Our Washer Died, or How I Experienced the Worst Experience of My Life Thus Far

As I mentioned previously, I just got to drop $700 on a new washing machine because ours stopped working.  Here is the saga in detail:

I came home from work and was going to throw the load of towels that I had washed at lunch into the dryer before heading off to hip hop, but the washer was still completely full of water. ¬†I kept hearing shuddering whenever it would try to drain and it wouldn’t work on any cycle or setting. ¬†I call Andy in and, in true Andy fashion, he totally overreacted about how the world was ending because he had no clean clothes. ¬†I calmed him down and we started watching tutorials on how to diagnose what’s wrong with a washer that won’t drain. ¬†Then Andy went off to work, where he thought about how going to a laundromat once is not the end of the world, while I did every diagnostic thing I felt comfortable doing, with the washing machine doing its death shakes the whole time.

I found the paperwork from when the washer was purchased and, lo and behold, it’s 14 years old (aka I’m not spending money on repairs because they are going to be major). ¬†I called up Sears anyway about getting a repairman to come out. ¬†A. It will be almost $100 just to have someone come look at it. ¬†B. No one is available for almost 2 weeks. ¬†C. The woman in Asia fielding phone calls¬†asked about my “dishwasher” no less than 6 times.

So then I did what every responsible adult does when faced with a challenge: I called my mom, who then told me to call my dad.

After talking it through with him, and then my mom when she called back, I was convinced I needed a new washer.  Conveniently, all appliance stores were starting their Labor Day sales.  Thanks for that, at least, stupid Kenmore washer.

I start out googling best washing machines and quickly realized there is no way I’m dropping $2k on something that will just die and crush my soul again. ¬†After extensive internet research, exploring what was available in town, braving the terrible Fort Collins Sears that’s in liquidation, and finding out who will install for free, I decided on this beaut:

LG High-Efficiency Front Load Washer with Steam in White, ENERGY STAR

On sale, excellent reviews, qualifies for a $50 rebate from the utility company, free delivery, free haul away of our broken one, and best of all, they will install and make sure it works for free.  I was surprised to find that most places will deliver and haul away for free, but Home Depot is alone in offering free installation, including leveling and testing.  SOLD.

But there was the issue of emptying the broken washer. ¬†As much as I didn’t want to, I knew I was going to have to siphon the water out, especially after talking to my dad. ¬†THIS IS WHERE THE MOST HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE OF MY ENTIRE LIFE THUS FAR OCCURS. ¬†I get the a hose out, clean it off, put a plastic bag with a hole cut in it on the end so my lips don’t have to touch garden hose, and start sucking. ¬†I get some water out, only a bit gets in my mouth, and I leave it to run, but then it stops. ¬†I repeat the process again and I suck a foreign object into my mouth. ¬†I immediately spit it out on the patio and realize THERE WAS A DEAD SPIDER IN MY MOUTH. ¬†I’ll let you sit with that a moment.

SPIDER CARCASS.  IN MY MOUTH.

Please kill me.

Needless to say, I rinsed my mouth out and brushed my teeth more times than I can count.  And the siphon stopped halfway through and I said eff it.

The next day, Andy has the audacity to ask, “Did you know we have two auto-siphons for brewing?” ¬†NO. ¬†IF I KNEW THAT, I WOULDN’T HAVE EXPERIENCED WET, DEAD SPIDER IN MY MOUTH. ¬†And now guess who gets to be in charge of draining the rest of the water.

It’s the little things that add up

Andy has been annoyed with me for hoarding aluminum cans in our garage for a couple of months now. ¬†I decided I would start saving cans to cash in after I saw a coupon in the Valpak¬†for an extra 5 cents per pound of aluminum cans at a scrap metal recycling place. ¬†My parents always saved cans when I was growing up, and then we’d go cash them in once we had filled up a trash bag. ¬†After seeing the coupon, I realized how many cans were just going into the recycle bin at our house–money being wasted! ¬†After having Andy’s birthday party, I fished a ton of, ahem, soda cans out of the recycle bin (yeah, we’ll go with soda…craft soda. ¬†We were most definitely not drinking Genesee…) and had enough to fill up a big trash bag when it was combined with my hoard from the last few months. ¬†I convinced him to go with me so he could see how easy and painless it was, and that we could make some money back off the cost of the “soda.”

A dramatic reenactment of what our garage looked like pre-cash-in.

