:::: MENU ::::

Unexpected Expenses


Oh, the dreaded unexpected expenses.  It seems like when one thing goes wrong it causes a domino effect and lots of things start to go wrong.  We’ve been moving along and attacking our debt as aggressively as possible then, BAM!!, problems start to raise their ugly heads.

It all started with my mom and her diagnosis.  That has cost us about $800 that we did not have budgeted. The good news is that since we have been hitting our debt hard, it’s enabled us to stay on track and not get further into debt as we pay for things like hotels, food, extra gas, etc.

Then, our microwave went out.  We have been without one for about 3 weeks and at first I thought we could just do without. But, it’s becoming more and more of a problem because we eat leftovers pretty often.  I don’t want to spend money on a microwave right now but, it’s costing more money because leftovers are going to waste. I’ve had several people tell me that we need to get a convection microwave but those things are expensive!!  The one we had was the cheapest one we could find about 6 years ago and it’s lasted this long and heated up food just as well as a more expensive one would have. I’m on the look out for something inexpensive, wish me luck!

And THEN, the display in my car went out.  That happened right after the death of our microwave. Basically, the problem is that I can’t see if the car is in park, reverse, etc.  I also can’t see what my mileage is.  I’m pretty sure I can live with this for a while so, I’m going to do my best.  I’ve been kicking around selling it for a few months now.  What I’d really like to do is buy something really cheap with cash but, I’m not sure if that’s a good option because of all the driving I do.  However, after we’ve paid off all our debt we could save up and buy something newer.  My car (it’s a Yukon) also gets crappy gas mileage and I drive about an hour a day to work and what seems like a million hours a day back and forth to the ball field. We have thought about trading it in for something that gets better gas mileage and is either the same value or less expensive but, I don’t know.

So, that’s been the deal with us. Things are going to get better and I’m extremely thankful that we are in a situation that we can roll with the punches. Anybody have suggestions on microwaves or the car situation?  I’d love to hear them!


  • Reply Kristina |

    What’s your budget on a microwave?

    Have you checked the fuse for the dash? That’s the simplest fix.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      I haven’t thought about a budget yet. It makes me mad that it’s broken so I guess I’m pouting.
      My husband researched it and thinks he knows what the problem is. He thinks it will cost about $600 to get it fixed. We don’t know that for certain yet though, probably because I’m pouting about that too 🙂

  • Reply Mary from SC |

    Re: Microwave – I know it’s so inconvenient not having a microwave. I’m not sure how long you can hold out, but soon stores will be putting these on huge sales for all those students moving into dorms in the fall. You may want to put the word out to family/friends that you are looking for a “loaner” at this time. I, for one, would not buy a used one. I am all for saving money, but a used microwave is a little too personal for me (like a used mattress). UGH!!! Have you gotten an estimate on what it would take to fix your display on your car? I would consider that before looking at trading. You have a lot going on right now in your life. It may not be the best time to make those big decisions. Even if it costs you several hundred dollars…remind yourself, that would be equal to about “One” car payment. That’s my two cents worth for the day. As always…wishing you and your family well.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      You make a good point about the car decision and all I’ve got on my plate right now. We think it will cost about $600 to fix, not 100% sure though.
      I’d like to hold out on the microwave purchase too. I just don’t want to buy one. I’m just being stubborn, I guess. I also don’t know how I feel about a used microwave. I’m going to keep an eye out just in case and see what comes up. Thanks for the advice and well wishes!

  • Reply Freckles |

    Regarding a microwave, check out: http://www.freecycle.org

    Check our your personal city on this website. In my city (admittedly, a large one (over one million people)) I would say once or twice a month someone advertises a free microwave. I wouldn’t advocate picking up one that may have safety issues, but I’m sure there are plenty of good ones that are being offered, perhaps because of a kitchen reno??

    If you’re unfamiliar with the freecycle website – in addition to looking at items that people are advertising for free, you can also post “Wanted” ads for what you are looking for. NOTE: This is not a charity website where you are looking for handouts; its primary purpose is to keep items out of the landfills by recycling them for free = “freecycle”. In fact, it’s frowned upon to give any sort of sobstory along with any request, just a short concise request of what you are looking for.

