Getting rid of the ice maker and replacing it with a new cabinet: Step 1 (after initial payment) of the kitchen process

It’s been a long time since we decided to pull the trigger on updating our kitchen.  Much and not much at all has happened since then.  Much in terms of spending money and having lengthy email conversations with a home depot “designer”, but not much in terms of oh, anything actually getting done.

So, step 1 was to get an initial measurement, pick out a countertop, and lock in a price, which we did.  We chose from among many marblish looking quartz options, going with white arabesque, bullnose, 4cm, in the end.  That was the end of January/beginning of February.

Then we were told to purchase all of our appliances.  We did that too.  We got a metal sink with a fancy faucet and a new garbage disposal.  We went with a gas stovetop.  They’ve been sitting in our dining room in slightly open boxes since mid-February.

Then we had several months of back and forth with a really annoying emails with a home designer who would not listen to us and didn’t believe what the initial templaters had told us that we would be able to keep our fancy glass cabinet or that we wanted to replace the ice maker with shelves and not drawers.  He was either trying to upsell us or he was just incapable of communication (a white dude with an American accent, in case you’re wondering).  But we needed to get rid of the ice maker and replace it with a cabinet before we could set up measurement (templating) for the countertop and appliances to be put in.  (Why don’t we want an ice maker?  Mainly because it takes more electricity than the rest of our appliances combined.  But also because we’re not huge on entertaining like the former owners of our house were.)

See the ancient electricity sucking ice-maker?

Once we realized that Home Depot couldn’t handle custom cabinets, we called the place that originally put in our cabinets back in the 1990s (the previous owners kept good notes), but they of course no longer carried that model.  But they recommended a local custom guy who could copy the design and get us a cabinet any size we wanted.  This process took several weeks of back and forth communication as the cabinet store had to check on things and was only open 10-4 on weekdays.  Once we got the contact info of the cabinet guy, it moved much faster.  Though first DH pulled out the ice maker and realized we’d need to plug off the water tube to it and he didn’t want to do it himself.  The plumber came over right away and charged their regular fee plus a few dollars for parts and (this is important) TOOK AWAY THE ICE MAKER (yay!!!!!!!!!!).

 

Look! Shelves are possible!

The custom cabinet guy came and put in the new cabinet and moved around the door on the cabinet that hides the garbage pully-out thing that we never use because I think cabinets full of garbage get disgusting too easily and are hard to clean.  And I came home and saw this and freaked out.

That blue piece of painters tape is DH figuring out measurements to see if it's possible to replace the garbage can cabinet with a standard-size cabinet-- it wasn't.

This is the uncanny valley of cabinets. Just looking at it makes me feel creepy (and no, it isn’t the lack of paint).

See, all the other double cabinets in the kitchen (and there are several of them) face each other like these are facing each other, but they are the Same Size.  I had a small meltdown texting one of my friends while I waited for DH to come home.  Turns out DH and I had a miscommunication– he had asked me if I wanted this cabinet to be a standard size or if I wanted it to match the size of the smaller cabinet and I had not realized that was what he was asking.  After a lengthy problem-solving session (in which we strongly considered paying the cabinet guy to come out again to redo the entire thing) I realized that we could make this problem go away if it was more different.  Because the problem with the uncanny valley is when things are just a little off.  If they’re a lot off then you can mentally tell yourself it’s meant to be that way.

That turned out to be an easy fix.  We put the other cabinet back the way it was before and filled in the new hole and painted over it.

This doesn’t bother me at all! The doors are different sizes, they’re not facing each other like all the other doors, and they have different sized spaces around the edges. No more uncanny valley!

Whew!

Then we contacted the home designer to set up templating, and it wasn’t completely clear but it seemed like he’d agreed.  The last straw with was him getting DH’s (common) first name slightly wrong, getting it confused with a similar name.  “He doesn’t have any attention to detail!  And it has been MONTHS!” I complained to DH.  That and we’d asked him to set up templating on Friday and it was Wednesday and we hadn’t heard a peep from him (possibly he set-up templating for someone with a similar but different first name?).  So we asked his supervisor if we could switch.  And we got switched right away and the new designer looked through our stuff and said it looked like we just needed to set up templating.  And we updated her on our custom cabinet and asked about the glass cabinet and she agreed with us that the countertop templaters would let us know if we needed to replace it.  So then she set up templating and after she did that she contacted us to let us know when the guy would be coming (he came and the actual replacement should happen 3-4 weeks after we finished paying– which we’ve been having trouble doing since we have to talk to a specific person at our local Home Depot to pay and her schedule doesn’t match ours… he said we could keep the glass cabinet no problem, just as the pre-prder measurement people had told us, but if there was a problem we could replace it after the countertops were put in).

