My Air Conditioner Died on the Hottest Day of the Year. Here's How I'm Paying for a New One

by Maurie Backman | Published on Sept. 28, 2021

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A young woman tries to stay cool while sitting on her bed in front of a fan.

Image source: Getty Images

Here's how I'm coping with yet another major homeowner expense.

As someone who's owned a home for over a decade, I'm well aware that my monthly mortgage payment isn't the only expense I can expect to grapple with. I also have property taxes (which, where I live, are actually more than my mortgage), insurance, maintenance, and repairs.

Most of those expenses are pretty easy to plan for. I know what my property tax bill looks like at the start of each year. I can estimate my homeowners insurance premiums, and I know what property maintenance to expect. It's repairs that catch me off-guard -- especially when they come out of the blue.

Such was the case this summer, when my air conditioner decided to die in the midst of a heatwave. It had been working just fine all summer and had recently undergone routine maintenance, during which no issues were spotted. But because of the problem at-hand and the age of the unit, fixing it didn't make financial sense. I had to replace the entire system. And the price tag wasn't pretty.

Between the new unit and labor, I had to spend nearly $7,000. And because I had to replace my air conditioner quickly, I didn't have much time to shop around for quotes or negotiate. It was a lousy situation. But thankfully, I have a solid plan for paying that expense off.

It's all about replenishing my cash reserves

Because I had a solid emergency fund when my air conditioner blew, I didn't have to go into debt to get a new one. Rather, I took a substantial withdrawal from my savings account to pay for that new unit.

To be clear, I could have financed my new air conditioner over two years. But I also got a substantial discount for not spreading those payments out. Since I had the money in the bank, I couldn't justify paying several hundred extra dollars when I could take a withdrawal instead.

Technically, I don't have to pay off my new air conditioner -- it's already paid for. But I want to repay myself and put back the emergency cash I took out. And I'm doing a couple of things to make that possible.

First, I'm canceling a short getaway we planned for early November. My children get a random half-week off from school at the start of the month, and since most schools generally aren't closed then, it's a good time to travel. We usually take the opportunity to get away when places aren't packed with tourists. But since we didn't have concrete plans and we are in the midst of a pandemic, it's easy to justify staying home and banking that cash instead.

Secondly, I'm taking on additional work to boost my income. As someone who's self-employed, I'm grateful to have that option. And while it puts a fair amount of pressure on me, it's actually easier for me to work more than cut back on spending. Since my family doesn't spend excessively, I'd hate to have to cut out the small luxuries we treat ourselves to, like weekly takeout meals or treats for our kids.

Be prepared for the unexpected

As a homeowner, you never know when something major will break and cost you a huge chunk of money. My emergency fund really came to the rescue this past summer, and you'd be wise to sock away cash for unforeseen expenses as well.

At the same time, it never hurts to have a backup plan in case you encounter a repair that your emergency savings can't cover or to have a means of paying yourself back if you're forced to take a huge withdrawal. While I'm thankful that I can pick up more assignments at my main job, your backup plan might involve getting a side job when costly repairs creep up. Or you may need to make other sacrifices, such as reducing your spending on things like leisure and entertainment.

Unfortunately, unplanned bills can come up at any time when you own a home. The more prepared you are, the less stressful they'll be.

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