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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Welcome to Penny Pincher Journal!

Welcome to Penny Pincher Journal!

Dr. Penny Pincher
 Dr. Penny Pincher 

Do you wish you had more money?  The easiest way to get more money is to spend less!

It's a vicious cycle: you spend more money to buy more stuff, only to find that you are still not satisfied.  All of that spending in pursuit of happiness is keeping you in debt and limiting your lifestyle options.  I have found that there will always be at least one more thing you want to buy in order to be happy...  The way to break this cycle and find happiness is to spend less money, not more!

If you are looking for easy ways to spend less money, you are in the right place!  Penny Pincher Journal is a blog loaded with FREE articles and advice to help you spend less money and enjoy life more.  You can even get a free eBook here with 101 tips to help you spend less money.

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DIY Rear View Mirror Replacement


Today as my son was pulling out of the driveway, his rear view mirror fell off!


My Rear View Mirror Fell Off!  How Can I Fix It?
My Rear View Mirror Fell Off!  How Can I Fix It?


This is the same 13 year old Toyota Matrix that just underwent a door check strap replacement (details on how I saved $160 by doing this repair myself are in my post from last week).

So now, I had an opportunity to learn how to replace a rear view mirror that has fallen off.

The key to success is to remove the "button" from the rear view mirror assembly.  The "button" is a flat metal part that is attached with adhesive to the windshield.

The general procedure to re-attach a rear view mirror is:
  1. Remove the "button" from the mirror assembly.
  2. Using a razor blade, carefully remove the old adhesive from the windshield and the "button"
  3. Clean the windshield where the "button" will be attached
  4. Apply the activator to both the windshield and "button" and wait 5 minutes
  5. Apply a drop of adhesive to the "button" and press it in place against the windshield for 1 minute
  6. Wait at least 15 minutes for the adhesive to cure, then reattach the rear view mirror


Here are the tools and materials you'll need:
  • Screw driver to remove rear view mirror from "button".  Mine had a screw that took a star driver to remove.
  • Razor blade to remove old adhesive from "button" and windshield
  • Glass cleaner and paper towel or rag to clean windshield
  • Gloves to wear when applying the adhesive
  • And of course you'll need rear view mirror adhesive, I used a product from 3M that cost under $10, see picture below.


Rear View Mirror Adhesive
Rear View Mirror Adhesive
You can get rear view mirror adhesive at a car parts store or order it from Amazon.

3M 08749 High Bond Rearview Mirror Adhesive - 0.02 fl. oz.

The set includes a tube of activator and a tube of adhesive that are designed to attach the rear view mirror to the windshield.




Here is what the rear view mirror "button" looks like:

Rear View Mirror "Button"
Rear View Mirror "Button"

The button is a flat piece of metal that is glued on to the windshield.  The rear view mirror assembly has an opening that fits the shape of the button.  It very difficult to re-attach the rear view mirror without removing the button.  You'll want to remove the button, re-attach that to the windshield, and then hang the rear view mirror assembly back in place.


Rear View Mirror Button Back In Place
Rear View Mirror Button Back In Place
The photo above shows the rear view mirror button back in place after scraping the old adhesive off, cleaning the windshield, applying activator, and applying adhesive and pressing the button back in place.

Next, wait at least 15 minutes for the adhesive to cure.

Finally, hang the rear view mirror assembly in place on the button and attach it with a set screw to hold it in place.

Hanging the Rear View Mirror on the Button
Hanging the Rear View Mirror on the Button

With the rear view mirror attached again, the car was ready to drive.  This repair took about 30 minutes and was pretty easy to do.  I don't know how much a body shop would charge for this, but I would guess around $50.

Stay tuned to see what breaks next on the old Toyota Matrix...


Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Saving $160 on a Simple Car Repair

How I Saved $160:  DIY Replacement Car Door Stop Strap


The Broken Car Door Check Strap...
The Broken Car Door Check Strap...

The other day, we were saying goodbye to my teenage son in the driveway.  His suitcases were in the back, and he was heading out on his first real road trip, a 100 mile drive to a summer camp.  As he was closing his car door, something snapped on the driver's side of the 13 year old Toyota Matrix.

