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Monday, August 16, 2010

A Week Of Budget Bust-Ups

So, it is only the middle of the month, and things have conspired to throw my budget for this month, and perhaps the next few months, badly out of whack! These things always happen when you least expect them (well, otherwise, you would budget for them, wouldn't you?!). And once they happen, all you can do is watch with morbid fascination as events unfold to throw your best-laid plans to the wind.

It started early last week with my wife's car which started making a weird thumping noise while driving. The noise seemed to come from the rear of the car, so I knew it wasn't something wrong with the engine. But I couldn't place where the noise came from, and had no idea what the problem actually was. The noise went away when I braked, so I could guess that it was somehow connected to the brakes.

So, I drove the car to the local mechanic and asked him to take a look at the problem. It turns out that the car's brakes were completely shot. I don't remember the last time I got the brakes on the car done. The car is driven mostly around the neighborhood (used to pick up the kids from school, take them to classes, etc.), and not used for commuting, so it is a 7 year old car with only 35,000 miles on it. I may have gotten its brakes done a couple of years back, but I can not be sure.

In any case, the mechanic told me he had to replace the pads and rotors on the rear wheels. Moreover, the thumping noise was actually caused because one of the calipers had rusted through and was frozen in such a way that it was scouring the rotor on one of the wheels. So, he said he had to replace the caliper, which also involved draining the brake system and filling it with new fluid, etc. Total damage: $650.

Hardly had I recovered from that, than my handyman (who is doing a home improvement project for us in the yard) dropped the other shoe. We had agreed on a price for a clean-up job that was a little vague because the extent of the work would be known only when the clean-up was actually done. Basically, there was stuff under the ground that nobody could guess the extent of, and he told me that he might have to adjust his price upwards if the work turned out to be more than he expected. Well, as can be expected (but not planned for), the work did turn out to be a lot harder than we had originally thought it would be, so he asked me for $300 more to complete the job. I still think the total price is much lower than I would have paid with any other contractor, but there goes the budget again, taking another to the chin!

And then, unbeknownst to me, it turns out that somebody was holding a shoe in their hands in addition to the two on their feet. So, down came tumbling the third shoe at the end of the week: my clothes dryer became quite useless. It had always been a bit of a pain to deal with because it never got very hot when drying clothes. It used to only get lukewarm, and usually required 3 hours to dry each load of laundry. I attributed it to age, and decided to go with it until it absolutely required replacement.

In the middle of doing my weekend loads of laundry, the dryer decided to go from bad to even worse: it refused to even get warm. So, now my laundry was taking 6 hours to dry instead of 3. So, my dryer works, but I have had just about enough of it. I started doing research into replacing the dryer. One thing led to another, and I decided it was a good idea to replace the washer also at the same time. The main problem is that if I decided to replace the dryer alone now, and the washer breaks a month or year from now, I would have to do research all over again for that. And I would have to be in a tight spot as far as laundry was concerned until I could get a replacement. I am sure the washer is getting pretty close to the end of its useful life also. After all, both the washer and dryer came with the house when we moved in 13 years ago, and are probably over 20 years old (they looked out of fashion even when we moved in 13 years ago!).

I decided to go with an old-fashioned top-load washer to replace the current top-load washer, and another gas dryer to replace the current gas dryer. Total damage: another $800 or so.

Also, last week, we found out that our roof had hail damage and had to be replaced. I initially thought it was not such a bad thing because we had the insurance company foot most of the bill instead of us footing the entire bill a couple of years back. But the deductible of $1,000 is still another blow to my budget that will probably have me seeing red for the rest of the year. And don't even get me started on what the higher insurance premium that are bound to follow are going to do to my budget!

My budget is quite tight on a monthly basis and I don't have much wiggle room for these kinds of unexpected bills. There is barely wiggle room for one of these unexpected bills, leave alone 4 such bills. They say disasters happen in 3's, but in my case, it looks like they come in 4's. Or perhaps, I have spoken too soon, this being only the middle of the month, and there are 2 more waiting in the wings to complete the second 3!

Luckily, my computer did not conk out last week. It would have been especially apt because I mentioned in my round up last week that this did not look like a good time to replace a computer because prices were so high! Because of this, I had no problem getting my usual dribble of posts out to my blog. I would have capped the week off with a summary post on Sunday, but because of the unexpected loss of the dryer, and the consequent need to do some quick research, I couldn't post my usual weekly round up of activity as I had originally planned.

Apart from that, I did get several posts done last week though. I published posts on Monday and Tuesday with photographs from my train trip from Cusco to Puno. Then on Wednesday, I published a post about my trip to the Uros islands from Puno. Then on Thursday, I wrote about how my roof needed replacement, and how I avoided a large expense by not replacing it a couple of years back when it first started showing signs of its age. And then on Saturday, I published a post about my visit to Taquile island.

I am already falling behind on my blogging this week as I spent the whole of today in various work meetings, while trying to get on the phone and arrange for delivery and installation of my washer and dryer at the same time. Luckily, I will be getting the new washer and dryer delivered and installed this Friday, so hopefully, I won't have a huge pile of laundry to deal with in the meantime. In any case, perhaps it would be a good thing if I did have some big loads of laundry accumulated so that I could put the new equipment through a good stress test right away to make sure they can stand up to the abuse they are likely to get over the years in my house!

My blog was visited by someone from Rwanda last week. This is the 145th country from which I have had at least one visitor. It is amazing how the web has made the world so much smaller than it already was! Honestly, I would not have known about a country called Rwanda until 10 years back, and this week somebody from that country is reading what I write thousands of miles away!!

Now, it is time for me to prepare more blog posts for this week, while hatching some kind of scheme to make back the money I have lost this week, so that my budget can be salvaged somehow. If you have any money-making ideas, I am all ears, so bring it on! Just make sure they are plausible and legal. Yeah, I know, sometimes I spoil things by attaching too many unnecessary conditions to things! Maybe my budget will be less tight if I let go of all these constraints and restrictions. Then again, maybe it will be some lawyer's budget that will be less tight in that case, and I may not have a budget to worry about!

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