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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Going Frugal: Home Owner's Warranties

If you buy a "used" home, having the seller purchase you a home owner's warranty (HOW) should be one part of your contract negotiation.


Well, when you buy a newly built home, that home carries a builder's warranty on the home and the components for anywhere from one to seven years depending upon your builder. So if your roof springs a leak, your foundation cracks, or any number of structural things go wrong, you simply contact your builder and hope they make good on their word (it's SO important to investigate your builder and their history via your local BBB if you're considering a new build).

But if you buy a home that's older, one past the new builder warranty dates, you should require your seller to purchase you a one-year home owner's warranty as part of the sale contract.

Our HOW came in handy last year. Here's how:

*Hot Water Heater Replacement: $1200 normally. Our bill: $55 service call.

*Furnace Stopped Working -- on a COLD January night: $??? for a new furnace (I was so happy to be warm again that I didn't even ask the nice repairman the retail cost of new one + labor). Our bill: $55 service call.

We opted to renew our HOW this year when it expired after the year's coverage paid by the seller of our home was done . It wasn't cheap - the total cost for the year is $500 after we added on optional air conditioner coverage to the plan. We paid cash in three installments at the beginning of the year.

And now, as my utility sink is clogged and leaking, and my front yard faucet is leaking, too, we'll pay our...drum roll please...$55 service charge to have both fixed this Friday.

While home owner's insurance will cover damages that occur due to accidents, nature, etc, when home systems fail from normal wear and tear, the cost of fixing them is on you, the home owner. A HOW is in essence an insurance policy for home maintenance and major repairs/replacements.

I'd love to hear from you: do you or have you in the past carried a HOW? Was it worth it or a waste of money? And if it did save you $$, tell your story - what happened and how much would it have cost retail to fix oop without a HOW?

*Revised Wednesday, 5/28/08: Just a quick addition to this post. If you're in a "used" home you purchased without a HOW and would like to buy one now that you own the home, you can. While HOW are normally purchased at the closing on the home, you can purchase one anytime during your home ownership. Most HOW companies will offer you a free quote online and do not require a full home inspection to purchase the warranty.

Google "Home Owner's Warranty" and research the companies that serve your area. Get competing quotes and be sure to read the fine print on what's included for coverage. For instance, we paid a little more to add on coverage for our air conditioner as it's not standard in the HOW. Having replaced our air conditioner when we owned a home in Florida for $1500 (and this was a small, one-story home in 1998), we knew we didn't want to risk replacing one on our two-story home and paying full price.

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After Much Thought and Prayer...

I mentioned a week or so ago that I was contemplating closing down this blog.


Well, the world that is frugal/deal blogging is a demanding and time-sensitive one. You, kind readers, want and deserve the freshest information on the hottest current deals.

And I, kind readers, am finding it difficult to keep up with the pace required.

May, the month that tests me each year with the sheer number of scheduled events for our family, is coming to an end. While I am hopeful for the respite of summer vacation, I should mention that my children are the ones who get the break from their normal routine, not me. Summer for me means three hot and oft-cranky children from dawn until dusk with precious little peace for writing.

As I've worked so hard here to create this blog and do believe that I still have much to contribute to the frugal blogosphere, I have no plans to shut this blog down entirely. To do so would be an act of over-tired and thoughtless impatience on my part.

But I've been thinking and praying about what I'm doing with this blog and with my other blog and ultimately, what motivates me to blog at either place at all. Why? Why be another voice out there blogging deals when so many others do it far better than me? Others like Andrea, Alyssa, Denise, and Crystal. And what do I really hope to accomplish as a blogger?

To be honest, pride has motivated me here (as in, Wow! So many people are reading this!). While StatCounter and Feedburner offer valid and useful tools, they also offer daily ego boosts via numbers. It's easy to lose perspective on what I feel blogging should be: communication, education, enlightenment, and support. All of these available at your fingertips, for free, via your fave blogging platform. It's mind boggling when you consider the ramifications.

And while I do my best to manage our finances, I am not perfect. This month, I've busted our grocery budget, going over by $50. Not critical, but still there, a reminder that there is always room for improvement. And while we're chipping away at our debts one day at a time, the cost of living has gone up and up over the last several months and seemed to explode with gas prices hitting $4.00/gal this month.

I'm proud of what we've done (continued building our investments/financial plan, paid off one debt, have our <2> children's tuition for the upcoming school year ready to pay in full - cash - come August), we still have a long way to go to be in the black. I'm hopeful, but I'm not perfect. I *gasp* used our remaining credit card this month and while those expenses will be paid from the budget at the end of this month, I did use it.

While we aim to be debt-free (minus mortgage) in twenty-four months or less, we will never back down from our retirement investing to eliminate debt (compound interest works best over the long term, not the short term), lower our life insurance coverage for anyone in our family (we carry for ourselves and our children), nor would we give up our children's Catholic education (and, therefore, required school tuition) to eliminate debt.

My point: while I consider myself frugal and financially prepared for my family's future, I by no means consider myself an expert or a voice of authority on all things frugal. I'm just another traveller on the Frugal Journey and I too stumble as I find my way.

As I continue blogging here, I'll post about my Frugal Journey and how we're succeeding with our debt busting plan. Will I still blog deals? Sure. When I can, I'll post those deals I use myself each week (Kroger, most notably). Will I hold myself to an unrealistic schedule (and therefore disappoint you kind readers when I fall short due to the constraints of time and space)? No.

There is this beautiful thing beyond the computer screen called LIFE. And I so love mine, and love the people that inhabit it, that I can say honestly that blogging cannot compete with the joy that is bubbles, chalk, and dripping Popsicles on a sunny summer day.

The FeedBurner chicklet - pride as HTML code available to all! - is coming down. Some of my weekly features will be scaled back. And I'll be posting those pesky details on Walgreens and Coupons before long, I promise for the umpteenth time!

And I will be here, kind readers, helping you I hope, to save a few dollars, stretch your budget, and most of all, to know that you are not alone in your quest for financial freedom.

And, lastly, for those of you struggling to find your way in our consumer-saturated culture, remember:

Happiness isn't found in a new dining room set or a new boat or even an armful of trinkets from the $1.00 bin at Target.

Happiness is found within your soul, in the simple choice to enjoy what blessings God has given you each day, no matter how humble those gifts may seem.

The freedom to blog is a blessing and so I will be here, kind readers, as LIFE permits!