Tuesday, July 30, 2013
In A Little Hot Water, But Not Steamed
Yesterday, after nearly 14 years of service, my water heater failed. This morning it was replaced and I’m out $1,000. The failure did not come as a surprise; the water heater was one of several major household systems at, near, or beyond the expected end of its service life. For the last couple of years, relighting the pilot had become a fairly frequent and increasingly difficult chore. Maria and I are relieved to be done with the death watch and we now can expect years of worry-free operation from a new unit under warranty.
Replacing the water heater is not a budget buster by itself, but it creates a ripple effect. Money set aside for a home emergency now has been used and must be replenished in anticipation of the next one. And there certainly will be a next one. Our 18-year-old furnace is a likely candidate and the biggest financial risk. When something like a water heater or furnace fails, there really is no choice but to fix it immediately. If the furnace goes before we can recover from today’s expense, then we will go deeper into debt.
Debt has been an enemy for a long time and this year it seems there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. Last Monday we had our home appraised as a requirement for refinancing. How’s that for timing? It would have been nice to show the appraiser a brand new water heater! Oh, well. The appraisal went well enough and under the updated mortgage terms we will pay off the house five years ahead of schedule, saving thousands of dollars in interest. We still have some credit card debt to eliminate but we have been attacking it more aggressively this year and the end is in sight. Not too long ago it was easy to spend just another $100 or even another $1,000 because new purchases didn’t appear to make a substantial difference on credit card balances that were already so high. Now we see each new expense for what it is: a setback on the road to being debt free. We’re going to be able to do some really nice things once the debt is gone.
In that same blog post from January I mentioned that I was awaiting a pay raise. It arrived in spring, and it has made a difference. Still, this is a moment when I am forced to admit I can’t do everything. My family’s well-being trumps my cycling aspirations. I will again defer a couple of equipment changes that I would like to make and there are cuts coming to my racing schedule. I’m already registered for this weekend’s Sunburst Showdown and I fully intend to do the Reforestation Ramble (Aug. 25) and the Northern Kettles Fall Epic (Sep. 14). But all other mountain bike races and the entire cyclocross season now must be reconsidered as I rebuild my emergency fund.
I’m finding a lot of satisfaction in doing the right things for my family and my home. It won’t be the end of the world if I have to cut back on my plans for a full cyclocross season. I can easily replace a few race weekends with special rides of my own—for example, the Eisengoose is still out there, never yet attempted. Keeping my eyes on the real prize, greater financial security, may hurt my cycling ambitions in the short term but will pay big returns later. I want to treat myself to a new bike in 2015 to coincide with a special vacation to celebrate my 50th birthday, and I intend to pay with cash.
Posted by Dave Hanrahan at 11:00 AM