A small hinge in the middle of his car door had broken in half.  The door would now swing wide open, more than 90 degrees, but the door still seemed to close securely.  We didn't investigate this much at the time since he had to go to make it to his summer camp opening events on time.

After he returned, I took the Toyota with the broken door check strap to the shop and asked if they could repair it.  They could, but the cost would be $225.

I asked if they meant $2.25, but no-- the estimate was actually for over $200 to replace the little hinge in the middle of the door.  They said the part is specific to this model of car and is quite expensive.  This seemed like way too much, so I declined.

I checked out some videos on YouTube on how to replace this part.  It was held in place by 3 bolts, one in the frame of the door, and 2 more to hold the other side of the hinge in the door itself.  The only tricky part is that you have to remove a couple of screws and pop the door panel off of the metal part of the door.  I always worry that I won't be able to put something like this back together, but I decided that it would be worth the trouble if I could save more than about $50 by doing the repair myself.

My next move was to look for this part myself.  I could get a brand new part for this model of car for $90 from a car parts store.  This is still expensive, but better than $225.

Next, I decided to look at junk yards for a salvaged part.  I didn't think the door check strap needed to be brand new since no other part on the 13 year old car was new.  Plus, I had never seen this part break on a car before, so I thought a used one would be fine if the price was better.

I started calling junk yards and salvage yards.  The first two I called did not have this part.  It was often included with the door, and I didn't want to buy an entire door assembly to get the part.  I tried a third junk yard-- they didn't have the part, but could get it the next day.  The price:  $55.  I placed the order.

I assembled the tools I needed for the job: a 10mm socket wrench, a Phillips screwdriver, a small flat blade screwdriver to remove a screw cover, and a pry bar.  The instructions called for a plastic pry bar to carefully remove the door panel, but I used a small metal pry bar that I already had and wrapped a rag around it to protect the plastic door panel.

As with most projects, the disassembly part was quick and easy.  Installing the new door stop hinge was easy too.  But getting the door panel attached straight and tight when putting everything back together was a little tricky.  Luckily Mrs. Penny Pincher walked by at the right time and helped get the door panel lined up and snapped in nice and tight, just like new!  Tip: line up the door panel at the top, along the window first, and then work down from there.

Here's how much I saved by installing the door check strap myself:

Car shop estimate: $225
Salvaged part cost: $60 (including tax, etc)
Gas to drive to get the salvaged part: $5

Savings: $225 - $60 - $5 = $160

It took about an hour to track down and drive to pick up the salvaged part, and about 30 minutes to install it.  So my hourly rate of pay for doing this project was over $100 per hour!

Even if you don't have any of the tools for this repair and had to buy them, it would still be worth doing this project yourself.  I'm glad I gave this a try considering how much money I saved.


Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Why I Got a Cordless Electric Lawn Mower

Oh Snap!


I Replaced My Broken Gas Mower With A Cordless Electric Mower!
I Replaced My Broken Gas Mower With A Cordless Electric Mower!

My wife sent me out to use the push mower to mow a small part of our yard that is on the side of the hill and is a bit tricky to mow with the riding mower.  This should have been a pretty easy assignment, but when I pulled the cord to start the mower.... SNAP!  I knew this was bad news, because the starter cord broke last year too.  I ended up buying a new starter coil mechanism for about $40 dollars and installed it.  Since the mower is about 10 years old, it was a tough decision to put $40 into it, but I figured this was cheaper than replacing it.

When the mower broke again, I had the opportunity to revisit this decision.  I decided not to put any more money into this mower.  It still works fine (except for the starter cord), but it was showing its age.  The wheels are worn down.  The plastic deflector for grass coming out has been broken for years and has been re-attached using some wire.  The blade is dull and should be sharpened or replaced..

So I loaded up the old mower and took it to the landfill for a disposal fee of $12.50.  That part was pretty easy.  Now for the hard part- getting another mower.

Why I Got An Electric Lawn Mower

When I had a small yard, I considered getting a plug-in electric mower.  With a small yard, it wouldn't be too hard to plug in an extension cord and reach the entire yard.  I like the idea on an electric mower because that means no gas, no oil, no spark plugs, and most importantly... NO STARTER CORD!

