Family life

Appliances on the verge

With the fridge part of her family's refrigerator freezing lettuce, and her vacuum practically catching fire, Sandra fears some pricey (if essential) purchases are in her very near future.

By Sandra E. Martin
Appliances on the verge

Photo by diego_cervo/




I know what you're thinking: One of my kids is still really into Thomas the Tank Engine. But, nope, my kids are not the source of the annoying chug-chug-chug sounds emanating from the main floor of my house (they're busy watching iCarly). It's the refrigerator that came with our house, which we bought just over four years ago.

It's been going on for months now. Funny noises, mysteriously frozen produce (Matt and I recalled that was happening in the old fridge at our old house right before the compressor — a very expensive part to replace — died). We've been living in a state of willful denial because, well ...neither of us wants to spend $2,000-plus on a replacement fridge. But as the chugging and freezing become more and more frequent, we both know it's only a matter of time before one of the most expensive, yet least fun, shopping trips a homeowner can take.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the vacuum is about to bite it, too. I was cleaning the house on the weekend and noticed a baaad smell emanating from our machine, which is older than our firstborn. "Matt," I called, in the way that I do when there's a "boy job" to be done. "I think the vacuum bag is full." Ever the dutiful performer of "boy jobs," Matt came upstairs with a replacement vacuum bag and opened the machine to make the switch when we discovered a vacuum full of dust that should have been in the bag — which was properly attached where it should be, but still exploded.

This in itself would not have been a worry, if not for a previous episode involving sparks and a burning smell. And, no, loose dust in the vacuum bag cavity was not a factor at that time — the sparks were coming from the carpet attachment, and were scary enough to make Matt blanch. (This is a guy who grew up on a farm, can fix just about everything and knows how to install wired-in lighting fixtures. He doesn't blanch easily.)

So on Sunday, we went out to price replacements for the above-mentioned faulty appliances. I am not happy with the prices we encountered for either. Fridges seem to start at $2,000, and the ones we like are $3,000-plus. I'm not talking the fancy, restaurant-style variety, I'm talking about regular, old department-store offerings.

Vacuums — same deal. To be fair to our 10-year-old machine, it could be that the addition of a dog to the family is just more than it was made for. So we looked at special pet-hair vacuums. Six. Hundred. Dollars.

I will not type the words that popped into my head when I saw the price tag.

What will we do? For now, we're going to wait until our fridge and vacuum cleaner are definitively dead to invest in their replacements.

And this one-two financial punch is a good reminder of why it's important to have not only an emergency fund, but a home-repair/replacement fund. Because, as much as we'd like our big-ticket expenditures to last forever, they won't.

Do you have a home-expenses fund? How to you manage it with automatic debits, or do you use a different system? Share your tips with us here.

This article was originally published on Mar 30, 2012

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