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Putting off the inevitable

The dishwasher broke. Again. The dishwasher is crappy and I hate it and I’m so ready to get a new one but also I’m not at all ready to get a new one. Because a new dishwasher is not that expensive, in the grand scheme of things, but.

For whatever reason, we have a portable dishwasher in our not-portable kitchen. It’s not portable at all, because we never port it anywhere, but I guess we could, if we wanted to lug several hundred pounds out the door and…into the trunk of the car? Maybe we could port it out onto the deck and pretend like we are camping with a dishwasher? It’s got a counter piece on top of it, and if you move the spinning utensil holder or the Keurig that are sitting on it one or two millimeters to the right, there is a circle of grime you’ll have to contend with. These items live there. The dishwasher is not in fact portable.

At any rate, in order to run the dishwasher, we have to hook the tube up to the kitchen faucet every time that we use it, which pulls on the faucet and makes the faucet leak. We also have to turn the water on at the faucet, and it leaks through the tube, so we waste what must be a ton of water. I hate this stupid thing. I want a new one.

But we can’t get a new one, we don’t have the money, and if we did have the money, we would need to use it for something more pressing like paying down our debt or buying a lawn mower next summer. Because in the end, while you can hand wash dishes without a machine, I’ve only once tried to mow my lawn with a pair of scissors, and it turns out to be just as stupid as it sounds.

What does it matter if it’s portable or not portable? Well, we can’t just swap in a new dishwasher with existing hardware. Somebody has to drill a hole somewhere and change the plumbing under the sink. And while we’re talking about that, the portable dishwasher has leaked into the bottom cabinet under the sink, so it doesn’t make sense to do this work without replacing that cabinet. And there’s the problem of counter space – our counters aren’t one big piece because the dishwasher is portable and so that piece of counter slides in and out. We would need a new piece of counter to put on the permanent dishwasher. But it doesn’t make sense to buy a small new piece of counter if we eventually need to replace the sink and cabinet under it, and we should just get a whole new counter (otherwise, we pay twice). And then the counters don’t match…

We ran into this situation with the bathroom – we needed to fix it because of the consistent water damage under the tub, and it didn’t make sense to gut that bathroom and redo it if, in a few years, we were intending to add a half bath upstairs (which we were), just to rip it all out again. So we had a project that was considerably larger than we wanted it to be.

And there’s an answer of “just do the one thing and be done with it,” but while that saves money now, it costs more money in the end. Buying a new counter piece to go onto the permanent dishwasher, but then replacing it in a few years – that’s waste. Drilling into the sink cabinet and setting all of this up when we are going to get a new cabinet in a few years (whether we want to or not, the water damage is substantial) – it’s paying twice for the same thing.

So every time the dishwasher breaks, I have a momentary “maybe this is the time, maybe we get rid of this thing finally.” And then I realize that we don’t have $10K for a kitchen remodel, and panic. And get to tinkering.

The dishwasher broke about four months ago, and my husband pulled it all out of the wall (okay, that wasn’t a heroic act, it’s portable), took it apart piece by piece, and fixed it. This time, I took it apart and fixed it.

Each time, we dodge a bullet – but each time, I know that we’re one step closer to the inevitable decision. I’d love to say that we can put aside money in an emergency account to make up for it – but we just can’t. We’re paying off debt and paying off debt and I just drained my emergency account again to pay for surprise car repairs.

There’s a path here that works: if we can keep this dishwasher running for another year, according to my spreadsheet, we’ll have a lot more room in the budget. I have changed the spreadsheet up so that at that point, we start paying double car payments and triple payments on the solar panel loan, and even with that included, we’ll have something like $1,000 extra per month at our current rate. I’d like to slow down freelancing, and increase retirement then – but we’ll definitely have flexibility.

Another option, a worse one but one that works, is that in 4 months, we will be done with PMI – and we could conceivably take out a HELOC. I don’t want to, but it would be an option to get us through.

I’m so jealous of people who start out ahead – who start out with an income that allows them to pay off student loans quickly, or who don’t have to take out student loans, or who can get a house without a mortgage, or even put 20% down, or who can put aside money from the start before they need to buy a car to get to work, who don’t have dependent family members taking instead of providing. We aren’t in that position. We started without much, the debts accrued, the family members needed us to share. If we could not have any of that going on for like two years, we would be in a good position – a decent emergency fund, no consumer debt, high savings rate. But every time I think that might happen, something else that we waited too long to perform maintenance on during the lean years breaks again.

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