt more in the 1980's, when his finances weren't very stable. Our finances are reasonably stable; we set aside money for car repairs so while it's a hit financially we aren't wondering where our mortgage payment is coming from. He agreed that this could be true.

In the end, he really didn't come up with a dollar limit. But he believed that if the engine or the transmission needed to be replaced the car should be replaced. Success! I believe this too, so we are in agreement here.

How much to spend:
Without really knowing how much a "good" used car costs, I had thought $5000. He suggested $10,000 as a figure. (The Honda was between $9000 and $10,000.) I agreed.

What to purchase:
He suggested another small Honda. I told him that if my car dies before Daisy leaves I'd like to replace it with a mini van. I'm entering serious kid-hauling years and frequently haul more kids than just Daisy; I'd like a kid-hauling vehicle. After she leaves home we'd downsize the vehicle. He agreed, although, again, neither of us really know what a "good" used min-van would cost. And, I suppose, it depends on your definition of good. My car is likely to go at some point after 200,000 miles. The clock is broken, the tape player is broken, the paint is chipping in spots and I'm taking it in this week to get a seatbelt replaced. A vehicle with 100,000 miles on it could look pretty good to me!

Where the money is coming from:
We'd been doing pretty well in our conversation, and so I brought up the big question. . . the fight starting question. . . where is the money going to come from? He is going to be negotiating a raise with his employer this week. He suggested that we table this conversation until March 1st so we'd know how much, but then. . . he said the words I'd longed to hear since I started these conversations seven or eight years ago: "I think we should set aside money every paycheck specifically for it. If we don't do that we will just spend the money on something else." Be still, my heart!

Now I'll wait to see if he brings it back up on the first. . . if not, I'll bring it back up later.

**************

The end result was that we had a suprisingly reasonable conversation that ended in agreement on when to replace, how much to spend, what to purchase and where the money is coming from. No yelling or sputtering was involved.

Mr H's Car

February 21st, 2010 at 05:33 am

Mr H's car was damaged in an accident last week.

Fortunately Mr H was not in the car. Someone's car wouldn't start and that person was pushing said car and lost control of it. Also fortunately said person had insurance. Mr H's car sustained body damage but apparently is okay otherwise. He is now working to get it fixed.

In a different conversation he mentioned taking my car to get it fixed this summer while Daisy and I go visit my family. My car sustained damage to its front bumper a couple of years ago when Mr H was pressure washing the house. Did you know that the exhaust from a pressure washer is hot and will melt the plastic bumper on a car if the exhaust pipe gets too close to it? Neither did I.

Mr H's declaration was music to my ears. After I discovered the burn mark on my bumper I asked Mr H about it. He swore he didn't do it. Then, when he realized he did do it, he didn't apologize for it. I took my car in and got an estimate for the fix. . . but worse than the estimate (body work is never cheap) was the number of days I'd need to be without my car - three to five, I think. I don't remember now. I live in suburbia. I figured I'd get no cooperation from Mr H with getting around and so the burn mark sits there.

Now that Mr H is dealing with someone else (besides him) causing damage to his vehicle, I think he's starting to understand why I was (and still am, kind of) upset by the damage to my car. It wasn't the damage so much as Mr H's unwillingness to accept any sort of responsibility for his actions, at least the ones that cause problems. It's a pattern of his, and it's hard to live with. But if he does get it fixed this summer I'll feel better.

*****

I also have come up with a plan for when my car finally dies. It is a 17 year old Toyota, running pretty well, but it has 194,000 miles on it. I'm hoping that it will keep going until Daisy is done with high school but if not here's what I'm going to do: take some money from the emergency fund and buy a used car. I think I can do this with help from my car guys. I'm not mechanically savy but I do have good car guys. I don't love this plan and hope that I can come up with a better one, but I feel better at least having something lined up.

*****

There has been no change under the bench at ballet. I checked when there were no other ballet moms around.

Car Replacement Negotiations

June 3rd, 2009 at 07:35 pm

At some point during our latest car saga I caught Mr H and told him that we needed to discuss car replacement. He told me that he didn't have time/was too tired/some reason he couldn't do it right then. I said, "Okay, when?" "June 1st" was the reply. He surprised me by remembering this appointment and appearing willing to have the discussion. Frequently he "forgets" this kind of thing.

What came out of this discussion was that we should save about $10,000 for a replacement vehicle.