    Best case scenario is that somebody has a perfectly functioning, safe microwave that they no longer use and don’t want the hassle of taking it themselves to a dump or recycling center so they advertise it for you to take away from their house! AS LONG AS THE MICROWAVE IS FUNCTIONING SAFELY I think it’s a great option.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      I’ve never heard of freecycle before! Thanks for the tip, I’ll definitely check it out!

      • Reply Stephannie |

        You also bring up another point I hadn’t thought about. Is there a certain way I have to dispose of ours? It’s still sitting on my counter acting as a pedestal for bills. I never considered that I just couldn’t throw it away, duh!

  • Reply Jasmine |

    Freecycle is fantastic. I was going to suggest that too. Once my mom wanted to buy the whole Hip Hop Abs series. I posted a Wanted for one CD to try it, and someone gave me the whole set. Workout win!

    Hope you find an inexpensive solution!!

    • Reply Stephannie |

      Thanks. Jasmine! I’ve never heard of freecycle and I’m definitely going to check it out. Even if it doesn’t work out for the microwave it could come in handy for other things.

  • Reply TPol |

    I have never owned a microwave. I eat lots of leftovers too but I almost always heat them up in a pot or a pan with a lid on, over the gas range. I also use a small toaster oven to heat things like pizza slices and casserole leftovers. When I lived in the US, the rental apartments I had were equipped with microwave but I never used them. Microwave changes the taste of the food or at least that’s what I think:) However, I do understand how much you need it. I think a loaner is a good idea until the prices drop.

    As for the car, I think getting a smaller and more efficient car is a good idea but it all depends on how much you will need to shell out; if at all.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      I’m with you on the microwave thing. I heat most things on the stove. I HATE pizza heated up in a microwave, blech! I usually put in a pan and it gets crispy again. My kids and husband however, like the microwave. My husband actually likes some things better cooked in a microwave. Gross.

      We could benefit from a car with better gas mileage. My main problem is that I feel like even if we were to find a vehicle for the exact same value as mine I still feel like I’d be putting us further in debt. Crazy.

  • Reply ECD |

    Regarding the microwave, you should also look at Craigslist. I am getting ready to move into a new rental that has a built-in microwave so I no longer need mine. I plan to put mine on Craigslist for something like $5-10 to avoid putting it in a landfill.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      I do need to check Craigslist. For some reason I only think to look there for furniture. It makes me a little nervous to consider a used microwave but I’m sure they can be fully sanitized?

      • Reply Juhli |

        I would think that just running the microwave sanitizes it. However, unless it looks really crusty in which case I wouldn’t get it, I’d simply clean it once I got it and consider it the same as eating off dishes that have been used. Thrift stores in my area also seem to have used microwaves for very little. I bet you could get one for free just by asking around though.

  • Reply B |

    I had a similar dash problem with a Chevy Trailblazer. The dealership wanted $800 to repair it. I googled the problem and found that it is a common problem and that there are people out there that fix it.

    I found a person advertising on Ebay to repair it. They listed directions on how to remove your dash and mail it to them. No speciality tools needed and I did it all in my driveway while my husband was at work. I mailed the dash and they mailed it back and I hooked it all back up and it worked perfectly. No problems since. Total cost including postage (from Hawaii at the time) was less than $100.

    Might be worth your time to check it out.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      I will definitely check it out, thanks! My husband thinks a dealer will charge around $600. I’d so much rather around $100!

  • Reply Angie |

    Also, college is out soon so if you live by a campus microwaves and mini fridges will be plentiful!

    For the car it is likely a loose connector or fuse. Should be a simple fix. Take some time to google it and you should be able to determine the top few culprits that could cause it. If you troubleshoot first you at least have a possibility that you could fix it for free or cheap. I was able to fix a few things on my car this way that would have cost big $$$$ at the mechanic. A loose connector causing my airbag light to go off, tighten a wire to fix errors in my convertible roof going down, a loose radio connector. Sometimes the issue is so minor if you just apply some time and patience you can fix it. Maybe you have some mechanically inclined friends, family, or acquaintances that can help you out. Hope that’s it!

