Frugal Fix Friday: Lawn Mower

mower
Our lawn mower was running ROUGH! Not a little rough, but dislocate-your-shoulder-trying-to-start-it rough. Eventually we could usually get it started, but would most likely get injured in the process.

Starting: We would yank the cord furiously trying to make it start and would have little luck, and every once in a while it would just lock and the cord wouldn’t pull like you’d expect. Ouch. With some persistence it would start though.

Running: It ran rough. It seemed louder than when we had first bought it. There was an occasional clanking sound like metal hitting metal. Also, It couldn’t handle thick grass like it used to. It would get bogged down and stall really easily.

Cause: We suspected at least 2 footballs had been run over as well as a tree root (possibly more than one).

We really were not sure what to do about this. We thought we’d have to go buy a new mower. We really didn’t want to since this one was only a couple years old to begin with. Fortunately, doing some research online led us to other people with similar problems and an easy (and cheap) solution!

It turned out the problem was a tiny little piece of aluminum (or something soft like that) called a flywheel key. We went to a local small engine shop and bought a 2 pack of flywheel keys for $2. Put one in and the engine was running MUCH, MUCH better!

The video below is a good explanation of how to get at and replace the flywheel key. My only comment is that before you take a hammer to your mower and risk damage. Try just grabbing your flywheel on opposite sites and giving it a pull. Mine came right off without the need to bash it. If that doesn’t work, then give his hammer trick a whirl. His is better (less damaging) than others I’ve seen.

Since we had the mower mostly apart we actually decided to go a little further and we cleaned out the cylinder head and muffler with carb cleaner. This is because we had been getting some black smoke when starting the engine sometimes. We suspect that this is a result of running our engine rough for so long (about a year!)

All said and done we fixed our problem for $2 dollars and went the extra mile for the cost of half a can of carb cleaner.

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Frugal Fix Friday: Lunch Money

You know what can be a surprisingly expensive aspect of my life at times?

Lunch. I normally wouldn’t think of lunch being expensive but it really can be! I used to always go out to lunch at Chipotle or Panera because those are my favorite lunch destinations. Once I set a goal of saving money though, they were the first thing to get cut since my meals of choice at these places were over $10.
10/day X 20 workdays/month = $200/Month for lunch! That needed an adjustment.

So, I started going home everyday for lunch and eating the leftovers from supper the night before.  Much cheaper! food = $0. Driving back home each day doubles my amount of driving though which means an extra half gallon or so of gas each day. That’s still much better at about $40/month instead of $200.

Next, I decided I wanted to start biking to work instead of driving. Then I don’t have to try to find parking, and I get a little bit of that much needed exercise I’ve been slacking on lately! The idea when I was biking was that I would pack a lunch everyday to bring with me. This worked for about a week. Then I started forgetting nearly everyday. So, since I didn’t have a car I would walk to the nearest eatery, Subway. That’s definitely a step backwards @ $8/day, or about $160/month.

Lunch for a 3-day week.

Lunch for a 3-day week.

Fortunately, I think I’ve found a plan that works for me. I can make my lunches to bring with me everyday, but make them all ahead of time. Then I can’t forget! So, on Sunday nights I prepare 5 lunches (and breakfasts!) for the week. It works great. Each morning I just grab a lunch, and a breakfast out of the fridge, toss it in my bag and I’m off. Not only is it the cheapest route, but I also eat the healthiest this way.

For a typical week, I will make 5 sandwiches, 5 small bags of veggies, 5 small bags of a fruit, and 5 half-cup containers of either unsweetened applesauce, or cottage cheese. Also, I like to pack a small breakfast, which is usually 1 larger fruit (like an apple, orange or banana usually) and something with some protein like yogurt, or hard-boiled eggs. I haven’t calculated the price on this but we buy everything at Aldi, and I opt for the larger containers instead of individually wrapped servings on things like yogurt, applesauce, etc. So, it’s not more than a couple dollars per day.

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Frugal Fix Friday: The Dryer

Cat in a clothes dryer

Image via Wikipedia

With the rate things have been breaking at our house lately, we’d be bankrupt in no time hiring people to fix them!

What happened now, you ask? Our dryer. It’ll tumble some clothes like a champ, but apply heat and actually dry them? Um, no.

Fortunately, Sears has a generous amount of documentation online for their appliances. With that and some other resources, I was able to get the flame lit and the clothes dry. Yay!

To fix it, the first thing I checked was the thermal fuse. Apparently it is pretty common for it to trip and then it must be replaced. Ours had continuity, so I moved on. I tested every other thermostat and tester I could find. They all appeared to be fine.

