Picking up Nickels

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Washing machine: repair or replace?

A couple of weeks ago our 10+ year old Speed Queen washing machine started leaking water during the spin cycle. After taking a closer look, it appeared that the leak was caused by a failing tub seal and as an added bonus the frayed drive belt looked like it was ready to fail sooner rather than later. Doing some online research, I figured it would cost about $130 for a replacement belt and seal kit. While that wasn't an outrageous price to pay, it was further compounded by the fact that once I removed the wash tub I couldn't figure out how to get at the seal without damaging other parts:

Since this was an old appliance and a relatively inexpensive self-repair didn't seem feasible, we just decided to break down and buy a new washer. Not knowing where to start, we consulted the washing machine review in the February 2009 issue of Consumer Reports (yes, in spite of this) to try to find a suitable replacement. The scary part was that we were able to find horrible online reviews for just about all of the top-rated models. In time our growing pile of dirty clothes helped motivate us to decide to go with a GE WCVH6800J front loader washer (the Consumer Reports #2 rated front loader) with a MSRP of $899:

Looking around for the best price, we found that this washer would cost us approximately $800 at big box stores like Home Depot, Lowes, and Sears. We followed up by checking out a local family-owned appliance store that we've done business with before, and found that they were charging about $700 for the same machine. Even better, they were offering a $100 mail in rebate through the NECO Alliance (apparently an appliance buying group) that our research had not even turned up. Sold!

We did decide to use some of these savings to buy a three year extended manufacturer's warranty from GE for $99. In spite of my general aversion to them, we pulled the trigger because of the number of washing machine repair horror stories we found online while researching this purchase. In the end, icluding sales tax, delivery/removal charges, and the rebate, our out the door cost came out to be a little more than $750, which was about $85 less than what the washer plus sales tax (and the standard one year warranty) would have cost us at Home Depot.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

May 2009 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on May 11th, 2009:

Asset Apr 2009 May 2009 Change
Checking 505 805 300
Money Market 14,763 21,730 6,967
Savings Bonds 15,257 20,321 5,064
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 128,694 117,702 -10,992
Brokerage 80,875 80,302 -573
401k 61,473 66,506 5,033
Roth IRA 25,843 27,950 2,107
SEP IRA 153,482 163,537 10,055
529 Savings 31,923 33,687 1,764
Total Assets $512,815 $532,540 $19,725

The upward trend has continued since the last update with the S&P 500 index up 6.15% during that time:

(chart courtesy of msn.com)

Unemployment is still rising and is now up to 8.9% (a 25 year high). The stock market rally has continued over the past month, although it has stumbled a bit over the past couple of days. Hopefully crude oil reaching $60 per barrel again is another sign of the start of some economic recovery.

I still haven't felt like blogging much lately, so my updates have been far and few between. After doing this for almost three years, I do force myself to do this monthly update since it is a good way to make me take note of my holdings on a periodic basis. Moneywise, my one year Patelco CD @ 4.07% APY CD matured at the end of April and I ended up buying some electronic April 2009 I Bonds at TreasuryDirect.gov due to a lack of other attractive cash options.

I've been somewhat encouraged by the pickup in the stock market over the past couple of months. Keeping things in perspective though, I am still about $68k down from my peak in December 2007, and that ignores the $36k of SEP IRA contributions I've made since then. Hopefully things will continue to pick up....