Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I've been out-frugaled by my husband!

I woke up on Sunday before dawn (per usual), to find that my husband had taped up  this note in the kitchen:
  Microwave broken.  
Circuit breaker ok.

Sure enough, the clock on the microwave oven was dark.  Pushing buttons did nothing. We had become a family that was microwave-less.

It's funny how something little like this becomes a minor emergency.  I know that X-son, down in Haiti, lives a life with almost no electricity at all, and I know that many people in my own city have sadly intermittent access to food.  But knowing all this didn't help me keep feeling a spasm of panic at doing without this machine that instantly reheats all our plentiful leftover food; a magic machine that at a moment's notice boils our clean tap water or softens our yummy butter or cooks up a fresh potato for a quick snack for my hungry sons between meals.  The abundance in my cupboards disappeared in the face of this broken microwave.  Color me ungrateful.

I'll admit I panicked partly because I feared this situation meant that my husband would be taking a trip to large stores and flinging his credit card about.  Replacing a microwave oven would mean both creating waste (although we would offer the old appliance to a local guy who recycles metal, there's still much of this that would go to landfills), and it would mean spending money on a new set of metal/plastic/other that would eventually follow the first microwave.  Not to mention, spending money.  (Oh, yeah, I did mention that already).

So even before my husband emerged from the bedroom, I got busy on Craig's List.  I found a few smaller, used microwaves for $25 -- my version of preventative shopping.  I was right to pre-prepare with a solution of this sort:  my husband, once he woke up, announced to me he'd already found a sale on microwaves for "only" $30 for small ones, $200+ for large ones.  I countered with my Craig's List finds, and thereby bought myself a bit of time.

But that's when my husband surprised me . . . he out-frugalled me.  He asked, "by the way, did you check the fuse on the microwave?"

Um, no, I hadn't.  What does a fuse on a microwave look like?  How the heck does a person check a fuse?

It was my husband's turn to be surprised; he'd figured that if he knew how to do a home repair, I ought to be, like, ten times better than him at it.  Instead, I was clueless.

So, for the similarly clueless, here's what I learned.  The electricity all just completely going out like that (for example, even the clock on the microwave wasn't lit up) meant that a fuse had blown.  It's not hard to take off the cover of the microwave and expose the electronic guts, thusly.
My naked microwave, with the cover cast aside.  

Taped onto the cover I'd removed is a set of directions that lists wiring and parts.

There's also a wiring/fuse list glued to the top of the microwave, under the cover.

My husband pointed out the fuse to me; it looks like a mechanical pencil eraser. He took out the main fuse, biked over to a nearby hardware shop, and bought a new one.  Our total expenses?  $3.31.   Not three hundred dollars and change; not thirty dollars and change; but a mere three dollars and change.   Yessss.

We popped in this new little fuse, plugged in the microwave, and everything was back to normal.  Better even than Craig's List!  And almost zero trash (just one old fuse and a bit of packaging around the new one).  SOOOO much better.

As a bonus, now I know how to change a fuse on a microwave oven . . . a skill that probably won't be of daily use, but still that makes me feel like an ever-more-well-rounded Miser Mom.  Huzzah!


  1. Nice! We had a similar problem with our microwave but it was from a similar problem in the outlet. If that had not been the case (which we didn't realize until we moved the microwave out of that space and pluggled in the toaster oven), I would not have thought for checking a fuse inside the microwave.

    1. Yeah, it was cool to figure out how to fix electric fuses INSIDE the appliance; all I knew how to do already was to check the circuit breaker.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks! Multiple levels indeed: my husband is proud of himself (and so am I) for knowing something I didn't know, and also every time we touch the microwave now we have a little extra gratitude for the fact that it actually works. Thankfulness is a huge gift, worth even more than saving money.

  3. Even more frugal solution: Just do without microwave. Everything you can heat up in a microwave can also be heat up on the stovetop. It might take a bit longer, but it works just as well. Some might argue it's healthier for you too. :)

    1. Well . . . sort of. I've lived without microwaves before, but I'm glad for many reasons to have this frugal machine in my kitchen. There are indeed foods where the stovetop wins in terms of energy use (see for example http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/stove-versus-microwave-energy-use/). Stoves have the added advantage that they can heat food up hotter than boiling water, which allows them to crisp and brown things, which microwave ovens can't do.

      But there are all sorts of foods where microwaves save time, energy, and money over stove tops or ovens: http://www.confusedaboutenergy.co.uk/index.php/energy-saving-tips/cooking/120-microwave-cooking-vs-conventional-cooking#.VfnBSp3BzGc

      The energy etc savings might or might not justify buying a whole new microwave, but they definitely make it worth our effort buying a new fuse, as far as my family and I are concerned!

  4. Color me impressed! I love how much I learn from your blog. Totally sharing this post.

    1. Glad this was helpful to others, as well as to me! Part of me can't believe it took me this long to learn this little skill; another part of me is psyched to think there's still so much out there to learn. Bring it on!