This post walks you through some of my biggest expenses during my first 6 months as a homeowner. Also learn tips on how you can avoid these expenses or at least lessen them for your first home. This article may contain affiliate links, for more information please see my disclosure policy.
Buying a house is an exciting time in one’s life. It is the start of many memories as well as a solid financial investment.
One of the biggest differences between owning a house and renting are the added expenses for maintenance and the unpredictable. Unfortunately during my first six months of being a homeowner, I have experienced my fair share of the latter.
Allen and I had both grown up doing chores around the house and felt prepared for handling routine maintenance. We also had some money stashed away in our emergency fund however I would not have called it fully-funded by any means.
I wanted to take a look back at some of our major expenses during our first six months of owning our home, not only for my own reflection, but to show you some of what can happen as a home owner, how to avoid/save money on it, and why you need a larger emergency fund as a home owner.
As I was writing this post I was amazed with how much we have been through (and how much we have spent). It has been a trying 6 months and I have found that sometimes all you can do is take a deep breath, handle it, (laugh at your luck), and move on.
Day 3: We Have No Tools
You know what you don’t own when you live in a high-rise apartment? A lawnmower, weed whacker, fertilizer spreader, rake, shovel, etc
Needless to say we had to find some tools relatively quickly before our dogs got lost in the wilderness that was our yard.
Unfortunately we are about a 20 hour drive from our parents so there isn’t really an option to just go borrow mom and dad’s lawnmower and tools, and while our neighbor’s introduced themselves, I wasn’t exactly going to ask them to borrow everything.
So we set out to find some tools of our own.
Tools are expensive, did you know that a fertilizer spreader is over $50 at a hardware store? I was appalled by how expensive they were but Allen wasn’t convinced by my idea of drilling some holes in a 5-gallon bucket and walking around the lawn, so we bought a new one. Craigslist was a no-go on the spreader, probably because this was the time that everyone was using theirs.
For the new homeowner, I would definitely recommend using Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, etc for all your tool needs. Frankly, when you are just starting out, you don’t need the fanciest equipment, you just need something that will get the job done.
Yes, we spent more than I would care to on tools and such, but at the same time, we really needed them and now we have them.
Day 10: The Kitchen Sink Concoction
It was evident within the first few times cooking in the kitchen that our garbage disposal was on it’s last leg, I just didn’t know how soon it was going to go.
Fast forward to cleaning up from stir-fry night, we are doing the dishes, Allen flips the disposal switch, it gives a half hearted hum annnndddd nothing. Now we are stuck with a gross (eggs, rice, veggie scraps, soy sauce good-ness) backed up concoction in our sink.
After some solid YouTube investigation, I got really excited when I found a video that had my exact model in it. That excitement soon faded when the first words out of the guy’s mouth was “this XYZ model is a super cheap contractor disposal that will fail miserably after a short time”
Well it was decided, we were getting a new disposal. A new garbage disposal will run you just under $100 for a decent one (we got this one), however it can get expensive if you have to have it professionally installed.
This is one task that I would highly recommend being a YouTube-handyman. Aside from the potential gross mess you might have to deal with from your old disposal, it is a relatively straight forward replacement. Allen and I were able to do it in about 20 minutes.
Week 2: My Dog is a Derp and Doesn’t Understand Windows
My dog has a thing for bunnies (like most dogs I guess). It pains him to the core when he sees a bunny that he can’t get. He will sit at the window and squeal and whine like he is in physical pain because he wants to play with the bunny.
Well, one day Enzo went full derp (we call him a derp-a-doodle) and slammed head first into our beautiful picture window in the living room, leaving 4 cracks through the inside pane of glass.
As soon as I saw those cracks, my stomach dropped. Allen used to sell windows so I knew roughly what it would cost.
As you can imagine, living in Minnesota we need some pretty good windows on our houses. Also with how codes are in the area, the way you have to take a new construction window out, means you have to do a full frame replacement to the tune of ~$400.
Luckily Allen’s old manager was really helpful and got us a good deal on the window. Our new window ended up being just shy of $2000.
Enzo with his newly replaced window
Day 35: The 20 Minute, $20K+ Hail Storm
Twenty minutes, that’s all the longer the hailstorm lasted (or so we were told, we were in California for a wedding). When we arrived home that night, our neighborhood looked like a war-zone, trees down and leaves and debris everywhere.
It was dark out and there was not super obvious damage to our property so we went to bed feeling pretty good.
Upon further inspection in the daylight, our windows were completely chipped around the trim, two visible holes in the siding, and who knew what the roof looked like.
I remember calling our insurance agent and my exact words were “Hi, I just bought a house, and now I have hail damage from the storm last night. I am not sure how to adult but I am assuming this is why I have insurance, can you help me with what my next steps are.”
Turns out this is exactly why I have insurance 😉
We were recommend a contractor by our friends and have had the insurance adjuster out 3 times. Overall the insurance company hasn’t been too hard to deal with but I do give my contractor a lot of credit. He has been a huge advocate for us.
Those two holes in our siding? He was able to prove there is not an exact match of siding on the market so we are getting our whole house re-sided.
When I had setup the insurance policy, my agent had asked about raising my deductible to lower my monthly payment. Maybe a few years down the line I will raise it but because I didn’t have a huge emergency fund built up, I decided to leave my deductible at $1000, and boy am I glad I did.
While the whole process of going through the claim is additional stress I wasn’t prepared for, I am happy that when it is all said and done we will have a new roof, new siding, and 3 new windows for $1000.