Our next step with the cabinets will be to get new knobs (either expensive indigo painted ceramic to play with the line around the backsplash or less expensive burnished metal to look classy), but first we’re going to get the countertops so we can buy some sample knobs and how things look.  (DH is leaning towards the indigo because it’s more exciting and I am leaning towards the metal because we are not exciting people.)  I think I will also replace the green gingham shelf liner with something in a matching indigo even if we end up with silver knobs, but I haven’t seen one that I love yet (plenty of great contact paper designs, but I want liners that don’t have a sticky back).  We’ve got time.

How much did the custom cabinet cost?  $275 for the cabinet.  $4 for replacing the round on the bottom and the nails to put it in.  The paint was leftover from when we had our kitchen painted three years ago so I’m not counting it.  Getting rid of the ice maker and fixing up the plumbing was $88.25 ($85 fee for coming out and $3 for a cap– they took the ice maker for free).  So… something under $375 for the entire process.  And worth it!  I am so glad that ice maker is gone even if we never put anything in the cabinet.

What do you think?  Am I the only person that second to last picture bothers?

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In which DH does not have rabies but we spend as if he does

Three weeks have passed and DH is still alive.  Hale and hearty even.  We are all grateful and relieved.

So….

Remember how DH helped break up a dog fight and had to get tetanus shots and I purposefully didn’t get the dog’s information because it was an intact pit bull and I didn’t want it to be put to death?  (Turns out that is not a thing in this state– they would have just quarantined it for 10 days.)

A month later, DH came back from a business trip feeling nauseated off and on, with a headache off and on, and chills off and on.  After reading on the internet about how the incubation period for rabies is 1-3 months but can last up to 6 years, and reading up on the symptoms of rabies, and how you die within 1-3 weeks once symptoms have started (so far only 10 people have survived after symptoms started, and 8 of them had been vaccinated prior to getting bitten), he also developed anxiety and insomnia.  Which are also symptoms of rabies.  On the fourth day he started getting muscle twitches.

Early on in this process, we’d looked for places to get first of four rabies shots.  Walgreens has rabies vaccine, but not the first shot which has human blood in it and isn’t very shelf-stable.  None of the urgent care places in town had it.  No doctor we were recommended carried it.  Everyone said it had to be gotten at the emergency room.  DH’s insurance said they do not cover the rabies shot under any circumstances.  So to the emergency room it is.  This will be a minimum cost of 10K, and I would not be surprised if it tops out at 13K including the cost of the first shot.

At the emergency room they told DH he didn’t need to get the other three shots at the emergency room and recommended a couple of urgent care places or the department of public health.  Neither of the urgent care places would give DH the second shot.  The department of public health said the emergency room was smoking crack and they never give out rabies shots.  They said their protocol was to get the first shot at the real emergency room and to get the remaining three doses at the emergency room place without actually going into the emergency room and seeing a doctor in order to save $.

So I told DH to call the emergency room to make sure that things could work that way.  He called, but did not ask about the not seeing a doctor or the money stuff.  He just basically confirmed that they had the second shot.  Then he went and saw a doctor and had more unnecessary tests done.  So… >$20K so far.

I was not annoyed about the first emergency room shot, as I figured that was an unavoidable (albeit expensive) way to decrease DH’s anxiety, but I’m not that happy about the second shot given that he didn’t actually ask about the protocol the department of public health suggested.  He did talk to the emergency room billing again after, but they basically said they couldn’t talk to him about the bill until after it had been refused by his health insurance.  So there’s some hope he might be able to negotiate it down.  But who knows.

When he got his second shot, he got all the info about the shot (and the third and fourth shots) and it turns out those are exactly the same ones they give out at Walgreens as pre-rabies vaccines, so he could have just gone to Walgreens for the second shot and been done after paying $350.  Which he did for the third and fourth (and final) shots.  So $700 paid on credit card.

I don’t know when we’re going to get our actual insurance bill for the emergency room visits.  If we do end up paying more than $20K, that puts a really big bite into my car fund in addition to cutting into the emergency fund.  Which I guess makes the choice of cars easier as the options become much more limited.

So, you ask, why didn’t you just get the information for the pet owner?  It takes at most 11 days for an unvaccinated dog to die of rabies.  If the dog is still alive, then DH didn’t get rabies.

