Paying for private school in the DMV area

Tips and tricks for sending your child to private school for Washingtonians

Search results: "battle wagon"

The Battlewagon

A few years ago we reported the money saving technique of buying vehicles that are out of style (One day only special! Half-priced cars!).

When we purchased the battlewagon with row boat like styling it was certainly out of style. And, at that time, reliability was the name of the game. Top of reliable heap cars were expensive used and new. Yet pretty reliable cars were being sold for a substantial discount.

An Update

So how did it work out for us all these years later. Fine. No major repairs or problems as of yet and it keeps on rolling. It has hauled tons of stuff (literally) without complaint. The years have rolled by too. The battle wagon is now on it’s 15th year of problem free operation.

What is out of style today?

In our last update electric cars were really out of fashion and could be had for a song. Times have changed. Now it is giant truck things with orbiting moons and electric model cars of awesomeness are all the rage.

Sedans and, battle wagons and now mid sized gas powered SUV’s and mini-vans are out of vogue. Used ones may be a good starting point if you need a new ride.

The Best Car

The best car is often the one you already have – but if not – take a look in the unloved areas of the market for safe and reliable transportation.

If you combine a reasonable purchase price with other cost saving measures (e.g. That is One Long Cable!) the savings can be redirect to tuition payments.

One day only special! Half-priced cars!

Want a tip for buying a great car at a discount?

Go contrarian – buy out of style cars

Here is what we did;  we purchased an older car but with relatively few miles for it’s age but was out of favor at the time we purchased it.

This has varied over time depending on the circumstances which makes our car history quite varied and has almost always caused raised eye brows on our choice (we take that as a good sign).

At the time we purchased our last car, during a late stage bull market,  luxury cars buyers certainly did not want an out of style luxury car that someone else drove in. The perception of “luxury” typically doesn’t pair well with “used”.

And economy buyers wanted the used cars rated highest for reliability.

This left few buyers in the used luxury cars market segment. And we really value safety features so  we watched the market for a really safe used luxury(ish) car.

And those conditions means we were able to get our current rig at a much lower cost than one would expect.

Behold the Battle Wagon

Our current rig in all it’s glory:

Volvo Wagon - New to us!

Volvo Wagon – New to us!

Swedish steel! Best in class safety. Row boat like styling. Squishy seats. Impossibly thick paint. Odd brown stains on the ceiling of questionable provenance. Vintage!! Did you know they don’t even make this model any more? It’s true! And butt warmers!

Buy older cars with low miles to get lots of trouble free service

The Battle Wagon was ten years old with only 75K on the odometer when we purchased it. Net, we bought this unloved ride for 80% off the original sale price. It was fairly low cost. Indeed, once we sold the our previous battle wagonette and accounted for the ten years without cable savings the car was effectively  free with years of pre-paid gas included. A brand new car would have absorbed all those savings and I would have been worried about scratching the fancy doors.

Right now electric cars are out of favor because of low gas prices

Right now non-Tesla electric cars are out a vogue and can be purchased for a song. With low gas prices they are really out of fashion. You can get one for a fraction of the cost of similar vehicles. Well, that is until gas prices go back up.

Want to be an environmentalist? Get a used electric car and reduce fossil fuel emissions *and* save a perfectly good car from going to the scrap heap. You are *so* green. More of a  outdoors person? Wait until gas prices go back up to the $4 and $5 a gallon price range and get one of those gigantic pick-em-up-truck for half price.

Please check the safety rating on the model year and proceed!

Think multi-purpose

Ever noticed all those low profile and uninteresting hatchbacks, mini-vans and station wagons wheeling around?

Time to get excited about them because they are awesome.

We purchased our battle wagon for a net of $8000 even though it only has $70K miles and gobs of air bags.

Last month we needed a new side board (well, a side board, we never owned one).

New side boards were $1000 for low end ones unless you go with those glue and saw dust ones that have to be replaced soon anyway.

Too much! Guess those boxes stay on the floor.

We looked on Craigslist for weeks. And weeks. Even the cruddy stuff at low end stores was $500. Sigh. We were very close to dishing the money out for a new piece and cutting in other areas to make it work.

