Posted by 5 February, 2009 (6) Comment


We were fortunate enough to have Jeffrey tell us about his website,

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

A: I grew up in Cleveland, OH and attended The Ohio State University. I
stayed in Columbus after graduating with a Business Degree and I’m
happily married to my wife Debbie and we have 2 boys, Alexander and
Andrew. While in college, the web was just starting to get popular and
I was fortunate enough to work for a local web design firm. Two years
after graduating college I left that design firm to work for myself
and I became a co-owner in a web development consulting firm. During
that time I was approached by a group of very experienced automotive
executives who asked me to become a partner and develop a sophisticated
car repair estimating system aimed at consumers. Having developed
several web applications for the automotive industry I was immediately
excited about the idea and saw a huge opportunity.

Q: How did start and why did you start it?

A: Being in the automotive industry for 20+ years, friends and relatives
of our CEO would consistently ask him if the cost of repairs for their
vehicle was accurate. In 2004, with the growth of the web, he saw an
opportunity to empower consumers with this information.

Q: What are some of the benefits of using your service?

A: We knew, in order to be respected by consumers and the repair
industry, our estimates had to be accurate and exact. We decided
immediately that we needed to license our data from the most highly
respected source in the automotive repair industry, and we knew that
company was MOTOR Information Systems, a subsidiary of Hearst
Publishing. MOTOR’s OEM Parts and Labor database powers 2 of the
largest dealer management systems in the US as well as many of the
independent repair shops estimating software. A vast majority of
repair shops know the MOTOR brand and respect and base their estimates
on their data. We also license a repair shop database with over 50K
records that contains each shop’s labor rate updated within the last year.
Combining both databases we are able to produce exact pricing for a
repair estimate. A estimate will show the OEM Part #,
current market price and the actual labor time for that repair. We
then take an average of the labor rates in that vicinity and generate
the estimate. No other competing company licenses the MOTOR database
nor our proprietary repair shop database.

As a consumer, if no one is willing to complete the repair work on
their vehicle for the estimate that we or any of our competitors
generate, where’s the value? is proud to have repair
shops nationwide who not only agree to honor a customer’s estimate, they have also agreed to rebate back to the
customer the purchase price of our estimate. Repair shops are finding
that our service and their decision to honor our estimates is
generating them business. Just last week, PepBoys, which has 500+ repair
shops nationwide, agreed to honor and rebate back to the customer the
purchase price of a estimate. Given their nationwide
footprint and the number of independent repair shops who’ve made the
same commitment to us, we’re able to provide to a majority of
customers a repair shop within 10 miles who will honor our estimate.

Q: Why should someone use your service versus or

A: is proud of our relationship with MOTOR Information
Systems and because of them, our customers and repair shops know and
respect where our Parts & Labor Repair originated from when generating
their estimate. provides estimates that are exact, we do not use ranges to generate an estimate. Providing an estimate with ranges or guesses leads to customers being overcharged and it’s clear a estimate eliminates this problem. We have a nationwide
database of repair shops who will honor our estimate when presented to
them and many of these repair shops have agreed to rebate back to our
mutual customer the cost of our estimate, essentially making our service free.

Q: There are a ton of different cars, different models, and different years. That seems like a ton of data. Is your website able to give an estimate on all mechanical repairs?

A: The Parts & Labor data that we license does allow us to give an estimate for any mechanical repair however we don’t intend to be everything to everyone. Some repairs are just too complicated to be accurate without an inspection from a certified mechanic, for example the rebuilding of an engine. That being said, we know what the 100 most popular repairs are and it is our initial goal to have 100% of those repairs available for every vehicle from 1984 on. Our system is not there yet, although we are adding new repairs to our system regularly.

Q: What future plans do you have for

A: We are developing a repair shop review/rater system so that our customers can make a more knowledgeable decision as to where they should take their vehicle for repairs. We are also developing a reverse auction system that would allow repair shops to bid on our customers estimates.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?

A: We have been asked in the past if we have any monetary relationship
with the repair shops in our database and the answer is no. We are completely independent. It is free to add a repair shop to our directory whether a repair shop just wants to be listed or they agree to rebate back to the customer their purchase price. does not receive any kickbacks from repair shops if our customer decides to use their services. greatly appreciates the opportunity to inform your readers of our service, I invite them to use our service the next time their vehicle needs a repair.