Well, we didn’t have the contact info for either of the dogs.  We posted on nextdoor (the neighborhood social media site) and on day 3 an anonymous neighbor pointed us in the direction of the golden retriever owners.  They were very nice about everything and gave us the contact information that night for the pitbull owner, but warned us that they thought the pitbull owner’s house was for sale.  And indeed it was.  For sale and empty of furniture.  DH tracked down the facebook page of the dog owner’s son which was blank, and then to the son’s wife which had lots of oversharing posts.  The posts mentioned the grandparents moving to the closest city (~2 hours) and it sounded like they were taking a dog with them, though no guarantee it was the dog in question.  But also no mention of sad dog deaths in the previous month.  The son’s wife did not respond to a FB friends request or any of DH’s queries.

We also called the agency that handles dog licensing in our county, since your rabies vaccines have to be up to date to be licensed.  But of course the dog wasn’t licensed.  So that, too, was a dead end.

On the morning of DH’s second shot, DC2 woke us up to let us know zie had thrown up in the night, the first of several throwing of ups.  As I groggily listened to hir, I realized I too felt nausea.  The nausea came and went.  So did a headache.  And chills.  All three symptoms would come and go randomly, seemingly completely unrelated to each other.  The chills were particularly disturbing.  I can understand how DH thought something out of the ordinary was happening.  (Though it turns out this weird virus has just been going around– it doesn’t last as long for most people because most people sleep instead of googling things that cause anxiety.  DC2 was better in a day and I was completely better by day 3.)

And that is our expensive and exasperating story.  My colleagues think it’s hilarious, and indeed, it is hilarious given that DH is still alive and we’re not going to have to go into major debt, just buy a cheaper car or sell some stocks.  Most insurance companies don’t cover rabies vaccines for people because they’re expensive and usually they’re just being given as anti-anxiety shots.  (Obviously if you’re bitten by a wild animal, you should get them if they can’t autopsy the animal in question.  But for pet dogs who are behaving nicely towards humans, not as clear.)

Morals:  If you’re breaking up a dog fight, use water, or lift the back legs of each animal.  Do not mess with their mouths.  If you get bitten by a pet dog, get the name and contact info for the @#$23ing dog so you can see if it dies in 11 days or not.  If you do get the series of four shots post-bite, get the first one in an emergency room and the remaining 3 at Walgreens (using a different schedule than the one that Walgreens will want to use– talk to the emergency room doctor about the schedule for all four shots).

Ask the grumpies: Masters programs

Anoninmass asks:

Applying for a Master’s program and it feels so difficult and annoying yet I cannot seem to get ahead without it….why???

Some professions have so many people interested that they can require a masters degree (see:  social work, library science, other “helping” kinds of jobs).

Some professions, particularly in government, require a masters degree that teaches management kinds of skills for getting ahead.  Management is a different skill-set than being a police officer or fire fighter and so on, so these kinds of jobs will require new skills taught in masters programs for getting promoted to management.

I’m not sure why the teaching masters degree is rewarded.  Presumably it’s teaching skills that help in the classroom?  But it’s also not required except in California, so I don’t know.  It seems to be something desired by teachers unions, not school districts.  So… I dunno.

I will mention that masters applications are down this year across the board (the labor market is tightening), so it should be easier than usual to get in!  Our masters program has rolling admissions this year which is unusual for us (last year we had record numbers).

Good luck!

Obnoxious money: Standard tricks for saving money lead to spending money when your hourly wage/salary is high

One of the standard tricks for saving money is to calculate how many hours of work it takes to pay for the luxury you’re thinking of spending. If eating lunch out is equivalent to two hours of work at the call center, you might decide to brown-bag it instead. (I never understood why so many of my coworkers ate out while on break at our minimum wage job when I was in high school.) Here’s becoming minimalist explaining how we don’t buy things with money, we buy them with time. A related technique is to translate those dollars into something tangible, here’s us talking about the candy bar exchange rate, though as grownups you’ll probably want to use something like cars or computers or weeks of groceries.

Another standard trick is to add up how much your latte factor (which could be any small regular luxury expense, not just lattes) is costing you over the course of a year. At $5/day for 5 days/week for 50 weeks/year, a latte factor could be $1250/year. Here’s the frugal girl discussing this technique in more detail.

The problem with these techniques when you’re making obnoxious amounts of money is that they lead to more spending.  If the cost eating out can be measured in minutes of work instead of hours, then it seems silly to not eat out.  The cost of DH’s recent rabies scare hit home with him when I told him that two emergency room visits = 1 new car, but if we were making more money, even that cost wouldn’t be a big deal– the comparison might be a small fraction of a nicer car or yacht or single private airplane ride.  At a certain point $1250/year seems like nothing– why wouldn’t one spend that on small luxuries?

