I wrote awhile back about working to get our medical bills paid off– for healthy people, we racked up a ridiculous stack of them last year. We also recently got excited about getting out from under our house payment– there’s plenty else we could do with a thousand bucks a month.
Unfortunately it seems that lately life has been scheming against us. A month or so ago we got a nice big crack in our windshield, which has spread all the way across– we’ve really gotta get that thing fixed soon. We also have a broken lawn mower. Who knows how much it will take to get it going again.
Just before we left on vacation, our dryer broke. We thought it was just a broken switch and weren’t hugely concerned. But once back from the trip, the mechanic came out and pronounced multiple parts of it shot, to the tune of $200. As hard as we work our dryers, might as well spend $300 and get a new one. Fortunately we had some Home Depot gift cards, which we’d been saving to buy house paint with. Ah well. Maybe we’ll paint the house a gallon at a time this summer.
On the way home from our trip, came the most exciting break-down by far. Only an hour into our drive home, in the pouring rain, something under the dash of the car started to make an odd clicking. We drove on, hoping all would be okay. Except then smoke started coming out from the steering column, sending that burning-wires smell all over the van. We were on a two-lane highway, but fortunately on a straight stretch with good wide shoulders. John pulled over and we all piled out, grabbing as much valuable stuff as we could in the process. So there we were standing on the side of the road in the pouring Oregon rain, with 8 kids, 3 laptops and a bunch of camera gear. And smoke still billowed even after John turned off the car.
In fact, the headlights were stuck ‘on’ even after he turned them off– some circuit must have burned the switch. Not til he detached the battery did the smoke stop and the lights turn off. We called a tow truck, all the while wondering how we would get ten people transported someplace while the van got fixed. And where would we go?
I remembered we’d just passed McMinnville, where the air museum was that we’d visited a couple days earlier. Next the the museum were a couple hotels. If needed, we could rent a couple rooms and stay the night there.
As it turned out, there was an awesome mobile mechanic who came to where we’d broken down, and got the van safe to drive a short distance. He was a great, personable guy who kept up a running commentary of what he was doing including giving the kids a lesson on how to hot wire a vehicle– watch out for those Ostyn kids now!
Once he got the car OK to drive, we opted to drive back to the air museum. We’d bought a year’s family membership two days earlier, simply because it was cheaper than a multiple day passes. So while the mechanic worked on the van in the parking lot there, we were able to use our membership one more time and check out more of the displays that we’d missed the other day. $400 and 5 hours later the van was fixed. We had burgers and fries in our bellies compliments of the museum restaurant. And off we went again, this time making it all the way home without a breakdown.
It is a bummer that the vacation ended up costing $400 more than we’d budgeted. But the really great thing is that for the first time ever, we’d already paid cash for the entire rest of the vacation, including all the gas we used.
We’ve always been reasonably careful with money, but vacations and travel are where we splurge. It’s not uncommon to come home from a trip with $1000 still needing to be paid off. It was an great feeling to know that even with the car repair as an unexpected expense to draw down our emergency fund, we’re still way better off than normal.
And this time, we have a plan and a goal, which we will keep working on despite these setbacks. But wow, it’d be nice if nothing else broke for a few months…