Friday, July 26, 2013

Random quick updates

* Our car got broken into last night, in front of our house. We don't keep anything of value in there, so at most we're missing some money for parking meters, but it's still irritating and feels invasive. It's also a reminder that apparently the "lock" button on my keyfob is no longer working.

* We are breezing right through summer after feeding tube surgery. It's impossible to explain how wonderful life is without having to worry about Baby M eating enough to gain weight.

* I've been thinking a lot about where I want my life to go. Experiencing the things we've experienced (traumatic/dangerous birth, long NICU stay, special needs child) in the last year has me really questioning what I want to be when I grow up - and it turns out I might be watering some seeds that were planted a very long time ago.

* Peanut and I made a MAJOR financial decision last night, and we will see the impact in a few days. I will share more when that happens! What do you think it might be?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

What to do if your basement floods: Part III

Part I: What to do before your basement floods can be found here and Part II: What to do as your basement floods can be found here

Once the storm is over and hopefully your power is back on, here are some things you can do. 

1. As soon as possible, begin to dry things out. The restoration crew that cleaned up our basement said carpet is salvageable if it gets dried out within 72 hours (the carpet pad is a lost cause but carpet can be dried). We didn't even get power back that quickly, so ours was a goner. At any rate, removing excess water and setting up fans will go a long way towards preventing mold. 

2. If you think the damage is enough to make it worth filing a claim, notify your insurance company and follow their instructions. Our insurance company was fantastic to work with from start to finish. They did say that it was our responsibility to try to mitigate the damage as much as possible, so I made sure to ask specifically what steps those might be and we took them as soon as possible. Document all phone calls with date, time, names, and details of conversations. Keep all receipts.

3. Take pictures. The insurance adjustor will probably take some, but you should have your own. Keep a sample of the carpet as well for proof of value if you have to rip it out. 

4. Wash your hands a lot and don't track the water from the basement through the rest of your house. This is especially critical if you're not sure what's floating around in the water....

5. Take care to prevent mold. The restoration company that cleared things out sprayed some antimicrobial spray which I was very happy about. We kept fans going down there for several days to get things nice and dry, and in a few weeks we'll get around to replacing the drywall and carpet.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What to do if your basement floods: Part II

Part I: What to do before your basement floods can be found here

Hopefully, you will be home when your basement begins to flood, and you will know that you are at risk, so when the power goes out at the beginning of a crazy storm, you will wander downstairs to check on things. In case that's true for you:

As your basement floods:
1. Move belongings onto higher ground. Peanut was able to save pretty much all of our stuff in the basement by getting everything off the ground just as the water started coming in. Our total loss included a half-full box of pine cat litter and the cardboard part of a flat of bottled water. Yay, Peanut!

2. Lift furniture and appliances using wood blocks or something. We used paint cans, because that's what we had on hand (we have wood in the garage, but we couldn't figure out how to open the garage door without power. We have since remedied that problem as well.). Once again, Peanut managed to save two couches, a deep freeze, a cabinet, and a table by his quick reaction. 

3. Turn off the electricity. Our fuse box is in the basement and we also have electrical outlets. Peanut was concerned about the water rising above the outlets, so before the water covered the whole floor, he flipped all the fuses off. This was no big deal, since the power was out already.

4. Bail water if possible. Our neighbor has no sump pump and simply bails anytime he needs to. Our basement was a lost cause for bailing, but Peanut used a snow shovel and later a squeegee to push the standing water into the floor drain and sump pit, which earned us points with our insurance company for doing everything we could to mitigate the damage.

5. Chill out. If it's going to be flooded, it's going to be flooded. It makes no sense to get bent out of shape on top of it.

Part III: What to do right after your basement floods coming up!

Friday, July 12, 2013

What to do if your basement floods: Part I

Technically, a flood is when a body of water (river, lake, etc) enters your dwelling, as opposed to when your sump pump fails and your basement takes on a few inches of water that would otherwise have been pumped right out. This is an important distinction, because most insurance companies do not offer what would technically be flood insurance - the kind you probably would have needed to be covered by Katrina or Sandy, for example. That is available from the federal government, and you can find out more about it here

What I'm doing here is a multi-part series on handling a flooded basement courtesy of water entering your dwelling through a sump, sump pump, floor drain, or (heaven help you) sewer pipe. This type of thing is generally not covered by insurance unless you purchase a rider specifically for this reason. If you have a basement, don't assume you're covered. 

