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Thursday, January 5, 2017

How we look at the non-fun expenses, like repair bills, is a choice

If you "own" anything at all, in this world, then you know that at some point, that thing will need replacement or repair. It should come as no surprise. Everything wears out, eventually.

Our overall budget reflects this basic fact about earthly belongings. We know that things wear out and need fixing or replacing. Three years ago, we began saving for a new water heater. Just after Thanksgiving, this year, our water heater sprung a leak, all over the garage floor. It hadn't been functioning properly, anyway, for the past 2 years. So this was, indeed, no surprise. (That water heater was 20 years old.)

And then in another area, our mechanic informed us that our tires were worn out, at the legal limit for tread depth. We save for car repairs and replacement every year. It's built in to our budget. Cars are work horses for many of us. And with all of the service they give us, nearly every single day of the year, they do need maintenance, as well as repair, on a very regular basis. Brand new tires went onto our one working car last week.

A new water heater and set of tires aren't cheap. While we had the money in savings, this did consume a big chunk of our readily available "cushion". And coming right at the holiday period, the comfortable and prudent thing to do was to curtail gift spending, as much as possible.

Receiving tires and a water heater for your main Christmas gift sounds depressing, doesn't it? But it doesn't need to be. How we see our world can be narrow and defeating, or it can be freeing and up-lifting.

I choose to see receiving tires and a water heater for Christmas, in a positive light.

The new tires are my and my family's safety on the road. Did you know that once a tire reaches the legal tread depth limit that it takes 2 extra car lengths, (at speed of 50 MPH) to come to a stop, in wet weather, compared to a tread depth at double that legal limit? [;]

Here in Seattle, it's no surprise that I drive on a lot of wet and slick roads. I had to make a long drive on New Year's Eve, in the dark, in active snowfall, in a small sedan, without 4-wheel drive. There were SUV's and trucks whizzing past me, making my visibility even poorer. But I had my new tires. Chances of a blow-out or a spin-out were greatly reduced, because of these new tires.

And do you know what else? The guy who put the new tires on my car, also cleaned my hubcaps! You know how dirty hubcaps can get, right? I now have clean hubcaps and new tires. Plus, I got a free calendar, a cup of coffee and popcorn for my daughters. Our safety and all of these extras were my Christmas gift this year.

Our old water heater wasn't putting out much hot water for the past one to two years. Every morning was a gamble as to whether or not my bath would be warm enough or so cool that I barely dipped myself into the water before shiveringly hopping out to towel off. There was never enough hot water for the whole family, so if hot water was important to each of us, we all allowed intervals to lapse in between each shower, bath or load of laundry.

With receiving a new water heater as a primary Christmas gift, what I really got was a reliably hot bath or shower, every single time. Every. single.time. my bath is just how I like it. I can luxuriate in hot water all morning long, if I want. Or at least not have any more chilly bath times. And the dishes are coming out cleaner from the dishwasher. There is less scraping and wiping, as the clean dishes are removed from the dishwasher. The other thing, our hot water is cleaner, too. No more sediment, no more flaking bits from the deteriorating dip tube. I no longer have to clean the kitchen faucet aerator screen, which had to be done a couple of times per month, to keep the wacky spray at bay.

It's all in how you look at things. Safe tires, hot water and no leaks can be viewed as awfully nice Christmas gifts, don't you think?


  1. I agree totally. It is really all about perspective. Plus, there aren't many Christmas presents that will last as long/be as useful as the two you and your family "received" this year. And it is also a great way to start a new year!

    1. Hi Jayne,
      Oh and I hadn't thought of that aspect. You're right, there aren't many Christmas presents that will last 10 or 20 years. Starting the new year on good tires and with a new water heater is something I'm grateful for.

  2. Congratulations, great gifts you know you'll enjoy and appreciate all year! :) I love practical gifts, and a lot of times we defer practical purchases, if possible, to Christmas (or think ahead about them at that time of year), so that we can have things that really matter for Christmas. :)

    I've never understood the outrage some people have over being given something they need and want because it's utilitarian. It seems a bit silly to me when a person will only be satisfied or appreciative of a gift if it is a luxury or a "pretty" thing. Sometimes pretty and utilitarian merge, and those are great gifts for ladies. I try to make them for my friends. A lot of my favorite gifts from my husband have been totally practical and not at all "romantic" in the standard perspective, but I'm very sentimental about them, nonetheless.

