Debt Dancing

I feel like I'm trying to dance into the next room, back and forth, never reaching my destination. We've had all sorts of things break down on us within a two week period. We'd no sooner get one working again when something else would go out.

When you live on a fixed income it becomes a source of creeping stress. Can I afford to replace my fridge or can I wait a couple more months? How much will it cost to fix the car? We've both got teeth cleaning scheduled and one cavity to refill--things no longer covered by insurance so we have to pay cash. Do I reschedule the appointments, or bite the bullet so to speak?

Much like freelancers, who can't always rely on a given income with certainty, you learn to pace yourself. We don't use credit cards unless we absolutely know we can pay it off at the end of the month. It doesn't matter if it's $5 or $5,000. If we can't pay it off, we don't take that road.

So here I am dancing. Get one thing fixed, two more pop up needing attention.

I did decide to put off the fridge replacement. With any luck, there should be another appliance sale around July 4th. (There are always sales around the holidays.) The fridge part of my refrigerator still works great. I keep all my frozen food in our big freezers, but it's a pain to traipse through a hot garage and try to find stuff. I really need to clean and inventory my freezers but I'll wait until winter when it's cooler. This way I don't have to worry about stuff defrosting while I'm inventorying and sorting out where everything should go.

So far my laundry list includes:

• my car stranded us (twice!) Greg deduced that it was something the dealer fixed two years ago because of a recall. We didn't know if they'd still honor that recall since they'd supposedly fixed it. Thankfully they did. They replaced a lot of stuff all for free. Yay!

• my push mower kept stalling. Despite the fact that Greg took the engine apart and cleaned every part, it refused to run longer than a few seconds. Out of frustration, we took it to a repair shop. He kept it for a week, testing it intermittently, and it worked every time. We think the car ride there must've dislodged something that had plugged it. It only cost us $20. Inconvenient and frustrating, but at least it wasn't expensive.

• our riding mower stopped working. Oy! This is one machine we can't do without. Fortunately, all it needed was a new battery.

• power inverter for the solar panels. This one hurt big time and it's still not settled. This power inverter is a very expensive piece of equipment that converts solar energy into electricity. It overloaded and died. We sent it back to the manufacturer ($150 for shipping!). When we got it back, it worked--sort of. The fan that keeps it from overheating doesn't run. Greg's contacted them again, but still no response.

• teeth. My teeth. His teeth. Nana's teeth. All three of us are due for teeth cleaning and some minor dental work. Estimated cost:$600-$700

• fridge. We did our research and finally settled on one. Estimated cost: $3000, but that's not all. Since it's significantly smaller than our old Sub-Zero, Greg will have to build a narrow side cabinet that matches the rest of my cabinetry. The refrigerator has already cost us nearly $400 just getting an assessment. All it did was confirm it's cheaper to buy a new fridge than fix the old one.

There are some cosmetic things I want to do with the house, but none of them have high priority. I really want to refinish the wood floors. I know we can do them ourselves for a fraction of the cost of a professional. (I consider myself semi-pro when it comes to refinishing.) But deep in my heart, I know it's an exercise in futility.

The reason the floors need refinishing is because of the dogs. Their pads sand the floor to bare wood. Our other option is tearing out the wood floor and replacing it with ceramic tile. A professional will probably charge us about $15k. We can possibly do it ourselves for half that. I can handle the cost (begrudgingly) but the job itself will be labor intensive and long. This is not your everyday wood planks. It's solid wood. The builders built that floor to last.

When it comes to the floor, I think it's a no-win scenario. All I know is that I want a nice house. I'm sick and tired of fixing a house to like new condition because I'm selling it. This time I want that 'new look' for myself. I've earned it.

All these expenses are for the most part nonnegotiable. I don't have to do them all at once, but I would like them off my to do list within the year. As long as nothing else drops out of the sky, I can handle stretching out the purchases.

Just once I'd like money to fall from the sky instead of bills.

About the only thing I wish would die is my washing machine. I have a Whirlpool Cabrio. Worst. Washer. Ever.

Never buy the Cabrio. I deliberately chose a machine without a lot of "extras" but no use. It's the electronics that are glitchy. It washes clothes great. No complaints. But I never know if it's going to decide not to wash a load that day. It usually involves me turning it on and off, pleading with it, cursing it, sacrificing a goat, and then calling Greg.

We discovered it usually requires ten minutes to reset itself. Pain in the keester! When it dies, I swear I will dance around its corpse.

What appliance ever gave you grief? Did you replace it or is it still in your life tormenting you?


Rebekah Loper said…
Oy! *hugs*

Our car. Our car has been giving us grief since we moved into the house. (Someday, I will figure out if I ever blogged about The Week of Hell, which was the week we moved into our house. It was awful. Because of car things.) We've replaced the power steering twice in three years, the engine coil had to be replaced and everything rewired (during the week of hell), we've replaced the catalytic converter (last year), alternator's been replaced, and the shocks & struts are definitely wearing out but there's no way I'm going to worry about those along with everything else on the car that keeps going.

