Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lots of DIY fixes going on

There always seems to be something around the house that needs fixing. Thanks again to YouTube, I was able to fix some more things at a fraction of the cost of hiring someone to do the work. I actually don't consider myself to be very handy. There are many things that I would prefer to hire out, but I know that the more things I outsource in my life the more money I will need to support my lifestyle. I could easily have a lawn guy, a tax guy, a handyman, etc, but I purposely choose to do most of these things myself when time permits. A piece of advice that was given to me once was to limit yourself to one 'guy' per $50k of income. There isn't anything magical about $50k increments, but it illustrates the fact that as your income goes up, your time becomes more and more valuable and the cost of doing things yourself goes up.
I'm not really big into camping, but recently had the need to dust off my gear for a trip with some friends. Before going out, I set up my tent to make sure everything was in order and found that one of the joints to my tent poles was busted (I learned that they're actually called ferrules). Clearly the tent pole is a critical part and I wasn't about to sleep outside.

I did some searching and found that to get a whole new tent pole, I might as well just buy a new tent! Thankfully, YouTube came to the rescue with a few videos on how to fix my part. For only about $5, I got a repair kit from Amazon and was able to take apart the pole and swap the busted ferrule for a new one and it is as good as new.

We also had a DIY opportunity recently with one of our A/C units that had been acting up. Neither of us had ever done any HVAC repairs and struck out trying to diagnose it ourselves. We ended up having to call a professional to come out and took a look. As it always happens, the A/C decided to work perfectly while he was here, but he was able to tell us what part might be failing based on our description of what had been happening (it's called a relay in case you're interested). $89 later, he was on his way and gave our A/C a clean bill of health…which lasted until that very evening when it started acting up again.
Armed with the information I thought necessary to fix the unit ourselves, we embarked on a journey to find a replacement part. I quickly learned that HVAC is not like other home repairs. Your typical home improvement store is much more interested in selling you a completely new system and doesn't even have replacement parts in stock. I found some smaller shops that had parts like what I needed but couldn't tell me with certainty whether what they had was compatible. Even YouTube couldn't give me much information about what to be looking for or how to swap a part. After reading up on things, I walked away with the impression that there are likely A/C units that are fully replaced when the actual need may be something much smaller. This works because this industry has a lot more information assymetry than others and most people don't seek out multiple opinions and simply go with the sure solution of a complete replacement.
This little thing does something to control the air handler blower to switch on and off…a good thing to have working in August.
I ended up finding a manual online for the part of the A/C unit in question and learned how to decode the part number and how to tell whether a different part number might also be compatible. This time, eBay was the winner. I got the part I needed for $13 after shipping and after only about 10 minutes the old part had been swapped out and we were back in business. We still had to pay $89 for the first guy to come out, but I'm sure it would have been a lot more than $13 for him to have swapped out the part.
In this day and age, we could literally hire out every aspect of our lives if we wanted to. I don't begrudge people for trying to earn a living, but individually we all need to decide what's the right level of outsourcing for us. I can't always figure things out on my own but enjoy the sense of satisfaction and boost to self-confidence that comes with doing something myself when I can.

Monday, September 5, 2016

August 2016 Net Worth Update

Happy Labor Day weekend and belated August net worth update. I've been super busy the past couple of days out of town and wanted to get this posted before too much more time passes.

August was another great month for our net worth, which increased nearly $13k to an all-time high of $576,261. There are only a few more month in the year, but hitting $600,000 net worth by year-end feels within reach. Most of the increase this month was from our house, which Zillow estimates increased in value by $9k. It still feels reasonable since there have been homes selling in our neighborhood for closer to $500k, and has previously been in this price range.


CASH: Our cash stayed about the same as last month. I'd like to keep our cash between $20-25k for the time being and we're sitting right in the middle of that range.

INVESTMENTS: Nothing too exciting here either – we didn't see much growth outside of our normal monthly contributions, and didn't make any changes to investment allocations or locations.

CARS: Nothing too exciting here either. I expect our cars to go down in value a bit each month but they don't have much more value to lose. The cars are worth more to me than Kelly Blue Book says they're worth and we have no plans to sell or replace either in the immediate future. That being said, I just hit 190,000 miles on my car and know it will eventually need to be replaced. For now though, it is still driving fine and only requires regular maintenance. I'm hoping I can make it until 2018 or later before I need to get a new one.

MORTGAGE: We continue to make extra payments on the mortgage and have our sights set on getting the balance below $200k. Each year, we get our tax refund about the same time as my year-end bonus pays out and these lump sums are used for retirement contributions, charitable donations, and the rest towards the house. We've done some Roth IRA conversions this year that will reduce our tax refund, but my year-end bonuses are looking like they'll make up for it.

I'll end again with this historical view. Looking at this always helps me to remember how far we've come and to reflect back to the different stages of life and sacrifices that were made to get to this point.