Archive for the tag 'do it yourself'

Thursday when I got to my truck after work, I discovered the front passenger tire was flat. I had a party that night and didn’t want to get dirty, so I called GEICO’s roadside assistance. Unlike in the past, they took a long time to get to me, so I started removing the front tire myself, and that’s when it happened:

the lug stud snapped off.

When the assistance finally came, I had them replace the tire and secure it by four bolts since that’s all I could do. I spent the holiday trying to figure out the best way to replace the stud.

I’m still figuring it out.

The parts came out to well under $20. However, it appears this is going to be one of the more difficult repairs to do and I’m still considering if doing it myself is wise.

Unfortunately, the tire couldn’t be repaired and was in fact replaced, making money more of an issue. But so is safety, and I’d rather have this fixed than make it worse. It’s a tough call, because I pride myself in doing things myself, but I may not be able to this time.


Do it Yourself WiFi Antenna

A couple I know locally who met via Twitter are getting married (this just a few months after meeting). It’ll be my first Twitter wedding, and it’ll be at a local beach park on a weekday evening.

Since this is going to be attended by a bunch of Geeks, it’s only deserving that a Geeky way to serve up WiFi to the guests is on my agenda. Between my modified with dd-wrt freebie Linksys routers and variations on the well-known Pringles can antenna, I’m going to see what kind of Internet access we can get at this public park.

And have some fun in the process.

Yes, this will seem more like a project for Instructables than Uncommon Cents, but I think, when it’s over, it’ll show some practical applications of how you can do something yourself with largely thrown away and/or low cost gear as a fun project as well as a useful one. Let the fun begin! We’ll cover this in a few installments over the next few weeks.


Old Doesn’t Mean Broken

My current bicycle, the Bianchi I bought off of Craigslist after my Cannondale was stolen, is by no means state of the art. It’s had lots of miles put on it, at least a couple thousand by me and an unknown amount by its previous owner who said he got it new. It was made in 2002, by the terms of the bicycle industry that, while steeped in tradition, also moves along at the pace of technology, it’s ancient and due for replacement.

But why?

It still rides nicely. I’ve gotten used to it over the time I’ve had it and made a hundred small adjustments, fixed a few parts and replaced others to get it to be very close to an ideal partner for me. I rode it 100 miles in September and I’m hoping to do a couple of other 100 mile rides on it.

That said, would it be nice to get a new bike? Sure it would; I would love to have something newer. But just because this bike is a few years old doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work anymore–and even if it was broken, it would be more cost effective to replace some parts than the whole bike (admittedly, this doesn’t work for every case).

But for me, old doesn’t mean broken–it just means that it’s something I’ve grown accustomed to and have a lot of trust in. Me and this old bike are planning to ride Livestrong Philadelphia–and I challenge the rest of you to join me.

As I struggle through the month of October (two weddings, three birthdays, and a funeral plus working a weekend have taken a real toll on my schedule), my buddy Kyle from Rather-Be-Shopping comes to the rescue again with a guest post! Thanks, Kyle!

A few weeks ago, my 3-year old daughter decided to see how much toilet paper she could stuff down our toilet. I plunged and snaked the commode for what seemed like hours, all to no avail. But I was not about to call a plumber! Instead, I researched the problem and was able to pull the toilet, remove the HUGE softball sized blockage, and put the toilet back with a new wax ring all by myself. Toilet is now good as new!

A plumber would have charged $65 just for the service call, then factor in labor costs, and I probably saved close to $100 fixing the problem myself. I am a big proponent of learning, and doing, small home repairs and maintenance yourself in order to save money. Here are a few tips for those do-it-yourselfers out there.

~ Seek Free Advice. – While many employees at your ‘big box’ home improvement stores know very little more than how to tie an orange apron around their waist, there is always at least one expert in each department. Find out who they are and get to know them by name! They will be a great ally! Invite them to dinner, buy them a hot dog, whatever it takes. They have always given my great free advice.