… so… should we be spending more?  Laura Vanderkam from a few years ago would certainly say yes.  (I don’t know what she’s selling now.)  Use that hourly wage calculation to loosen up on spending, especially if it increases productivity or diminishes stress or saves time.

Indeed, recently I got a glasses exam out-of-network (probably)… $130 for the exam.  The insurance company didn’t make things easy for LensCrafters, so after trying to login to the stupid BC/BS page and being stymied by changing my password and then finally finding my benefits on the university website I discovered I’d only be reimbursed 50% anyway, I decided SCREW IT it’s not worth it.  Even if they should have reimbursed me $65, even for the principal of the thing (which was more important to me back when I had more time), I wasn’t willing to put more time and mental energy into it.

Here’s a tweet from an econ professor:

Susan Dynarski makes $270,000.00 according to the UMichigan website (not as much as many of their other star professors!) and is in the 98% percentile of income for the US.  (I am again reminded of talking with professional colleagues whose families make about 2x Dr. Dynarski’s and how their view of what a vacation is or cleaning person’s duties are is so different from most of the upper middle class’s… when you make over 500K/year and it isn’t going to your mortgage, you have a personal assistant and you rent a chef to go with your Caribbean vacation and your cleaning person will put things away instead of refusing to clean if the house isn’t already uncluttered.  We’re not there.)  (In fairness to Prof. Dynarski, she’s a first-gen college student whose family was in the bottom income quartile growing up.  She’s not out-of-touch.  Even if the comments on that thread… economists, man.)

Is this rational?  Is this necessary?  Should people with higher wages be spending more based on these tricks?  Should we instead find our “enough” as recommended in YMoYL?

I don’t know.

What do you think?  And how do you feel about these kinds of spending tricks?

RBOC

  • Can I say again how much I hate it when people mess with kerning on grant applications?
  • My (recently retired) FIL called DH to tell him to be sure to put money in IRA Roths.  DH told him we’ve got that covered.
  • DH helped break up a dog fight that happened across the street from our house (intact pitbull being walked by a ~10 year old girl slipped its halter going after a Labrador) and got bitten.  :(  He had to get a tetanus booster and 3 days worth of topical antibiotics. The dog was super friendly to humans, but accidentally got DH’s finger as DH was trying to help the laborador’s owner separate them.  The woman who owns the Labrador stopped by our house to say her dog had to undergo ear surgery and that the pitbull’s owner (the grandfather in this scenario) was a total jerk and wanted to know if we’d seen how the fight had started, which we hadn’t.
  • My January conference reimbursement for doing job interviews for a position in our department was audited because I bought $21 of folding chairs and left them there instead of flying them back to the university.  (The chairs were because the hotel ran out and we didn’t want the job candidate sitting on a bed with the interviewers(!))  Fortunately I didn’t believe the hotel when they said that getting extra chairs wouldn’t be a problem (hence neither reservation nor wait list) and got advance permission from both the department head and the dean in case of emergency.
  • We got a big tax refund this year, even after paying next year’s estimated taxes, not unexpected given we had a $7,500 credit from buying the Honda Clarity last year.  In terms of how the Republican tax bill affected us:  we’re paying slightly less tax but not a huge difference.  This is mainly because we live in a Red State with low state income etc. taxes (high property taxes, but low property values) and we’ve finished paying our mortgage so we weren’t getting big federal deductions anyway (some of the self-employment tax changes also helped, I think, and we weren’t deducting business expenses which would have hurt).  People in blue states with high income taxes and high property values are going to be hurt much more.  We didn’t bother adding up our charitable donations this year for the first time because there was no way we were going to hit the limit, so I guess it was a bit less paperwork.
  • Strongly considering using a slightly different specification in this graph because it currently looks like a condom.
  • My car is gradually succumbing to plastic fatigue.  Another door handle broke this week, this time the part that you open from the inside rather than the part from the outside.  $45 to replace ($35 part plus $10 s/h), and easier to replace than the other part (in that it doesn’t require as much strength to unscrew all the necessary bolts).  I really should just get a new car.  Maybe this summer.  I will miss it.
  • My mom is retiring!  At age 72 it will cost her retirement money to keep working based on how her public pension is structured.  (They don’t structure them like that much anymore.)  They’re planning on staying put for a while.  Part of me is surprised because they are West-Coasters at heart, not midwesterners (despite having lived there, as my mother has pointed out, for 34 years).  Part of me is not surprised because their inertia is very strong and anything that takes planning can take a decade to actually happen if they’re not given an external deadline.  My mom hopes to devote her time to politics and research, which are both good things.
  • In case you’re wondering what’s happening with the kitchen renovation… we’ve paid for most of it so far (months ago), our dining room is full of appliances in boxes, and we are stuck on the step in which someone removes our ice maker and replaces it with cabinets.  Home Depot is like, we can do drawers there but we can’t do cabinets that look like your current cabinets.  The place the cabinets came from is like, yeah, we don’t make those anymore but you can get them custom-copied from this other local business.  But the other local business is only open M-F, 9-5 and has been playing a lot of phone tag with DH.  And so we wait…
  • My BIL is getting a full back and shoulders tattoo.  It’s a reminder of the generation gap between X and millennial about how normal that is for someone just a little bit younger than us and how unusual for us.  (How daring and hidden most Gen X tattoos are/were.  How expressive they are for younger folks.  I don’t think I know a single millennial other than my sister who doesn’t have at least an ankle tattoo.)

