How to Handle When the Unexpected Happens (Our Garbage Disposal Quit)

One day out of nowhere, our garbage disposal just decided to quit working.  Our house is only 4 years old.  We bought it as a spec house, so we didn’t custom build it, but we are the only ones to ever live in it.

I only mention this because builders sometimes take shortcuts on certain things, and buy the cheapest item for things that don’t matter.  Nobody’s going to make their home buying decision on the type of garbage disposal, so they just pick the cheapest one they can get their hands on.

However, the brand is one I was familiar with, as I’m sure others are as well: InSinkErator.  We had one in our old house that was probably there for 20 years, and we never had a problem with it.  We even left it when we updated the entire kitchen, because it was so reliable.  So when this one quit working, I did a little investigating.

This particular model was the cheapest InSinkErator model at the big box stores, and currently sells for $85.  It also got 3 out of 5 stars, which in my opinion means there are issues with them.  I saw a lot of negative reviews about how this model didn’t last very long.

So when I found out mine bit the dust, I looked at the higher end versions of the same brand at Home Depot and Lowes.  I figured if I got the same brand, I could just reuse the part that’s already attached to the sink, making installation easy.  For one that got good reviews, it would cost $279.  I was NOT expecting to pay that much for a garbage disposal!  It just chops up food into smaller bits.  How could a reliable one cost so much?

So I went to Amazon, and started reading a bunch of reviews.  I ended up settling on a Waste King for $76, which also included free shipping.  It had great reviews, a stronger motor (1/2 HP as opposed to 1/3 HP), and a longer warranty.  It was a different type of connection to the sink, but that was easy enough to take out and replace with the one that came with the kit.  They made an adapter, but then the plumbing wouldn’t line up correctly, so I decided to replace the existing part to the sink.

The whole removal and installation took me and my dad 5 minutes to complete.  We removed the old disposal, including the sink attachment, and installed the new one with no issues.  The plumbing all lined up perfectly, and the installation was super easy.  We didn’t even need any plumber’s putty to put the sink attachment in (the kit included a rubber gasket, which worked great).

The only downside was that, according to Amazon, it would take a week or two before it would be delivered.  In reality, it took two days before it showed up at our doorstep, so that wasn’t even a real issue.  It’s amazing what a difference the Internet has made.  If this happened 10 years ago, I would have just bought a different model of the same brand at one of the big box stores, and paid a lot more.  Doing some research on the Internet saved me a couple hundred dollars.

One side note: the old one might have been able to have been repaired by a professional, but it would have probably cost just as much as the replacement.  I figured it wasn’t worth the hassle in this case.  Doing your research before a purchase usually pays off.

How I Lost $600

I got a little upset yesterday, because of something I did.  Through my work, I have money taken out of my paycheck and put into a Dependent Care FSA with every paycheck.  I do that because our kids go to daycare, and maxing out the dependent care through my work doesn’t even come close to covering the charges.  Since it’s tax-free money, why not take advantage of it?

Since we live on a budget, we budget everything we need into daycare every month.  So I decided that I’d use the money in the FSA to pay down debt.  Every couple of months, I’d take the money out of the account and apply it directly to our debt reduction.

So I don’t pay close attention to it.  I figure the money is there when I need it.  Well, this approach backfired on me.  I checked it in May, and took out the amount in there, and didn’t check it again until a couple days ago.  When I checked it, there was $592 left in the account for 2013, which ironically ended at the end of May.  Of course, I had until July 31st to take the money out, and I checked it in the middle of August.

For those of you that don’t know, the downside to an FSA account is that if you don’t use the money, you lose it.  I was really upset about it, and even said I shouldn’t put money in the FSA since I didn’t take all the money out.  I mean, I lost almost $600!

Then I thought about it some more, and realized that if I didn’t put the money in there at all, I would have paid more than $600.  I saved $3000 in the account, and none of that money was taxed.  If it was taxed at 20%, I would have broke even.  But tax rates are higher than 20%, so I still came out ahead.  So I lost $600, but it still ended up saving me money by putting money in the FSA for the year.

The moral of the story: make sure to check the year end date for your FSA.  A good clue to check it is when you are in an open enrollment period.  If I would have looked then, I would have taken all the money out.  Make sure you keep close tabs on the year end if you use an FSA.  It could save you some serious money!

New Year’s Goals – Progress Update – Seven Months

How is it already the 8th of the month?  Where does the time go?  July just flew by, and we have been really busy during these summer months.  Here’s an update on my 2013 New Year’s Goals:

1) Reduce debt by 68.33%.
Target: 36.98%, Actual: 24.07%.  Our daycare provider had to have shoulder surgery, so we had to switch to someone else.  The only good person we could find only had an opening for 3 days a week, as opposed to the 4 we were doing before.  So Megan cut back her hours at work, as that was about our only option.  That’s directly impacting how much we can put toward debt, so we might not be able to hit our target on this one now.  Here’s a graph of the progress so far:

2013-08-08 07_50_35-Clipboard

2) Run a 5k.
I only ran once in July, but I was able to run 1 2/3 miles without stopping.  That was surprising considering it’s been weeks since I ran.  Since Megan joined her bootcamp class, I’m having a hard time getting in the running mode.  I need to get back out there, especially since it’s not too hot out considering it’s August.

3) Complete a bike race.
This one probably won’t happen.  I really wanted to do the Tour de Donut, but we ended up with a scheduling conflict (and I didn’t prepare for it either).  I’m hoping we can start getting back out on the bikes again in the fall, when Blake can ride in the trailer (babies under 1 shouldn’t ride in trailers due to all the bouncing around.  It can cause brain trauma since they are still developing).