    I guess part of the feeling about such things might also be, however, about if gifts are the only time you feel you're getting thoughtful and positive "feedback". If you're treated like a washing machine all year, so to speak, I CAN understand why you might not be impressed with a new one for Christmas, even if it will make your life easier the next year.


    1. Hi Sara,
      Good point on the "feedback" issue. A lot of people don't express gratitude, regularly, except through gifts. So, it could be perceived as more insult to injury if all you are ever given is more tools to "serve" someone else's needs.

      Have a great day, Sara!

  3. I agree 100%!

    We also save for things like the two you discussed--We're not the handiest for do-it-youself jobs so we have to plan to hire most things out. Hubby can do some things but not all. He fixed the exhaust fan above the stove that the blades were hitting something. So he took it apart and noticed the blades were shifting thus hitting something making a lot of noise.

    I have only been in this house 3 years and we already had the water heater spring a leak thus an expensive replacement. I did notice that the water is much hotter coming out and the setting is similar to what was on the old heater. That tells me that the old one was failing giving us less warm water. I wash dishes by hand most of the time and I had noticed that the water wasn't very hot coming out of the faucet. Now it is very hot. We had to warn the kids when they all came home that the shower setting would be hotter than what they were used to so be very careful.

    When the kids were quite little there was very little thought about our future and then I began working outside the home and realized we had lived on one income for a while and I didn't really need the income since I called my job a "hobby job". All the money I make I don't see. It all gets put away. We are blessed. We have always set aside money for repairs/replacements and whatever might come up unexpectedly. And we also are thankful that God always provides for us.

    So we got a new hot water heater for Christmas also! My daughter asked for warm socks. We bought what the kids needed but didn't wrap anything since it was basics and needed to be used immediately.


    1. Hi Alice,
      Yes, I remember, yours began leaking the same week as ours! We experienced the same thing with the temp of the water, and I've had to be careful to check water temp before putting my hands, fully, under running water.

      Good job to your husband, repairing the kitchen exhaust fan. We have to hire out most of our repairs, too. Which means we have to save more than if we could do these ourselves.

      That was extremely sensible of your daughter. Warm socks are a blessing on cold days.

      Have a great day, Alice!

  4. I agree, Lili. My husband's car needed an expensive repair right before Christmas. We agreed that we would keep presents to each other simple & inexpensive. I followed the rule, but he didn't :) To his credit, he had gone on a business trip to San Francisco before all of this happened. He really wanted to buy me a new set of every day sheets for our bed (Cal. King). Plus he bought me some nice chocolate. It was very sweet of him.

    I get nervous, too, when I see our "cushion" deplete. But then I have to remind myself, God has always taken care of us and my security is in Him alone. Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa,
      Well, new sheets are a practical gift, unless you have 3 or 4 good sets already. And I've never seen Cal King sets at thrift stores or garage sales. It's something you would have to buy at some point, anyway. The chocolate was very sweet of him, and appreciated by you. I think that's nice.

      Have a great day, Melissa!

    2. It was a needed gift. Although I felt very guilty about it because I had just bought flannel sheets for our bed. We keep our house on the chilly side and I was I just couldn't take another winter of waiting an hour between the sheets to get warm enough to fall asleep.

      I've never seen Cal King sheets at thrift stores and yard sales around here. I don't know why that is. I always buy sheets for the kids' beds at those places, though.

    3. Hi Melissa,
      Oh, I understand. I have to remember to turn up the heat before visitors arrive, as I'm accustomed to a lower temp in the house, as I work. But at night, the cold house is hard to take, especially in December and January, here.

      Have a wonderful weekend, Melissa!

  5. New Tires are a wonderful gift. We also bought new tires this season and it protected Kristi on the road
    if it had not been for brand new tires when someone tried to drive almost into the side of the car she
    would have spun out. Tires are a good gift! Also a water heater is good Carol had some repairs done to hers and hopes it will save on the power bill :) I
    love useful things. I do believe it is a mind set
    we were blessed to be able to replace the tires.
    You were blessed to replace the things in your life.
    Nothing like a warm bath, hot cup of tea and a good book. Almost like a mini vacation.
    Have a great day.