It took all of 30 seconds for the guy at the scrap place to weigh the bag of cans and give us a slip for $6.00. ¬†We took that to the cashier, gave them the coupon, and walked away with $6.60 in cash! ¬†That is basically a free burrito, people! ¬†Andy quickly forgave me for all the can hoarding and sifting through the recycle bin, and got excited about all the potential money to be made off of…soda. ¬†We decided that all can money will go directly into Change Jar!, which is what we call the Carlo Rossi jug that we put all our spare change into. ¬†We love Change Jar! so much that it has an exclamation point in its name because that’s how excitedly we talk about it.

Change Jar! has played a critical role in vacation and house funding. ¬†When I was scraping together everything I could for the down payment on our house, we were nearing the top of Change Jar! and cashed it in for a couple extra hundred bucks that we didn’t have in our wallets before. ¬†After that cash out, we made it a rule to stop raiding it if we needed quarters for pinball because we were missing out on the best change. ¬†It also helped that we were no longer living within walking distance of both Chipper’s and Pinball Jones, so the temptation has been mitigated. ¬†When we went to Boston this summer, we cashed in Change Jar! again for a couple hundred to help feed us while we were out and about. ¬†It wasn’t even nearing the top! ¬†Amazing how much some quarters can boost the cash value.

Not our Change Jar! but very similar.

Now we’re starting to throw in bills to help maximize the money we save with Change Jar! ¬†A certain someone who shall remain nameless but is the only guy who lives in our house has a tendency to leave pants wherever they may fall after he gets home from work and changes into comfy clothes. ¬†So I instituted a rule that if either of us finds clothes with money in them not in our room, we can put the money straight into Change Jar!, even if it’s all bills. ¬†It has cut down on the frequency of finding pants on the couch and adds up. ¬†Money found in the laundry also goes to Change Jar! ¬†Now that can money will be added in the mix, we hope we’ll be able to use Change Jar! to help save up for something a little bigger, like a weekend getaway or something. ¬†It’s not money we miss in our day-to-day lives, collecting change and cans require very little effort, and it all adds up. ¬†Plus, it’s really fun in a super nerdy kind of way to watch the change go into the hopper at the bank and watch the counter go up, and really fun in a sadistic kind of way to show up with huge bags of coins and hand them over to the bank teller to be counted.

Frugal in FoCo pro tip: If you’re in Fort Collins and decide to save cans to get a little cash, look in the Valpak that comes to your house for a coupon for additional $$$/lb to maximize the amount you receive. ¬†And New Belgium sells canned craft beers, along with many other craft breweries, so you can maintain your standards while saving the planet and getting some cash back.

No Spend July Recap

Now that we’re well into August, I thought I would discuss No Spend July. ¬†I feel like I failed while I simultaneously succeeded. ¬†It makes no sense.

On the win side, I paid off my furnace and I got my emergency fund back up to $1000, which was my first emergency fund milestone. First step, $1000. Next step, three months of expenses. Then, a fully funded emergency fund of at least six months of expenses (that feels like a decade away).  I pretty much stuck to no unnecessary shopping, minus a few slips when I bought a record and kombucha out of pure frustration with my feeling of failure, and I bought two yoga tops because they were both 50% off (not an excuse).

On the fail side, I picked the month when I had told just about everyone in Fort Collins that I would grab lunch, dinner, or a beer with them.  So then I kind of gave up on all things food or drink related.

I have stuck to not buying a parking permit and finding other ways to get myself to work, so that’s pretty awesome. ¬†But then my super yoga muscle hip of death and destruction hit my bike wheel¬†while I was STANDING IN THE YARD and somehow tripped, followed by a wet grass slip, and now my bicycle is waiting at Cranknstein for a new wheel.

I feel like I failed, even though I met my goals. ¬†I didn’t meet the goal of not spending money, though, which was the whole point. ¬†I will pick a better month and try it again before the end of the year. ¬†September could be a good month to try again because we will be saving up for a Vegas trip with my parents. ¬†We go to all the hottest clubs.

By hottest clubs, I clearly mean Hoover Dam.

I will conquer this damn challenge before the end of 2014 and have an actual win.  Not just a somehow I managed to save money while not succeeding at my challenge at all semi-win.

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Debt and How to Deal

While I have thankfully never had to carry much debt and I have never been in the position where I have felt overwhelmed by the debt I have, or been unable to pay back my debts on schedule, a large portion of our society is not so lucky.  Learnvest posted this infographic from Debt Consolidation that shows exactly how debt can affect a person and offers some suggestions for how to cope and get debt under control.  Terrifying, but not surprising.  If you or someone you know is facing debt that is causing overwhelming stress or depression, there are solutions to help you get through it and come out successfully on the other side.