Here are some steps to take before your basement floods:
1. Find out if your basement is likely to flood. When you buy the home, the inspector should point out things like previous water damage or whether your backyard is graded towards the house or away from it. We knew that our basement was likely to flood, and in fact has flooded in the past, frequently enough that a sump pump system was added well after the house was built. If you're on top of a hill with your land grading away from the house and the house has been standing for 60 years with no recorded water in the basement, well, you are probably safe. 

2. Check your homeowner's insurance policy to see if it covers water damage from sump pump failure. Our main policy did not cover this, but we purchased a rider for $82 per year that does cover it. Money well spent!

3. Check to see if you have a sump pump and a battery back up for it. Don't assume that a hole in the floor under the washer or dryer has an actual pump in it. Take a look at it! Make sure it works, consider a battery back up and/or an alarm system for it. We are investigating a battery back up for ours. 

4. Consider the way you use your basement. Our basement was half-finished with carpet and drywall and furniture and stuff. One thing that we'll be doing from now on is making better choices about how we use the storage spaces - cardboard boxes or anything that could be damaged by water will go on higher shelves, and water-proof stuff will go on the floor. This will save us some work if the basement floods again. We'll also keep things nearby so that we can get the furniture up off the ground in a hurry again. 

5. Take pictures. It's important to be able to show your insurance company the condition of your basement before any damage occurs. 

Part II: What to do as your basement floods coming up!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Frugal things I've done lately

I'm getting back into the groove!

* Made my own detergent for cloth diapers
* Saved vegetable scraps to make vegetable broth
* Baked cookies from scratch
* Printed off a coupon for a free sandwich from a local sandwich shop (my printer is from Freecycle, and I bought the ink using gift cards from Swagbucks!)
* Trading baby clothes with a family member who's having a yard sale - she'll get more stuff to sell, and I'll get more stuff to use
* Going to buy a stroller from Craigslist today - brand new it costs over $100, I'm paying $15.

What small frugal actions have you taken lately?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

It's only money

"It's only money" is a phrase that's been said a lot around my house lately.

It was already an expensive month--our lawn mower broke, and the small engine repair shop quoted us a price that was more than buying a new one. So we got an electric one, and then we had to get an extension cord to go with that. My therapist's billing office finally figured out that I do have a copay, so I owed it for all five previous visits at once. With the warm weather (finally!) came increased power bills for air conditioning.

And then the end of the month came. In 10 days, I had eight family members visit in three separate groups, lost power for three days, got two inches of water in the basement, threw out the entire contents of our fridge and freezer, spent a few nights at my in-laws, filled up the car with gas twice as frequently as usual, watched as our lovely finished basement had the carpet and drywall ripped out, ate out more meals than I care to think about, and spent three days in the hospital as my daughter underwent surgery. Also, our retirement accounts lost $2,500 across all of them.

I am really glad June is over.

I hate getting to the point where I start saying, "It's only money". It means I've given up on being frugal, at least for right now. I was dealing with so much that I just couldn't bear to pinch pennies as well, and it turned into "oh, sure, let's go out for dinner, and we might as well order dessert while we're there." It means a giant mess to clean up when things start getting back to normal, as we try to find receipts and reconstruct our spending to get our spreadsheet up to date. It's just...stress that I could have controlled on top of stress that I couldn't control.

Anyway, the damage is done. And I guess in the end, it is only money. The important thing is that we weren't harmed in the bad storms that knocked out our power, and Baby M made it through her surgery with flying colors. Our basement needs some work but Peanut managed to save all of our furniture and belongings from down there, along with the deep freezer full of breast milk, which he cooled by running it off of a car battery every few hours. Baby M now has a permanent feeding tube which means she can get strong and gain weight without traumatic feeding experiences. We have family close to home and from far away who pitched in to help us when we needed it.

I've been feeling bummed about our financial situation lately. It just seems like so much month and so little money, and I can't go back to work like I'd planned, not for several years. I liked my job and I liked having two incomes, and now not only are our plans for paying off student loans and the mortgage ahead of schedule way, way out of our reach, but a month like this one takes a nasty chunk out of our savings - something we can't work on building back up for a long time. This whole being-an-adult thing, man. It's not for the faint of heart.