But my yard now is large and ranges from prairie to forested areas beyond the reach of an extension cord.  I mow almost all of it with a nice riding mower equipped with snow chains to help with traction in hilly areas.  The push mower is needed only for trimming and mowing some tight spots that I can't reach with the riding mower.

I decided to get a cordless electric push mower to replace the old gas mower.



There are some full-sized 22 inch cordless electric mowers, but these run around $500.  I found a slightly smaller 16" model from Black and Decker for about $250.  Actually, the small size is handy for reaching the tighter spaces I want to mow with a push mower anyway.

The first problem I had with the Black and Decker is the bag.  This mower is designed to collect grass clippings in a bag.  This is handy sometimes, but emptying the bag is tedious.  I used a wire clothes hanger to hold the rear door open a few inches.  I turned this mower into a rear-discharge mower, and it works pretty well.  I plan to use the bag sometimes, but most of the time I will use it in rear-discharge mode.

Here is a picture of how I used a wire clothes hanger to make the Black and Decker discharge out the back when I don't want to use the collection bag:

Make the Black and Decker a rear-discharge instead of bagging
How to Avoid Using the Collection Bag


A pleasant surprise about the cordless electric mower is how quiet it is.  I can mow comfortably without ear plugs or hearing protection.  It is quieter than a vacuum cleaner, and there are no fumes.  Plus, it is so light that it is easy to move around the yard with it.

I will say, however, that if you are expecting a cordless electric mower to be just like a gas mower then you are likely to be disappointed.  This mower is ideal for light mowing:  fairly short grass, fairly even terrain.  You won't be hacking through thick, overgrown weeds with a cordless electric mower.  That's OK, because that isn't how I use my push mower.

Another potential downside- it looks like a toy.  Black and Decker tried to style it up nice and sporty.  It was a nice try, but the small plastic push mower does look like a child's toy.  This doesn't bother me, but it may bother some people.

This mower comes with two 40V battery packs with 2 amp-hour capacity.  I like that there are 2 batteries included so you can always have a fully charged backup battery ready to go.  These high capacity batteries also work with other Black and Decker tools.  If the mower keeps working well, I will think about getting a cordless electric trimmer too.

Since the cordless mower already came with 2 batteries, I could buy the "bare tool" cordless hedge trimmer for around $50.  You can also get a cordless string trimmer and even a battery-powered snow blower and a battery-powered chain saw that use the same batteries and charger.




Overall, I think an electric mower will last a long time due to fewer mechanical parts to wear out, and it should require no maintenance other than sharpening the blade.  In the long run, I think I will come out ahead by upgrading to a cordless electric mower.


Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy



Sunday, April 2, 2017

Tightening The Belt


Tightening The Belt
Tightening The Belt

This morning, I ran into a problem-- the kind of problem it's nice to have.  I put on my belt and found that it didn't work...  I tightened it up all the way and buckled it, but it wasn't doing anything.  It was time to tighten the belt.

I stepped out into my woodshop and removed my belt.  My cordless drill was standing ready for just such a situation.  I popped a drill bit in and laid the belt on a scrap of 2x4.  I picked just the right spot for a new hole so I could tighten the belt, and after a slight hesitation, I pulled the trigger.

Here's How I Made My Belt Smaller With A Drill
Here's How I Made My Belt Smaller With A Drill

An interesting thing about tightening the belt:  you might think I have lost weight and this resulted in the need to tighten my belt.  But I weighed myself first thing this morning before I even put on the belt and my weight has not changed lately.  So why didn't my belt fit anymore?

Measuring weight and measuring your waist size are not measures of the same thing.  I have been riding my bike (both my free 1972 Schwinn Super Sport and my EVO CX indoor exercise bike).  I have been crawling around my attic working on some projects.  Last weekend, I dug up a tree and moved it around to the front of my house.  This weekend, I dug into the side of a hill to install some terraced landscape timbers.  With nice spring weather coming in, my dogs have been insisting on longer and faster walks every day.

The reason I needed to tighten my belt isn't that I lost weight, it is that I lost some fat and gained some muscle.  I still have the same amount of weight, it has just moved around a little bit.  So my belt size is telling me more about my fitness right now than the weight reading on my scale.