What we really need is a truck. But car salespeople keep literally selling them out from under us.

I have to admit, I'm insanely curious as to what kind of fridge you're getting that it costs $3k? Like... it'd better be the best fridge to ever fridge and have a lifetime warranty.
Maria Zannini said…
Rebekah: I hate when it's one thing after another. you feel like you can't catch a break.

Greg once had to replace the head gasket to our only car as a hurricane was bearing down on us. If he hadn't gotten it fixed in time, we'd have been trapped.

We need a truck too. Our old Dodge Durango is 18 years old with 300,000 miles. Great truck. But it's becoming unreliable.

re: fridge
You'd be surprised at the price range. To replace our Sub-Zero would cost 15k. It's not worth it to me.

I wanted specific details in the new fridge: dual compressors, French doors, a solid feel when I opened and closed the doors, and the ability to change one compartment from freezer to refrigerator when I needed it.

One salesperson was very honest about appliances today. They simply do not last the way they used to. It's planned obsolescence through and through.
Ugh! I think you're totally right to wait for the July 4th sales.

We've had trouble with our air conditioning ever since we moved into our new house. We finally have a wonderful company - not the ones who installed it, etc - who have fixed it, plan on following up, and didn't even charge for some things, etc. And believe me, a/c in Florida in June is non-negotiable!
Stacy McKitrick said…
I hate shopping for appliances. I know I'll get ripped off one way or the other. I just don't know HOW. Currently, the only appliance that's giving me fits is my washer. I've had the knob replaced a couple of times already. It doesn't feel like I've owned it all that long, either. Which means it's probably older than 5 years. Haha!

By the way, Hubby LOVES the Z foam pillow. He hasn't had any problems sleeping since he started using it. Yay!
Maria Zannini said…
Madeline: I hear you on the AC. It's too hot in Texas most of the year.

I had the same experience when I moved into my house. Every year we had trouble with the AC. One time Greg happened to be here and he followed the guy. It turns out there was a leak in the system. The guy undoubtedly knew this but put freon anyway--which by the way is against the law if you know there's a leak. When Greg brought this up the guy started back peddling.

We finally found a reliable outfit who fixed the leak in the first place.
Maria Zannini said…
Stacy: I think my washer is 8 years old, but it's been a pain since year 2. I just wish it would die and get it over with.

I do feel appliances are a ripoff. They're deliberately not built as tough as they used to be. I've lived long enough to see the different versions.

re: pillow
That's GREAT! I'm so happy for him. I told you it was a good pillow. I don't go anywhere without mine. I hope you get yourself one too. Believe me it's a better night's sleep.
Oh boy, do I know this feeling! I hope your dance is successful. I especially know what you mean about wanting a nice house for YOU. It's no fun to fix them up, then move.

One thing we've always done in our budget is to include the cost of major repairs and replacements. Knowing we'd eventually have to replace something, we broke the cost into yearly amounts and set that money aside in a savings account. We've done that with everything we could think of: the roof, refrigerator, AC/heating system, etc. Things tend to cost more than we budgeted for, but we manage.

I wish I was "handy" like you, but I (nor my husband) could ever replace a floor or build a cabinet. We can sort of wield a screwdriver, but that's about it.

BTW, you talked me into ordering a Roomba! They were on sale for $549 the other day and Himself said to go for it. It should come today. Anticipation builds!
Lynn said…
My everyday sewing machine was super cheap because of a 50% off sale -- or so I thought. It's more like the world's biggest lemon. It vibrates like crazy if I try to sew fast, and the needle shaft is forever knocking itself out of alignment. It collects dust like a bunny under the bed, so I'm constantly cleaning it. The tension adjuster resets itself whenever it feels like it. I've even tried taping the adjuster dial and it still slides to wherever it wants to go. Since it's supposed to be a quilting model I thought it would be a bit easier on multiple layers, but nope. It skews them even when I drop the feed dogs and try free motion. Singers used to be good machines, but they're mostly cheap plastic now with too many electronics.

I'm using it every day in hopes of killing it, at which point I might take a sledge to it and dance around the smashed pieces. Then I'll do what I should have done in the first place and invest in a decent Husqvarna. :)
JackieBCentralTexas said…
Years ago in the mid 90's we had a gas dryer that sounded like someone had put tennis balls in it every time we had a load of clothes in it. My oh so handy husband found out it was a small part that had broken on one side of the tumbler and he fixed it himself.

The worst though was a Kenmore refrigerator that we had leak when the frost free freezer defrosted and the teeny tiny drip pan overflowed causing the oak floor underneath it to warp. The Sears repairman came out twice and on the second visit finally admitted it was a design flaw on that model, he took photos and told us to contact Sears with the bill when we had the floor repaired and they would have to pay for the repairs as they were actually liable. Of course we never got around to it and since that fridge burned up in our home a year or so later guess it got it's just reward for being such a mess maker.