Day ??: The Arctic Tundra of the Drawer Freezer
Over the course of a couple days I noticed the fridge getting warmer and warmer. Like the true problem solver I am, I simply assumed Allen was messing with the thermostat and I would crack it colder (or what I thought was colder, later found out it was warmer)
Allen thought I was doing the same thing and was cranking it the other direction.
Day 3 rolled around and it was clear that our fridge was keeping nothing cold, while at the same time everything in the freezer had grown at least half an inch of ice.
With my fridge fixing skills exhausted, we called a local repairman and were told it was $80 just to have them come look at it.
Allen ended up dealing with the repair guy so I don’t recall exactly what was wrong, but essentially the freezer thermostat broke which set it haywire and froze the coils so much that it couldn’t cool the fridge.
It ended up costing about $200 in parts and $180 for labor to get our fridge working again. Luckily I was slacking and hadn’t been grocery shopping that week so the food we had to replace was minimal (milk, condiments, etc)
Month 5ish?: Faulty Circuit Breakers and “You could probably file another insurance claim”
You know what every homeowner wants to hear when they are in the middle of an insurance claim? That they should file another one.
Allen and I have been upgrading our house to be a smart home. It has been really nice to have everything controlled from our phones. As part of the upgrade, we are swapping out most of our light switches for smart switches.
Electrical work can be very dangerous, but if you feel comfortable with how it works, switching light switches and outlets are pretty straightforward.
We were rewiring a dimming three-way light and accidentally wired them with a direct short on one of the switches. When you have a short your circuit breaker will trip to cut the electricity to that circuit.
Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.
When we flipped the light off, there was a loud hum/buzz from our breaker box and when we rushed down there the breaker was still in the on position. In fact, it had arced and welded itself in the on position.
By the way, this all happened at 11 pm on a Friday night. I frantically searched online, found some electricians that at least answered their phones 24/7 and made an appointment for the next morning.
The electrician we hired showed me the tiered labor pricing depending on how much he needed to do. He started investigating and told me he had never seen a circuit breaker do that.
He also found that the wire had melted in places which is when he suggested another insurance claim. To properly fish a new wire through, it would be well over $2000.
For a temporary fix, I settled with replacing two of the breakers to that box with arc fault breakers, which run about $180 each. Add that with $380 in labor/weekend visit fees, and suddenly having a smart home is getting really expensive.
On top of all of this, I no longer trust our circuit breaker so I am still figuring out what to do about that.
Two Days Ago: Who Glues Towel Racks to the Wall?
Our house came with big hunky ceramic towel racks and toilet paper holders in every bathroom. After putting up with a full roll of toilet paper not being able to rotate for 6 months we finally decided to replace them.
Instead of simply using silicon around the edges like a sane person, the builder slathered that shizz all over the ends of racks and stuck them on the wall.
Allen being Allen doesn’t have the patience to try and slowly chip away at it, so one big tug later and the towel rack was down…..and there were 2 holes in the wall.
As I mentioned before, when you live in an apartment you don’t have things like paint rollers, drywall putty and tools, etc. So one trip to Home Depot and $65 spent, we have all the supplies to fix the holes and repaint the bathroom.
What You Can Learn from My Spending
You should have some kind of emergency fund to take care of unexpected expenses, but as a homeowner, you will need a larger fund.
Trust me, I did not plan on spending thousands of dollars the first few months of owning a home. Our house is only 17 years old, I knew we might need some tools but major repairs and replacements were not in the plan.
Having an emergency fund will save you from having to scramble for funds or having to go into debt when unexpected expenses pop up. Many expects recommend having 3-6 months worth of expenses set aside.
Know What You Can Fix and What Needs a Professional
You can save yourself some big bucks by doing work yourself. You can also mess things up and end up costing yourself even more money in the long run.
To get the best deal, be realistic with yourself about what your skill set is.
When our circuit breaker broke, Allen was just going to go pick a new one up at the store and try to fix it. I put my foot down that we were in above our heads and needed a professional, even if it was expensive. I am really happy that we had someone come out because we would not have been able to fix it properly ourselves.
The internet has great resources for many house projects, just make sure you pay close attention to how difficult they say it will be.
Consider a Home Warranty
A home warranty will typically cover repairs for things such as your heater, A/C, appliances, roof leaks, electrical, etc. They were typically be several hundred to a thousand dollars and each time someone has to come out to make a repair you will pay a flat “service fee” typically under $100.
Much like extended warranties, I was skeptical of if we needed one. Ultimately we decided against it.
Looking back, it would have covered a couple of our repairs (the refrigerator, and the circuit breaker) but not others (the hail damage, the window). The garbage disposal probably would have been covered but the cost for us to do was about the same as the service fee and we got it all taken care of in a night.
When considering a home warranty, I would recommend looking at how much you have in your emergency fund and if you think that is sufficient coverage for possible repairs. If not, it might be nice to get the warranty.
The first 6 months of being a homeowner has been a roller coaster. We have learned many lessons and spent quite a bit of money.
We are currently working on re-funding our emergency fund as well as paying down debt. We would love to update some aspects of the house, but after experiencing Murphy’s law first hand, I know we need to focus on the emergency fund.
Leave a comment telling me if you have ever had a lot of unexpected expense all at once.
Free Budget Binder Printable
Sign up to get your free PDF of my budget binder printable and receive the latest content right to your inbox