This made me think about ways that people measure money and the progress they are making.  People tend to pick a number and focus on improving that number.  For example, if you are attacking debt you will focus on your debt balance.  If you are trying to build an emergency fund, you will focus on your savings account balance.  If you are trying to hit an investment goal to reach retirement, you will focus on your investment account balance.  If you are trying to reduce expenses, you might focus on your spending totals.  The reason I was focused on weighing myself is that my doctor "helped" me set a goal for my weight.

The problem with picking one number to monitor and improve is that it may be a precise measure of something that doesn't tell the whole story.  That is why my smaller belt size confused me at first.  I was thinking that my weight on the scale was the metric that mattered.  Tightening the belt reminded me that there are lots of measures of my health and fitness that matter as well, even things that go beyond numbers at all.

The most revealing personal finance number to focus on is your net worth, which is a measure of your total assets minus your total liabilities.  But even a comprehensive number like this may not tell you everything you need to know about your financial health.  Focusing on a number may be keeping you from thinking about how you are really doing.

Are you stressed out, or is your life satisfying?  Are you growing and on a path to reach your goals, or are you just trying to survive until something changes?  No matter what scale you are using to measure progress in your financial life, financial success only really matters if you are successful in life, whatever that means.  "Success in life" is hard to measure, so people tend to measure and track financial success instead.

So when my doctor asks me to set a goal at my next physical exam, instead of throwing out an ambitious number for a weight goal, I'll tell him I want to take my dogs for walks so long and so fast that they can barely keep up.  I want to ride my bike to reach remote places that few people will ever see.  I want to do whatever landscaping projects that my wife dreams up without even thinking about hiring younger guys to do the hard work instead of doing it myself.  To me, these goals matter more than tracking a single number.

Tracking your net worth and other numbers can provide useful insights, but what are your financial goals that really mean something to you?


Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy



Sunday, March 26, 2017

Looking For Bargains at the Pawn Shop


Looking For Bargains At The Pawn Shop

The other day, my son and I took my wife to the fabric store.  After a few minutes, my son and I decided to leave my wife to shop in the fabric store (risky, I know...) while we went next door to check out the pawn shop.

High on my list of things to look at in the pawn shop was binocculars.   I have been looking for a good pair of binocculars for a few years, checking out every pair I could find at consignment shops and garage sales.

I was excited to see that the pawn shop had five pairs in a glass display case for sale ranging from $15 to $70.  I had the lady working in the shop come over and open the display case.  Unfortunately for her, she had to stay right there the whole time the case was unlocked.

I tried out the binocculars by looking out the window at nearby buildings and also by trying to read price signs across the store.  The binocculars I tried looked cool, but the optics were terrible- even the $70 pair produced blurry results.

The last pair in the case looked older than the rest and was a little beat up.  I figured I might as well try it since it was priced at $15 and it was the last one.

Much to my surprise, this pair of binocculars worked great!  It has an easy-to-use lever mechanism to adjust the focus.  I could read the price signs clearly from all the way across the store.  I could see bricks and small details in the building through the window.

My quest for a good pair of binocculars is over!

With spring fast approaching, there was a clearance rack of leather jackets displayed.  Some of the jackets looked really expensive, but were priced at $15.  My son tried one on and liked it, except it was a size too big.  He thought about getting it anyway, but I convinced him that it was just too big.

When we later met up with my other son and told him about the leather jacket deal, he said it is a bad idea to get the wrong size of something, "it's just not worth it."

They had lots of bikes for sale, but I thought the prices were too high.  This may be due to the spring season- I may check back around October 15 to see if they have any bargains.

They had a lot of power tools for sale, but these looked heavily used and well worn.  I would definitely want to try out the tools from the pawn shop to make sure they are in good working order before buying.  Some of the tools were battery powered, and I would worry about the battery being near the end of life and not being able to hold much charge.

The video game selection seemed to be for very old systems and seemed to be pretty well picked over.  They had a few old laptops, but they didn't look much better than the old laptop I already have, and these were priced at a couple hundred dollars.  I woud rather find a bargain laptop in the open box bargain area at Best Buy than take a chance on one from the pawn shop.  At least there would be some opportunity to return a laptop from Best Buy if there is a problem with it.