Photo by: Stevo Arnold

Other Posts:

Carnival of Personal Development – February 2, 2009
Book Review: The How of Happiness
Interview: Financial Independence Through Dividends and Thrift
Interview: The Franchise King
Are the Companies You Do Business With Green?

Categories : Entrepreneur,Frugality Tags : ,

5 Ways to Soften the Financial Impact of the Holidays

Posted by 20 November, 2008 (1) Comment


The holidays are a fun time. This is the time of year that we make our trips to go visit friends and family and catch up on the past year. This is also a time of year that people tend to spend quite a bit on gifts. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can soften the impact to your pocket book.

  1. Draw names – In the situation of large family gatherings, instead of buying gifts for all of your family members, draw names. When you draw names, you are only responsible for buying a present for the person drawn as opposed to buying presents for the entire family. This will limit the number of presents bought by everyone and save everybody a good bit of coin.
  2. Make gifts – This most likely will not appeal to the modern day American, but hear me out. Do you think a gift card that I spent absolutely no time or thought would be more appreciated than a hand written letter? In the letter, you could express how much you appreciate what they’ve done for you. J.D. at Get Rich Slowly also has a great list of gifts you can make yourself.
  3. Escrow – My wife and I really don’t get each other gifts for Christmas. It seems like other family members pretty much take care of that. Having said that, we do spend some money on other family members and Angel Tree kids. To soften the financial blow, we basically escrow the money in an ING account. Since this February, we’ve been putting back $20 per week into our account. I just looked and we have $673.08! Perhaps this is a little more of a little less than what you typically spend. If so, just alter the weekly amount deposited into your ING account. I’m sure there are many other options for banks, but we’ve found ING to be really easy to use.
  4. Take Advantage of Circuit City Store Closings – Circuit City is closing 155 stores nationwide. There can be great deals found at many store closing sales. If you have an electronics need, it may be worth your time to take a look and see if you can score a great deal.
  5. Don’t Give Gifts at All – Why not show your generosity by spending time at a homeless shelter serving meals or visiting a retirement home to spend time with people who may not get many visitors. You could get the whole family in on the activity. While it may be hard for some to believe, you can get much more long term satisfaction out of community service than spending your money on more material things.
    Photo by Kris Decurtis


Additional Posts:

Life is Like an Etch-A-Sketch
Three Essentials for a Banana Free Living
Interview: Live Work

Categories : Frugality,Personal Finance Tags : ,


Posted by 13 November, 2008 (4) Comment


There is a new frugalicious e-book that was recently released by Fox, the writer of Fox totes quite the resume as she is in fact a 2 time Iron-man Triathlon finisher. She could’ve just put that in her “About” section and I would’ve been impressed. The title of the e-book is Frugal, Food & Fitness: How to get fit and fab without spending a fortune. Let’s dig in and see if this is frugalicious or not.

Part One

The first chapter of the e-book talks about “Stop Faking it! Eat Frugalicious Food”. She stresses not eating packaged, processed food found at grocery stores. She states that they not only increase your waist line, but they decrease the size of your wallet.

Fox’s Five Frugalicious Food Rules

  1. Ignore Fancy Labels and Boxes
  2. Avoid fancy healthy claims
  3. Avoid pronunciation problems
  4. Ask the Bugs – If the bugs won’t eat it, neither should you.
  5. Ask Your Grandmother

I agree with all of these rules. Basically, if there are a lot of ingredients and you don’t what they are or have a hard time pronouncing them, it probably is not very healthy.

Fox’s Fantastic Frugalicious Foods

  1. Dried Beans
  2. Quinoa
  3. Natural Peanut Butter
  4. Flax
  5. Quark
  6. Eggs
  7. Fruits
  8. Vegetables
  9. Lean Meats
  10. Steel Cut Oats

Ok. I’m going to plead ignorance on some of these foods. Here is what Wikipedia had to say about quinoa:

Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source.[5] It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered as a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.

Wikipedia is not the end all be all source, but I think it’s certainly a good starting point for reference in some cases. In addition, if NASA is considering it as a possible crop for their ecological life support system for long-duration space flights, you may want to give it a consideration.

