Sunday, November 2, 2014

My Fans - Both of Them

I don't know that I've brought it up here before now, but a couple years ago, Jenn and I made the momentous decision to go off-the-grid, credit-wise.  Our credit card debt had hit an unmanageable level, so we just said the hell with it, cut up our cards, and set about running a zero-balance budget (including paying off the debt we had accumulated; we may be foolish, but we're not deadbeats).

The financial-types we consulted before taking this momentous step told us that first, and fundamentally, we needed to set up an 'emergency fund' of at least $1000, for things like repairs that come up, so we did that.  And almost immediately, the circus began.  Our washing machine went toes-up. Cha-ching. Tap the emergency fund, and then refill it.  Then our dishwasher died.  Cha-ching.  Tap the emergency fund again, and refill it.  My car got totalled, so we had to go back to the credit well to buy a not-too-heavily-used replacement, which put a fresh strain on the cash-flow, until the profit-sharing check came through.  And then the replacement car got rear-ended on a snowy/icy day.  I was nearly in a panic for a couple days, until it became clear that the damage to my car was merely cosmetic, and it was still fully drive-able.  Then Jenn's car woke up one day and discovered that it had nearly 200,000 miles on its odometer, and decided to call it a life.  So we scrapped out her car, and bought 4M's car from him, when he moved to Seattle.

By that point, we were starting to get creative about covering our bases.  One of the kids left the fridge door ajar overnight, and by the following morning, it was sitting silently, the motor no longer running, the milk starting to get warm.  So we moved everything to the 'reserve' fridge in the basement (which wasn't quite big enough to hold everything that had been in the 'main' fridge, so some stuff took up temporary lodging in the neighbors' fridge), and started making plans for how we were going to procure a new fridge with what was left of our emergency fund.  After a couple days, though, the main fridge had a change of heart, or caught its breath, or something, and began making happy electrical fridge-noises again, and making the inside of the box cold again, so we moved the food back upstairs, grateful for the reprieve (we didn't fully trust that the fridge had been 'healed', and we fully expected it to give up at some not-too-distant future time, but at least we could make use of the delay to refill the emergency fund once again; that was about a year ago, and the fridge is still running fine today, so thanks be to God).

We've had relatively few appliance-crises for that past several months (I hesitate to mention that the dryer and the stove have held strong, lest they hear me, and decide to join in the fun).  We live with a degree of low-grade dread that one of the kids will stick a tin can in the microwave, and when I discovered 7M downloading 'free' music onto the computer, I had an, uh. . . over-reaction (that's what he called it; seemed perfectly reasonable to me. . .).  But the emergency fund has been in decent health, all things considered, and we're mostly able to anticipate and plan for things like putting new tires on two cars, and straightening 8M's teeth (not, alas, as optional as I wish it were; if you saw his teeth, you'd understand), and stuff like that.

So a couple weeks ago, just as the weather (back to talking about the weather again. . .) was transitioning from air-conditioning season to furnace-season, we flipped the thermostat switch from cooling to heating the first day when the overnight low dropped below 50F.  We were sitting in our living room that evening, and heard the comforting electric hum that signaled that the blower-motor was coming on.  Only the hum continued for several seconds, instead of giving way to the 'whoosh' of the fan blowing warm air through the house, and then it quit.  No rush of warmth.  A few minutes later, it tried again, and again we heard the extended electric-motor hum as it tried to come on and failed.  Crud.  Jenn looked at me and asked how the emergency fund was doing.  Okay, I said, but a furnace repair might just about kill it.  We called a friend of ours who knows a little bit about furnaces, and he came over and poked around for a few minutes before telling us, "I think your blower motor's fritzed."  Double crud.

So the next day, Jenn called the furnace-repair guy, and he came, and gave a quote north of $600, which was just higher than the current contents of the emergency fund.  So she told him we'd get back to him, once we figured out how to pay him.  Later that same day, our friend who had looked at the furnace came by with a page he'd printed from an on-line home-repair site, offering the motor we needed for just less than $200.  "If you can buy this motor," he said, "I know a guy who'll install it for $100."  Sold!

So all told, we were without heat in our house for about two weeks.  The house was chillier than we'd prefer, especially at night (into the 50s, which is about what we set the overnight thermostat for in the winter), but still very livable; Jenn just snuggled closer to me in bed, so, you know, win-win.

Somewhere in those two weeks without a furnace-fan, I got into my car and turned the key.  The engine fired up, but something seemed odd.  There was no fan-noise.  I checked; the fan knob was in the 'high' position.  I turned it off and back on; nothing.  It was a weekend, so I was just driving across town, but still, the windshield was starting to fog up.  So I cracked the window open, and drove around that way, just so I could see the road ahead of me.  I was getting annoyed by all the niggling little repairs that were starting to pile up again, and noting the irony that both my house and my car were suffering from fans that wouldn't blow the warm air.  The air was there, and it was warm, but the fan wouldn't send it where it needed to be.