But as I thought about it, I was uneasy. There is no deadline, and no source for the money for this savings. This means in another year we will have the same conversation because no action will have occurred during that time period. I went back to him and requested a further discussion. It was down hill from there.

Basically, my experience has been problem occurs --> I bring problem to Mr H's attention --> I suggest we work to solve the problem --> Mr H verbally attacks me/reacts by "solving" the problem with the first solution that comes to his head (even/especially if it's one we both hate and it doesn't solve the problem!) --> I later solve the problem by myself or the problem remains unsolved (and uncomfortable for me) --> Mr H experiences that everything "just works out". Dysfunctional? You bet. At the beginning of our marriage I gave him the benefit of the doubt, believed that he would eventually come to see how unproductive this was. Now I realize that I was just way too nice and forgiving . . . but trying to change this pattern requires the full emotional amour because no woman wants to be verbally attacked by her husband. . . and yet I've been down this path enough to know that's pretty much what's going to happen. Much earlier in our marriage I asked Mr H what I could say or do differently to help this situation, or if there was another approach to take. He had no response.

In this instance, the problem is that there is no obvious source of money for these savings. Our budget's stretched pretty thin. Pointing this out to Mr H, and that, if it's not funded it's not a priority, and that bothers me . . . brought the predictable response. Mr H's solution was to sell my car and have us become a one car family, and since Daisy will be homeschooled next year she and I could just stay home all the time. He needs his car for work so of course he'll get to have it every day. It was way less pleasant than I'm reporting it here. Ouch.

At the heart of it though is what seems to be an irresolvable difference in priorities, and an unwillingness to change with circumstances.

Our income is unlikely to go up in the near future. Mr H will not work harder/smarter/more than he is now, and I'm unwilling to sacrifice my home life at this time for another corporate job. (I had two working parents and neither of them were really around to raise us. When Daisy is 18 I plan to work full time and more to make up for what was not saved during this time.) I'm very concerned about retirement savings, planning ahead for seen and unseen expenditures, and having a home life. Mr H appears to be concerned about keeping the house (and only this house) and not having to make any changes to anything about his life. I would be happy to sell the house and go to one car if we lived somewhere where walking and public transportation were more workable. Mr H wouldn't hear of selling this house. We're at something of an impasse.

In the end, I relentlessly forced us to stay focused on the problem. Mr H backed down a bit and apologized. It's progress for us, although sometimes I feel like having to work this hard (and unpleasantly) with him on *every* problem that occurs in our lives is going to kill me.

We agreed to discuss income generating ideas and saving ideas in a couple of weeks.

"You're crazy Petunia!"

June 1st, 2009 at 03:13 am

That's what my mom said to me when I told her about fixing my car with Google.

Thanks Ma, for your vote of confidence in me.

My car saga continues. My car guys fixed my original problem (car dying during acceleration on to the freeway), but another problem turned up after that problem got fixed. When I drove on the freeway for 30 to 40 minutes, my car would stall when I stopped at the end of the off ramp. Sometimes I could keep it from stalling but the idle bounced around between 200-800 rpm. After it stalled I could restart it with no problem. Something about doing that reset the idle, and I could continue on my drive without the problem.

When the problem first turned up, the car guys thought that the replacement part was bad. I took my car back in, they replaced the part (free of charge), same problem. Took it in again, they replaced the second replacement part (free of charge - different manufacturer), same problem. Told them I thought they ought to look at other things that might be causing it. They replaced a different part (charged for service). Same problem.

I then Googled my car's problem - "make model year car stalls when warm" or something like that. Found a bulletin board with seven pages of postings - car owners of my car's make and model discussing this exact problem. I read through all 122 entries. I can't say I know much about the inner workings of my car, but I could pick out the two most frequent causes of the problem.

I printed a few of the postings and took them into my car guys. They looked at them, but kind of dismissed them. They found a part that was kind of dirty (my interpretation of what they said), cleaned it up (no charge) and sent me on my way. Same problem. (I'll add here that they couldn't always reproduce the problem in the shop. Tough to troubleshoot when you can't do that.)

I called them up again. They had become more and more apologetic as time marched on and my car wasn’t fixed. I asked for their email address and told them I was going to send the link to this discussion. By this time my car and its problems had been passed up the chain to the "second in command" of the car repair shop. He read all 122 entries and used the information to look at the car. He found a part that might be causing the problem, replaced it and sent me on my way. (charged for this service) Interestingly, the part he replaced was one of the two most frequent causes of the problem, per this bulletin board entry.

