When Everything Breaks All at Once - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

When Everything Breaks All at Once

Back when I was in graduate school, I had a run of bad luck.

First, this happened:

Then, my landlord decided he was going to sell the house my roommate and I were renting, and the only place we could find was $200 more expensive per month.

Then, on a day that a paper was due, my four-year-old laptop decided to give up the ghost and totally and completely implode in a way that could not be fixed. (It might have had a little something to do with the fact that it froze up for a second and I banged my fist on the poor elderly computer in frustration. Apparently, my misplaced anger made a loose screw fall into some sort of moving part, making everything go kablooey. I believe that was the technical term used by the computer expert I consulted when I wanted to know if I could possibly salvage any of the information on that computer).

At the time, it seemed clear that anything that could be broken or made more expensive would be broken or made more expensive when one is a graduate student who is already living on a shoestring.

Fast forward to today.

J and I seem to have hit a similar string of broken things.

First, this happened:

Between the repaint job and taking care of a couple of dents while we're at it, it will cost about $1000 to get J's Volvo back to its stylin' self.

Then, this happened:

Actually, our damage wasn't nearly that bad. But the laptop I use to stay connected and working even when I'm out of town had a ginormous crack right through the middle of the screen. I'm not going to name any names here, but the local authorities have identified a certain young man as a person of interest in the mystery of the cracked laptop screen. It is suspected that the unnamed alleged placed some sort of foreign object (such as a letter block known to be in use by the unnamed alleged and many of his compatriots) on the keyboard of the computer and closed the case. Then, realizing the perfidy of his actions, this unnamed alleged must have removed said foreign object and gently re-closed the case to bury the evidence of his wrong-doing. The investigation into this matter is ongoing.

There is a very good boutique computer repair shop here in town, and we were able to get the laptop fixed quickly and competently. Unfortunately, since we are Apple users, even getting a used screen as a replacement cost the equivalent of the GDP of an island nation. There was a brief discussion about selling the unnamed alleged in order to raise the funds to pay for this repair, but it was decided that we'd miss him. (It was also decided that the computer will now be stored on shelves well out of reach of anyone currently living in this household).

Cost for repairing our laptop: $593

Then, J and I decided it was time to upgrade LO to a big boy bed. He has been sleeping in the toddler bed/crib that has been his for three years, but not only do we need him to vacate that space sometime in the near future in order to accomodate a new occupant, but he still expects us to lie down with him each night as he falls asleep. While neither J nor I are known for our impressive height, it has been somewhat uncomfortable contorting ourselves into the size of a toddler in order to lie down with LO. Add in the fact that I am no longer bending in the middle quite as easily as I usually do, and the fact that we would like LO to see his big boy bed as an upgrade rather than an eviction once the new occupant arrives, and it was clear it was time to order this:

Image source

Between the platform bed, the optional headboard, and the new mattress, LO's new bed cost about $550.

And, because we weren't quite done yet, J noticed two days ago that my tires were shot.

We are leaving today for a road trip and will be taking my car, so clearly this would not do.

Normally, J orders new tires for us online and simply has the shop take care of mounting them for us. But with only three days until we were spending ten hours in the car, it was very clear that we did not have time to wait for the normal, frugal course of action.

With a heavy heart, J called our local shop and scheduled a re-shoeing of my Honda. Not waiting for tires through the mail added an additional $100 to the cost. J has spent some time shaking his fist at the heavens and being angry at himself for missing such an obvious issue.

In any case, the new tires, the alignment, and the oil change that J had them throw in for good measure, cost $692--although we were able to knock $20 off the price with a coupon from Angie's List and bring it down to $672.


J told me yesterday, "We hemorrhaging money!"

I understand his concern. It stinks when everything breaks all at once.

But, unlike when I was in graduate school, we were prepared for these issues.

We will pay for J's car repair from our New Car fund. (It's a little more than we can cover with our Car Repair fund, and using this grand won't affect our ability to get a replacement car in a hurry if that becomes necessary for any reason).

We paid for the laptop screen repair from our Computer Replacement fund. We put a little money aside each month towards a new computer even though we won't need one for at least a couple of years. Even though $600 takes a big chunk out of that fund, this repair is necessary and we won't be in the market for a computer for quite some time, provided we keep little fingers from our electronics.

We paid for LO's big boy bed out of our New Furniture fund. We didn't quite have enough money in the fund to cover all of the cost of the bed, so we also had to dip into some of our general money. But having the New Furniture fund was enough to make this purchase possible.

And we paid for my new tires by cleaning out our Car Repair fund and with a little money from our New Car fund.

While I'm just as frugal as J, and feel just as weird about having these savings accounts go down, I recognize that we're in a much better position than I was back in grad school. It may stink seeing our various "emergency" funds go down, but this is the very reason why we set the money aside in the first place.

I am still putting the rest of our belongings on notice:

No breaking, or you'll just get fixed with duct tape.



haverwench said:

Honestly, it seems like it always works that way. In our case, it's an operation for our cat, a car tire with a slow leak, and a new patio we're putting in. (Okay, so that one wasn't an absolute necessity, but we'd been putting it off for three years already.) But fortunately, we have pet insurance, a trustworthy mechanic, and a neighbor who was willing to lend us a jackhammer (for demolishing the old concrete pad to make way for the patio).

June 28, 2013 10:47 AM

frugal_fun said:

I hemmed. I hawed. And it's probably a done deal, but I'll say it anyway:

$1000 is a tremendous amount of money to spend on a 20 year old vehicle to just to make the paint job look nice. Yes, it's a Volvo and it may never die.  But after $1000 on paint/body work, it will still be a 20 year old car that may need a new part tomorrow (or keyed again).  

With two old cars, lifting out the new car fund for aesthetics  (especially when the repair fund is bone dry because of tires) would not be my personal first choice. :(  We lifted from the new car fund for repairs to make the old car go (did I mention it was worth $500 at trade-in??) and I regret it.

At any rate, you could think of the body scratch as character. Old cars are full of that. We also have car that's just overflowing with character parked in front of our house. :)

June 28, 2013 8:00 PM

Emily Guy Birken said:

@frugal_fun, I totally understand where you're coming from. We've heard it from several worried individuals, particularly considering the Volvo is only worth about $3000.

If circumstances were different, I probably would have asked him to wait and save up money for an aesthetic fix from his fun money account. But, basically any repair we make to the Volvo ends up costing a significant chunk of what the car is worth, so that was already kind of a non-issue to us. And because J can just buy parts and do the repairs himself, and because we save a great deal of money by driving older cars that can run forever provided nobody wrecks them, we're in a good financial place car-wise. (We could theoretically afford two beaters at once, if needs be, with the money we have set aside in our new car fund. And the fund is that robust partially because of the money we've saved by driving older cars that J can easily work on).

So, basically, we're in an okay place, even with the $1000 hit to our new car fund. I do worry about what happens if someone keys it again, but considering how much this better this cosmetic fix will make J feel, I think it's worth the money.

That said, the next time he says "You spent $30 on an audio book?!!" I will certainly have some ammo. :-)

June 30, 2013 9:44 AM

Live Like a Mensch said:

Back in 2010, when J and I moved to Lafayette, we hit a couple of bumps in the road of relocating. First

July 25, 2013 12:07 PM

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