But wait, Craigslist has a 5 foot solid wood one for sale that on the Havertys awesome web site sells for $1000 new (love their stuff – so cool). And it is only $200 bucks and within a few miles of the house!

If only we had something to move it with – I am too lazy to rent something and it would take too much time. It might be gone and what if I don’t like it when I see it. In comes the incredible station wagon with seats that fold down! volvo-wagon-blueAn hour later the sideboard was now gracing our home instead of headed to the trash heap.  Money saving environmentalism.

On the way home I couldn’t help but realize the $800 saved was the equivalent of a 10% yield pay out on the wagon. That is pretty sweet contribution to the tuition.

Keep costs low and think multi-purpose.

That is One Long Cable!

Eleven years ago we moved into our current home. And the previous owners had not installed cable television. To get it installed meant an all day visit and lots of holes would have to be drilled into the relatively intact walls. And then we would have a $100 a month bill.

We put it off. Then we thought about it. And then we passed on it and just used Netflix and then eventually Amazon Prime for videos and a fancy “digital” antenna for local television stations.

In the first year we spent $1200 less than we would have otherwise. Importantly, we missed all those advertisements that likely would have increased our spending even more. Ten years later we had avoided $12,000 in costs.

Last year we got a sweet deal on a used Volvo XC70. Originally $45,000 when it was new, we picked it up used for $12,000. After selling the previous car for $4000 the net cost was $8000.

Volvo Wagon - New to us!

Battle Wagon – New to us!

By skipping on the cable expense for the decade prior we essentially got a free car with all the gas it will need for many years paid for up front. And that is good because we need to pay the tuition bills.

Limit those little expenses. They add up quickly.

Half priced cars ! On sale now! And every day!

An introduction to mispricing

Use the economic concept of mispricing.  to reduce your costs and free up more money for tuition.

Mispricing occurs where sellers out number interested buyers for a particular item and where the item is able to be repriced lower based on that demand imbalance.

The example usually comes up in relation to financial assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate and so on but applies to consumables as well.

An Example: Mispricing in the stock market

Charlie Munger executed this perfectly in the 2009 financial panic as described in an article in Bloomberg News.

“By diving into stocks amid the market panic of 2009, Munger reaped millions in paper profits for Daily Journal. The investment gains, applauded by Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in May, have helped triple Daily Journal’s own share price. While Munger’s specific picks remain a mystery, a bet on Wells Fargo probably fueled the gains, according to shareholders who have heard Munger, 89, discuss the investments at the company’s annual meetings. “Here’s a guy who’s in his mid-80s at the time, sitting around with cash at the Daily Journal for a decade, and all of a sudden hits the bottom perfect,” says Steve Check, an investment manager based in Costa Mesa, Calif., who has attended the publisher’s meetings since 2004.

The stock market profits were first disclosed in a May 2009 Daily Journal regulatory filing under the heading, “Liquidity and Capital Resources.” The section outlined how the publisher was sitting on about $9 million in gains after spending $15.5 million buying common shares over six months through March 31 of that year. The results kept getting better. By the end of September 2009, they had appreciated to almost $48 million.


The five steps to benefit from mispricing

To execute a mispricing purchase you first must recognize one and then be able to act on it. This requires a number of elements to be in play at the same time:

  1. Patience
  2. Cash
  3. Analysis
  4. Flexibility
  5. Willingness to purchase an unpopular item in scale

We use the mispricing approach for our own benefit on vehicle purchases.

Early on we were striving to get the “best” instead of “good enough”.


So we went with a popular vehicle at the time, a Toyota 4runner. These were popular and expensive and we used the only mispricing technique we knew about at the time which was flexibility. We purchased a new 4Runner from the left over trucks from the previous model year. The $45,000 vehicle only cost us $40,000. We didn’t get the color or exact features we wanted but we saved $5000. Woot! And that popularity was not unfounded. We had the car 14 years and it is still on the road today.

Product is Currently Unpopular

For the next vehicle we got a little better at finding mispricing. The SUV boom was well under way and hatchbacks were unpopular and considered no longer cool. When we actually looked at the features they delivered enough mass and safety features to be safe, better gas mileage and all the functions of a full size SUV (that we needed). They were simply unpopular compared to the monster truck models of the day.