~ Find a Great Resource Book. – I have one book for the do-it-yourselfer that I carry around like a bible. It is the Readers Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself manual and it is fantastic. It has big ol’ pictures and great diagrams for those out there like me, who would prefer to look at a picture than actually have to read! Worth a look, and not very expensive.

~ Be a Good Neighbor. - In every apartment or home that I have lived in over the years, I have always had at least one very handy neighbor. I immediately befriend him and give him a cold beer! I have learned more from handy neighbors than from any book. I typically reciprocate his/her help by offering my brawn for any projects he or she may be working on at their house. Works out great, their brain for my brawn.

Now, in keeping with tradition, on to some useful online coupons that may help you save some money. Thanks again Ryan for letting me do another guest post on your terrific blog!

American Eagle
Save 20% off your online order when it includes at least 3 items
Coupon Code: 89456234
Expiration: 11/02/09
See All: American Eagle Coupons

Save 20% off your $100+ online purchase
Coupon Code: 6674
Expiration: 12/01/09
See All: Chico’s Coupons

Save 20% Off your entire online purchase
Coupon Code: HOLRESTW9
Expiration: 11/09/09
See All: Eddie Bauer Coupons

Save 20% off your entire online purchase (rare coupon)
Coupon Code: None Needed
Expiration: 11/15/09
See All: Hanna Andersson Coupons

Melissa and
Free Shipping on your $75+ online purchase
Coupon Code: freeship75
Expiration: 12/31/09
See All: Melissa & Doug Coupons

Free Shipping on your entire online purchase
Coupon Code: GIFT
Expiration: 12/22/09
See All: Nike Coupons

Free Shipping on your entire online purchase
Coupon Code: OCT29 w/ PIN 00002630
Expiration: 11/02/09
See All: Lands End Coupons

Get $15 off your $50+ online order
Expiration: 12/25/09
See All: Sensational Beginnings Coupons


Can Hobbies Make Money?

In some cases, your hobbies can make you money. For instance, although I make money blogging, I certainly consider blogging to be a hobby, and I make a small but not unreasonable part time income doing it.

Are there other hobbies which can make people money? Sure. There are tons of them. Here’s some ideas:

1) Crafts: Making and selling crafts, online (eBay or etsy or your own site) or in person (craft shows), has become a money maker for many people. An offshoot of this, as well as just about any hobby, is that teaching can be a more reliable way to bring money in–running classes or writing tutorials can be

2) Photography:
I have a friend who moonlights as a wedding photographer, and another who sells stock photography on Big Stock Photo. Those are a couple of ways to get more income from your photography. You could also give lessons, one on one or maybe organizing a class and teaching.

3) Music:
If you’re a musician, you can try your hand at performing, recording, or teaching. All of these have potential although some may be more fun than others.

Those are some possibilities in making money with hobbies. There are lots more; be creative. Consider how you can make more cash by doing something you like in your spare time!


Trading Time for Money

When we pay for services, we are often if not always exchanging time for money (although in some cases we are exchanging expertise for money). For instance, if I pay someone to wash my truck, I’m exchanging my money for the time I save by not doing it myself–time I can use in another way.

The question then becomes when is it worthwhile to trade time for money?

It’s a tough question.
For someone like me who practices frugality and loves doing things himself, it’s very difficult to find those times. Things like washing the car, changing oil, mowing the lawn, eating out, and working on this blog are all examples of situations in which I could pay others to do the work, but for reasons of frugality, personal development, or enjoyment, I chose to do them myself.

I’m more likely to pay for certain kinds of expertise than I am for time savings. For instance, while I will do lots of my own vehicle maintenance (changing oil and filter, washing, waxing, changing coolant, changing brake pads), I do pay for wheel alignment. While it’s not inconceivable that I could learn how to do this myself (and get the specialized equipment), it’s a task I’m not familiar with, so I’ll give in with my dollars (but even here, I have a lifetime agreement for it with Firestone).

However, if you have things in your life that really require time (say young children), exchanging money for time then may make huge amounts of sense.

When will you trade time for money?

My mention of Instructables the other day seemed to get lots of attention. While my focus on Instructables is on creative projects (in particular some electronic projects), they also have other do it yourself and fix it yourself type projects, and there are Web sites that are similar such as which can teach you how to change your oil or repair a toilet or any of dozens of other things, and of course, the Internet is the repair manual for everything.

Are people trying to learn how to do things on their own more because of trying to spend less money? It certainly could be. I’m hoping that people learn how to do more things themselves not just so that they can spend less but they can be more self reliant and learn to do more things themselves. Spending less is just part of the bargain.

Interestingly, one of the side (and also frugal!) benefits of doing things yourself is that it occupies you so you’re less apt to do a money spending activity (like shopping, online or in person). Keeping busy, whether with repairing old items or creating new ones is a great and productive way to avoid spending.

I like to keep busy; part of that is coping with life (when you keep busy, you don’t get into trouble), part of that is wanting to achieve numerous goals, and part of that is to learn. When the weather is not friendly to my exercise efforts and I’ve hit the wall writing code and blogging, I like to teach myself something new and do something creative. My creative efforts are not sewing or painting but more like building a playhouse or building a USB charger for an iPod. For those kinds of times I turn to Instructables.

Instructables is a Web site that is a wealth of information on building all kinds of little projects. From gardening to electronics, from how to build your own carbon fiber bicycle frame (seriously!) to easy recipes, Instructables is kind of like open source for do it yourself projects. While I haven’t built one of their projects exactly as is, I’m currently in the middle of an inspired-by-Instructables (and using some of the electronics information on the site) battery pack for my portable router.

If you want to learn more about how to do things yourself or have a project in mind or just want something fun and interesting to do, check out Instructables.

I occasionally take a look through thrift stores, such as Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Savers, usually for electronic or computer gear. This weekend I happened to find a version 2 Linksys WRT54G wireless router.

For the computer Geek, this is the hackable router of choice
(even though it’s not as fast as newer models). The frequently seen blue box router (at least in its early incarnations and one of its modern variants, the WRT54GL) runs open source code in its firmware. This router is so hackable that there’s even a book dedicated to doing just that. Eventually this led to the development of third party firmware like DD-WRT and Tomato which offers tons of additional features such as boosting antenna power, Quality of Service control, bridging, wireless distribution (to extend the range of your wireless network) and others. So I was pleased to find a Linksys WRT54G at Savers.

The first issue I faced was confirming that this version of the router was compatible with the third party firmware I wanted to use, followed by the second issue–there was no power adapter with the router. A bit of searching on Google found the specs I needed, and I actually found a wall wart for it at Savers which they were willing to include for the $14.99 price. A quick stop at their electronic test table showed that the LEDs lit up, and turning on my iPod touch indicated there was a wireless signal, although the router was secured.

A little more research once I got home told me how to reset the router to factory specifications (meaning it was no longer locked down), and a download and a few minutes later, I had the router running Tomato. So a bit of hunting in the thrift store, some Internet research, $15, and a little do it yourself determination and I’ve got a great router that I use either as a backup to my main router, a wireless access point, a wireless to wired bridge, a wireless extender, a firewall, or to lend out to a friend who has trouble with their stuff.

What a deal that is!

One of the stumbling blocks to getting the mortgage refinanced is the steps outside. My father was working on the house very slowly at the time he died unexpectedly, so the stairs were never completed.

While I’ve done a bit of carpentry, masonry, drywall, and electrical work, I’ve never done masonry and just the hard physical labor of chipping away at these solid stone stairs before. I have the tools, left from my dad, to do it, but it’s the first time I’ve done something like this. Of course, I consulted the repair manual for everything while I was getting ready and took precautions such as eye protection before working.

I’m still (with help from my family) working on this project, but progress is being made, and I’m learning more and more about how to do this kind of work as I go along–and that, in and of itself, is worthwhile. Not only can doing things yourself save money, it can teach you something new along the way.

Next »