I wasn’t sure what to do next. So, I turned on the dryer and watched the burner while it ran. The ignition coil would glow red hot, then it would make a clicking sound and shut off. It turns out, that clicking sound is the electricity going to the ignition coil being redirected to the gas valve. So, it was apparent that the gas valve wasn’t opening. Looked up that part online and the gas valve is over $100. Not cool. There are also 2 little coils on top of the valve, solenoid coils, they are only $20. It seemed to be worthy gamble to replace those first and cross fingers.

That worked. They were really easy to replace, and only cost $20. Now our dryer is spitting out fluffy warm clothes again. 🙂

Here are some great resources for fixing your dryer:

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Invasion of the Log files!

Log files, aren’t they great? When things don’t work, they’ll let you know what’s up!

The problem with them is that in IIS, I haven’t found a setting that says only retain log files for x number of days…

So, once upon a time, my log files filled up the hard drive and the system went down. SharePoint didn’t work and thus we were not happy campers. In hindsight, I’d say “Why didn’t I set the log file location to a separate drive instead of the default system drive? Of course it’d go down when it filled up!” Who knows? Maybe I didn’t have another drive, or didn’t want to, or couldn’t make another partition for some reason?

No matter the situation. This batch file will keep things tidy. I used it to clean up both IIS and SharePoint logs (Even though SharePoint logs have decent management already). Just save it to your hard disk and schedule it as a task. I run it once a week.

This script does depend on a program called “sendemail.exe” so make sure you download that.

Resources

Code

REM This batch file cleans out error logs from SharePoint and/or IIS to prevent system outages/failures from hard disks filling up.
REM Written 8/3/2011 by Josh Martell

REM **************************Options*******************************
REM ip address or server name of smtp server
set emailserver=email server url or IP

REM FROM email address
set fromaddress=something@domain.com

REM TO email address for multiple addresses seperate with a space.
set toaddress=you@domain.com

REM Email Subject
set subject=%computername% Log Cleanup Report

REM Is the server this is running on a sharepoint server? yes/no
set sphost=yes

REM Location of SharePoint logs
set splogs=C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\12\LOGS

REM Location of IIS logs
set iislogs=C:\Inetpub\logs\LogFiles

REM How many days of log files do you want to keep?
set age=31

REM Backup location for upgrade.log
set BULoc=unc path for backup location

REM location of sendemail.exe
set SEloc=c:

REM ************************End_Options*****************************

set start_time=%date% %time%

IF %sphost% EQU yes (GOTO cleansp) ELSE (GOTO cleaniis)
:cleansp

REM ***Start size calculation of sharepoint log folder before cleanup***
For /F “tokens=*” %%a IN (‘”dir “%splogs%” /s /-c /a | find “bytes” | find /v “free””‘) do Set xsummary=%%a
For /f “tokens=1,2 delims=)” %%a in (“%xsummary%”) do set xfiles=%%a&set xsize=%%b
Set xsize=%xsize:bytes=%
Set xsize=%xsize: =%
set spbefore=%xsize%
set /a spbefore=%spbefore%/1024
set /a spbefore=%spbefore%/1024
REM ***End size calculation of sharepoint log folder before cleanup***

REM ***Start SharePoint Log Cleanup***
IF EXIST “%splogs%\upgrade.log” (copy “%splogs%\upgrade.log” “%BULoc%\%computername%-update.log”)
for /f “tokens=*” %%s in (‘FORFILES /p “%splogs%” /s /M *.log /d -%age% ^| find “” /v /n /c’) do set spcount=%%s
FORFILES /p “%splogs%” /s /M *.log /d -%age% /c “cmd /c del /q @file”
REM ***End SharePoint Log Cleanup***

REM ***Start size calculation of sharepoint log folder after cleanup***
For /F “tokens=*” %%a IN (‘”dir “%splogs%” /s /-c /a | find “bytes” | find /v “free””‘) do Set xsummary=%%a
For /f “tokens=1,2 delims=)” %%a in (“%xsummary%”) do set xfiles=%%a&set xsize=%%b
Set xsize=%xsize:bytes=%
Set xsize=%xsize: =%
set spafter=%xsize%
set /a spafter=%spafter%/1024
set /a spafter=%spafter%/1024
REM ***End size calculation of sharepoint log folder after cleanup***

:cleaniis

REM ***Start size calculation of IIS log folder before cleanup***
For /F “tokens=*” %%a IN (‘”dir “%iislogs%” /s /-c /a | find “bytes” | find /v “free””‘) do Set xsummary=%%a
For /f “tokens=1,2 delims=)” %%a in (“%xsummary%”) do set xfiles=%%a&set xsize=%%b
Set xsize=%xsize:bytes=%
Set xsize=%xsize: =%
set iisbefore=%xsize%
set /a iisbefore=%iisbefore%/1024
set /a iisbefore=%iisbefore%/1024
REM ***End size calculation of IIS log folder before cleanup***

