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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

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!

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.

Take a look around this site and get free money-saving advice and tips from Dr. Penny Pincher.  Stop back soon- new articles and blog posts are added frequently.

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Cheap Ways to Deal with Peeling Paint on an Old House

Peeling Paint, Old Siding, What To Do?

Is There A Better Way?

My latest article on Wise Bread triggered a great question from a reader:

"Dr Penny Pincher,

Read your article on the hidden costs of buying an old house.  Very informative, practical, and interesting.  Anyone buying an older house should consider all of the potential costs you mention when buying an older property.

We live in an older home and have for some time.  One of the potential problems we are considering is the painting and upkeep on the outside of the house.  Our home has the original cedar shake siding and requires maintenance every year in addition to periodic painting of the entire house which is two stories. We are reaching an age where using a ladder probably is not a good idea. 


Do you have suggestions for an inexpensive way to maintain the house without the expense of siding??

Thank you,

A Penny Pincher Follower"



Thank you PPF for your question!

A few years ago while painting my 2+ story house, I realized that I have a mild sensitivity to heights.  I had nightmares about falling off of a ladder, and my palms were sweating and my hands shaking when I got much above one story high.  I can understand why you don't want to go up on a ladder to paint!


Unfortunately, going up on a ladder is probably the least expensive way to deal with old siding.  It seems like old wood gets moisture in it and has trouble keeping a good coat of paint more than a few years.  Even a really great paint job might only last a few years.

Here are things you can do to deal with peeling paint on wood siding, in order of cost:

1.  Paint the house yourself
This may cost a few hundred dollars for the paint.  You can reuse paint brushes and ladders for many years.  The drawbacks of painting yourself are that you have to go up on a ladder and spend a lot of time scraping off the peeling paint and repainting.

2.  Hire someone to paint your house
This may cost several hundred to a couple thousand dollars depending on the size of your house and who you hire.  As with hiring someone to do anything, you have to worry about the quality of the work and deal with having strangers around on your property.

3.  Move to a newer house with vinyl siding
Most newer houses have vinyl siding or other zero maintenance siding.  I ended up moving to a newer house after I painted my old house.  The cost to move varies with how much stuff you have and whether you need to hire movers.  My last move cost about $2,000.  It may sound extreme, but moving to a newer house will get you out of painting...

4.  Replace old wood siding with zero maintenance siding
Before I painted my old house, I looked at going over the old wood siding with new vinyl siding.  The estimates to install vinyl siding were in the range of about $30,000 to $40,000.  This was a large house with lots of windows, so these numbers may be higher than for a typical house.  In any case, replacing siding is a major expense.

I hope one of these options works for you.  Go with option 2, 3, or 4 to avoid going up on a ladder.  Best of luck!



Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Oil Change Interval: Miles and Time

How Often Do You Need to Change Your Oil?

How Often Do You Need to Change Your Oil?


Changing the oil regularly is important to keep your car running well.  Clean, fresh oil does a good job of reducing friction in your engine and protecting it from wear and tear.  Over time, your oil gets dirty and it loses its ability to protect your engine.

But how often do you really need to change the oil in your car?  This topic has been in the news a lot over the years.  The old guideline was to change your oil ever 3,000 miles or 3 months- which ever came first.  Some of the windshield reminder stickers given out by service shops still have this outdated information.

Most modern cars call for oil changes every 5,000 to 10,000 miles, depending on driving conditions.  Short trips that don't get the car fully warmed up are harder on oil.

News organizations including The New York Times, Time Magazine, and Scientific American have all weighed in on this question- and all suggest that a 3,000 mile oil change is no longer needed due to advances in engine design and oil chemistry.

I'll share the question from a reader that inspired this article, and then my answer:

"We bought a Toyota RAV4 on October 20.  It was traded in a few days before that and they did some maintenance stuff on it including changing the oil.  

