In which we fix the 15 year old fridge again rather than buying a new one

I’m not sure if this was the right decision or not.  Our 15 year old fridge is making whiny noises again.  It last did this (and apparently worse) 3 years ago and DH replaced the freezer fan and everything was fine until just now.  It’s a pretty quick fix involving buying a replacement fan and other bracket stuff, unscrewing a couple of screws, unplugging a few things, then reassembling with the new stuff.

We initially bought this fridge as our own personal fridge when we were working as graduate resident assistants in graduate school.  As such, we did not have much money and bought the cheapest model full-sized fridge at Home Depot (or possibly Lowes).  It is enormously surprising that it has lasted this long.  (Or maybe not so surprising– the newest version of this model is Sweet Home’s top choice for cheap fridges.)

The freezer fan parts cost $70 including shipping.  The replacement fridge we were scoping out costs $800 (on summer sale– regularly it cost $900) and is a little bigger than our current model.  Replacing our current model with a similar GE would cost $500 (on summer sale– regularly costs $600).  Despite DH not having any income, we can easily handle the replacement costs (unlike, say, getting a new car which would put a real dent in the emergency fund and could potentially affect when DH needed to find a new job or when we needed to cut back on spending).

Also of interest to us is the effect of a new purchase on the environment.  New refrigerators are more energy efficient than old refrigerators.  But we’d probably get a slightly larger one than what we have now, and a lot of energy goes into actually making a new fridge.  So what’s the most environmentally friendly option, I don’t know.

So… some folks would tell us not to be ridiculous and to buy a new unit when the old one starts giving us problems since we can afford it.  Others would suggest that we keep repairing it until the repairs get beyond our capabilities.  I’m not sure what’s right.  I don’t like the hassle of dealing with a dicey fridge, but the track record of repairs so far isn’t too bad.  Who is to say that a new fridge wouldn’t be giving us problems in 3 years… not to mention that 3 years is kind of a long time– if I could be sure that my next car problem wasn’t going to happen for another 3 years, I would be ecstatic about keeping my little Hyundai.

Though to be honest, I’m not even sure if I’d be replacing the refrigerator if DH was working and we had more money than we knew what to do with.  We tend not to replace things until we have to.  I guess we didn’t have stupidly large amounts of income long enough for that habit to change, or maybe that kind of ingrained habit never changes.

How do you decide to replace an appliance?

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Link Love

#1 is still traveling AND has a cold.  #2 has some new additions to her family that she will no doubt post about in the future once she stops spending so much time playing with them.  Which is to say, even with all the overwhelming political nonsense going on this week, the link-love is pretty short.

 

Why we should protest the transgender military ban

The military spends more on Viagra than on transgender soldiers’ medical expenses

This is really detailed and comprehensive (and might make you barf up breakfast) (trigger:  online harassment)

Huh, economists barely beat out political scientists in being unpleasant

In defense of self-imposed hard-line rules

 

 

Ask the grumpies: Private vs. Public school, why did #1 switch DC1?

The frugal ecologist asks:

Curious (read nosy) about your kiddo #1 switch to public school. Why did you decide to switch? What do you miss about private? What are you happy about with public (I remember you already mentioned aftercare / extracurriculars being much more extensive).

The main reason we switched DC1 when we did was because we were going to Paradise for a year and private school would be 40K instead of 8K PLUS the public schools are really good in Paradise.  But when we came back, we kept DC1 in public school instead of coming back to private.  The main reason for that is, like you say, our public schools have a lot more options starting in middle school.  (The after-care was more extensive in Paradise, but isn’t so much here unless you’re into sports, which DC1 is not.)

So, we mainly remained switched when we came back so DC1 could take an instrument and advanced-level math and because DC1 is a lot older now and can (mostly) handle the larger classes etc.  Zie has had a good year after some initial growing pains and has friends etc.

I do still miss the smaller class sizes and knowing everything that was going on at school.  DC1 probably wouldn’t have fallen quite as far behind in the second to last grading period before we noticed at private school (I can’t remember if I mentioned hir series of forgetting to bring homework home or to turn completed homework in), but I don’t know.  I also miss Spanish and French (and zie would be starting Latin if zie had remained).  And I miss a bit the college level science they were doing because the science teachers they hired had only taught university courses before.

