Friday, February 24, 2012

It's All About Priorities

Lots of things to think about today. I am home from work spending money. Yes. I had a gas leak this past weekend. It was in the line that goes from my meter to my den where I have a small gas heater. There is no central heat in that room and it gets bitter cold. The heater hasn't worked for some time, since at least since Jerry died. I've had it repaired several times. I had planned to get a new heater this year but that'll have to wait now. They shut the gas off to that line.

I also have to have the gas company replace the gas meter. They found when they came out that it isn't registering my usage. Now, I'm actually fine with that but they apparently want to keep track of this sort of thing. So I have to have them change it.

The problem is they would not disconnect the leaking line because they didn't install it. It isn't up to code. Of course, it was there when I bought my house. To remove said line requires that you turn off the gas, use a wrench to disconnect the line. That's it. Nothing more. But no, I had to hire a licensed plumber to do this.

As you know, plumbers aren't cheap. To at least save a double service call (removing the line and after the new meter was installed, coming back to install a new gas line to the den) I decided to have them do that all at once. Vectren can worry about how to get the meter out after the new line is done.

However, this very simple job is going to cost between $300 & $500. Yes. That's right. To just disconnect the line and install a new pipeline from beneath the house to the den, about 20 feet of pipe and fitting and two men cost that much. They do have to go under the house to do it.

So, in light of that little expense, there is now no money to actually buy a heater to use the new line. I still won't have heat in the den.

On top of that my microwave went out. It is costing $25 to have it checked to see if it can be repaired. Someone told me to just go buy a new microwave. I have a very nice microwave I bought probably 5 or 6 years ago. It cost around $200. It does all kinds of stuff. I like it. To buy a new one with similar features will probably cost only slightly less but if I can get it fixed for less why not? Problem is if it can't be fixed there is the question as to whether I can afford to buy a new one on top of the pipe expense. They just called and said it would cost $100 to repair it. Do I buy a new one or fix the old one? Choices.... it is a nice microwave. Could last another 5 years. I like it.

If you factor in that this past fall I had to replace the central unit to the tune of $3000... and that was the least expensive unit they have for my size home. The one I wanted was double that. Well, you can see my expenses have exploded. I didn't have the money to pay for it, I had to charge it and I truly hate using a credit card. But heat in the house was a priority.

I can live with out a heater in the den another year I suppose. I just can't use that room in the hardest part of the winter. Winter is nearly over I think. I can probably survive without a microwave for a while. It isn't a huge catastrophe. It means I have to cook on the stove, in the oven, use more energy, and take more time. I will have to defrost the old fashioned way. I have to heat a drink on the stove in a pot. So, it simply means more work for me. Since I have virtually no life... it shouldn't be a problem.

I had plans to take a small vacation in a few months to somewhere quiet, warm, sandy and sunny. Nothing expensive, just a break from the stress. I want to go to England but that requires a bit more planning and a lot more money. Gas prices just shot up over $4 here and that means travel will be extremely circumscribed for Americans. The economy is already in the tank. . . um. . . no pun intended, just truth. So, in light of heaters, gas lines, microwaves and gas prices my finances are in a not so good place.

I suppose it is ultimately all about priorities - what comes first. In my job I see people who feel they must have the best of everything . . . as long as someone else pays. It doesn't work that way for those of us who live in the real world. We have to pay our own way. And sometimes we have to settle for less than we think we're worth.

When Jerry died, I turned off the cable and started keeping lights off all over the house. Those are things I can live without. Once in awhile I think about getting cable turned back on. The cable company says they can give me a great deal in a bundle. It still cost more. But why? I can read, write, and crochet. My solution was to buy myself a Kindle for Christmas. I have over 80 FREE books on that thing! I'm loving it. I have the library and second hand stores and friends who give me books. Why would I pay for cable? I'm actually working on my novel at last, with some success.

I have learned that some things just don't matter in the grand scheme of things. Saving money is what Jerry and I struggled to do for 35 years. We had finally got a handle on it when he died. The hardest lessons are often mastered too late. I use what I've learned to keep me afloat.

What I've learned is no one needs as much as they think they do. You really don't need an iPhone, computer, internet, cable t.v., expensive cars, and expensive phone service to be live. The really don't matter. And you can get by with no phone, no microwave, no television, and no video games. Really. If you can afford them, fine. Although, if you buy such toys but can't pay your necessary bills, provide for a medical emergency, or some other emergency, don't complain about your money problems to me. I'm having to pay my own way and I don't have all those toys.

When my car was wrecked last year I was upset. But reality is a car is such a necessity. I bought a used one. A good used one but still used. Priorities. If it happened again, I'd probably get an even cheaper one.

Today, I'm reconsidering turning off my land line. I have a pay as you go cell phone. For less than the cost of that land line I could probably upgrade the phone service and get unlimited minutes every month for $45. Straight Talk offers great deals and I see no reason on anything else. I'm still using the now extinct phone they offered, their cheapest one! I could give up the cell and keep the landline but my family would have a cow. I am alone, you see, and if something happens when I'm away from a phone that is my lifeline to them. So, I'll keep the cell. But the land line is probably on it's way out.

I'm going back to sewing if it warms enough to get in the den. I can make clothes you see. I have tons of fabric I need to use. There are lot of ways I can cut spending. Priorities.

Life requires a lot less to survive that we think.  So, I'll get the gas line fixed and the rest of it will have to get in line.

I was talking to a friend last night about buying things. I was a used furniture junkie. I loved buying used furniture and refinishing it until about 10 years ago. I can't do the heavy work now. Why buy a new piece if you can find a quality used piece for less and with some stripper, stain or paint, and polyurethane make it brand new? I did it a lot. Beds, chairs, tables. And they were generally better quality because they weren't pressed or chipboard. However, there were certain things I didn't scrimp on. My dinning table was one. I bought a brand new, unfinished, solid oak table in early 1989. I put the finish on it myself. I still have it, rather my daughter-in-law does. My youngest, her husband, was 4. That table will be around when my granddaughter is a grown woman if it is cared for the way I have cared for it. It cost me $700 new. If you bought it today, it would cost more and if you bought mine, you'd pay every bit of that. Because the value is no longer just in the wood. The ladder back chairs everyone complains about... they don't wobble. You can sit on them, stand on them, and tilt them back against the wall (which I hate) and they have never given an inch. I have that has a broken ladder... one of the boys caused that. They stand as study as they were when I bought them... for $35 each. I thought it was a lot then.

I was fortunate enough to get the house refinanced and lowered my house payment by half. I though this would give me the extra cash I need to pay off that central unit and in the long term, my car. Retirement is only about 6 years away. If God blesses me with long life I might get to enjoy some of it. I saw the refinance as a safeguard against a lost job. If I don't lose my job the money could be used to insure I didn't have huge debt at retirement. That's not working out so well, as you can see.

Ultimately, I'm not an extravagant person. I don't care if anyone is impressed by my home, my car, my clothes, or my intelligence. It doesn't concern me. It is about all about priorities for me. I wish someone had told me all this stuff when I was 25. Still, it is never too late if you're still above ground. My advice: Scrimp on the unimportant stuff. Spend on the things you want to last. It makes a difference in the long run.

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