Building Credit

What I really wanted to title this was “Building credit is a giant pain in the ass and sometimes you have to cry on the phone to get what you want.”

This terrifying finger puppet is probably what credit would look like if it had a face.

This terrifying finger puppet is probably what credit would look like if it had a face.

Now that I am like an adult or something, I have decided I need to build my credit. ¬†While I started my interest in¬†personal finance after doing Financial Peace University and watching Dave Ramsey‘s show, I have since concluded that while I do believe in not carrying “bad debt,” I am not going to swear off credit cards or loans for some things. ¬†It’s necessary in our society to have and maintain credit and use it responsibly. ¬†Would I like to be able to pay for things outright all the time? ¬†Of course, but that’s not always an option. ¬†Sometimes you need a more reliable car or a furnace. ¬†The trick is to be smart about credit and loans. ¬†Part of that is making sure credit is available when you need it, and thus comes the credit building process.

I have always had excellent credit, but not much credit history. ¬†I started out with a few¬†store cards and a mortgage in my previous life. ¬†Then I got a car loan, and¬†with¬†the history with my previous mortgage and car loan, I was able to get a mortgage for our current house. ¬†A few months after buying our house, the furnace went out and I applied for, and received, an American Express Blue Cash Preferred card. ¬†I chose this card because of the sign up bonus and the cash back rewards on groceries and gas–what I primarily use the card for. ¬†It is also interest free until 2015! ¬†While it does have an annual fee, the sign up bonus was twice that and the cash back rewards easily cover the fee in about three months of my regular spending with it. ¬†Half the furnace was paid by my emergency fund, and half went on the card so that I wouldn’t completely drain my emergency fund. ¬†My one complaint with¬†having an American Express card is that it’s not accepted everywhere because of their high merchant fees. ¬†I can’t depend on this one card in my wallet if I happen to have some sort of emergency while I’m building my emergency fund back up.

I had thought a lot about getting a Visa or Mastercard credit card so that I would continue to build credit and have something more widely accepted in case of an emergency. ¬†I knew, though, that I wouldn’t be approved for a new card until the furnace was paid off because my credit utilization percentage was high and was knocking my credit score down. ¬†Once the furnace was paid off (Wooooo!), I decided it was time to find another card. ¬†I read up on the best cards on sites¬†like Nerdwallet, and picked the Chase Freedom card as the next card in my credit arsenal. ¬†It has a great sign up bonus, good rewards (not as good as my Amex card, but still pretty ok), and has a cash back option. ¬†It also has no annual fee, no interest for a year, and is generally available to people with limited credit history. ¬†So I applied online.

Rookie mistake #1: I failed to realize that it takes American Express about a decade to report to the credit bureaus so it still showed I was carrying a high balance in relation to my credit limit.

Instead of getting the “congrats, we’re sending your new card” message I was expecting, I got the dreaded “your application needs further review because we’re too polite to just say you got denied” message.

Another ding to my credit score as a hard inquiry on my credit report and nothing to show for it. ¬†But as it turns out, according to my good friend Google, many people have had success calling credit card application reconsideration numbers and talking to a real human. ¬†I called the Chase reconsideration line, followed all the tips, and tried to charm a lovely girl who confirmed that she was denying me also. ¬†But she did say that American Express tends to be late in reporting and I should call back in a week or so because they keep my application open for 30 days. ¬†I tried to explain my situation and that it was all paid off. ¬†Then she quizzed me on why I no longer use my Maurice’s card or my Victoria’s Secret card. ¬†Because I’m not 17 anymore and I’m all good on undergarments, thanks. ¬†(Pro tip: Never mention you only got the card for the discount back when no one thought about those things and then never used it again.)

Rookie mistake #2: calling back too soon, but not soon enough.

I read forums about other people’s experiences with Chase reconsideration, practiced my plea, called back after about a week, and talked to another lovely customer service agent who once again denied me because of my lack of history with credit cards and a high utilization rate on the one I do have because Amex STILL hadn’t reported updated info to the credit bureaus. ¬†I explained my situation once again, and emphasized that I already have an auto loan with Chase that I am paying back ahead of schedule so I was already deemed creditworthy by them once. ¬†The lovely customer service agent told me that that did not matter because they only look at actual credit card history.

THIS IS WHY BUILDING CREDIT IS A GIANT PAIN IN THE ASS. ¬†You can buy a car and a house, but we don’t think you’re responsible enough for a card.

