How Much $ Makes You Happy?

Our clothes dryer died without warning last night.

Lady Kenmore still spins but there’s no more heat in her belly.  She was supposed to dry some end-of-the-day whites but when her buzzer finally buzzed the load inside her was still cold and damp.  Now I’ve got a decision to make:

Fix m’lady m’self, hire a repair tech, or replace her outright.

Each option costs money, but so does hauling piles of wet clothes to la lavanderia.  This is one of those moments in life where it would be nice to be rich.  It would be lovely to have enough money in the bank where spending $500 out of nowhere doesn’t bother me.  I can’t picture Kim Kardashian or Lebron thinking twice about replacing a bad dryer. Do people that rich even have home dryers?  That implies re-using your clothes, and maybe that’s something only poor people like me do.

The Lukas family, indeed, is on a budget.

My wife and I have never prioritized money.  We make enough cash to survive comfortably, but beyond that, we’d rather spend our time doing non-money-making stuff like relaxing and hanging out with our kids.  A Princeton survey done a few years ago concluded $75,000 a year will make you happy.  It’s enough to cover the bills and have some fun money left over.  (Link to Article)

Until your dryer goes out.

Without ten grand in my checking, I must be frugal about this.  I already have access to the internet, so I investigate the fix option first.  Google tells me if her thermal fuse is good (it is) then it’s probably a bad heating element.  There are two on this unit, so if I replace them both I’m looking at spending $50 to $100 on parts.  But say I do all that and it still doesn’t work, then I’m out that money plus all that time and effort and I still have to get another dryer.

That’s when I think an extra ten grand would solve the problem, but would it?

Says that same Princeton study:  not necessarily.  Above that $75,000 a year, more cash has no effect on “emotional well-being,” or how elated, sad or stressed you feel on a day-to-day basis, according to the research. (Link to Article)

I’m banking on that being true.

I’ve exceeded $75,000 a year in the past, but I had to be away from my wife and children for weeks at a time to do it.  My kids need clean, dry clothes for sure, but more importantly they need a dad who’s there every day helping them make the best choices they can.  They have that now, but the cost is moments of financial panic like this one.

A pro repair tech could probably fix Lady Kenmore.

Turns out hiring a technician will cost at least $275, but why spend that much on a broken old appliance whose best years have passed?  Better to invest that money on a younger dryer with a future.  Unfortunately, that makes me sound like the old man who trades the wife for the secretary, which couldn’t be further from the truth, since I can’t afford a secretary.

So it comes down to replacement.

There’re guys on Craigslist who fix old broken dryers and resell them for $150.  Who knows how long one of those will last, though, and good luck getting that guy to call you back when it breaks down.  The cheapest brand new basic model starts at $300, but the one that best fits our needs costs closer to $500.  In order to make this happen on our current salary, we’re going to have to do the one thing all couples on a budget eventually must do.

Unload stuff on EBay.

Fortunately, it’s been awhile since our last purge, so we have a few fairly valuable items available for sale.  A couple of unrolled fancy rugs, some hi-level ceramic dishes, a few hardly-been-used sports items, all totaled easily worth the new dryer price tag.

And that’s how we’ll get what we need.

By the time our new Lady Kenmore sits in her proper place, she’ll represent a financial problem solved.  She’ll dry our clothes because my wife and I made her affordable, and my kids will be better off having parents with enough time on their hands to hang out with them.

I’m banking on it.

  • Mike Lukas


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