Wow, Yeah, Unfortunately I Need to Go Car Shopping — What Now?

My condolences. Seriously, car shopping sucks. Here are a few lessons we picked up to make it less sucky, mostly focused on buying from a dealership (for Craigslist shopping, LifeHacker has you covered).

[This is a continuation of our previous article, Why Did We Just Spend $1150 Repairing Our $500 Car?, which you should totally check out if you haven’t already read it.]

Get a Burner Phone & Spammy Email

We love to shop around for the best rates, and dealers love to spam with calls and emails. I initially inquired about new car prices just for the hell of it on TrueCar (meaning I had to give an email and phone number), and I instantly got six different emails from four different dealerships. Months later, and some of them still haunt my voicemail. Take a note from drug dealers and get yourself a burner phone.

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Fluffster sitting next to car

Why Did We Just Spend $1150 Repairing Our $500 Car?

[Make sure to check out Part 2: “Wow, Yeah, Unfortunately We Need to Go Car Shopping — What Now?“]

So we just spent $1150 on car repairs… oh, and the trade-in value for our car is roughly $500 (from a dealer; we could surely get quite a lot more selling it ourselves, but probably still less than $1150). When does spending more money on repairs than the value of the car make sense financially? Let’s explore [cue evil laugh].

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White car with dark spots on it from a bad paint job

Six Steps to Saving Money by DIYing Everything Like a Bad-ass Engineer

In my freshman engineering seminar, there was one phrase forever drilled into my head: “Engineers Solve Problems (ESP™).”

ESP was the one thing that brought all the disciplines together – from six sigma-ing industrial engineers to code monkey computer engineers (engineers can be super cliquey).

So how can you be like an engineer? You guessed it – by solving problems. Why would you want to? Oh, man, because engineering is cool? No? Okay, how about saving money, time, and sanity? Yeah, I thought so.

Step 1: Destroy Mental Barriers

“But everyone solves problems,” I hear you groan, “What makes engineers special?”

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Chromebook

To Chromebook or Not to Chromebook

I just got a new computer. And I love it.

I primarily wanted something for writing (this blog + other random projects), and for general checking email, browsing the web and the like. I needed something lightweight and portable, something I could pick up on a whim for hours of creation. I went with a Chromebook and am very happy with my decision.

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Free Events in and Around Boston

The weekend before last we went to the Boston Local Food Festival on the Greenway in Boston. While we used the opportunity as our one fancy “nom out” for the month (see this post for details on our monthly adventures), there were loads of free samples, a cooking competition, and demonstrations all for free. We even got free parking using Spot Hero**).

There are so many great, free activities in any city, and this post is a guide to what’s available in our own neck of the woods. However, most of the tips are valid across the country. This doesn’t cover the most touristy things you can do for free in Boston (freedom trail, etc), but Boston on Budget has a great article covering that base for your reference.

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Saving Money on Money (International Transfers)

This is not a sponsored post, but there are affiliate links to TransferWise, a company we enthusiastically support and reached out to.

I love technology. So much information at our fingertips, such almighty power compared to twenty years ago. So why is so much banking technology awful? At work I could spin up a network of VMs in minutes, so why does it take multiple days to make a transfer of funds from one bank in Massachusetts to another bank in Massachusetts? Why? Why does it need to be that way?

The worst culprit by far has been international transfers and exchanges. We have family outside of the US, and occasionally we like to send money overseas. Our first experience with transferring money was just painful. We searched around, trying to find the best combination of rate and fee for our use case.

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Be Lazy, Eat In: Frugal Kitchen Breakfast Edition

I am spoiled. Fergus is in charge of cooking, and for good reason: his food is delicious (plus he enjoys cooking). Some mornings I literally wake up to the offer of breakfast in bed.

Yet as I write this Fergus, is away on a business trip. And I can’t cook. And I hate cleaning the kitchen. What’s a frugally minded, culinarily-impaired engineer to do? Since we only go to restaurants rarely (and they have to be special, not just a convenience purchase), eating out is not an option. That would be weak.

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$4/mo Smart Phone Plan

While there are quite a few things we’re willing to spend extra money on, cell phone service plans are most certainly not on that list.

We spend a whopping $4/mo per phone, which includes hours of talking, dozens of texts daily, and mobile data. Here’s how.

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Lazy Grocery Shopping at $300/mo

We do not take extensive inventory of the fridge or the cupboards before heading out, and we certainly do not go in with shopping lists. We practice lazy, but frugal, grocery shopping. On a typical month, we spend right around $300/mo on groceries, and when we used to really cut back, we spent slightly over $200/mo on groceries for the two of us. For context, the USDA “Thrifty” food plan for a two adult family is $386.40 as of April 2016.

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Never Buy Rags (Mini Frugal Tip)

You know that T-shirt from college that is literally falling apart at the seams? The one with the stain of unknown origin? Perfectly good rag material.

Fluffster with rag

Ragdoll dog, alternatively, “Why, Mom, why?!”

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