With public we’re happy about… orchestra and math.  We’re unhappy with writing and science.  We’re meh on social studies, PE, and study hall.  Next year zie will have Spanish and fortunately the teacher that everybody said was terrible has moved on, so there will be a new person teaching that course.  Zie will also have Robotics, but the class is supposed to be pretty bad since the person teaching it doesn’t understand programming.  DH may step in there.  We also really like that there is a bus (DC1’s stop is literally on our house corner, DC2’s will be across the street).  In paradise we liked that DC1 could walk/bike to and from school.

DC2 is also starting in public next year instead of private because zie got into the Dual-Language program.  The reason we’re doing dual-language for DC2 but didn’t for DC1 is that, unlike DC1, DC2 didn’t need to start K early, partly because zie is 6 months offset from DC1 (hir birthday is right before the cutoff) and partly because hir Montessori has higher-level materials than DC1’s did at this age so zie hasn’t run out.  If zie hadn’t gotten into dual-language we would have gone straight to 1st with DC2 and skipped K entirely.  (That’s not an option in the dual-language program.  But zie will be able to test out of a grade in the future if need be.)  I’m concerned about class size, lack of attention from the teachers, lack of differentiation, bullying, etc. etc. etc.  But we take things one year at a time.

Moving forward, I will also be concerned about the required state legislature disinformation.   DC1 doesn’t bring textbooks home, but I know that the state uses TX-standard textbooks, which means they are full of information that is biased in ways that do not fit with our family values.  (Unlike the CA-standard textbooks we grew up with!  Those are biased in ways that do fit with our family values.)  So we’ll have to provide information on evolution and the Holocaust etc.  DC1’s social studies teacher this year was a bit of a hippie and probably skirted the line closer to love and understanding of different cultures and religions than what our state legislature wants and hopefully did not get in trouble for it.  Sadly, the class was mostly crafts and not a whole lot of actual academics.  The science teacher was not that great, but not biased about it.  So maybe this worry is overblown in our blue-dot college town.  It would be easier if the school’s indoctrination matched our values rather than being in opposition to them, but there may be benefits there to critical thinking and not kow-towing to authority, even though authority is so highly stressed in this hierarchical former plantation state.

I will give them a lot of books and force critical thinking skills at home!

Wanting control

Right now I’m overwhelmed with my research.  My pipeline is messed up in that there’s too many new projects and not enough in the under review or even draft stage.  I feel pulled in all different directions.  And lots of things aren’t going smoothly.  This means I’ve been having a lot of anxiety dreams (last night’s was that we’d gone on vacation and couldn’t remember if we’d left food and water out for the cats!)

So this morning I was musing, maybe we should do a no sugar challenge.  The kids got awfully sugary cereal after we decided that cereal bars was too much like having cake for breakfast.  (Cereal bars had initially been planned as a rare once in a while when they need food-to-go breakfst but soon we were going through 14 bars a week.)  There’s so much added sugar in everything.  We should stop cold-turkey just to see what we come up with.  Of course, each time I’ve been trying to get pregnant or have been pregnant we’ve had no-added-sugar in the house, so it would really be more of a reminder challenge than a voyage of discovery challenge.

Then I wandered onto Mint.  What if DH stays unemployed long term, I thought.  How are we going to handle money?  Maybe we should do a no-spend challenge to see how low we could go.  I mean, there’s the $750/mo for daycare which will be going away except for more expensive day camps in the summer, but can we still stay under my take-home pay?  What do we spend all that money on anyway?  Do we even know?  Let’s say for the sake of easy mental math, that my take-home pay is $6K, but that’s only for 9 months, which means we’d need to spend under $4.5K/month over a 12 month period.   According to mint, we’ve spent under my (actual) prorated take-home pay in January and February, but not so much the rest of the year.  But how much of the difference is reimbursed business expenses?   Let’s see, Utilities average $300, Groceries average $800 (though we could certainly cut there), restaurants $300 (could also be cut), gas $100, entertainment $100, a nebulous “shopping” category (which includes some of DH’s reimbursable work expenses) is $700, and then there’s this huge nebulous “other” which includes a jumble of insurance, work expenses, taxes, car repair, dentist, kid’s activities, yard stuff, and so much more.  I don’t even know where to start separating that stuff out.  And when we’re not spending close to my take-home pay, it doesn’t really matter.  Is it worth sorting out right now?  Probably not.  What would make the most sense would be to keep an eye on how much we have to transfer from savings to checking each month and if we never end up spending down too much of our savings or hitting the emergency fund, we can continue to not pay attention.

Of course, all of these potential challenges take time and mental energy away from the real problem, which is that I need to get a handle on my work.  I need to finish papers and get them out so they’re no longer taking up mental space and keep my head above water on everything else.