Maria we have never had just one thing go wrong at a time either, when repairs start needing to be done the list just gets bigger before it tapers off for awhile and than starts over again with new problems we have to take care of. Seems like that is common for most fixed income households these days, the more money you shell out the more you need to use just to keep ahead of total disaster.
Maria Zannini said…
Marlene: Yes! The Roomba is on sale a few more days. I mentioned it in Monday's post I think. That's definitely the cheapest I've seen it.

I hope you enjoy yours as much as I do mine. I have not used my regular vacuum cleaner since getting this. I'm thinking about storing it in the attic.
Maria Zannini said…
Lynn: I didn't know Husqvarna made sewing machines. I know their chainsaws are well made though.

re: Singer
I think that's the way with most of the brands we knew to be reliable. My grandmother's old Singer was so well built I don't think you could destroy it.

I hope your sewing machine and my washing machine meet an early death.
Maria Zannini said…
Jackie: I think that's about right. You keep fixing things in order to stay ahead of total disaster. It's like pulling on a loose thread. If you don't snip it off, you lose the whole sweater.

It's inevitable to end up with a lemon occasionally. Sometimes no matter how much research I do, lemons happen.
Darcy said…
Does this happen to you too? Oh, gosh, yes. When one thing goes -- they all seem to go. Not sure how serious you are about saving money but I often refer my fixed income volunteers to a local dental school. Everything they do there is either discounted or free - plus you're helping to train future dentists.

Also, re the floors: When we bought our ugly duckling lake house we put in luxury vinyl plank. We did it because we wanted the look of wood without the worry of what a dog and kids tracking in sand would do to it. It's been two years and I am still really happy with it. It's super tough, easy to keep clean, feels good underfoot and looks enough like real wood that we've had visitors knell down to touch it to be sure. Hope things turn to the upside for you soon!
Jenny Schwartz said…
Ugh. Don't jinx the fridge! Mine sometimes sounds like a clucky chicken and other's loud! I don't like buying new whitegoods. Good luck with your fridge buy!
Maria Zannini said…
Darcy: This is our last home (I hope!) so I want the best I can afford and will also last. I'd much rather keep the wood floors. Refinished and polished, they're gorgeous. But either the wood floor goes or the dogs go, and we all know who'll win that contest. LOL.
Maria Zannini said…
Jenny: I hate buying appliances. I always feel I'm rolling the dice on whether I get a lemon.
Lynn said…
Husqvarna makes great sewing machines, but I think because they're designed for serious sewers they're not well-known outside the quilting and pro-sewing communities. Only certain stores sell them, and they're also pretty expensive. My friend Jill has an Opal model that I've worked on that just sings through the fabric. The model I lust most for is $3K, which really isn't in our budget, so unless I get a boatload of royalties any time soon it'll have to stay in my dreams.

I'm also looking at Juki models as I've been following a quilter on Tumblr who just bought one of their longarms and has been doing great projects with it. I like one heavy-duty model they have that is about half the price of Husqvarna. I just have to find a store and try one out (and kill the old Singer) before I commit.
Michael Keyton said…
I found this really depressing - more so for you experiencing it than I just reading. But next year Bernadette joins me in retirement and then, like you, we'll be living from a fixed income. We're busy doing jobs that need doing - probably buy a new gas boiler too, and then we'll just do what someone above advised - a savings plan for the unforeseen. Never mind. You have what sounds like a wonderful house that will do doubt decline with equal grace as yourselves. And on that cheerful note... :)
Maria Zannini said…
Lynn: I think as long as you take care of something it's better to buy the quality goods as opposed to the cheaper one.

Of course that bit me on the backside when it came to puppies and leather furniture. LOL!
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: Sounds like I missed my mark. I wasn't depressed as I was irritated that everything comes in at once.

We can pay for everything. I just don't like pinching off pieces of my savings cushion all in one grand chunk.

I am neither patient or forgiving with equipment.
joe said…
wow.... that minor dental work is really costly.
Maria Zannini said…
Joe: That's 3 teeth cleanings and 1 filling for two people and a dog.
Michael Keyton said…
No, I didn't get that you were depressed. Zannini depressed? Unthinkable! No, I meant the situation ie a bunch of things breaking down all at once/near the same time being a bummer. Right. Back to my beer.
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: More like righteous anger. LOL!

Speaking of beer. I need to go over and visit your blog.
betty said…
We'll be starting to do that dancing again now that we got the big projects done that we knew we wanted done and we used some of the money left over from the sale of the house in California. We still have a few more projects but will budget them out accordingly since we don't want to touch any more of that money and actually try to again save money.

That floor decision would be a hard one, but I agree with you; it would be nice to have it while you are living in the house, not before you sell the house.