Vanquishing My Debt

I'm 29 and trying to get a handle on my finances so that, one day, I can buy a home of my own. I've been reading personal finance blogs recently and decided to start one chronicling my own struggles and success (hopefully). I am lucky, considering the amounts of debt and tales of tragedy I've read about... but I am making some positive changes and moving in the right direction.

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Egads, I spent $1100 on Monday!

There's nothing like large unexpected expenses to send someone trying to become debt-free into a headspin, is there? I was very much about to be checked into a mental ward at the time, but am feeling much better and more positive about it now.

The first large expense started on Saturday. My car (the very same car I'm thrilled that I'm finally not "upside-down" on) had an episode where the brakes basically stopped working reliably. Not only did the brake pedal suddenly start sinking all the way down to the floor, but the car was incredibly slow to stop... to the point where I'm shocked that I didn't hit someone. By the time I got home, which fortunately was only 10 minutes away, the car had taken to shuddering and jerking to a complete stop when I stood on the brake pedal. I picked up R and we drove to Firestone, the closest auto repair place near us... a total of about 6 blocks away.

The verdict - I was told that I needed new brake pads, shoes, rotors and calipers. And a few other small tweaks to the brake system.

The price - $756. And that's after I saved 10% because I opened a Firestone credit account.

The second large expense could have been avoided if I was a more responsible tenant... which I am, except for one small meowing thing. I've mentioned it on this blog before, but when R moved in with me, he brought his old wretched cat. The worst thing about this rotten creature is that I have a lease stating that there are no pets allowed. But given that my apartment is very cheap (cheap to the point where we won't be moving out unless we buy a home... or if the landlord finds out that we have a cat) and the landlord lives off-site, I figured I'd take the risk of smuggling in a cat. I have been lived there almost 7 years and have been an exemplary tenant in all other respects, and if the landlord did find out about the cat, we'd be told to either get rid of it or move out. Since it is an old cat and getting sicklier as it goes, we would choose to put the animal to sleep, which is inevitable soon anyways.

So you can understand why I'm loathe to call the landlord for repairs and maintenance. We've had to call once since R moved in, when the kitchen sink was completely blocked. We tried to repair it ourselves, and then when that failed, we had to call the landlord and get the cat out of the house for the day. I played hooky from work and took the cat to my mom's house, where it proceeded to freak out and almost have a seizure in its panic. The sink was repaired and I brought the cat back home. And hoped not to have another repair until after its demise... she is deathly afraid of her cardboard carrier and new places. We are afraid that she will literally have a heart attack or a debilitating seizure if we try moving her out of her home again.

Monday morning R got out of the shower and turned the faucets off. Funny thing, the cold water kept pouring out. We checked the things that we could, but quickly determined that we didn't want to mess with this one. Since I was housebound anyways due to my car being in the shop, we decided to try to call a plumber that day instead of the landlord. Now I know why homeowners are so reluctant to call specialists.

The verdict - worn away doodads on both faucets that needed to be replaced, plus 2 hours of labor. I also found out that the water pressure at our building is higher than it should be, which contributes to small leaks being sprung as well as pipes and fittings being worn down.

The price - about $350 due to my own lease-breaking and deceit. But as hard as it was to spend it, it was a heck of a lot cheaper than if I had moved into a more expensive apartment with R and the cat.

The payoff - the cat is still alive and undetected in our apartment... for now. Knock on wood.


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