Why Soaking Dried Beans Can Change Your Life

This statement, while it may be a little overzealous, could in fact change a lot of your eating habits. My wife and I want to eat healthier, etc and this is one of the foods that many popular bloggers have often referred to such as Trent at The Simple Dollar.

She came up with a great list as to why dried beans rock, and may in fact rock your world.

1. Price

2. Sodium Free

3. Healthier

4. Tastier

5. Less Waste and Environmentally Friendly

6. More Variety and Selection

7. More Cooking Control

8. Bisphenol A (BPA)

9. Less Storage Space

10. Soaking Beans in Easy

I think out of this list, the biggest impact for my wife and I in eating dried beans would have is that we would be eating less sodium. I think my wife and I eat better than most people, but we still eat plenty of packaged foods and while they are organic or natural, they still contain a ton of sodium.

I know I’ve always been told that excess sodium or salt is bad for you, but I did not know why until I took a look at the American Heart Association website. They state that excess sodium or salt could potentially raise blood pressure for some individuals. Salt retains water. Excess water retained in your body can add strain to your heart causing your blood pressure to rise as stated on the “How Can I Lower My Blood Pressure” worksheet provided by the American Heart Association.

How to Soak and Cook Dried Beans

Fox goes into detail as to the various methods for soaking beans. I’m the first to admit that I’m not much of a cook and this all seems very easy even to me.

Printable Grocery List

The printable grocery list is one of the gems of this e-book. Linky. The printable grocery list can help in many ways. Here are a few according to Fox:

  • Save Big Bucks by curbing impulse food shopping
  • Save money by avoiding expensively packaged fake foods
  • Identify healthy, whole, and frugal foods on a single master list
  • Keep track of only the foods you need
  • Save time grocery shopping
  • Get slim, trim, and fit by not buying foods high in calories
  • Never forget another grocery item, ever again

Part 2

Lots of great recipes. I will show the breakfast foods because that’s my favorite meal of the day, but there are a lot of great recipes you should check out in this e-book!

Five Frugalicious Breakfasts

  1. Steel Cut Oatmeal with Apple
  2. Fresh Fruit
  3. Omelette with Beans
  4. Quinoa with Fruit
  5. Peanut Butter on Toast

These breakfast items all sound delicious to me, or should I say frugalicious.

Part 3

Getting fit shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg. The act of burning calories is free to all of those who wish to get moving. To help get your motor running, muscles flexing, and calories burning, consider some of these affordable fitness activities.

Here is her list of activities that you can do without breaking the bank:

  1. Walking – Do you live close to your neighborhood grocery store. Why not try walking down there instead of taking your car. If that doesn’t work for you, try walking during your lunch break at work or walking your dog.
  2. Gardening – This is a great way to exercise and you can cut down on spending as well if you have a lawn mowing service. We hired a lawn service in the past, but now I do the mowing. This gets me outside moving around and we save $40 per month.
  3. Volunteering – This is one I did not think about before, but it makes sense. Fox suggests volunteering at a athletic event. I’ve been to a few triathlons lately as a spectator and it’s really inspiring to watch people accomplish so much.
  4. Biking – This is probably one of my favorite activities. This is definitely a low cost activity especially if you already have a bike in the garage. Why not go out for a spin on a Saturday morning?
  5. Swimming – You don’t need to have a fitness membership. Fox suggests that you go for a dip in a local community pool or lake.
  6. Take a Hike – This is probably my favorite form of exercising. It’s nice to be around nature and exercise all at the same time plus it’ll give you time to bond with any friends of family that may join.
  7. Rollerblading – Rollerblading is a ton of fun, but it is definitely something you want to ease into to avoid injury.
  8. Running – Running is a great form of exercise, but as Fox points out, “nothing sours running more than an ouchy sports injury”.
  9. Join a Team – Fox suggests that joining a team can help you in your quest for fitness. She suggests trying baseball, soccer, football, hockey, utlimate frisbee, beach volleyball, road racing, or softball.
  10. Play with Your Kids – Kids are always full of energy. Why not use that as an opportunity to get yourself and your kids some exercise while also bonding all at the same time.

