Thursday, June 26, 2008

Do-It-Yourself Appliance Repair

Problem: You want to save money by fixing your broken electronics and small appliances yourself instead of buying new ones.

Solution: Post the problem related to your item on FixYa (, a Web site designed to help consumers conduct do-it-yourself repairs through tips from an online community of technical experts. You can search the site by manufacturer or type of item, ranging from dehumidifiers to answering machines. Or try the Wilson Electronics Forum (, where you can post concerns, such as "Help, my TV is dead," upload photos of your dysfunctional television picture or appliance, and read repair suggestions from site members. You could check the troubleshooting guide in your product manual, but if you don't have it, search the product-manual database at Manage My Home (, by clicking on "Home" and then on "Products and Manuals" in the drop-down menu. If you've lost hope in trying to fix an appliance, you can try to sell irreparable items at a nominal price for parts on Craigslist or eBay.

Caveat: Don't throw away a newer broken item before ruling out that it's no longer under warranty. Call or email the company's customer-service or repair department, which can usually tell you from the item's serial number.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fill 'er Up: Gas Is Cheap in Tijuana, So Californians Buy Big Fuel Tanks

Pickups Make Lots of Runs Over the Border;
How Mr. Robinson Pays for His Vacation
June 24, 2008

SANTEE, Calif. -- As gasoline prices rise ever higher, some drivers have discovered an alternative to runaway fuel inflation in the U.S.: subsidized gas just minutes away in Mexico.

Gasoline is selling for six pesos per liter across the border in Tijuana, which works out to about $2.50 a gallon, way cheaper than gas prices approaching $5 a gallon in San Diego County. Diesel fuel is cheaper still -- $2.19 a gallon.
[James Blue]

All of this is a boon for James Blue's auto shop, located in a strip mall in the arid hills east of downtown San Diego. His business, Express Performance Center, installs extra-large fuel tanks in pickups and other work vehicles used for runs to fill up with cheap gas in Mexico.

Already this month, Mr. Blue's shop has installed 12 tanks, more than he sold in all of last year. He expects demand to grow throughout the summer. Bulk fuel users, including farmers and construction contractors, are his best customers, he says. Many drive to Mexico several times a week, often looking to bring enough fuel back to sell to neighbors and co-workers.

"It's a daily thing for some: run across the border and fill up," explains Mr. Blue, an easygoing 36-year-old. His garage charges plenty to install either a 75-gallon or 98-gallon tank; the tanks fit snugly across the back of a pickup truck bed, against the cab. Special "t" switches let a driver alternate between gasoline sources. Big tanks cost $1,700 installed, while the smaller models go for $1,300.

Either is a bargain, says Gustavo Robinson, a plumber who works for the public school district of Chula Vista, Calif., a nearby border community. The 75-gallon tank he installed this week and the original 28-gallon tank he'll keep using will allow him to save at least $200 when he fills up in Mexico. With vacation trips planned for Las Vegas and San Francisco, he expects to do that a lot this summer.

The gas rush is also good for Mr. Blue's principal supplier, Transfer Flow Inc. of Chico, Calif. Marketing director Warren Johnson says the company is enjoying one of its best seasons in 25 years. In May, Transfer Flow moved more than half a million dollars worth of larger replacement and refueling tanks to wholesale and retail customers. Mr. Johnson says hundreds of tanks are on order to dealers in border states.

Crossing the Border

Crossing the border, of course, can be a hassle, with long gas lines that can take hours. Many of Mr. Blue's customers go at dawn to avoid the traffic. Others prefer an early evening run, particularly to the sleepy town of Tecate, where the wait to cross back into the U.S. is shorter, often less than 20 minutes, compared with an hour or more at busier spots like Tijuana and Otay Mesa.

Mexicans aren't happy about the gringo invasion and the long lines at filling stations near the border. Over the past week, a diesel shortage developed in Tijuana, where many big Mexican trucks and Americans hoping to save money converge on Pemex filling stations run by Petróleos Mexicanos, the state oil monopoly.
A sign at a gas station in Tijuana shows the price of premium gasoline at 7.53 pesos a liter, or about $2.71 a gallon, while indicating that across the border in the U.S. gas costs 16.00 pesos a liter, or about $5.76 a gallon.