    1. Hi Patti,
      I'm so glad for you to have bought those tires for your car! I read that post by Carol, and I'm hoping she does see a savings in her electric bill. And I hope our gas bill goes down a bit, too.

      Yes, like a mini-vacation! On a cold, winter day, hot water and a cup of tea is a dream come true for me.

      Have a great day, Patti!

  6. Great advice . We have done this for years now . This year we bought ourselves a propane fridge ( from the scratch and dent of course ) and a two light propane light for above the table .
    My husband's last day of work was Nov 1st and we purchased an off grid home on $20 acres . It has solar and wind but a regular fridge takes alot .
    We are living in a one bedroom one bath log cabin .
    I was thrilled with my new fridge and light .

    1. Hi Dee,
      Wow! that sounds like an amazing adventure you've just embarked upon. Enjoy your fridge and light! I'm sure those are very appreciated gifts.

      Have a great day, Dee!

  7. Ah yes. This is the year I received a furnace for Christmas. Which, since the current temperature is 13* and that doesn't account for the wind chill, seems like a pretty good gift. :) Attitude is everything. Today I took the car in for an oil change and found out some other maintenance items needed to be done on the car--hooray for financial cushions. The bonus? Where we have our car serviced, the waiting room is beautiful and they have complimentary snacks, so I enjoyed coffee, a bagel (about 1/4 of a bagel, actually--trying to be careful after the Christmas calorie indulgences) and some quiet time to read my library book. Now it's back to laundry and cleaning.

    1. Car repair places...we normally take our cars to the same mechanic but my daughter had no time in her schedule for the oil change so we took it to a place closer to her. They did their "complimentary" check and told me she needed her tires balanced and a front end alignment. I questioned that so when hubby dropped a different car at our mechanic he asked about that. Our mechanic looked up the record and said that the balancing and alignment DID NOT need to be done on daughter's car because he did all that just the oil change before. Gotta watch those places!


    2. Hi Kris,
      A new furnace is a very thoughtful gift! You can be warm and toasty all winter long, and you may save a bit of money on utility bills, too. And what a lovely time getting your oil changed.

      I need to get the oil changed on our car soon, too. That place has snacks out, plus tea (and horrible coffee, but knowing that, I can stick to the tea). I bring my laptop with me, when I go. They have early appointments, which are very nice, as I can have the entire waiting area to myself. Now, I'm looking forward to getting the oil changed!

      Have a great day, Kris!

    3. Hi, again, Alice, it does help to find someone you can trust, doesn't it? We have had a similar experience in the past and try to stick to mechanics that either we use regularly, or in the case of the tires, someone who came recommended to me by someone I trust.

    4. Yes. We've had this happen so many times. The oil change place tells us our car needs repair, I take the car to our regular mechanic (for 25 years) and he says, "No, that doesn't need to be done." Or, "that can wait another 6 months." Lately, my husband has been teaching our oldest son to change the oil, so that will be one less expense. (My husband detests this job. About 10 yrs. into our marriage, he said he'd rather pay to have it done.) But now he wants our son to learn to do it and it'll save us money, too. Melissa

    5. We have been using the same service center for at least 15 years now and I trust them not to add unnecessary services on. I have definitely had my experiences with those who are trying to make a quick buck, and that's not fun!

    6. Melissa, that's wonderful that your husband is teaching your son to change oil, a skill that will save a little money when he's first starting out.

  8. Good job on having an attitude of gratitude with what could have been a major downer!!

    For us, surprisingly, no major repair and home improvement for a few years, so I know chances are growing that this year may be the year we have multiple large bills. Although we don't save ahead for large expenditures, daily I try to live on the absolute minimum (and there is always room to challenge myself to live even more simply), so I know there is never a question in my mind that I didn't try my best, despite not planning and saving ahead (I guess I really, really hate to plan in fine detail).

    As far as gifts to ourselves, we don't. Maybe this is part of living simple (and spartan). Ever since I decided to be extremely frugal, I don't miss shopping, restaurant dining, receiving gifts, fancier cooking at home, etc. I think it is because I am so focused on keeping everything simple, these extras actually annoy me. Bah humbug lol :)

    Have a nice day!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      Ha ha! I know that feeling. nothing has broken down for a while, so surely, something will fall apart very soon!

      You're doing a fabulous job of making choices that matter to you, and saving a considerable sum of money, in the process!

      Have a great day, YHF!


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