So I don’t think I’ll be doing any of these challenges.  I shouldn’t even be typing this post now.  Except I’ve done it which means it’s off my mind and I have one fewer thing for my brain to try to distract me with when it should really be trying to make sense of the work I have before me.

Car troubles: How to fix a Hyundai that won’t move out of park and why you’ll probably keep seeing me wondering if I should just buy a new car

Just last week I was congratulating myself on the decision not to buy a new car after my last irritating repair session.  The car had been driving nicely to and from work and daycare and I was attached to it.  I made the right decision, I thought.

Just like letting the universe know that you are done with referee reports, it sent me a warning not to get too cocky.  As I started up the car and tried to go in reverse, I failed to be able to move the shift thingy out of park.

I googled “can’t move out of park hyundai”, and came up with a couple of useful pages– the first said to remove the cap on the shift lock override button, which I could not do.  So I called DH and he brought a flat-head screwdriver while I took his car to get DC2 from daycare.  He used the screwdriver as a lever to pop off the cap and then stuck a pencil down into the recesses to press a white button, and then was able to move the shift into reverse and drive without problem.  Before I’d made it out of the parking lot, he was reversing the car and driving it home.

Once home, he used the second useful page  and probably some pages after that to diagnose what the problem was.  Generally when a Hyundai won’t get out of park that indicates a problem with the break lights.  And, in this case, the break lights definitely weren’t working.  Since DH is an engineer who works from home, he has various meters that allow him to check cables and things to make sure they’re ok.  All the fuses were fine, the cable itself was fine.  However, the cable connection was loose, and when DH pushed it back together more tightly, the break lights started working again.  It’s been fine for ~a week at this point.  So DH canceled the service appointment he’d made with the dealer and we’re assuming the connection got too loose and it should be fine.  Just in case, I’m driving around with the shift lock override cap off in case I need to stick a pencil down there.

DH’s company still hasn’t gotten their contract signed and it’s unpaid summer for me, so we’re living off savings.  We have enough in the emergency fund to buy a new car, but I’d really rather not.  I like my little car and feel comfortable with it.  But I don’t like the way my life is disrupted whenever there’s a service problem, even a cheap one.  If I could just predict how many technical problems we’ll be having and when then I’d better be able to decide when to get a new car.  But, sadly, I don’t have a crystal ball and even if I did I’m not clairvoyant.  Given that with DH (temporarily?) unemployed we’re no longer wondering what to do with extra cash, I think I’ll continue holding onto my car for a while.  Maybe I’ll feel differently when the school year starts and it’s more important that I get places on time.  But the longer I wait, the more likely one of those sleek new Civics will be affordable, or maybe a low-range Tesla, or perhaps another technology will have improved.  Most likely we’ll just get a Prius, but the longer I put the shopping off, the better my options will be for the next car that I will drive for (hopefully) more than a decade.

So most likely you’ll be seeing more posts in the near future asking, “Should I replace my car?”  Hopefully not, though!

 

Link Love

Not much this week– #1 is traveling and #2 has had company.  We’ve had some good news on the not destroying health insurance front, but it’s still not over, so we can’t get complacent.  Republicans are also pushing a narrative that regular people just don’t care about Trump’s ties to Russia.  And, as always, there’s a ton of different horrible stuff that you can act on.  Give 5calls a whirl if you haven’t lately.  Or get connected locally (we like indivisible— but there are a lot of options!).  Campaigns for midterms are getting started across the country, and they need your help and donations.

This scientist was punished by the Trump administration for speaking up about climate change.

Trump’s border wall is already being built and it is destroying a wildlife refuge

Trump’s twitter bots are a fake news army taking over facts

https://newrepublic.com/article/143984/were-brink-authoritarian-crisis

How libertarianism means that the bullies are in charge.

financial samurai discusses 529 plan details

Why is the scariest student loan number less than $5000?  (tl:dr– those are low income folks who didn’t finish their degree)

How to trick people into saving money

Ask the grumpies: What were your childhood career aspirations?

Leah asks:

As kids, what were your career aspirations and why?

#1:  I wanted to be a biologist because I liked science and water and so on.  Then I saw a NOVA episode on Nancy Wexler and Huntington’s Chorea and wanted to be a genetic engineer.  Then I did an internship in genetics in high school and realized it was insanely boring.

#2:  I thought I might like chemistry, and I also thought that I’d like to be an astronaut and a rock star.  (I did not become those things.)

What about you, grumpy nation?