Is this e-book frugalicious? I certainly think it is indeed frugalicious. Fox gives a lot of great tips for saving money while eating healthy, great recipes, and great tips on being fit. She is after all a two-time Iron Man Triathlon finisher so she knows what she’s talking about!

Go grab the e-book today!

Photo by TotalAldo


Other posts you may enjoy!

Three Essentials for a Banana Free Living
The Most Powerful Weapon in the World

Categories : Frugality Tags : , ,


Posted by 9 October, 2008 (2) Comment


Could you tell us a little about yourselves?
We met in San Francisco, CA where Rene worked downtown and Jim commuted to Silicon Valley. In 1997, we got married and moved to Eureka, CA to get away from the rat race. We started a small home-based graphics and marketing firm serving clients around the country. We grew the business for ten years to the point where it was ready for additional staff, and decided to sell. We marketed the business opportunity ourselves and closed the deal in six months with a buyer who purchased our home along with the business. During that time we decided to take a sabbatical road trip and researched potential RV options, selecting a 24′ Arctic Fox as our home/office on wheels. We hit the road in June 05 2007. Our plan was to see the country and find some land near a community we liked where we would settle down. We quickly discovered this was not possible in one year and decided to start workamping to extend our journey. In exchange for full-hookup sites and/or a stipend, we have worked at an animal rescue in North Carolina, organic farm in Florida, a New Mexico hot springs resort, and most recently a Colorado guest ranch. We see no end to our “trip” in sight, but have begun a serious search for some land where we can set up a home base camp so we can stop paying fees for the items we have in storage.


(sorry, I couldn’t resist putting this picture in)

I’m impressed with the guts and audacity you guys had to sell your business and most of the things you own to go traveling across America. What do you think was the turning point that propelled you to sell your business and a lot of your belongings to travel across America?

We had always intended to grow our business to the point where we could sell it someday. But this was mostly just talk until our dog Jerry got sick. We had always hiked and camped with Jerry, and we knew we wanted to travel with him. So when he was struck with bone cancer we knew it was time to plan a trip. Since we had his front left leg amputated in November 2006, hiking and camping was out, and we decided to research RVs and market the business for sale. Jerry was given 3-4 months to live after his surgery. He is still with us 22 months later and has become an inspirational canine cancer survivor with a website ( dedicated to educating people going through what we did with him.

Do you miss your business and the stable environment it provided?

Not in the least. After ten years, it was beginning to get tiresome and monotonous. Jim does not miss dealing with client headaches and production issues. Rene does not miss the overhead, debt and drudgery of logistics management. Compared to the new daily experiences and myriad challenges of life on the road, running the home based business seems like entrapment, a lifetime ago.


What are some of the advantages that you guys have enjoyed by full-time RVing?

The freedom to choose our own life path and experience what we want to do, where we want to do it, is the best advantage to full-timing. Equipped with Satellite internet service and solar power, the ability to work and stay connected while getting way off the beaten path is a joy that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. Working online or listening to internet radio where there is not even cell phone service is another enjoyable advantage to life in an RV. And, the often magnificent view from our kitchen table changes almost nightly.

What are you guys doing for income?

Workamping at the guest ranch this summer recently provided us with a small income, but more importantly extreme savings from campground fees and fuel. (We went the whole summer on one tank of gas!) Jim provides on-call internet-based consulting services. Rene is a digital scrapbooking consultant, selling software and traditional crafting supplies online. Our websites include syndicated advertising from Google AdSense and other programs. We are Amazon affiliates which allows us to sell books and other products for small commissions. Our Amazon store at includes items related to travel and full-time RVing. Our Amazon store includes resources about canine cancer and three legged dogs. At we provide free travel blogs for other fulltime RVers. At we also resell Ruff Wear products — including a harness, dog boots, and a canine life preserver — which help people provide support and mobility for their three-legged dogs. We also have a Café Press store ( which offers merchandise for three legged dog lovers. None of this by any means will enable retirement for us anytime soon. But every little bit helps us extend our journey.

What are some of the more interesting places you have RVed at?

The best times have been spent boondocking off the grid, far away from others. One memorable stay was in Colorado’s Routt National Forest (Seedhouse campground) at about 9,000′ deep in the rocky mountains outside Steamboat Springs. Another was early in our trip alongside the San Juan river near Bluff Utah. One rather scary memory was in the woods outside Eau Claire, WI where we sat out a tornado warning. A developed campground in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp was memorable, primarily because of our alligator encounters.