REM ***Start IIS log folder cleanup***
for /f “tokens=*” %%i in (‘FORFILES /p “%iislogs%” /s /M *.log /d -%age% ^| find “” /v /n /c’) do set iiscount=%%i
FORFILES /p “%iislogs%” /s /M *.log /d -%age% /c “cmd /c del /q @file”
REM ***End IIS log folder cleanup***

REM ***Start size calculation of IIS log folder after cleanup***
For /F “tokens=*” %%a IN (‘”dir %iislogs% /s /-c /a | find “bytes” | find /v “free””‘) do Set xsummary=%%a
For /f “tokens=1,2 delims=)” %%a in (“%xsummary%”) do set xfiles=%%a&set xsize=%%b
Set xsize=%xsize:bytes=%
Set xsize=%xsize: =%
set iisafter=%xsize%
set /a iisafter=%iisafter%/1024
set /a iisafter=%iisafter%/1024
REM ***End size calculation of IIS log folder after cleanup***

set end_time=%date% %time%

REM ***Calculate Space Savings***
set /a spspacesaved=%spbefore%-%spafter%
set /a iisspacesaved=%iisbefore%-%iisafter%
set /a totsaved=%spspacesaved%+%iisspacesaved%
set /a totbefore=%spbefore%+%iisbefore%
set /a totafter=%spafter%+%iisafter%
set /a totcount=%spcount%+%iiscount%
REM ***End Calculate Space Savings***

REM ***Start Report***
echo %computername% Log Cleanup Report  > c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
:times
echo ========================================================================= >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo Start Time: %start_time% >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo End Time: %end_time% >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo ========================================================================= >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
IF %sphost% EQU yes (GOTO spsizes) ELSE (GOTO iissizes)
:spsizes
echo *** Totals *** >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo “Total Number of files removed: %totcount% ” >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo “Total Space initially consumed: %totbefore% MB” >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo “Total Space currently consumed: %totafter% MB” >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo “Total Space saved by cleaning-up: %totsaved% MB” >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo ========================================================================= >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo *** SharePoint Log *** >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo “Number of SharePoint log files removed: %spcount% ” >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo “HDD Space initially consumed: %spbefore% MB” >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo “HDD Space currently consumed: %spafter% MB” >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo “HDD Space saved by cleaning-up: %spspacesaved% MB” >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
:iissizes
echo ========================================================================= >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo *** IIS Log *** >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo “Number of IIS log files removed: %iiscount% ” >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo “HDD Space initially consumed: %iisbefore% MB” >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo “HDD Space currently consumed: %iisafter% MB” >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo “HDD Space saved by cleaning-up: %iisspacesaved% MB” >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
echo ========================================================================= >> c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt
REM ***End Report***

REM *** Send email ***
%SEloc%/sendemail -s %emailserver%:25 -f %fromaddress% -t %toaddress% -u %subject% -o message-file=”c:/sharepointlogsremoved.txt”

del c:/SharePointLogsRemoved.txt

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SharePoint Post Tonight

I posted on the sharepoint blog tonight. Check it out there… here’s the link: http://sharepointexists.blogspot.com/2011/06/automating-sharepoint-server-warm-up.html
It’s a handy setting if you have a SharePoint server! I like to set it on every SharePoint server I set up.

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Frugal Fix Friday: Washing Machine

The washing machine was broken. It wasn’t agitating the clothes and therefore not washing them so much as just rinsing them in water. A visit from the repairman would cost at least $60. No, thank you!

We dissected the agitator and found these little flaps with worn teeth. I later found out these are called “Agitator dogs”.

With a quick online search for our machine’s model number at Searspartsdirect.com we found the exploded diagram of our machine. Using this diagram we could identify the part number of the pieces in our hands. We looked them up and ordered replacements from Sears. It cost about 9 dollars.

A couple days later the part arrived and less than 10 minutes later the wash machine was working great!

I can’t believe we used to pay people to fix things!

I wanted to post some pictures to show where this part is, but while looking for a good pic I found this video that goes through the entire repair instead.

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Kindle Case

This weekend Amy and I made a case for my Kindle. It was an experiment and didn’t go exactly as expected. Regardless, I think it turned out good for a first try, and it does it’s job of protecting my Kindle in transit.

I’m going on vacation soon, and will be bringing my Kindle so I need a case so I don’t break it. The lighted case was $60 and it was still $40 without the light! Didn’t want to spend that much. We spent $11. $7 at Target for the leather notebook, and $4 at Michael’s for Rubber Cement, Felt, and Elastic.

Here are the pics:

Kindle case - outsideKindle Case- Inside

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