Saturday, October 29, 2016

Save Money on Car Repairs

So recently I had a lot of major car repairs (you can read about it here).  And I learned some helpful things to save you money!

Find a Mechanic You Can Trust

First things first, find a mechanic you can trust.  This means ones that won't try and get you to buy things when you don't need them, that know your car well and can do the best work, and that are understanding and helpful when it comes to large expenses.  The best way you can find one is on Yelp.

The #1 thing you need to do is do your research!  The internet is great.  One of the most helpful aspects is being able to read reviews.  Your best bet in finding a good mechanic is to see what others have to say about them and the experiences they have had there!  Not only was I able to find a mechanic who only works on Toyotas (so I know they know what they are doing on my car) but that have great reviews!  People have nothing but good things to say about their work, their customer service, and most important their prices!

Do Your Research

Yeah I already said that.  But even after you have a mechanic, when they hit you with a huge repair that's needed.  Stop, take a moment, and go to the internet.  There are so many sites out there dedicated to every car that go into details and give helpful information about what to do.
  • Mechanics may not know all the specifics about your car, they work on many different kinds of cars so they might not know the best route to take (especially when it comes to hybrids or electrics which are so different and still relatively new)
  • You can often get parts cheaper yourself or brands that are better suited for your needs (see my posts How I Save a Lot of Money on Some Huge Car Repairs and  The Prius Auxiliary Battery Saver)
  • If you want to, there are instructionals on how to do repairs yourself which save a ton in labor costs.  (There are many little things you can do that are easy like changing filters)

Go With Used Parts

When you can, get a used part.  Again, do your research to know if it's a good idea first.  But a used part doesn't mean they're taking it from an old run down car.  Often times, you can get parts off newer versions of your car.  A brand new car can get in an accident and be deemed too expensive to fix but still have very usable parts on them untouched by the accident.  Why let them go to waste?!

How do you find the parts?  Well ask your mechanic, they can probably find it for you.  But sometimes it can be even cheaper if you do it.  Just type your part in online and there should be many options that come up.  You can also check ebay.  Many private individuals sell parts or companies with a large stock.  Many give warranties as well which is always a good sign.  (Make sure you read reviews to see that their a trusted seller!)

If It's Routine, Go With a Chain

If it's a routine replacement like brakes or tires, check online for discounts through major chains like Meineke and Midas.  Because they are so large, they can offer huge promotional discounts like buy 3 tires get the 4th free and they also have credit cards which can give you a discount plus some time to pay things off.  I don't trust them for anything other than these routine and simple replacements like I do a local mechanic, but it's worth it for these things.  Just make sure they don't try and get you to replace other things that aren't needed!

Ask For a Discount

If this is your only mode of transportation, make sure the mechanics know that.  Often they will offer to get a rental car for you, a discount on rental cars, or a deduction off your costs (I got $200 off my bill!).

Is it taking much longer than expected?  Ask for a discount.

There could be many reasons.

I hope these help.  They can save you thousands, trust me!

How I Saved a Lot of Money on Some Huge Car Repairs

So a while ago my car had a bunch of lights suddenly turn on.  It was driving normally but I thought I should get it checked out never the less.  After a long day of testing, it came back that it was a faulty Skid Control ECU unit, quoted at $2700!  Basically it is a computer component and what it does is take control of the braking system when it senses the car is skidding.  At the time, the weather was still nice so it was still safe to drive since I shouldn't be skidding.  So I took it back in order to discuss with my husband what to do with this huge hit.  As with weighing any big car repair, it's hard to know whether it's worth investing into or not.  In order to help us, I thought I'd go to the internet to see what people said about this issue.  THIS WAS MY BEST DECISION!  And what I will always do now with big repairs  (See my post Save Money on Car Repairs)

First I found out that a new skid control unit is about $1700 new, I don't know where he got $2700.  But that's still a high price.  The issue was rare but those that did have it said to buy a used one on ebay.  So I went to ebay . . . and found one for $40 with a 2 week free return period and 30 day warranty.  Done.  That's $1660 saved right there.

Once I received it, I scheduled an appointment to have it installed.  The mechanics were skeptical about putting in a used part from ebay, but I trusted the many posts and threads I had read about all the previous Prius owners that had had that issue and solved it this way.  They said it would take a full day or two since it involved a lot of reprogramming so I planned it around my days off.  I brought it in on Tuesday 9/13.

Later the next day I had still not heard anything so I called for an update.  There was another issue.  When they had turned on the car, another major warning light had come on.  This was before they started the install of the skid control but they were checking and rechecking everything with that to make sure it wasn't something they had done because what it was reading was a transaxle fail.  This one comes in at a whopping $7,000 new.

After a few days of testing, and resetting they determined that the used skid ecu I got was fine and had fixed the problem but I indeed did need a new transaxle.  They actually recommended used on this one and estimated to get that for $700.  I could have probably found a cheaper one online, but I was needing the fastest way out of this as each day without a car is very difficult (we were getting very creative with meals as we hadn't gone grocery shopping in so long!) and that price was a huge reduction already.  Plus he said since they had just done a major repair, they would give a discount on labor.

So it took a few days for them to get a part and then install it . . . but that one was faulty.  So they had to get another.  More than a week had passed by.  I wasn't hearing many updates from them, so I would have to call and I know they got tired of hearing from me and they were tired of trying to fix my car since they were surely loosing money on it.  After a couple weeks, the owner finally asked if this was our only car.  When I told him yes, he actually made the offer of paying for a rental car saying about $30/day.  He felt bad for how long it was taking them.

I looked at getting a rental car, wow they are expensive (not $30/day when you add it all up more like $50)!  We were getting by with using Uber, Lyft, and BART.  I actually had a code for Lyft of $5 off 30 rides so the timing of that discount couldn't have been better!  So that was still cheaper than getting the rental car.

Finally on 9/28 the car was ready to be brought home.  When I went to pay the bill he asked about a rental car.  I took a risk and said we had gotten one and my husband had it at work (don't look at me like that, we were paying for transportation that we wouldn't have just not through a rental car!).  He asked how much per day it was and I said about $32/day (I just took his number and added a little, that's still way less than what it would have actually been).  Then he asked for how long.  And I said, well we brought this car in two weeks ago yesterday.  "Wow!" he said.  He worked out the math -- $448.  Of course they couldn't take all of that off, I wouldn't want that anyway.  But he said how about we take off $200?  Sure!  (After adding up our expenses for transportation in those two weeks, we spent about $173 so we saved there too!)

Skid Ecu $40 ($1660 savings)
Transaxle $700 ($6300 savings)
$200 off for transportation ($27 less than what we spent)
a few hundred saved on labor
~$8360 saved!

Lesson: Do your research first, go with used parts when you can, and if it's your only transportation, ask for a discount since you have to pay for other transportation!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fresh Step Paw Points

Another great rewards program if you have cats aside from the Purina Pet Perks, is the Fresh Step Paw Points Program.  If you buy Fresh Step cat litter (which is one of my favorite brands) you can get rewards for each bag of litter you buy.  These can be redeemed for a variety of rewards like toys and accessories, but I like getting their coupons for a free bag of litter.

All you have to do is log in and type in a code printed on each bag or upload your receipt.  This is made even easier with an app they have.  You can also get points for various activities like entering information about your pets, taking surveys, or writing reviews.

So if you have a cat and use Fresh Step, sign up today!

Purina Pet Perks

My husband and I love Purina as our brand of choice for our cats but what makes it even better than others is it has its own rewards program!  I love rewards programs (See my post Sign Up For Those Rewards Programs . . . It Can't Hurt!).  I think it's a great idea for companies to reward their customers and it does make me more likely to buy from them if I am getting something in return.

Purina does such.  As far as I can tell, it's only for their Cat Chow and not Dog Chow, I don't know why, so I suppose this only applies to cat owners.  It's a simple rewards program, you amass points for buying their products and doing other various things on their site.  These rewards can be redeemed for things as small as a coupon to as large as a vacuum cleaner.  As with all rewards programs that I take part in, when there are large rewards that are actually quite valuable, I wait and build up the points to do so.  This is my plan here, to get the vacuum which is worth several hundred dollars and then sell the vacuum, so I actually make money.  Most small rewards are not worth it, the points needed to redeem it is actually much more than if you were just to buy it.

So if you have a cat, I suggest signing up for Purina Pet Perks.

And check out my post on Fresh Step Paw Points for rewards on cat litter!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Get $50 for Shopping at Safeway

If you've read my post, Sign Up For Those Rewards Programs . . . It Can't Hurt!, you'll know that I like using Safeway's rewards program to shop.  You can add coupons digitally to your account, the coupons are organized by products you frequently by in an easy to use app, and money spent adds up to gas rewards to reduce your gas price at Safeway gas, plus a lot of general savings throughout the store.  Sometimes they have special promotions, like now: the 50 Yard Line.

With this current promotion, after you spend get 100 points on select items from now until 2/7/17, you can get a $50 gift card (or a combination totaling $50) from any of the gift cards they sell in store, which is a lot!  And from what I can read in the terms, this is every 100 spent in that time period, not just a one time thing.  The list of participating items is very large, you can see them all here, and includes large name brands such as Aquafina, 7up, Gatorade, Tostitos, Betty Crocker, Red Bull, Quaker, Oreo, Tide, Pepsi, Nabisco, Dannon, Freschetta, Dr Pepper, Progresso, and Red Baron to name a few.

So go do your shopping and start earning those gift cards!  You do need to be signed up for their rewards and add this reward to your account to qualify.  You can see all the details explained here.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Saving on World Travel

For those of you that read my blog, you know I love traveling, especially to different countries.  But traveling internationally is VERY expensive.  Here's a few ways to make it a little easier.

Choosing a Location
Obviously the closer you are to a destination, the cheaper it is to travel there.  So think about where you are in relation to where you want to go.  For instance, someone living on the west coast is going to be able to go to Hawaii much cheaper than someone on the East Coast.  Just like someone on the East Coast can get to Europe for less, and those in the Southern region can get to the Caribbean the cheapest.  That extra couple thousand miles to fly across the entire United States can add a couple extra hundred or even thousand dollars.

Searching for Deals
I search around a lot before making any major purchase.  While I have a few sites I often rely on, I still check other places before buying just to make sure I am getting the best deal.  Sometimes another site can be having a sale!  Here are some of my favorites:

General Travel Deals

travel deals  
Most of you have probably heard or even use Groupon to get great local deals, but you can also find deals on vacation packages.  They offer highly discounted complete packages, often with hotel and airfare and even activities!  If they don't have a package for the place you want to go, they also have discounted hotel rates at virtually every major city.

This is basically the same as Groupon Getaways.  Make sure to check both sites as they can have very different offers at the time!

*Make sure you read the fine print for all these offers, there can be specific dates that you can use it and often the deal is only for specific airports and you will have to pay extra to get to one of those airports.  But the savings can still be worth it!

Caribbean Packages and Cruises

travel deals
This site has great deals for Caribbean resorts and cruises!


travel deals
This is a fantastic site that I actually ended up using to create my honeymoon to Ireland.  I love that it is totally customizable: you get to chose what cities to go to, you can chose your mode of transportation, you can upgrade hotels, and you can even opt out of their hotels for one or two nights if there's a specific place you want to stay and they don't offer it.  Plus you can buy excursions here too (though do check to see if there are better deals).  And it's all in one place!


This site must be run by the same people as Cheap Caribbean because it has a very similar layout.  Look for good deals on cruises!

Most of these options are for complete packages that include flights and hotels and more which is a great option to bundle to save money.  But if you do buy things separately, here's what I recommend:

Check out my previous post, Traveling Cheaply Part 1: Flights.

Where to Stay
Instead of hotels, I recommend hostels and vacation houses.  Check out my previous posts Traveling Cheaply Part 2: Hostels and Traveling Cheaply Part 3: Vacation Houses and also Top 10 Places to Stay on Airbnb for Under $140.

I hope this helps you plan out a fun trip!  Do you have any more helpful information?

Save Money On Your Online Shopping

If you don't use Google Chrome as your browser . . . . do it.  Not only will these tips not apply to you, but it is such an awesome browser!  It's completely customizable.  I love that I have two windows that automatically open, one with my personal Google profile and one with my work profile so I don't have to switch between the two.  There are so many other benefits to Chrome as well, one of them being all the cool extensions you can add to do various things, namely being saving you money.

I LOVE online shopping.  It's so great to purchase everyday items you forgot to buy at the store, presents that can be wrapped and delivered to far away family and friends, deals or unusual items you can't find in stores, or just saving you time.  And here are two awesome extensions you can get for Google Chrome that will help you save money on all this shopping!

Honey's primary purpose it to search the internet for all the coupon codes available and finds you the best savings deal!  A popup will appear at checkout and after clicking "Try Codes!" it will try all the available codes and then applies the one that will save you the most money.  I love it and it's saved me a lot already!

But that's not all.  Honey also detects savings opportunities on Amazon and shows you the best deal price of all the sellers.

And on top of it all, it offers cash back at select sites.  Another popup will appear at checkout with a bonus offer. Each bonus is a randomized amount, anywhere from 1-100% of the commission.  All you have to do is click "Activate Cash Bonus!" before you finish your purchase.

Click here to join. 

Wikibuy checks other retailers for the exact product you’re shopping for on Amazon and notifies you in less than ten seconds if it finds a better price. Rather than forcing you to check out on the other retailer’s site, customers can checkout on Wikibuy with a 100% money back guarantee and awesome customer support. It also automatically finds and applies coupons on hundreds of sites like Target, Expedia, and Macy’s.

I haven't tried it out yet, but it sounds awesome!

Click here to join.

I hope this helps you save money.  Now shop away!  Do you have any other tips or extensions to get to help save money in online shopping?