The sticker on the windshield says they changed it on October 15th and that we should change it again on Jan 15th which I haven't done.  We have driven it 911 miles since Oct. 15th. (We don't drive much any more).  The manual for the car says to change the oil every 5k miles. If we did that we wouldn't change the oil for over a year.

Suggestion on when to change?

Also change at the dealer or the Firestone store or Walmart? The dealer is more expensive..."

Thank you for your question!  Although changing the oil in a car is relatively inexpensive- around $30 for a full service oil change- you don't want to waste time and money changing the oil too often.  Plus changing oil more frequently than is needed results in more dirty oil that has to be disposed of somewhere.

Oil Change Interval- Mileage

I pulled up the recommended service interval for a Toyota Rav4 that I found in the Warranty and Maintenance Guide.  The recommended oil change interval is 5,000 miles or 6 months- whichever comes first.

So if the oil was last changed in October, your oil change is good until April if you have driven less than 5,000 miles.  Unless you go on a major spring break trip, you should be well under 5,000 miles on your current oil change by the time the 6 months is up in April.

Oil Change Interval- Time

Since you have only driven 911 miles, you might be able to run longer than 6 months without changing the oil.  Some other websites I checked indicated that oil should be good for up to 12 months.  Over time, oil can become corrosive due to increased acidity and damage engine parts.  Short trips where you engine is not fully warmed up are especially hard on the oil.

I would probably stay with the 5,000 mile/6 month recommendation from the maintenance log for the RAV4.  In general, I would suggest checking and follow the oil change interval recommendations from your vehicle's manufacturer.

Where to Get Your Oil Changed?

Now for the question of where to get your oil changed.  I have found that dealer service departments tend to be more expensive.  Even though the dealer shops usually have free donuts, I take my car to Midas for routine maintenance.  I have received great service there and I use coupons to save at Midas.  Other similar shops include Tuffy, Jiffy Lube, Walmart and Firestone as you mentioned.

Best of luck!


Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Home Disimprovement: Downgrade and Save Money

For Cheapskates Only...

Home Disimprovement Can Save Money

When I bought my house a couple years ago, it had two doorbell buttons near the front door.  The funny thing was that neither one worked.  Pushing the buttons did not make the doorbell ring.

Here's what I think happened: the original doorbell button installed when the house was new in 1981 stopped working at some point, so someone installed a second doorbell button.  The replacement was a wireless doorbell button, and was installed right next to the first one.

I didn't pay much attention to the doorbell button situation until Halloween.  Trick-or-Treaters were pushing the doorbell buttons, but nothing was happening and we didn't know anyone was there waiting outside.  Visitors did not know to knock since there were two doorbell buttons.  It was rather confusing.

So what to do?  I thought about putting up a sign that says "Please knock, doorbells don't work".  I decided against this because it would look sort of tacky to post a sign explaining that something doesn't work.  Plus, I thought the sign would get wet and fade over time and would require periodic replacement.  So I needed to figure out another solution to the doorbell situation.

Maybe I should fix the doorbell button?  Perhaps add a third doorbell button next to the existing two broken ones?  But then I would probably need to add a sign to indicate which button works.  Plus I would need to find and buy a doorbell button, install it and get it working.  This sounded like a lot of trouble.  I needed an easier solution, and I found it.

I decided to do a downgrade and save some money.  My dogs usually bark like maniacs whenever someone even thinks of approaching the house.  It would be hard to hear a doorbell ring over the barking of my dogs anyway.  Why not just remove the broken doorbell buttons?  This wouldn't cost anything, and then it would be obvious to visitors that they should knock without the need for signage to explain which doorbell button to press.

I disconnected the doorbell ringer from the transformer and removed both broken doorbell buttons next to the front door.  I used some caulk that matches the siding to fill in the hole.  Problem solved.  Cost: $0.  Time: about 10 minutes.

After "downgrade" I no longer have a doorbell...

In this case, I am better off with zero doorbell buttons than with three doorbell buttons.  Sometimes a downgrade is better than an upgrade, and you can save some money as well.


Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Monday, January 4, 2016

Can You Really Buy Hope for $2.99?

Buy hope for $2.99?

Can You Buy Hope for $2.99?

Today I went shopping with my wife at the consignment shop.  She wanted to check out some used furniture and I wanted to check my balance to see if I had money waiting for me.

We found a nice old dresser for the bedroom, but we did not buy it.  It was a solid old unit, made with real wood and dovetail joints.  But I decided to get rid of some of my clothes that wouldn’t fit in the closet instead of buying a dresser for more storage.  This seemed like a good way to save some money and avoid buying yet another thing.

I picked up $3.88 for some old clothes that I sold.  Considering the decision to get rid of some clothes, I can look forward to more payouts like this.  I like shopping at a store where I can walk out with more money than when I walked in!

On the way out of the store, I saw something for sale at the check-out.  There were some impulse items for sale with a sign that read:

  “Hope $2.99”.

 I was intrigued.  For one thing, I had $3.88 in my wallet, so I could actually afford to buy what they were selling.  But how can you sell hope for $2.99?

I moved in closer to see what was in the packages that you could get for $2.99.  I was disappointed to see that it was a package of rope.  The sign actually said “Rope $2.99”.

Even though hope was not for sale as I had initially thought, I began to wonder... could you really buy hope for $2.99?

For this exercise, let’s assume that if you have some money that you have some hope for the future.  If you were completely broke and started saving $2.99 every day, would this be enough to provide hope for a stable financial future?

Saving $2.99 per day adds up to about $90 per month.  First, let’s look at how this would grow in a savings account.

If you put away $2.99 per day (round to $90 per month) you would have:
$5,400 after 5 years
$10,800 after 10 years
$21,600 after 20 years
$32,400 after 30 years

You would do a little better in a bank account at 0.85% interest:
$5,514 after 5 years
$11,268 after 10 years
$23,536 after 20 years
$36,891 after 30 years

If you really want to buy some hope for $2.99, let's try to find a better rate of return.

What if you invest the money in the stock market instead of a bank account?  The stock market can go up or it can go down.  Over the long term, the historical rate of return is around 8%.

Here's how your daily contribution of $2.99 would accumulate with a 8% rate of return:
$6,613 after 5 years
$16,465 after 10 years
$53,011 after 20 years
$134,132 after 30 years

You can check out these calculations yourself with my Saving Calculator.  Just put in a $0 starting investment amount, set the monthly investment amount to $90, and set the interest rate for your investment scenario.

It is starting to look like you can buy hope for $2.99 after all.  If you wanted to save up a million dollars assuming an 8% average return, it would take just over 54 years.

If you start buying hope soon enough, you could end up with some real money.

Not to dash your hopes, but there are some things we have not considered in the simple calculations above.  Inflation over time tends to reduce purchasing power of your money in the future, so what looks like a lot of money in these calculations may not buy as much as you would think in the future.

Also, you will have to deal with taxes.  One way to avoid paying taxes on a retirement investment is to contribute to a Roth IRA.  You do not have to pay capital gains taxes if you follow rules that apply to withdrawals.

Buying hope for $2.99 seems like a pretty good deal.  The best time to start buying hope was 54 years ago.  The second best time to start is right now.


Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Starbucks vs a Free Water Fountain

Free Water vs $2 Coffee, Guess Which Wins?

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.  Let's start with the picture.  Can you see why I thought this scene was interesting?

Starbucks vs Free Water Fountain
What's Wrong with This Picture?

When I saw this, I thought it was shocking and I immediately reached for the cell phone in my pocket to take a picture.  What is wrong with this picture?  I added some notes on the version below to make the problem clear.


Starbucks vs Free Water Fountain- with caption
Why Are People Lined Up To Pay Instead of Getting the Free Drink?

I thought it was surprising that people were lined up waiting to pay for drinks at Starbucks when free water fountains were clearly available only a few feet away- and with no waiting.