Because I had called back before Amex had reported, but after their last credit inquiry had expired, I had another hard pull on my credit.  Goodbye, halfway decent credit score.

I used Credit Karma to then monitor my credit report to see when Amex finally reported.  And my new credit utilization ratio came through at the beginning of the month!  Hurray!  I celebrated by pulling my credit reports from Transunion and Experian to verify that they both reflected the change as well.  Then this week I got brave and called back.

Rookie mistake #3: thinking there is anything logical about how credit card companies work or that they have access to up-to-date information in the digital age.

I talked to a third customer service agent who confirmed that she would have to pull my credit report again (that’s three hard inquiries that will be dinging my credit score). ¬†That’s ok! ¬†I checked and it should be all good now! ¬†WRONG. ¬†Their systems evidently need an ADDITIONAL 15 DAYS to get access to updated reports because they are on the slow boat from Transunion headquarters and then they depend on a really unenthusiastic cat to type the report into their computers whenever he gets around to it.

It looks a little something like this.

So what did I do? ¬†That’s right, I cried on the phone.

Pro tip: If you EVER cry on the phone with a customer service agent make sure to say, “I know this isn’t your fault and you’ve been really helpful.” ¬†This will get you everywhere.

I said the magic phrase, explained the entire saga, as well as how I have a loan with Chase and I am just trying to build my credit with a company I already trust (remember, you have to charm them), and she responded with, “I know this is frustrating. ¬†Let me see what I can do.”

Less than 30 seconds later, she gets back on the phone and says, “Congratulations! ¬†I was able to approve your application and you’ll receive your card in two weeks.”

Holy hot damn!  Not only was I approved, but I was approved for a higher limit than I ever expected.  I told her that she just made my week, thanked her profusely, and hung up so I could celebrate with some awkward dancing and arm flailing.

Pro tip: PERSISTENCE. ¬†Bother them enough and you’ll get what you want, or something like that.

If you aren’t using Credit Karma, sign up now. ¬†It is a free and secure way to access and monitor your credit report and score. ¬†It also has a credit score simulator so you can see how certain decisions (both positive and negative) will affect your score. ¬†My score at the end of this whole debacle is projected to be a 718, which is respectable. ¬†I won’t need to apply for any more credit anytime soon and I’ll have the tools in my wallet to build my credit, so it will only go up from there!

Stop what you are doing right now and go to Denver

If you have not been to the Dikeou Collection yet (and I’m guessing not a lot of people have), stop what you are doing and go, especially if you love art, contemporary art, weird art, weird shit in general, free things, hidden gems, or Babe Ruth.

If you’ve been to Denver, you’ve probably been to the 16th Street Mall. ¬†But you probably haven’t entered the unassuming building behind the Jamba Juice at 1615 California Street and gone to the 5th floor to encounter this:

"Somehow I Don't Feel Comfortable" by Momoyo Torimistu, 2000.   Photo courtesy Colorado Public Radio.

“Somehow I Don’t Feel Comfortable” by Momoyo Torimistu, 2000. Photo courtesy Colorado Public Radio.

The Dikeou Collection is the private collection of Devon Dikeou and her brother Pany Dikeou, and includes several interactive exhibits, like a chandelier of bottles filled with water that you play with a wooden mallet, and three baseballs signed by Babe Ruth that are deteriorating in value as collectables but increasing in value as art as they collect the fingerprints of everyone who picks them up.

Andy and "His Truth is Marching On" by Paul Ramirez Jonas, 1993.

Andy and “His Truth is Marching On” by Paul Ramirez Jonas, 1993.

We enjoyed climbing through “Sludgie the Whale” by Agatha Snow (2007), were startled by a giant man with a mullet and paradise in his mouth (“1989” by Lawrence Seward), and felt claustrophobic in a tent-like sculpture made of pipe cleaners (I cannot find the name of this or the artist…). ¬†And the rest of the night we kept saying, “WE TOUCHED THREE BASEBALLS SIGNED BY BABE RUTH!” ¬†I could go on and on about the art in this collection, but I feel like it’s best to be surprised at every turn.

Best of all, it is FREE and open to the public every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from noon-5:00 pm.  They also do events in the gallery.  As we were walking in, Andy realized he had been to a poetry reading there years before, but had no idea what the space was.

Seriously, if you’ve never been to this Denver hidden gem, drop what you are doing and go now. ¬†There is also a Dikeou pop-up space on Colfax that I still need to explore.

Go now.  Do it.