This week, only a handful of filling stations are offering diesel in Tijuana, compared with the 35 that normally offer the fuel, according to Joaquin Aviña, a spokesman for an association of 157 Pemex station owners in Tijuana.

Pemex historically set gas prices along the border to be within a few cents per gallon of U.S. prices. That deterred motorists from the two countries from comparison shopping in a binational market where U.S. citizens enjoy a distinct advantage: They are free to travel both ways across the border, while Mexicans require visas to enter the U.S.

$20 Billion Subsidy

But as the price of gas has skyrocketed in the U.S. in the past few years, Mexico has kept its prices in the border area from rising as quickly in order to keep fuel affordable for the poor. In May, Mexican President Felipe Calderón announced an additional $20 billion subsidy this year as an emergency measure intended to keep inflationary forces in check.

Pemex chief Jesús Reyes Heroles was questioned last week by reporters in Mexico City, asking whether U.S. demand is behind the border shortages. Mr. Reyes said he did not anticipate big supply problems in the months ahead, but added that Pemex is considering "extraordinary measures" to address the imbalance between U.S. and Mexican prices.

There is another reason Mexicans do not like the American invasion of their filling stations. Even though Mexico is an oil exporter, it doesn't have the refinery capacity to turn enough of the oil into gasoline, and therefore imports much of its gas from the U.S. By subsidizing the fuel and reselling it to Americans at cut rates, the Mexican government loses twice.

For the first four months of the year, Pemex sold gasoline for about $89 a barrel, but paid on average more than $110 a barrel for imports, according to data from the Mexican Energy Ministry. In April, Mexico's gasoline-import bill ballooned to more than $120 a barrel. The government's calculation of the first quarter subsidy bill: $1.8 billion.

The shortage of diesel in Tijuana is bad enough that some filling stations are now refusing to serve Americans. Ken Sullivan, a San Diego swimming-pool contractor, was turned away at a Pemex station near the Otay Mesa crossing east of San Diego. The 49-year-old American driver tried to join a line of 18-wheel trucks at a Pemex station he usually patronizes, and was told he wouldn't be served. A Pemex attendant who gave his name as Sergio confirmed to a reporter that only "corporate" buyers would be allowed to fill their tanks until more supply comes from Pemex.


A backlash against U.S. buyers could ultimately cause Americans to decide that it isn't worth the hassle of crossing the border. But so far, the allure of cheap gas appears too strong to resist. Mr. Blue, the vendor of extra gas tanks, says he's even getting calls from motorists who want to add a second fuel tank in their trunks' spare-tire wells. Others are looking to rig spots where a 40-gallon portable tank can be secured.

Crossing the border with fuel in a container that isn't attached to a vehicle's engine is illegal. California motorists routinely are sent back to Mexico and forced to empty unattached tanks spotted by U.S. border inspectors.

"It happened to someone who lives near me," says Mr. Robinson, the Chula Vista plumber, who explains U.S. Customs agents at the border detained a neighbor of his when they spotted a 100-gallon container of diesel in the bed of his truck, then sent both driver and truck back to Mexico.

In the end, the California motorist found a line of trucks waiting to fill up at a Pemex station and was able to sell them his cargo. "He said he charged $4 a gallon," Mr. Robinson says.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More Consumers Turn On To Tap Water to Trim Costs

Tap water is making a comeback.

With a day's worth of bottled water -- the recommended 64 ounces -- costing hundreds to thousands of dollars a year depending on the brand, more people are opting to slurp water that comes straight from the sink. The lousy economy may be accomplishing what environmentalists have been trying to do for years -- wean people off the disposable plastic bottles of water sold as stylish, portable, healthier and safer than water from the tap.