    • Reply Stephannie |

      That’s super smart, Angie! Where I work is a college town, I had not even considered that. Thank you!
      My husband is really good with cars and he thinks the display is completely out. He’s not sure if he could fix it because he’s better with older cars that aren’t as dependent on computers. I’m going to check around and see if we can find someone that can fix it for less than what the dealership will charge. But, even if it only costs $50, right now I don’t want to do it. I think I can hold out a little longer. Thanks for the help!

  • Reply Mary |

    A few suggestions:

    1) Regarding the microwave, try Craigslist. I sold mine a few years ago for $25 and it was in near perfect condition. I don’t use them anymore because they denature the foods however if you need one, I am sure you could find one there pretty cheap.

    2) Regarding a convection oven, I have the Breville Smart Oven, it’s a convection oven/toaster oven and sells for around $250. I love it. You can make toast in it, cook a pizza, bake and cook in it, roast, etc as well as reheat things and warm them. I use in 95% of the time and rarely turn on my big oven. I roast vegetables in there, bake skinless boneless chicken breasts in there (23 minutes on the roast function and they turn out really moist), bake pizza (it has settings for frozen pizzas and for fresh pizzas) as well as a reheat function that is amazing. The reheat function reheats stuff at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Here’s a link so you can read about it; there are a few different sizes but this is the one I have:


    3) To reheat, you could always use your oven at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. I typically put everything in a glass dish (I use the Smart Oven but your regular oven should be able to do the same thing.) and it turns out perfect every time. You could do that instead of getting a microwave.

    4) Regarding your Mom and the hotel fees. I don’t remember your story…is your Mom receiving treatment at a major hospital? If so, do they have accommodations through the hospital? I know for pediatrics, Ronald McDonald has these Ronald McDonald homes located near major teaching hospitals and the parents can stay there for $5 a night. The rooms have microwaves, a kitchen and they are pretty nice. Not sure if they have something similar for adults receiving treatments. I’d ask the Social Worker at the hospital/facility if they have something with low cost accommodations. Even if they didn’t have a Ronald McDonald type home, they may have an agreement with local hotels for a reduced rate.

    And finally, as for your car display, it may be something as simple as a loose wire under the dash. I had that issue and that was all it was although I have an older car.

    Regarding purchasing another vehicle, I’d hold off the decision for another 6 months or at least until you get all of your credit cards paid off. Whenever I have a dilemma like that, I try to delay it for a few months or a year, especially when I don’t want to spend money, lol. In the meantime, track all of your gas and all of your vehicle spending so that you have an accurate idea of your spending so you can do an appropriate comparison when the time arrives. Good luck.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      1) I will try Craig’s list. I’m not sure why but, I only think of Craig’s list for furniture.

      2) I’ve been considering a toaster oven, I’m just not sure what all it’ll do. Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

      3. I like to reheat things using the oven and stove but, my husband prefers some things in the microwave, yuck.

      4. She is getting treated at a major hospital in Houston. Her cancer is rare and the way they treat it is a little different. She had surgery to place radiation behind the tumor and then she went back a week later to have the radiation removed. She went into surgery early in the morning so we went to Houston the night before and stayed until the next day when they sent her home. We had to go back a week later to have the radiation removed and it was the same thing. The hospital gave us a list of hotels that were close by and I think they had reduced rates but, the first week we had to go there was some major event in Houston and everything was booked so we had to stay about 45 minutes away from the hospital. We have to go back to Houston to see an ENT next week because they found a spot on her thyroid that’s suspicious. If we have to do the hotel thing again I’ll definitely talk to someone about other possibilities.

      5) Another commenter made the same point about holding off on the car decision and I think ya’ll are right. You also have a good idea about tracking what the Yukon is costing us. I know about what it is but, not exactly. Thanks for your help!

