What do you do when your budget goes “boom”? That moment when you suddenly and unexpectedly have a big cost added to your monthly expenses?
A big cost like, say, a dishwasher going bust.
No, that’s not a picture of leftover mop water. That’s from our dishwasher :-/
Our current dishwasher came with the house. It’s already had 1 major repair + several DIY fixes (thank you, YouTube). It’s had drainage issues, it only cleans dishes on the bottom rack, and so much steam escapes mid-cycle that you get a facial each time you wander near it. I’ve slipped in the puddles but thankfully haven’t fallen. Just the other day, however, Joe ran into the kitchen, slid through the water, and landed on top of Jack. Lots of tears and a few bruises.
Falling in leaking water isn’t its only safety risk. Chris and I have scratched ourselves on the rusted racks several times. I’m glad we’re up to date on tetanus shots. I considered replacing the racks but knew this was like pouring money down the drain. Like putting a band-aid on a severed limb. Like adding air to a punctured tire. Do you get the idea?
It’s not dirty – that’s how it looks after cleaning it with disinfectant
The soap dispenser build-up that keeps coming back
Just a few rusted out spots
A corner bends away from the whole unit whenever I open the door
Clearly, this machine has seen better days. While we weren’t happy about having to deal with this unexpected expense, we knew that there were ways to minimize the cost.
For starters, we’ve learned to ask questions. Questions like:
- Is this a repair or a replace job?
- If it’s a replace job, does it need to happen now, or is there time to save up for it?
- If we’re replacing it, do we want a “final” or a “fill-in” replacement?
Our home came with a 1 year home warranty that expires in September. We’ve used it once and weren’t impressed. We knew that, whatever was wrong, the warranty company would want to spend the least amount to get it running. If the repairman did say it was a replace job, then the company got to make the decision on the new machine… which could mean the cheapest model, not energy efficient, etc. We thought about it, looked at new dishwashers, and decided against repairing it.
- It’s already been professionally repaired once and it was recommend that we replace it if it broke down again.
- It’s old and needs to be replaced soon regardless of any repairs. Do we want to sink any more money into it?
- Any repairs done via home warranty would incur a flat $100 fee. That’s at least 15% of the cost of a new dishwasher, depending on how much we spent.
Everyone needs to answer these questions based on the information they have at the time. Our finances are different than our neighbors, our neighbors finances are different than they’re neighbors, and so on and so forth. Depending on where you’re at with your budget, you might answer the above questions differently to how we did. You might say, “We know it needs to be replaced, but we only have enough for a repair. Lets fix it, but keep saving for a new or used one.” ***Craigslist, ReStore, and various scratch ‘n dent shops are great for used or floor model appliances.***
Or perhaps you might answer those questions with, “Yes, it needs to be replaced. Yes, it needs to be repaired, but we don’t have money for either of those things.” Then what?
At that point you ask yourself, “Can we make do without?”. A dishwasher isn’t a necessity in our house. We considered doing dishes the old-fashioned way. It wasn’t my favorite choice, but when it came down to it we were already spending a lot of time at the sink because the dishwasher did such a terrible job. Giving up the dishwasher for awhile wouldn’t mean that much extra counter-time. Or, if you don’t have the money for a repair or replace and are handy (or know someone who is) you might post a request on Freecycle for a working dishwasher. It’s a risk as to how well it will work (it is free, after all) but it’s another option.
In the end, we decided against leaving it as it was (no repair, no replacement) and opted to buy a new one. We decided against a “fill in” phase replacement and went for a “final phase” machine. Why? We had the savings for it (albeit I was hoping those savings would go toward other things, but we can adjust and make do). We also didn’t want to buy one that would work but would likely need yearly or bi-yearly maintenance, not to mention another replacement down the road (which would mean another installation fee).
After all of our research, talking, and Facebook polling, we settled on the Bosch 500 series model.
Oooh, spacey! It looks so shiny and new!
Why Bosch? Because every. single. person. who recommended a brand on my Facebook poll recommended Bosch. Everyone. It was also the highest ranked brand and the brand with the least call-outs according to Consumer Reports.
Okay. We’d decided on a replacement. We’d picked out a model. Now, for the fun – trying to eke out the most savings possible Yes, there can be some fun involved in budgeting. It brings out my competitive, type-A nature!
We went to 4 stores and spoke with sales associates at each store. In the end, we bought from Sears. We asked questions like, “Do you offer free installation? What’s the cost of hauling away the old machine? What discount would we get if we signed up for a store credit card? Store X is offering this deal – can you match or beat that?” It’s worth talking to people, and in some instances it can be worth a lot. Did you know, for example, that some stores charge up to $75 for installation? And that doesn’t include the $20 kit you need to purchase to hook up the machine? Did you know that your local township may have a better haul-away rate than the store? Some counties offer a free once-a-year bulk trash pick-up. It may be worth finding out when that is and stowing the old dishwasher in the garage till then.
By asking questions, doing research, and informing ourselves, we were able to knock $292 off the price (already on sale for $90 thanks to Memorial Day). We shopped through Ebates ($30 savings). We have a free ShopYourWay account, and they’re linked with Sears (earned us $8.10 in rewards). Our county offers a $50 mail-in rebate if you replace your old dishwasher with a new, energy star model (check with your county to see if they offer the same sort of thing). The Sears associate gave us a $50 price adjustment because, essentially, we asked if they’d give us a better deal than the other 3 stores we visited. Last but not least, Bosch was offering a prepaid Visa gift card for up to $150 to cover installation and haul-away.
Budget busters can’t be predicted, but hopefully they can be minimized. And while you may not be able to foretell the exact day that your A/C will break or dryer will fall apart, you can start to save for it (and other big home repairs). I like the book, “America’s Cheapest Family”. They have practical guidelines on smart ways to start saving for unexpected expenses. You should read it.
Have you had any budget-busters lately? What are some ways you’ve been able to successfully navigate those unexpected expenses?