We combined the unpopular feature with the late model technique and got a Subaru Forester for $20,000. This was half the cost of the previous car purchase. Woot! $20,000 saved! These cars have since become popular again as more and more folks figured out the many benefits of these mid sized sport utility vehicles so mispricing affect is largely gone (on this model).  We were in style again, at least for a while.

Cash, Analysis and Patience

For our most recent purchase we added analysis and patience to the mix and to further benefit from mispricing. Many cars are rated by reliability. And they if aren’t rated top tier for reliability they really suffer in the used car market. People don’t want to own something that wasn’t best for reliability when purchasing something used. But when you do the analysis a middle tier rated car is actually more reliable than cars of the past.

We saved $30,000

We combined flexibility, our reliability analysis and the unpopular status of middle tier to watch, wait for and eventually obtain a used Volvo wagon for $12,000 dollars with very low miles. Woot! $30,000 saved! The battle wagon doesn’t have a lot of advertisments 


In summary

The market (us buyers and sellers) occasionally misprices goods and servies and assigns artificially high prices to the best and artificially low prices to the runner ups. You can discover and use this mispricing if you conduct the analysis, are flexible, patient and willing to select something currently unpopular (not easy as it sounds) that meets your particular needs. Just do your homework to make sure it is actually mispriced and not low cost for a reason you care about.

What about you? Have you benefited from temporary mispricing conditions?


The power of focus

When reading about how great achievers succeeded in sports, finance, philanthropy or skateboarding it is hard for me not to notice all the things they did to do so well.

What is often over looked is what they didn’t do – what they left out to make space and time for them to focus on their big thing.

It Is Not About the Money

To be clear this isn’t entirely about money. Instead it is about focusing your limited energy and time on the few things that matter. For you that might be religion, family, community, service, education and health. Or it might be skateboarding. Or languages. Or dogs.

Top Dog Inc.

As way of an example, lets say your thing is dogs. You decide to start a dog walking service. You love it. And to ensure you keep getting to meet interesting dogs and their people you want to be good at it. Plus it is even more fun to be appreciated by both the dogs and the people.

So you make up shirts, hats and take out snappy advertisements. Sure you make less money doing this but what a great service you offer. And, as is often, is the case, your focus might make you one of the “top dogs” in the dog walking offerings in your area.

If you need more money you can franchise out to nearby areas and hire a few folks. That way others can participate and it ensures that a lot of your time is in the dog walking business and that the work is enough to the pay the bills.

For example, in the context of paying for tuition does camping instead of a giant beach house vacation makes sense. And so does keeping an older car.

Deciding What Not To Do Makes Space

Only through focus and deciding to let other things go can you make space. A month long trip during the holidays isn’t going to happen as the reliable dog walker – folks depend on you when they are traveling. And if it the focus is too much and no longer rewarding you can always change your focus. Just don’t keep all the things you ever did going around.

The Gas Station Emporium Case Study

Years ago we lived in the county. And by county I mean more-horses-than-people-power-outages-for-a-week-at-a-time-they-have-bears kind of county.

Our small town next to our really small town had a gas station. And this gas station was also a repair shop. And it sold trinkets. And it ran a pancake shop out of one of the cinderblock sheds.

The gas station/pancake shop was ok at each but not great at anything. I was always worried there would be a motor oil and vegetable oil mix up one day.

So when a new gas station opened two towns over – one that was open past dusk (they had lights – it was glorious!), they lost business. And when a pizza joint arrived just over the mountains they did very well. And our local gas staton lost business.

It is still there and still open but how much fun can it be to run a place that is often empty and mostly visited by folks who don’t want the hassle of going to the good place? I would imagine not fun. And not all that profitable either.

You Can’t Do All The Things

You can’t do all the things. You can, however, do some of things well.

Determine your focus and narrowing your working hours on the focus areas will help you move forward in your current endeavor.

The hard part, of course, is figuring out what to focus on and what to leave aside. Only you can determine what that is for you but realize you can always can change your focus. What you can’t do is all the things.