  • Reply Ashley |

    Oh man – the dreaded domino effect : /
    You probably don’t have one or you would’ve mentioned it, but do you happen to have a toaster oven?
    We didn’t have a microwave for 5 years (just acquired one because our current rental has a built-in microwave) – and we re-heated all our food either on stove top or in the toaster oven thing. Also – the toaster oven was a hand-me-down from a grandparent and is ANCIENT but still going strong. Works like a champ (and also keeps food crisp instead of making it go mushy like a microwave can do). Might be able to acquire a hand-me-down like we did because lots of people are gifted them (weddings, etc.) and never use them.
    NO idea about the car. Same thing happened a long time ago when I owned a scooter (instead of a car). The worst part was I never knew when the tank was nearing empty (that was part of the digital display). We never did fix the problem and ended up just basically giving the thing away when I got pregnant and couldn’t drive it anymore.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      No, we have never had a toaster oven. It’s something I’ve always wondered about. Does it do a lot of different things or just toast, lol?
      Luckily with the car it doesn’t cause problems with my fuel gauge. What kind of sucks is that I still have idiot lights that work but the display that would tell me exactly what they indicate is out. I have a light that keeps coming on and I just keep assuming that it means I have a low tire so I air them up. It turns the light off so, hopefully nothing major happens that I can’t fix by airing up a tire. 🙂

  • Reply hannah |

    I also prefer using a toaster oven to reheat food. The only drawback, at least with ours, is that it takes a lot longer to get up to temperature.
    But I’ve always worried about the side effects of using a microwave.
    Ours is even big enough to cook small casseroles or veggie dishes without heating up the kitchen with the real oven.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      So, do you find that the toaster oven does everything a microwave would do? I think I would much rather use something other than a microwave.

  • Reply revdrnd |


    I live near Houston. There is a Ronald McDonald House in the Medical Center. The hard thing in Houston is that the Medical Center is near NRG stadium where many major events are held all the time so I get why the hotels costs were high. Will be praying for you and your family at this time.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      Yeah, Houston hotels (and traffic) can be tough. Thank you for the prayers, I appreciate them!

  • Reply adam |

    another vote for craigslist. no sense at all in paying full price for a microwave. you can get a fancy one when you’re out of debt. it’s a microwave! they all work the same. you don’t need a fancy one.

    So check craigslist. It’s also yard sale season so buy one at a yard sale this weekend. people list the items they will sell at their yard sale on craigslist these days on thursday or friday.

    next weekend the home depot/lowes type stores will have their memorial day sale – so if you must have a new one, maybe you can find a deal next weekend.

  • Reply Jill |

    Forget the microwave…I’m 42 and never owned one. I personally believe they’re not good for you.

  • Reply Jamie |

    You said:

    “Basically, the problem is that I can’t see if the car is in park, reverse, etc. I also can’t see what my mileage is. I’m pretty sure I can live with this for a while so, I’m going to do my best.”

    This bothers me. Is it just that you can’t SEE what gear the car is in (I’ve always had older model cars that didn’t have this sort of “display”) or is it you wouldn’t necessarily KNOW what gear the car is in? I’ve read about accidents where drivers think they’re in forward when they’re actually in reverse, step on the gas, and end up damaging property or, even worse, injuring/killing someone.

    If you can tell what gear it’s in, I’d agree with others and maybe wait a bit. But if you can’t easily and quickly tell what gear it’s in, I wouldn’t risk it; I’d get it fixed ASAP.

    Is there a community college in your area that offers a degree or certificate in Automotive Repair? Where I live, our community college, which does have this program, will repair cars at a very low cost. The work is overseen by an instructor, but can take a lot longer than having it done at a regular shop, so that might be a factor for you. Also, not all repair problems fit in with that term’s curriculum, so they won’t always do a repair either.

    I hope things go well with your mother. That’s such a hard thing to deal with. I’m glad you’re able to be there to give her support.

  • Reply Heather |

    Are you in a college town? It’s that time of year when kids are moving out of the dorms, finding that everything they own doesn’t fit in their tiny car, and leaving tons of stuff (microwaves included) on the curbs in front of the doors.. You might find what you need there. We were in desperate need of one many many years ago, and grabbed one off the curb that works for the next five or six years! (Of course, you’d have to clean it because, well.. college kids). 🙂

So, what do you think ?