If someone was considering quitting their job to RV full-time, what are some of
the preliminary steps they should be doing?

If one is not independently wealthy, three things to think about are to plan, plan, and plan. Preparing a budget is most important. Rene created a detailed financial plan for our sabbatical road trip including all potential expenses which we review regularly. This is especially important with the volatile cost of fuel. We make our planning documents and budgets available at to help others plan their own fulltime RVing adventure. It is also imperative to know your comfort level, with your living space and your spouse/partner. RVing is very cozy, intimate living. We are very comfortable in our 24′ trailer, even after going from about 3,700 to 200 sq. ft. of live/work space! We budgeted for a few hotel nights each month, but have only spent a couple nights in a hotel all year. And that was because we were workamping in Truth or Consequences at the time and left our rig there while we took Jerry to the veterinary cancer clinic in Santa Fe.

Where do you guys see yourselves in 5 years? Do you see yourselves RVing full

More likely, we will be part time full timers. We are starting to consider going seasonal. Perhaps we will purchase some land where we will park our home for half the year, then travel and/or workamp for the other half. Another idea is to have two small pieces of land — one in the north and one in the south. We could then travel between these two lots seasonally. Regardless, RVing will indefinitely be (a big) part of our lives.


Is there anything else you’d like to add?

For people who say they can’t afford it, we say think again. Compared to the costs of paying for, maintaining and living in a stick house; full-time RVing can even be less expensive. Do the math — compare mortgage, insurance, utilities, and home improvement costs to fuel and campground
fees. You may be surprised. But when it comes to quality of life … There is no comparison.

For more information about Jim & René, please take a look at their websites.

working to find the dream life

better to hop on three legs than limp on four

get your own free travel blog

the mobile headquarters of Agreda Communications

Photos courtesy of

Categories : Entrepreneur,Frugality,Travel Tags :

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should NOT Own a Pool

Posted by 8 September, 2008 (2) Comment

Photo by Addictive_Picasso

1. They cost a lot of money. If you hire a pool service to put in chemicals and vacuum your pool, you could spend between $1500 and $2000 a year in maintenance, water and regular repairs according to Melinda Fulmer at MSN Money.

2. Safety is a big concern especially if you have small children. If may be required in your area to put up a fence around your pool to keep small children from accidentally falling in and hurting themselves.

3. If you hire a pool company to install a pool, you will more than likely not recoup the costs.

4. Nobody likes to admit it, especially pool companies, but there is a significant added expense to running the pumps for the pool. During the summer months, it is recommended that you run your pumps 8-9 hours per day as I’ve been told by my local pool company.

5. Even if you do have a pool service to put chemicals in, etc, there are still thing you’ll have to do. For instance, when the temperature dips below freezing, I’ve had issues with valves not being open enough thus preventing the pipes from freezing. Fortunately, I was able to diagnose the problem, but it took a while for me to figure out what was going on and I had to place my hands into the freezing water to displace items blocking water flow (not fun).

6. One word, liability. Unfortunately, the US is becoming more and more litigious. While that’s great for my lawyer friends, it’s not great for everyone else. There is always the thought in the back of my mind that a guest could come over, fall and then sue us. I’ve heard of it happening. Fortunately, we do have an umbrella policy.

7. Rats, snakes, and dead birds oh my. We’ve never personally had a rat in our pool, but we’ve had the latter two. I have known people to have rats in their pool.

8. They are not environmentally friendly. Between the water, energy to run the pumps, and the chemicals (probably not good for you), there’s a lot of waste that occurs there. It would be much wiser to join your local YMCA (they usually have pools) or buy a house in a neighborhood that has a neighborhood pool.

9. A pool can be bad for resale. In the south and southwest, and west pools are popular items. Unfortunately if you are a homeowner with a pool and you are trying to sell your house, you will still be limiting your market. There are some people that search for houses that only include pools, and then there are people that will not live in a house with a pool.

10. If you own a pool with a diving board, you may not be able to get insurance or your insurance may be higher. This adds yet another line to the expense column for pool ownership.


Other Posts you may enjoy!

Categories : Frugality Tags :