What car should I buy this summer?

I currently have a 2005 Hyundai Accent that I like very much.  I would keep it forever except that I am getting really tired of having to take breaks from it for little repairs.  3 days without the car waiting for a door handle replacement was the final straw.  (I could have driven around anyway and opened the door from the outside via the window, but we would have had to put the door back together for me to do that.)

The car landscape has changed a lot since I last looked for me.  Last time I looked for me, there was one very obvious only choice.  The Prius was at the top of every list and nothing else compared in the compact/sub-compact range.  If I didn’t want to go hybrid, then the Toyota Corolla was the top of every sub-compact list.  (And the Honda Civic if I wanted to go bigger.)

Things have changed quite a bit since then.  The Hyundai Accent, which we bought in 2005 because it was literally the only car we could afford to buy with cash, is now as high as #3 on some lists!  The hybrid landscape has changed dramatically.  Honda has the Insight, Hyundai has the Ioniq.  And there are plug-ins with tax discounts!  (I briefly toyed with the idea of buying a bolt the weekend before the April 1st deadline for the $7.5K discount, but opted not to.)

By summer I should have up to 35K saved to play with for this new car purchase.  I do not *want* to spend $35K, but I will be able to if necessary.  (The money will find another home if not spent on this car.)

Here’s what I want:

I want a small car.  Sub-compact preferred, Compact as a second choice.  I like small cars because I am small and because they are easy to park.

This car will drive me 7 miles to work and 7 miles back 5 days a week (occasionally stopping at DC2’s school on the way home).  My current 14 year old car has just a little over 50K miles on it.  I just don’t drive much.

I do not care about “performance”.  I do not want a sports car.  I do not need vim or vigor.

I want a new car.  Dealing with the used car market is not something I want to do.  I will keep this car until it, too, starts succumbing to plastic fatigue or otherwise dies.

I want a four door automatic with air conditioning.  I’m not sure if it is possible to get a new car that doesn’t have those attributes, but that was something that was really important when we bought the accent.  The back needs space for two kids including one in a booster seat.

I am really not a mini-cooper kind of person.  I am a boring middle-aged female.  I do think the new lines on current models are sexy, but how the vehicle looks is really not a priority.  Except I would prefer not to have something with a personality.  Nondescript is where I’m at.

I want at least 28 C/35H mpg.  Those are arbitrary.  My current Accent still gets something in the 30-33mph range (I guess because my commute is partly highway?)  If I go hybrid, then I want at least 50mpg.  I know that given how little I drive my mileage isn’t that important, but I dislike stopping to get gas (especially during election season when I avoid places advertising evil people).  I currently do it about once every 2 weeks.  I don’t hate it enough to go completely electric though.   I can afford an electric, but it seems like they’re more than I need given the higher price-tag (which is why I didn’t buy the Bolt before the subsidy got cut).  Plus with DH having the Clarity we might need to get an actual charger if we went electric.  Still, something like the Leaf, which still has the $7,500 credit, might be reasonable, except that I would not be able to make it to the city and back without recharging if something happened to DH’s car.  So… I guess I don’t see any all-electric vehicles that I like enough to buy.

I don’t want a luxury car.

I don’t care about electronic bells and whistles.

The beep beep beep beep that the Prius does when reversing DRIVES ME CRAZY.  (Two of my colleagues have Priuses.)  (#2 notes that you can turn it off.  We had a link in Link Love, I think.)  (Yep, that’s why I put it in link love.  But I do worry that somehow that ability will get disabled.)

What should I test drive?  What am I forgetting?  What sub-compacts and compacts do you love or hate?