Measured in 700-milliliter bottles of Poland Spring, a daily intake of water would cost $4.41, based on prices at a CVS drugstore in New York. Or $6.36 in 20-ounce bottles of Dasani. By half-liters of Evian, that will be $6.76, please. That adds up to thousands of dollars a year. Even a 24-pack of half-liter bottles at Costco Wholesale Corp., a bargain at $6.97, would be consumed by one person in six days. That is more than $400 a year.

But water from the tap? A little more than 0.001 cent for a day's worth of water, based on averages from an American Water Works Association survey -- about 51 cents a year.

U.S. consumers spent $16.8 billion on bottled water in 2007, according to trade publication Beverage Digest. That is up 12% from the year before, but it is still the slowest growth rate since the early 1990s, said editor John Sicher.

Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., the biggest bottler of Coca-Cola Co.'s Dasani, recently cut its outlook for the quarter, saying the weak North American economy is hurting sales of bottled water and soda, particularly 20-ounce single-serve sizes consumers had been buying at gas stations.

"They're not walking in and spending a dollar plus for a 20-ounce bottle of water," said beverage analyst William Pecoriello at Morgan Stanley. Flavored and "enhanced" waters like vitamin drinks also are eating into plain bottled water's market share.

Mr. Pecoriello said Americans' concern about the environment also is a factor, driven by campaigns against the use of oil in making and transporting the bottles, the waste they create and the notion of paying for what is essentially free.

The Tappening Project, which promotes tap water in the U.S. as clean, safe and more eco-friendly than bottled water, launched an ad campaign in May. The company has sold more than 200,000 reusable hard plastic and stainless-steel bottles since November.

Linda Schiffman, 56 years old, a recent retiree from Lexington, Mass., bought two metal bottles at $14.50 apiece for herself and her daughter from Corporate Accountability, a consumer-advocate group, after she swore off buying cases of bottled water from Costco. "I've been doing a lot of cost cutting since I retired," said Ms. Schiffman, a former middle-school guidance counselor. "Additionally, I started feeling like this was a big waste environmentally."

Aware of those concerns, some bottled water makers are trying to address the issue. Nestlé SA says all its half-liter bottles now come in an "eco-shape" that contains 30% less plastic than the average bottle, and it has pared back other packaging. PepsiCo Inc. and Coca-Cola also have cut down on the amount of plastic used in their bottles.

While it is difficult to track rates of tap-water use, sales of faucet accessories are booming.

Brita tap-water-purification products made by Clorox Co. reported double-digit volume and sales growth in May and have seen three straight quarters of strong growth.

Robin Jaeger of Needham, Mass., fills her kids' reusable bottles with water from the house's faucet. But she doesn't use water straight from the tap.

"My kids have come to the conclusion that any water that's not filtered doesn't taste good," she said.

Her reverse-osmosis filter system costs about $200 every 18 months for maintenance -- still cheaper than buying by the bottle. While Brita is the dominant player in water filtration, according to Deutsche Bank analyst Bill Schmitz, sales of Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pur water-filtration systems also are growing. Sales from the Pur line have increased almost every month since mid-2007, said Bruce Letz, its brand manager. He declined to give sales figures but said "the water-filtration category is expanding very rapidly."

Cut your grocery store costs

Saturday, June 7, 2008

How to Make a Hard Cover for a Paperback Book

Perhaps you have a juicy paperback that you don't want others to know that you are reading,or you want to protect your paperback's covers from damage, or you just don't like the look of the cover artwork? Here's a way to turn that paperback into a "hardcover" using materials that you probably already have around the house.


