Ahh, the joys of home maintenance. A few months ago, our furnace started working intermittently. We’d wake up to a very chilly downstairs one day, and then the next the heater would work again.
We thought it was just a part that needed to be fixed, but… you know what comes next.
“A new furnace,” the repairman told us. “Your furnace is already fifteen years old, and you’ll just spend a couple of grand repairing it only to have to completely replace it in a few years.”
“And here’s a quote for adding in a new AC unit, too. They’re all one system and it’s way more efficient to replace them at the same time. Your AC is twenty years old and it looks like it could give out any day now.”
Our AC has already given out once. We got it patched up by the Home Warranty company, courtesy of the one year of home warranty our realtor had given us.
By the way, home warranties are a terrible idea, in my opinion. They nickel and dime you for everything–we ended up paying several hundred dollars for the AC repair–and they refuse to replace anything, opting instead to patch up your appliances, hoping they give out after you’ve cancelled your membership. Many years ago, in our first home in Atlanta, we had a home warranty and it worked much better. Our oven and hot water heater died, and the company replaced both without charging us more than our $75 service fee. This company, however, was terrible and I much prefer to pay for home repairs out-of-pocket, which I suspect in the long run will be more cost effective (although not enjoyable the moment I am coming up with the money out-of-pocket).
We got three quotes from local repairpeople, including the repair company that partnered with Costco, who all told us the same thing, and decided that we would replace the furnace and AC all at once, since it was cheaper in the long run and we knew the AC would give out soon.
Here are the three quotes we received.
- $8580, if we paid cash, for a 2.5 ton AC, 16 Seer unit, 60k BTU gas furnace. Trane equipment, I believe.
- $8952, 1 year same as cash financing, for a 2.5 ton, 15 Seer unit, with 60k Btu gas furnace. 95% AFUE. Carrier equipment.
- $7600, plus a 10% Costco gift card ($790–they gave us 10% of their original quote but we talked them down a bit), making the cost $6810, and we could pay with credit card, for a 2 ton AC, 14 Seer, 45k Btu furnace. 93% AFUE. Lennox equipment.
We decided to go with the Costco-partner, because they were the cheapest and used the best equipment (Lennox), even though their specs were not quite as good. We also received a 10% Costco card that will offset the cost of the equipment. They were the only estimator who recommended a 2-ton AC, versus a 2.5-ton, since that was what our duct work was originally designed for.
They also allowed us to pay with credit card, which added a further 2% discount to their quote, since our credit card gives us 2% cash back. Also, hat tip to Mr. ThreeYear, who talked them down about $300 off of their original price, when he called to sign the agreement with them.
We have two furnace and AC systems, one for the upstairs and one for the downstairs. Our upstairs units are newer, so we are hoping that they will last a few more years before they, too, need to be replaced. Because our house is fairly small, and we have an upstairs and downstairs unit, we decided to go with the slightly smaller, less efficient unit, given our rudimentary cost/benefit analysis. I didn’t include quotes we got for a 2-stage unit, which are much more energy efficient, but also more expensive. Because our energy bills are fairly low, and because we don’t know how long we will stay in this house, we opted for the cheaper unit, because we figured it would lower our energy bills a little and be faster to recoup our investment on (10 years versus 15 years, or something like that).
As I type this post, I am enjoying the lovely “hermmmm” sound of a working furnace. No more fireplace for us, thank you. The installers did a very nice job, finished up in just slightly longer than half a day, and even gave us a plant as a thank you.
While we had some money saved up for home repairs, we did not have the entire $7600. Emergency fund to the rescue.
Since our emergency fund is taking such a hit this month, I asked Mr. ThreeYear if we could make February a no-spend month.
Lots of people have a no-spend January (or a no-booze January, or a no-meat January), but for us, January is a tough month for no spending. Mr. ThreeYear’s and my dad’s birthday fall in January, as well as a friend’s, and we generally have money set aside from Christmas gifts that we use to do projects on our house.
February, however, is a short month, and tends to be a month where we are able to hunker down and not go anywhere, one of the keys in my book to a no-spend month.
This month we are not spending on eating out, home maintenance, home goods, or haircuts. We are going to work to keep our grocery spending bare-bones (a perennial struggle). We are not buying clothes or shoes. We are not buying random stuff on Amazon. We are not going to Costco (ooh, except maybe if we get that 10% card back–NO! Bad Laurie).
The idea is to use the money we are not spending to somewhat replenish our emergency fund.
I will report back weekly to let you know how we are doing and at the end of the month, I will let you know how much we saved (or, to be more exact, didn’t spend).
The last time we had a no-spend month was two years ago this month.
Here is what I learned the last time we embarked upon this challenge (or, I should say, I embarked upon this challenge because Mr. ThreeYear had a busy travel month and didn’t join the no-spend challenge, although he doesn’t spend much anyway). We didn’t eat out (except once, paid for by Mr. ThreeYear’s birthday money). We didn’t buy clothes, or any of the multitude of home items I wanted. I don’t know if it helped us long term, but I think it did short-term.
In preparation for the week, I have made a grain of the week and a legume of the week, a practice recommended in Forks Over Knives, a plant-based eating plan. Our grain of the week is whole-grain rotini and our bean of the week is the beans in a bag of 15-bean soup. Not a great choice because they all cooked unevenly so we ended up with a mushy mess. Oh well; we will throw them in a soup today. I have a meal plan in place too. Now I just need to avoid the grocery store until Friday.
Happy week to you all. Here’s to a warm and frugal February!