So I saved $1500 / Plumbing Bill / Vegas

So I saved $1500 today…

That statement is subject to interpretation. Long story short, Nissan North America recently issued a recall on my soon to be 6 year old Altima.

Dear Nissan Altima Owner:

Nissan has discovered that your Altima may be equipped with an improperly calibrated Engine Control Module (ECM) that may incorrectly detect engine valve closure as engine knock. Due to this issue you may experience some minor drivability symptoms and a slight decrease in fuel economy under certain driving conditions.

What Nissan Will Do

To correct this condition, Nissan is conducting an Emission Recall Campaign to reprogram the Engine Control Module in your vehicle.

For vehicles with greater than 50,000 miles, the manifold catalyst will also be replaced due to possible prolonged exposure to higher than anticipated exhaust gas temperatures. Any cracked manifold catalyst or front exhaust tube with catalyst will be replaced regardless of vehicle mileage. This free ECM reprogramming service should take about one hour to complete, but your Nissan dealer may require your vehicle for a longer period of time if catalysts need to be replaced or based upon their work schedule.

I dropped the car off Tuesday evening and was originally told car would be ready by end-of-day. Next I get a call saying they need to order the part but could be provided a loaner. My loaner was a 2013 Nissan Sentra S, equipped with a 1.8L engine, uninspiring electric steering, cloth seats, no sunroof, hubcaps and a no-frills stereo system. Great MPG (32+) and a smooth current-generation CVT were its only redeeming qualities.

Some may remember July 2012 I had a hole in my exhaust system that two dealerships were both unwilling to fix. Midas would’ve done it if I ordered the parts, but combined would be in excess of $1200 out-the-door. So the fact a year and a half later the dealer would be fixing my car free of charge brings an entirely new meaning to the expression good things come to people who wait.

Below is a list of the item breakdown:


Part # Part Description Unit Price Total Cost


14069-JD00A Bolt




14069-ZN50A Bolt




20692-65J00 Gasket-Catalyst




20010-ZX10A Front Pipe / Tube-Exh FS W/C




20691-19U00 Gasket – Exhaust / Front Pipe Seal




01223-N0021 Nut




140E2-JA92E Exhaust Manifold




14036-3TA0B Gasket Exhaust




14094-JG30A Nut



Total Parts


My interest in vehicles using alternative sources of energy runs deep. One in particular is the Nissan Leaf. As a reformed early adopter, I’m enamored by a vehicle that can propel itself without any polluting fumes, or the noise and complexity of an internal combustion engine.

The Leaf gets the equivalent of 129 city / 109 hwy, single speed transmission with instant torque.

Reasons against buying / leasing

  • Won’t own at end of lease
  • Heavy depreciation (especially if new model comes out in 2015), 35% after only 3 years, comparing around 50% after *6* years
  • Smaller than current vehicle
  • Limited range (100mi on the high end, but normally 80)
  • Current car is paid off and relatively low mileage (72k)
  • Battery life questionable in warmer climates / may deteriorate faster than expected
  • Got a boomin system in the Altima, superbass boombadootdoot, doubt the 3k I spent on that during my dumb and broke days will be recouped

Reasons for buying / leasing

  • Eliminate $150 in monthly gas bills (instead use 20-40/mo in electricity)
  • Lower cost of ownership
  • No pollution
  • Much quieter driving experience
  • Being able to boast to people about never having to ‘fill up’ when they complain about gas prices going up.

So unless I find some crazy good deal after the Leafs off lease I will stick with my tried and true Altima.

Onto another topic. On the subject of making home repairs, plumbing in particular…we decided to have some work done. The toilet in the upstairs bathroom would just run endlessly after flushing. Nothing like fighting with a toilet at 2am playing with the chain with your arm submerged in water while thinking about how exhausted you will be the following day. That and a fear of coming home to a flooded downstairs are what drove me over the edge. We also had some shower faucet issues. Turning on the cold water involved pushing your weight into the handle then turning, hoping the little gear mechanism inside would click and open the valve. We needed new stems, handles, and some other hardware. Whoever fixed it before used the wrong part which is why it never really operated right to begin with. $417 later (bf gave me $150), the bathroom is fine… except for an annoying problem where mold is turning some of the caulking around the tub black.  That’s another job though. May do it myself to save money, or just call someone and hope they don’t try to rape me….

Know I’m bouncing around here, but during the last week I got to experience the beautiful place that we all know and love as Las Vegas. It really rivals NYC as being a city that doesn’t sleep. Great places to go shopping, sight seeing, shows, gambling and drinking. It was Halloween on the first night we landed, I dressed up in a Star Trek uniform and hit up a local gay bar. $20 cover to get in, though drinks were pretty reasonable. I took out $200 from the ATM and came back with 0. Mix some light shopping with that and really didn’t do so bad. My bf and one of our friends got two rooms, both covered the cost.




Two of our friends in DFW just got married and we had lunch with them as  Vegas was their surprise Honeymoon destination. Enlightening to see how my friends who have debt spent a ton of money shopping and putting it on credit cards. I shopped very lightly, only buying two pieces of clothing and drinking lightly. My friends know I’m cheap though. O:) Had a great time, I need to go on trips more often.

Also funny as I write this I get notification my AT&T wireless bill was processed. I pay 102.39 a month for it, this month I got a tax credit so it’s only $99.52. I use my phone more than anyone else I know.


