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Learning and Saving

This article was written by in Family and Life. 11 comments.


There are a lot of things in the world I know nothing about. Not knowing about something can be very expensive. Allow me to illustrate…

The brake light came on in our car a couple of weeks ago, and we started looking around at different places we could have them checked. We were a bit confused, because just a month earlier, when the car had been in for a yearly inspection, the tech told us that the brakes “passed with flying colors”. The funny thing is, two months earlier a different tech at the same shop had told us to change them soon, since we only had about 10% left on the pad.

Needless to say, I was perplexed. It just so happens that the brakes on our car are one of the things I knew nothing about.

After calling around and comparing prices, we found out that we were looking at about $150 more than we were expecting. I was hesitantly thinking about taking it to one shop when I decided to call my father-in-law. He’s very handy and knows quite a bit about cars. He offered to take a look at the car when we were up at his house over the weekend.

He pulled off the tires, and was able not only to teach me how to tell if the brakes were wearing out, but how to change and care for them. I also learned about rotating tires and how to tell if the shop really rotated them like they told us they did (and they didn’t!)

This simple trip saved us about $200 this weekend, and will save us much more in the future. I feel comfortable changing the brakes on the car, and I also know quite a bit more about how it works and how to maintain it.

There are some of you who are reading this right now who could probably change the brakes on your car in your sleep. But what happens when your computer needs to be repaired, or your daughter needs braces, or you need to find a yoga class on Monday nights?

Far too often we trust what we’re told by companies and what we see in advertisements and think it’s our only option. Just like I learned to be proactive about my finances, I learned that I can do more than just blindly take the car to the shop down the road and get ripped off. It’s a simple and obvious lesson, but one that I think more people could learn from.

We each have a built-in network of advisors – family, friends, co-workers – who are experts in areas we are not. Their insights and advice can not only help us learn, but save money as well. Learning to turn to these people is something that isn’t always natural, but can be very beneficial. These people are often more than willing to share their advice and knowledge, and will do so because they want to help you.

What are some of the ways you use the people around you to learn and save money?

Published or updated October 8, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Jeff is an aspiring advertising professional with goals to start his own business. He is a reformed saver who blogs regularly at Stretchy Dollar in addition to his weekly column at Consumerism Commentary. View all articles by .

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Mike Piper

I just wrote about the idea of trusting professionals today. (Specifically, how it’s essential to know how somebody is being compensated before you can determine whether or not to trust them.)

You’re absolutely right that it’s helpful to have some of your own background knowledge. Example: Most people wouldn’t have any idea that paying a 5% sales load on a mutual fund is a poor idea. After all, the broker is showing me that the fund has performed wonderfully, so why not buy it?

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avatar Lulu

I have a friend who loves to do all things related to hair so I get her to do my hair cuts instead of going to a salon. I have learned to trim my hair and can do some of the basic things I need but when I need a major change I go to my friend…..big savings!!!!!

I also have a good friend who is a computer programmer so I get him to diagnose and fix my computer and website problems..give him a big Mac and he is happy. Score!!!!!

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avatar Anthony

I have family in multiple realms of different professions. So, fortunately, a quick phone call can tell me if I am getting ripped off or not. Especially, with car repair/maintenance shops.

On the other side of the fence, I am the family computer, TV, stereo, general electronics nerd. Many times, I have saved my family hundreds of dollars by simply opening a computer and blowing dirt out!!! Something so simple to me that they don’t understand or won’t touch. But give your computer to Best Buy and you’ve just lost $100+ and who knows if they did it right!!!

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avatar Eric

Jeff good post and a total aside, but how do you really know about rotation and taking care of your brakes? I’m in the same situation and I want to learn but don’t have anyone to ask! Mind sharing? Email me! :)

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avatar MLR

For jobs like brakes and tune ups, most people should use a backyard mechanic. There are plenty of ASE certified people who do work on the side. Simple jobs like that are gravy.

Front Brakes:
Mr. Tire – $160
Backyard – $70

Hm, I wonder? :)

Good subject to point out. I’m going to get my brakes done tomorrow, lol. Maybe I should learn? But meh.. what if I screw the caliper up?

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