I haven't completely tested the car - just too busy with other things over the weekend. But I should have a good indication tomorrow if the most recent fix is the last fix for this problem.

And my mom? Well, I'm used to her. I said, "Mom, I am not crazy. I am smart and resourceful, and using the resources I have available to me to solve my problems."

Don't Tempt Me

April 28th, 2009 at 04:12 am

I spent about an hour and a half last Friday morning dealing with my 401k. When I left my former employer several years ago I just left my 401k sitting there. About three years ago I decided that I really should roll my 401k over to an IRA and ordered the paper work to do so. I couldn't figure out how to allocate my investments, and I got busy and didn't follow through.

Now my procrastination is catching up with me. My former company was sold to another company, and the 401ks are getting moved to a different 401k plan administrator at the end of May. I have just a few short weeks to act, or face another layer of complication.

It turned out to be a relatively simple process to set up an IRA with an investment company (Mr H and I already have a mutual fund with them). I can put the assets of the 401k into a money market account while I figure out how to allocate them. (Note to self: don't procrastinate on asset allocation.) But there was a little wrinkle in my smooth rollover process. Before my 401k was a 401k it was some other type of savings plan which took post-tax dollars. So I had both post-tax dollars and pre-tax dollars in my account. If I put the post-tax dollars into my IRA I would have to fill out some tax form every year forever (or, I suppose, until those dollars were no longer in my account). I like simple. I do not want to do additional tax forms. I opted to have them send me those dollars as a check. (Note to self: Don't sit on the check.) Because they are post tax dollars there are no tax consequences for me.

While I was on the phone with the 401k person, after I told them to send me a check, they suggested all kinds of things I could do with the money including buying a new car. I ignored the suggestions, but that afternoon as I was accelerating down a long on ramp to get on the freeway I noticed that my car was decelerating. I had just enough time to pull over onto the shoulder of the on-ramp before all the lights came on on my dash and my car died completely.

As I sat in my car on the side of the road for over an hour waiting for the tow truck, I felt tempted by newer cars. But at this point I'm not going to give in. My current plan is to see if I can get my car to last until Daisy's high school graduation, then get a Vespa or something similar. My car is 16 years old, and Daisy has another 9 years before graduation. We'll see how this plays out.

Cars

June 12th, 2008 at 07:47 pm

We've been talking about vehicles here in the onion patch.

DH owns a 1992 full-sized truck. I have a 1993 station wagon. Both of our vehicles have had a few problems over the years but have been dependable. They also have 160000+ miles on them.

DH commutes about 15 miles, one way, to work. In a truck that gets 15 miles per gallon that's about two gallons of gas per day, not counting any driving around he does for work. He has really noticed the increase in gas prices.

On and off over the years I've brought up the topic of our aging vehicles and changing needs. When DH bought his truck he was a single guy doing construction. Now he has a family and a job that's more of a desk job. Meanwhile as Daisy has grown I've noticed that I do more "kid hauling" - I don't just take Daisy somewhere but a friend or two as well. Even well-maintained vehicles don't last forever, and my fear is that one day a transmission or engine will go out and we'll be scrambling to replace a vehicle. I'd rather anticipate that need if possible.

My previous attempts to engage DH in discussing our automotive future failed. Now with gas prices high DH has gotten more interested in replacing his vehicle. He has talked about it over the last several months, but again our conversations went no where in terms of action.

DH's parents are selling their car and DH decided that it would be a good choice. It is a 2004 Honda which they bought new. DH and I have had several discussions about it over the last few weeks. He has looked in to insurance for it and talked with a couple of mechanics (one a relative) about this model of car. I think the car is a reasonable choice, so I will agree to it. He has put a lot more effort into acquiring this car than I have seen him put into other things. At other times when we've talked about car replacement he just figured that he'd get a car loan, go to the nearest dealership and buy the first thing that he saw. (Well, maybe not the first thing but close - after 15 years I have a good idea how DH operates.)

The sticking point has been the money required to buy it. DH wanted to get a car loan but I wouldn't agree to that. Last week DH presented me with a list of sources and amounts for the money required for this car. I was impressed. He also says that once the money is straightened out for this car we will start saving for a replacement for my vehicle. I plan to hold him to that.