Still a lot of money for a *service* though. Between cell and home tv / cable 16% of one paycheck goes toward these entertainment expenses. 10% goes to fuel for my car. I was spending 40% of my check on food. 62% of a check goes to Sallie Mae.

I left my wallet at home yesterday accidentally. Had two containers of Mott’s apple sauce and some raw almonds to eat. I had a hearty breakfast and was only mildly hungry during the day. Bf went out with a friend to see an opera and have dinner. I felt liberated not paying anything for food. Typical Friday I’d spend $40-$60 depending on where I went.

Ground Zero – My Challenge


1095 days. 45,159.35 remaining.

I graduated from St. Joseph’s College of New York with an MBA at the age of 24 and 42k of debt in 2008.  This debt is the aggregate total of my loans from 2001 – 2008, including Community College and Undergraduate Education.  I am 28 now, pushing ever closer to 30 and realized I need to do something with my debt before it gets completely out of control.

While my story isn’t as exciting as Mr. No More Harvard Debt, it is my own and no one else’s.  Everyone has to start off from somewhere.  Today April 7, 2012 I owe $45159.35 in debt to various entities.  This number is the culmination of student loans and credit cards.

The breakdown is as follows:
41,971.74 to Sallie Mae at 4.25%, currently on Income-Based Repayment Plan.  Still unsure if my interest will be covered at all.
3187.61o on a Chase Slate Card at 0%, which I believe is good until the end of the year.
47.70 to Citibank.

In 2011 I earned ~14000, working for effectively half the year up until we moved.
2010 I earned ~$13000.  Also essentially working half of the year, since I spent a couple months doing per diem executive assistant type work.  Long story which I prefer to skip right now.
2009 $~25000.  This was the most money I made in a single year.  I also worked in an  environment of mind numbing repetition and dreaded coming in each day after months worth of drama.  I quit to explore my options and my finances tanked as a result.

I will not divulge my income or that of my partner (yeah I’m gay) in this blog, for obvious reasons but he makes considerably more than I do.  I plan to get this debt paid off in the next 36 months.  That’s April 7, 2015 y’all.  It’s doable.  I plan to automate as much as I can and get a raise / promotion in the next 12-16 months.

I’ve been hit with a wave of adversity the past 9 months since moving to Dallas from New York.  I don’t want to dwell on it, but sharing it will provide some background as to my thought processes.

  • Got laid off after working for a company 6 weeks after being out of work for 6 months.  This company also bounced my last paycheck and owed me money for the days accrued between my last check and the day they closed up.  It appears they have violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifcation (WARN) Act by filing for bankruptcy and not giving any employees adequate notice.  I have filed a claim and would really like to get my money.
  • I was on unemployment for 4 weeks while I went on a massive networking campaign and collected about $1000.
  • Got a ticket for $178 from a cop on my way to a job interview I was already 45 minutes to.  I couldn’t find the building and decided to circle around the neighborhood.  Needless to say a cop was hiding and clocked me for 49 in a 30.  Settled, paid the fine and it is off my record.
  • Got $500 from my folks to help with my bills after my layoffs.  I didn’t ask for it, but definitely benefitted from it.
  • Prior to finding the job at that company, I applied to over 120 positions and went on about 10 different interviews including one at a company offering to pay me $30/hr.  After my third interview with no clear answer as to when they could hire me, I made the decision to try something else.

My 2008 Nissan Altima is paid off and I expect to get at least another 4 good years out of it.  I could sell it today and get ~$15k .  I put about 4k into it between upgrading the sound system, installing dynomat and hushmat in key places, along with a strut bar / sway bar, tinted windows, rims / tires etc. and my warranty is good till 2015 so no new car for me.  Some might call it foolish, but I enjoy these things everyday and it isn’t breaking the bank right now.

I just started a new job March 2011 at a company I feel is financially stable and has a great team of smart people working there.  This is my first time working in this industry, so my experience can’t yet command a higher salary.  I’d like to be making $50k by the time I’m 32.  My credit score is presently a 781.

Breakdown of my expenses are as follows:

$101 – Cell Phone (AT&T Wireless on iPhone 4)
$145 – U-Verse (Triple package with 18Mbps internet)
$150 – Gas (commute to work is only 10mi roundtrip)
$34 – Life Insurance
$30 – Haircut
$80 – Car Insurance
$30 – Car Washes
$125 – Entertainment
$200 – Food
$32 – Gas Bill
$15 – Rdio Music Subscription
$50 – Random Miscellaneous
$35 – Washer / Dryer Rental
$800 – Toward Townhouse downpayment, Need 1500-2000 by June 10th.

1827 in monthly expenses short-term, according to my best estimate.  My partner has been paying the rent since we moved here and I’ve been helping out as much as I can with expenses outside of that.

I am paying this debt off as much on my own without help from any outside sources.  I am continuing to research ways of making money on the side and continually develop my skills to start marketable in this fast changing economy.  I get paid semi-monthly, so my updates will be targeted around that timeframe unless I feel a reason to post otherwise.

We are also saving for a downpayment on a townhouse we’re closing on in June ideally.  It’s an FHA loan, so 3.5% down instead of the typical 20, but PMI applies.  Our combined income could pay for off in 2 years, but that is not the goal.  I will go into more detail on that in my next post.