It is not surprising to me that some folks would want to get a treat such as a $2 cup of coffee, $3 fancy coffee drink, or $3 juice drink.  I was surprised by how much demand there was for these expensive drinks when there was free water right there.

I watched this scene for a few minutes.  More people kept joining the line for the expensive drinks, but no one used the water fountain.  Why?

Why were so many people paying for expensive drinks when there was free water right there?

One reason is that coffee is "mildly habit forming". If you read my blog much, you know that I am a coffee connoisseur and have even written a book about making great coffee for almost nothing.  I understand that people need coffee in a way that they don't need water.  I used to buy coffee at a coffee shop every day, but now I make great coffee at home for about 60 cents instead of paying $2 at a coffee shop.

Not everyone was buying coffee, though.  They were also buying fruit juice drinks and... bottled water!

I think people are in the habit of buying a refreshment at Starbucks and don't even consider skipping it or getting free water at the water fountain.  Once a habit gets established, it is hard to break.  Routine expenses are not really noticed anymore.  I call this "The Starbucks Effect".

I still find instances of The Starbucks Effect as I look at my own spending and try to cut back on unnecessary expenses.

Does it really hurt anything to buy a $2 drink at Starbucks?  Not if that is the most important thing you want to do with your money, but I know I have more important things I would rather do with my money.  A few dollars here and there quickly adds up to real money- money you could use to get out of debt and be able to afford things that are much more important to your than drinks at Starbucks.

The lesson I take from this strange scene at Starbucks is to look for that "free water fountain" in different areas of spending to find opportunities to save money.

  • Are you paying for cable TV or satellite when you could get free TV over the air or Netflix for much less?
  • Are you buying fast food for lunch every day when you could take lunch for a fraction of the cost?
  • Are you paying a lot to drive a new car when an older car would be just as useful and much less expensive?

And finally, are you buying expensive drinks when free water would be cheaper and healthier?

If you want many, many more ways to save money, check out my free ebook with 101 tips to save money!

Copyright © 2015 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

When Using a Credit Card is Good...

Did You Just Say To Use Credit Cards More?!

Sometimes You Can Save Money By Using a Credit Card!

After my second book came out about a year ago, some frugal readers were not impressed with my advice to use a credit card that has a good rewards program for purchases.  The advice in question is contained in Tip 15 of my free eBook: Pinch Like You Mean It! 101 Ways To Save Money Now.

My logic is that if you are going to make a purchase, you might as well get as many points as you can and effectively reduce the cost of your purchase.  My rewards card gives points that I can use to buy anything on amazon.com.  I use my points to get things for free that I would otherwise pay for, saving me hundreds of dollars every year.

Another benefit is that using a credit card is more secure than using a debit card or other forms of payment in case of fraud or payment dispute.  I have been able to have charges removed from my bill a couple of times, saving well over $100.

The point that some of my disappointed readers made can be summed up as:
 "Credit cards are bad.  It is stupid to give advice suggesting to using credit cards."


I think credit cards are bad if you use them to buy things you don't need or to spend more than you can afford.  However, I stick with the conclusion from my book- you can come out ahead using a credit card with a good rewards program if you stay within your budget and don't run up a balance.

I use a Citibank Visa card.  There are other good choices available.  If you are paying your balance off every month, then you don't need to worry about the interest rate on your credit card.

Another way to save money using credit cards is using a store credit card for a cash discount.  I get 5% off of every purchase at Target and Lowe's by using my store credit cards.

I bought a refrigerator at Lowe's with my store credit card and the 5% discount amounted to some big savings from just this one purchase!

Even smaller purchases of groceries and other items at Target add up over time.  Why not take 5% off if it doesn't cost anything.  I always pay off my balance on these cards, so I have not paid any interest or fees.

If you can pay off your balance, why not take advantage of credit card rewards and discounts on purchases?  The credit card company is betting that by offering perks that they can get you to buy more things and to pay interest on a credit card balance.

Prove them wrong and take their money!

Copyright © 2015 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy