We’ve had quite the week already this week! Yesterday, we discovered that our trusty Thrifty Helena was sick after the “service engine soon” light came on and getting the free report from AutoZone. She’s a Pontiac Montana Family Minivan with 178,000 miles. Yesterday was supposed to be a quick errand day out. But instead, we did our errands and then took her to be diagnosed further after AutoZone saying it is one of many possible issues. While she was being assessed, the kids and I hung out at the nearby Lowe’s for several hours to wait. This was much better than waiting in the tiny waiting room with 4 chairs, when there was 6 of us. And we weren’t the only customers. You can imagine the picture now, it wouldn’t have been a pretty one in that waiting room.
But it actually turned out quite well at Lowe’s! I have never gotten to know a Lowe’s quite so well, but if I ever need another job (hopefully not) I think I can impress them with my ability and skills by knowing where everything is located. When a child said they had to go to the bathroom, I was actually excited to take them there to break up the monotony and kill a few more minutes. I even let them double dry under the dryer as it makes the little ones laugh. Usually I am in too big of a hurry to stand there and let them dry twice 🙂 But besides me becoming very familiar with the store, the kids were unusually having a good time in the store.
We first looked at every piece of Christmas decor they had and laughed, watched and planned that if we had no tiny Christmas Decor budget, most of which is reserved for the 75 -90% off AFTER Christmas clearance, what we would buy. Well, we would end up with a 16 ft. Santa and Frosty in our front yard, a white-lit up Eiffel Tower, and several old town street lights to make a path to our door. I like that latter two ideas for outside 🙂 And inside, let’s not forget that the kids thought a 12 ft. $600 pre-lit Christmas tree would be just the ticket. It sounds nice, but it is a good thing that money is an object.
After we killed a lot of time in the small Christmas section, I was like “what are we going to do now?!” But again, the kids surprised me with how much fun they had. As we slowly walked down every aisle, they decided to “build their own home.” It was really cute, they would decide on the siding, doors, windows, window coverings, paint color, carpet, appliances, lighting, fixtures, and even a giant safe (maybe they need to secure something that we are not aware exists ;)).
In the end, besides memorizing every sq. ft. of the store, I loved and enjoyed watching them be so creative. They have not been that un-bored in a store in who knows how long. I am usually passing out coupons, asking them to count items as they go in the cart, watch for markdowns, and doing all I can to keep them attentive and helpful.
But this…. it was a very casual and pleasant stroll through the store.
Now even though I was enjoying myself, and the kids were enjoying themselves, I can’t lie and say that I was not super excited to get the call from the van doctor.
The damage from Lowe’s after several hours in the store… well, a few Ball Canning clearance items, and a few small solar powered lamps that were normally $20 on clearance for $3. When we walked back to the car place, the guy there said “how did you spend that much time in Lowe’s and not go broke?” But I reminded him that it really isn’t my type of store, so it was probably the safest.
Well, the damage for Thrifty Helena…. that’s a different story……
$700 repair – yes, $700. But they did have to do quite a bit of work. And the value was there in these repairs from reasearch. In the end, after these fixes, they said that everything else actually looks quite good on her and she should go for a while longer.
$500 of the repairs were because there was a small less than $100 problem, that going unnoticed and continuing to drive on it, became a $500 problem over time. The remaining $200 was for a semi-small problem that can be fixed now for $200, or we can wait as it doesn’t HAVE to be done now, but we could be looking at a $600 repair if the problem continued for much longer. We had the money in savings for these types of things, so we went for the full fix.
Even though she cost us $700 from our savings, we are hopeful that we have a lot more time to drive her. Honestly, she is 10 years old, and has 178,000 miles. In the time that we have owned her, we have not had any major repairs. We have had a couple of small fixes over the last 10 years, but it has been at least 5-years since she has been in any shop at all.
That amazes us! What a blessing she has been to be trusty, reliable, take abuse from 5 little kids, her bumps, rusts, scratches and dents and to keep on running strong.
Both of us growing up remember our parents seemingly to always have car repairs. It was constant and several hundred each time. Our parents drove used vehicles like us and most often drove them into the ground, like we hope to do. I just assumed that with a used car, that repairs are inevitable. You fill your bank account up with savings and the latest car repair sucks it dry before you can get ahead.
Well, here’s Alex’s theory, I haven’t always agreed with him, but I am be proven wrong continually. You see, we only buy Chevron gas as of about 5 years ago. Yes, it is more per gallon than any other station near us, and it probably looks quite odd that a van plastered with “The Thrifty Couple” is at the highest priced gas station.
We fill-up our van about once every 2-3 weeks. We fill-it up with Chevron gas. Chevron has the techron that cleans the engines and the parts and has high quality gasoline and clear out the fuel injectors to make it run better. With the every 2-3 week fill-up, in the end our cost is around $1 – $1.40 more for that tank of gas than going to a neighboring gas station with lower quality gas. This $3 extra investment per month is more than worth-it as it maintains your vehicle a lot longer.
