The Month EVERYTHING Broke (and how we found the cash to fix it)

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This story starts with a leaky toilet and ends with a valuable life lesson…. and it also happens to be the next instalment in our Family & Finance series. Before getting into today’s story, I do want to say a huge heartfelt thank you for all the support and kind words about this series! We launched it last month with the support of Atlantic Credit Unions, opening up about how we are financing our fixer upper– and I was overwhelmed by the response. I mean, I know you guys read the blog and I hear from many of you quite frequently (don’t stop! I love it!), but seeing as we are in new ‘money’ territory, the positive vibes were just awesome. 🙂

So let’s talk about this toilet! 😉 I love having a main floor powder room. It comes in handy more than I thought it would since the baby. (You can see the before shots in this Pre-Baby Home Tour post.) I hate to be overly dramatic here, but I feel compelled to say the downfall of this bathroom was swift and ugly and that it marked the beginning of a descent into a period of seemingly non-stop home repairs.

March was not a kind month on our bank accounts. Not kind AT ALL.

One day as I was heading out with LB, I stepped into a giant puddle of water right outside the powder room and I just knew in my gut it wasn’t going to be an ‘easy’ problem to fix.

The toilet in our powder room is original to our house. We estimate it’s about 30 years old. We’ve had it repaired twice since living here – each time costing us about $160. This time, as I predicted – a repair wasn’t possible. It was cracked and leaking and making a gigantic mess and OH-EM-GEE.

First repair estimate: YOU DON’T want to know.

If I had known that standing there in soggy feet with a screaming baby in my arms, staring at water pouring out of the bottom of that stupid toilet that I was only on ‘Number One’ of a quintet of home repair horrors that month, I would have laughed and said ‘you cray’….

But the home repair deities had four more ’emergencies’ in store for me through the month of March.

That same night, Dan burned supper beyond belief. He never burns supper. Why did it happen? Because the elements on our stove went kaput and even when turned to 2, they all heated to 10.

Total repair: $240

(Side note: This is the ONLY picture I could find of our stove in my blog database and it’s from FOUR years ago. Clearly, I don’t love it. Le sigh)

A couple of weeks later, I was heading out the door again and decided to run the dishwasher on a quick load. Within two minutes of hitting ‘start’, the darn thing wouldn’t stop beeping. It also wouldn’t fill with water. I unloaded a load of dirty dishes and did them by hand while on hold with the repair company.

Total repair: $280 (two visits from the repair guy)

You might recall I recently up-cycled a couple of old kitchen cabinets for the playroom. Well, the truth is that while I was hanging the shelves, I kept hearing a crackling sound – like static electricity – while I was standing right beside our main breaker panel. Can you see where this is going? Luckily we have a fabulous electrician we trust, who has done work for us in the past, and he was able to come over right away to assess the problem. It was a significant problem and we ended up needing to replace the ENTIRE PANEL.

Total repair: $1300

(Are we at five yet? No?)

Finally, the next week, as I was heading out to meet with the East Coast Mom group, I got to the end of our street and realized the front tire on my car was flat, flat. McFlatersons… to the point where the car wasn’t drivable and the electric air pump did squat, so I had to have an emergency tow.

Total repair: $165 (including getting my new tires put back on and aligned).

So let’s add all that up, shall we?

Bathroom + Stove + Dishwasher + Electric Panel + Car Tires = EXPENSIVE AS ALL GET OUT.

Isn’t that the way of it? I feel like houses have a silent dialogue and decide to just break everything all at the same time just to see how we humans manage. I’d be a total, bold faced liar if I said I didn’t have a mini breakdown about it all.

But I was easily brought back to a calm reality when I realized we could cut a cheque for each repair bill and not worry about it, and more importantly, not go into debt to pay for it.

Yes, oh yes, March 2017 will forever go down in infamy as the month that 100% proved the fact that all homeowners (and renters for that matter) need- NEED- an ample emergency fund. In fact, having an emergency fund is cited as one of the financial must-dos before you turn 30.

How to assess an ’emergency’?

Well, I’d say the electrical panel was a great example. It’s something unexpected, that significantly impacts the value and safety of the home, that needs to be taken care of ASAP. The dishwasher might not have been a true emergency – but it did have to be fixed. Emergency funds are not for that last minute invite to a wedding in Hawaii or the clearance event at the local Vespa dealer. They really are for things that you hope never happen, but that inevitably will happen and that will cost a decent amount.

How much to have in the emergency fund?

Ah. This is a tricky question and I’m sure it’s different for everyone. I guess it ultimately depends on your stage of life, savings capacity and if you are a home/car owner or not. When it was just the two of us (no pets, no car), we kept a $2000 emergency fund- figuring $1000 for each of us was enough to help us bridge any expense that would pop up.

Now? It’s a touch more complicated. Essentially we fall in the category of people who like to have four-months of after tax income sitting in an emergency fund. Since we have a baby, a house, two cars, three pets – a lot of things can go wrong. While we both have relatively stable jobs, we still needed to hedge against potential job loss, injury, or family emergency too.

We built up our emergency fund slowly. It took us about a year to get it to the level we wanted and we simply used automatic ‘payments’ each pay day into our Tax-Free Savings Account. We don’t lock any of it up in long-term investments and just keep the cash in a high-interest account.

Honestly, we’ve had to dip into before for a few minor things (like an emergency vet bill for Louie the cat a couple years ago), but we haven’t ever had to use it like we did this March. While I was disheartened at having to shell out for all those repairs (and stressed dealing with coordinating all the contractors and such), I felt incredibly lucky to have the cash on hand to foot the bills.

As a result of depleting our emergency fund, I’ve chosen to scale back some of the purchases for our Master Bedroom – opting instead to replenish our emergency account. Clearly, LB doesn’t really mind!! (You can see the latest progress on our One Room Challenge bedroom here!)

Annnnnd, you guys! What the heck am I going to do about this bathroom!? Luckily, we were able to shut off the water and close the door and not use it – but now I need to come up with a design plan and figure out where in our calendar we can squeeze in an actual renovation.

Stay tuned for all that… and in the meantime, let’s just hope nothing else decides to break!



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This post is part of an ongoing series sponsored by Atlantic Credit Unions. We partner with brands and companies to bring more value to you and to help us keep our blog going! As always, all opinions are our own and you can see our full privacy and disclosure policy here. 

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