The next day, when I had a few minutes to think it through, I thought that I should at least check the fuse box before I committed myself to replacing the fan motor.  I pulled the cover off and figured out from the schematic which fuse was for the fan motor.  I tried to pull it out to look at it, but it was in too tightly, so I pushed it back in, and prepared to find a pair of pliers with which to pull it out.  I had the keys in the ignition so I could listen to the Spartan football game on the radio, and when I pushed the fuse back in. . . the fan came on.  So it was just a loose connection.  For a couple days, I would start the car, and the fan wouldn't come on, so I would go into the fuse box and give a push to the fan fuse, and all would be well.  After that, the fuse, apparently realizing that I was onto his game, just said the hell with it, and stayed engaged.  I've had to give it a shove a couple more times in the past couple weeks, but nothing too terribly onerous.  Even if I had to push the fuse in every time I start the car, that wouldn't be too terrible.  I suppose that, in the fullness of time, I'll have to give a closer look, and maybe replace the fuse box, but that time is not yet.

And the emergency fund is on its way back to wholeness.  Again.


In other news, 7M's football team played their first playoff game Friday night last.  7M was, how shall I say it - geeked.  I don't know if he got any actual sleep the night before.  It seems that the team managed to channel their collective nervous energy in mostly constructive ways, pulling out a 61-0 victory.  The first round of the playoffs can be like that, as schools of similar size, that play vastly different levels of competition during the regular season, end up bracketed together.  Next week's opponent will no doubt be tougher.

The weather for the game was, um. . . brutal.  Around 40F, with a 20-mph north wind.  It was actually snowing just before kickoff, although it didn't snow (or rain) during the game itself.  Even so, it was merciful to the fans, as well as the losing team, that the second half was played with a running clock.

That nasty weather kept me indoors and off my bike yesterday.  Today promises to be sunny and a bit warmer, with less-than-gale-force winds, so perhaps I can get a few miles in this afternoon.  Onward and upward. . .


  1. First, 61-0 is kind of cruel, isn't it?

    Sorry to hear of all your appliance, car, heavy equipment issues. It's stressful enough to not have their use, let alone concerns about how to pay for all of it.

    I've always wondered how people do the no credit card thing? How do you rent a car or reserve a hotel room?

    1. I wouldn't call it cruel. It was just one of those games; they happen in the first round of the playoffs, as similarly-sized schools that played vastly different levels of competition get bracketed together. And sometimes when things go wrong for a team, especially with the pressure of the playoffs, they kinda get flustered and collapse. 7M's first two defensive plays were a fumble and an interception, and it kinda went downhill from there. The starters didn't play after halftime, and the JVs played the 4th quarter. And, as noted, the second half was played with a running clock. . .

      Well, part of paying down debt is, you don't have enough cash to rent cars or stay in hotels. In a couple years, I'll have the wherewithal to think about how to handle those things again. . . ;)

    2. We also have debit cards, which will fill some of those roles. So long as you have the cash in the account. . .

  2. I went off the credit card grid in the wayback after my first ex-wife* ran up the credit cards out of spite. It took me the better part of five years to pay off the debt, but like you, I'm no deadbeat. It was several years before I got another credit card. Ever since that time... the time when I got another card... I've paid the balance in full every month and haven't had any further problems. It sure takes a lot of will power to pull that off.

    Good on 7M! Here's hoping he and his team go all the way!

    * I have two ex's. I thought about collecting them for a while but reconsidered. Two is MORE than enough, thank ya.

    1. See, that's just one of my incentives for maintaining a zero count of ex-wives. That, and the fact that my life works so much better just for her being my wife in the first place. Sometimes, you just choose way better than you knew at the time. . .

      7M and his team can only play them one at a time; even so, it can be hard not to look ahead. If they win the games they're 'supposed to', the defending state champs are lurking in the semi-finals. . .

  3. Two is too many Buck, I sticking with my #3.

    Credit is good to have, debt very bad. Keep it up. The best part of debt free, is you sleep really well at night.

    1. I believe you. When we finally are debt-free, I'm going to laugh at my appliances, Ha-ha-ha. . .

      Of course, when the debt is finally retired, the first order of business is to build up real savings, so you can budget for anticipated future needs, instead of constantly reacting to crises. . .

      At least, that's the theory. . . ;)

  4. Been there my friend. We're still picking up the pieces but like you, our E fund really seems to be for show. No show, that is.

    Stay with it.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, X. At this point, I have no choice. But the light at the end of the tunnel is growing. . .

    2. Now that I'm back at Huuge Inc we're finally making some headway ourselves but it's mighty slow going

  5. I know the feeling, even though we rent and don't own. There always seems to be something. I didn't sweat it when I was employed at my previous 20+ year gig, but now that I'm sweating it out as a freelancer...

    God bless, my friend. You pray for us and we'll pray for you :-)