In addition to using high quality gas, we have always stayed on top of our oil changes. It only happens about every three months and in the last couple of years, we do the high mileage oil, which is $20 more, but is specifically higher quality and made to help that older vehicle to perform at it’s best. Then every once in a while, when the vehicle needs it, we will do those extra $30 – $60 or so extra services like engine flushes, transmission flushes (we have only done this service once in the life of the van), etc. Which means that about once a year we have an extra service of some sort.
These are the two things we have changed and done in the past few years. I honestly was not happy when Alex decided that we are going to use the most expensive gas and the more expensive oil in our vehicle. That few extra dollars per month could get us out of debt a little faster (when we were in debt), I would argue. But he said that he is putting his foot down on this. I said “okay, I guess that’s what we will do!”
Well, part of the reason why he felt this way was because the last time we had a repair about 5 years ago, the mechanic told him that the problem was primarily because of gunk build up from bad fuel and not great maintenance and that just better care should take care of those problems.
So that is when Alex decided to make that extra investment to see if it would pay off. Sure enough, 5-years and 100,000 miles later, we are back in the shop. And, if we had been getting regular tune-ups, we would have caught this one issue that would have only been $200, instead of the $500 it is now. Which is why we are asking for the $200 leak to be fixed now instead of the major problem that will be $500-$600 in 6 months too.
One day, when we have to buy a new vehicle, it will be a sad day. But the car doctor said that everything else actually looks quite good and he sees a good future on her. We hope he is right and we will try to be even better about taking care of her as we want her to go as far as she can.
So the question or challenge to you is are you regularly maintaining your vehicle and using high quality products, especially on an older vehicle? It might be something you want to consider changing your budget on to make room for this small investment. Let our experience and testimony be an example, knowing that every vehicle is different and never a guarantee, but possibly worth the try in our opinion.
But that is only part of the drama from yesterday…….. The title of this post is “We Are One Electronic Man Down and One Trusty Mobile Gal Down”
I’ve told you the long story of Thrifty Helena, but our laptop got sick too! When it rains, it pours! The Morton Salt Girl in the picture above is a good example of that 😉
Honestly, I am not super happy about this one. Most all of our businesses and work run with the need for laptops. We saved and bought with cash a nice laptop that has low chances of problems and issues based on the quality of products and company reputation. Well, one thing we did do was buy the extended warranty. This is a separate article for another day – the topic of whether or not you should buy the extended warranties (as most cases we would advise that it is unnecessary), but in this case, we knew this would be one exception.
And indeed, it is. I have been having problems with this laptop for a while. I took it in once and they couldn’t find a problem. I came home and the problems were immediate again. We have called the customer service to do the “walk through checks” and still nothing. But I knew something was wrong and I, not knowing anything about computers, couldn’t figure out why these experts kept blowing my complaints off as if to think that nothing major ever happens to these machines. I took it in again and said “look, there is a major problem with this thing, could you please find it!” After initial testing, they said “oh sure, it looks like it is this minor problem…, we will have it fixed today.” Then we get a call back, and they informed us of a few major problems that were discovered in the process of fixing the minor problem. This laptop is not that old, especially with the normal life-expectancy of these specific laptops is upwards of 10-15 years or more – that is why we saved, planned and bought this one with cash.
So when we got the call back, they said it would be at least a week before I would have a computer back. The normal warranty that comes with them is 1-year. We bought the extended that takes us to 3-years. Good thing we did as it is under warranty and every penny of it is covered and it sounds like it is going to be a costly repair. This was one purchase where we did not have to think twice about buying the extended warranty.
BUT…. this is bad news for you….. I now have to blog on our dinosaur PC that is nearly 10-years old and is slower than snot. It is the kid’s school computer and it works perfectly for their needs to practice typing and to do some of their work. That is pretty much all it is used for. It has no fast button anywhere and it takes three times longer to do anything – in fact, it takes around 10-minutes for it to just turn on! If you have any contact with it for more than 10 minutes, you either want to punch it, or pull your hair out.
So, you probably will not be hearing a whole lot from us until we have a laptop back. Our schedule is super tight, so we still have to use the same amount of time allotted for here on our site, The Thrifty Couple, but since performance is about three times slower, it will not be that much until we get that laptop back.
And…. I did ask if the warranty covers a “loaner” laptop, but it doesn’t 🙁
We finally were starting to head home around 6pmish and our 7-year old said, “what are we having for dinner?” I thought I would just throw some pasta on as it is quick and my day didn’t go as planned. She then said, “oh, can’t we go out to eat??” I remembered that Chili’s had kids eat free this week and it meant that Alex and I can order the 2 for $20 and get two full-size entrees, an appetizer to share and 4 free kids meals all for $20 total (plus tip on the before discount total)! So we went out 😉 Now you see why Chili’s is one of our favorites when they do the kids eat free. We even came home with two leftovers containers.
So for those reasons above, that is why we had a complete absence yesterday and why we are slowly moving forward over here this week 🙂 I can’t totally complain though as I got a day off to be forced to do nothing (I wasn’t even home to do nothing as nothing would mean catching up on projects IF I really had free time at home) and then I didn’t even have to cook dinner!
How was your Monday/Tuesday?