Here are some things I learned from my trip looking for bargains at the pawn shop:

1) You can't judge a book by its cover.  The oldest, most beat up binocculars were by far the best and quite a bargain at only $15.  I bet most people wouldn't have even tried them due to their rough appearance.

2) If you want cheap leather jackets, go to the pawn shop in mid-March.

3) If you want to buy a cheap bike at a pawn shop, don't go in the spring

4) I found power tools at the pawn shop, but they looked pretty well worn.  Maybe you could buy a cheap power tool at the pawn shop as an alternative to renting one for about the same money.

5) The good electronics and games get snapped up quickly, you would need to check frequently to find something decent.

6) If it doesn't fit, you must acquit...  This is a lesson I wish I had mastered long ago.  Many times, I have found a bargain coat or even shoes that didn't quite fit- but I bought them anyway because they were priced way down on clearance.  As son #2 said, "it's just not worth it."


Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy


Friday, March 17, 2017

Why People Are Now Drinking More Bottled Water than Soda?

But You Can Get Water at Home for Almost Free!

An article on Fortune.com a few days ago announced that Americans are now drinking more bottled water than soda.  Why!?


Americans Are Now Drinking More Bottled Water Than Soda
Americans Are Now Drinking More Bottled Water Than Soda

At least drinking water is healthier than drinking soda, but it is stunning to me that so many people are paying for water- something you can get for almost free!  Bottled water has a high cost not only in the price you pay at the convenience store or vending machine, but also in environmental impact.  It takes a lot of energy to transport a heavy product long distances to the store and keep it refrigerated.    Even if you recycle the plastic bottle every time, it still takes energy to produce the plastic bottle in the first place and then to melt it down to recycle the plastic, not to mention the energy to haul it to the recycling facility.

This seems like an unbelievable business model- package something that costs almost nothing that people can easily get at home, and sell it with a huge markup.  If someone came to me with a business plan like this, I would probably shoot it down.  Why would people pay for something they can get at home for almost free?    I decided to dig further into this psychological puzzle.

Why People Buy Bottled Water (When They Could Get It For Free)

When people buy bottled water, it must makes sense to them in terms of economic value.  That 20 oz bottle of water with less that 1 cent worth of water priced at $1.39 seems like a good deal.  Why?

  1. Convenience.  If you are thirsty now and don't have anything to drink, a cold bottle of water may be just what you want.  But is it really convenient to drive to a convenience store or find a vending machine...
  2. Soda Replacement.  People are replacing $2 soda with something healthier and perhaps less expensive and see it as a good deal relative to soda.  But this is a false choice if you are only selecting from what is available on the shelf at the convenience store...
  3. Spare Change.  Many people don't think a few dollars makes any difference to their finances and are not concerned about spending a few extra dollars.  But those small daily expenses add up to real money over time...
  4. Social Factors.  Some bottled water purchases are due to the force of habit of buying a drink when you are out and about, or if you are with friends who are all buying a drink then you want to buy one too.  But you don't have to be like everyone else, being efficient with money and reducing your impact on the environment is a respectable choice.
  5. Status Symbol.  People feel they deserve bottled water.  They are smart, work hard, and make good money, so they should be able to at least get a bottle of water when they feel like it.  This is a good example of "lifestyle inflation".
  6. Perceived Quality.  A product that is sold in a bottle in the store must be better than what you can get at home right?  Most bottled water is sourced from municipal water supplies- in other words, it is tap water just like you can get at home!

How To Get The Advantages of Bottled Water-- Without the High Price

If you are ready to skip the bottled water purchases and save some money, here are some tips to get the advantages of drinking bottled water, but without paying the high price:
  • Bring your own water from home in a reusable bottle.  
  • Get a water filter at home if needed to improve taste/quality.  I use the water filter in my refrigerator.
  • How to keep it cold?  Freeze your bottle (or freeze a 1/2 full bottle and top it with water before heading out), use a cooler, or put your bottle in the fridge at work. 
  • Or simply use a water fountain for drinking or filling a cup with free chilled drinking water from the water fountain. 

I even added some new items in the Penny Pincher Journal Store to help you save money by drinking your own water from home in refillable bottles for almost free instead of buying expensive bottled water.


Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy