How to break an auto tech’s heart

When your car conks out, whom do you blame? Yourself? Of course not! You

Hand it over!

Hand it over!

blame whoever made it or whoever takes care of it under the hood.

Let me tell you, whoever takes care of it says choice things about you, too. I once was assigned to find out which problems auto techs felt were most inflicted on them by owners. You may be surprised that it wasn’t customers who demand an over-the-phone diagnosis; owners whose cars are so dirty, they could plant grass on the hood; or customers who curse them when a tired, old car needs a major fix.

To be sure, from the customer’s perspective, maintenance and repairs aren’t cheap. So neglect and avoidance kick in. Little problems become big, the costs go up — sometimes way up, until the customer nearly believes the mechanic moonlights in the garage of the devil himself.

Most auto techs have hearts, however, and here are a few of the ways customers break them. Here, too, are ways to keep your wallet intact while loving the person who looks after your wheels’ welfare.

Never change or check the motor oil.

What it is: Motor oil lubricates the engine and removes contaminants, such as teeny-weeny bits of metal that can cause big damage over time. Engines do bad things when they have low or no oil.

What to do: Change the oil yourself or have it changed at the mileage suggested in the car’s owners manual – usually 3,500 miles. Check the oil level every week by pulling out the dipstick, wiping it with a clean rag, More

Do today’s college students get socked financially?

In my side job as a part-time lecturer at a state university, you can bet I hear plentyED000083 of complaints from students about how much it costs to go to college nowadays compared with the past. Parents join the whine, and sometimes professors do, too.

Just for kicks, I used the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index inflation calculator to see how many hankies to spend on this gripe. Using this online tool, I updated to today’s dollars what I spent on a few things in 1974.

In that year, I was self-supported. I split an apartment with a high school friend, transferred from a community college where I paid more as an out-of-district resident to a community college where I paid less, and bought a used Volkswagen Beetle. To pay for it all, I worked full time as an assistant manager at a restaurant.

Here are the 1974 prices:

  • Half the rent: $200/month
  • Groceries: $12/week (for one)
  • Gasoline: 69 cents/gallon
  • Tuition per unit: $10 (in-district community college)
  • Tuition per unit: $22 (out-of-district community college)
  • Used VW Beetle: $1,600
  • Minimum wage: $1.65/hour
  • My manager salary: $135/week

Here are the 2014 equivalents as determined by More

But I’m too young for senior discounts!

The first time a cashier gave me a senior discount, I gave it back. I’m not eligible.j0178844 The second time – different cashier, same week – it felt like a nearer-death experience. I tried to give it back, but the cashier refused. I went home with my chicken salad and pondered how much future there might be left.

So much for the anti-wrinkle serum, the freshened-up red hair and the fashionably hot neon-coral sweatshirt. They made me feel good, but would they give me the aura of youth only among people who’ve actually earned the senior discount?

I scurried for the mirror. Was I too fat? Too thin? Did I smile too little? Too much? Did I overdo the whitening toothpaste so that my teeth looked fake? Did I inadvertently drop a cultural reference to following OJ’s slow-speed chase on TV as it unfolded? Was it because of the empty space in my handbag where a smartphone ought to be?

The first time it happens, it’s shocking – like getting your first AARP solicitation at age 45 when it’s not a birthday joke. Then the mailbox starts sprouting More

Reset your spending with a poverty week

Remember when you had no money – I mean long ago, before you ever had muchPennies money? If you were like me, you avoided frills and squeezed maximum value out of every dollar.

When your spending goes off-kilter, revisit that time. Give yourself the gift of a poverty week to slow down and reset your priorities – though not necessarily your financial priorities.

I’ve used poverty weeks to improve my diet; when I was young and just starting out on my own, I chose fruit and vegetables instead of Ben & Jerry’s. A poverty week also served as a retreat for focusing on creativity and redirection. Once I set aside a poverty week just to home in on cleaning out the garage and fixing up the house.

On the financial side, poverty weeks have helped me to break shopping binges; you can’t order online if you pretend your credit cards don’t exist, and by the end of the week, you’ve moved on to other fun—like being creative or cleaning More

What day is it?

March 2023