1. Choose the softcover book that you want to change to a hardback.
Heavy old manila Folder
Heavy old manila Folder
Obtain sufficient pressed cardboard to cover the book twice. Cereal boxes, stiff "manila" file folders and pressed cardboard mailing "envelopes" will work well.
Trace around your book.
Trace around your book.
Trace the size of your cover onto one of the pieces of cardboard.
4. Add 1/8th of an inch (2mm) to each of the narrow ends.
5. Cut out the rectangle and use it to trace three others (four total) just like it.
6. Lay two pieces on each other. If using a cereal box or similar packaging, it is best to lay the printed sides together and leave the plain sides to the outside.
7. Cut a strip of contact paper that is twice the size of the book cover with an extra inch all around.
Place, Trace and cut the contact paper
Place, Trace and cut the contact paper
Place the cardboard rectangles side by side on the backing side of the contact paper.
9. Trace the rectangles.
Corners mitered and flaps cut.
Corners mitered and flaps cut.
Miter cut the corners of the contact paper.
Peel the backing and place the contact paper sticky side up.
Peel the backing and place the contact paper sticky side up.
Peel off the backing of the contact paper.
Carefully position the cardboard.
Carefully position the cardboard.
Place the cardboard rectangle(s) on the sticky side of the contact paper and fold over the top and bottom end flaps..
Fold in two of the side flaps.
Fold in two of the side flaps.
Fold the flaps on one end over the cardboard.
Taco fold in half.
Taco fold in half.
Fold the "covered" end over the "uncovered" end.
Pull the remaining flaps over and stick them to the cover.
Pull the remaining flaps over and stick them to the cover.
Fold the remaining two flaps over the resulting cardboard "sandwich".
One down, one to go...
One down, one to go...
Repeat the process to make a second cover.
Cut a strip that is as wide as your book is tall...
Cut a strip that is as wide as your book is tall...
For the connecting strip or "back" of your book, cut a strip of contact paper that is as wide as your book is tall, and is as long as at least twice the width of your book plus 2 or 3 inches.
18. Peel off the backing from the contact paper.
Fold onto itself, leaving at least 2 inches of sticky exposed.
Fold onto itself, leaving at least 2 inches of sticky exposed.
Fold the contact paper over onto itself, leaving 2 inches uncovered at one end.
20. Trim the (sticky) sides away but leave the end flap attached.
Slide inside your cover "envelope" and press to adhere.
Slide inside your cover "envelope" and press to adhere.
Slide the sticky flap into one of your covers and adhere it to the inside.
Assemble the cover.
Assemble the cover.
Finished Cover
Finished Cover
Tuck the above flap end into the second "cover".
Back cover...
Back cover...
Front Cover...
Front Cover...
Place one cover of your book inside one side of the finished cover and the other cover inside the other finished cover.
Tuck in the back...
Tuck in the back...
Tuck the "back" flap into the remaining side cover and you're done!
Book with completed "hardcover" ready to read.
Book with completed "hardcover" ready to read.
Enjoy your newly hard covered book!


* The flexible center spine allows you to re-use the cover for another book of the same size, even if the book is slightly thicker (or thinner) than your original.
* You may also customize the cover and then apply clear contact paper over your original design(s). Try flowers.


* Scissors are edged tools. Handle with appropriate care.
* The sticky contact paper can stick to things and get stuck. Handle carefully.l

Things You'll Need

* Contact Paper, or just glue fancy papers like scrapbook paper or wrapping paper to cardboard and let dry before you start.
* Pressed cardboard (not corrugated.) such as cereal box board, an unused binder, the backing of a pad of art paper such as drawing paper or watercolor paper or the like.
* Scissors, Pen & Ruler.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Crazy Sale!: Free Coupons: Clothing

I just want to pass along this crazy sale that's going on at Geoffry Beene, Bass, Van Huesen .You can use these coupons and be aware that from June 5-June 8 everything will be 40% OFF. Izod stores will have selections with 60% with a 30% OFF coupon below you can recieve even more savings. You can use these coupons and be aware that from 5-8 everything will be 40% OFF. Use these coupons for additional savings.Enjoy!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tired of Paying for Oil: Drill in Your Backyard: Video

Oil, it's being referred to as the "black gold" and it can make you rich if you can find it. It could even be residing in your very own backyard as this man in Indiana has found:



Don't forget to check out Fee Slurpee Day at your local 7-11.

Here are the details:

When: Friday, July 11 at 12:00am
Where: Everywhere