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Our aging air conditioning system, after soldiering through the hottest day ever recorded in Los Angeles earlier this week, finally gave up the ghost yesterday and stopped working.

By sheer coincidence, we’d already scheduled a replacement for our AC and furnace that’s taking place right now.

I’m writing this not just to express amazement at our incredible luck—our contractor laughed when I told him, saying “you got every last dime out of your old system, didn’t you!”—but to talk about the importance of having some green saved up to handle the inevitable big repairs that come with owning a home.

Because if it’s not the air conditioning or the heating, it’s the roof—or the sewer line, or the pipes, or the electrical system. Something big will inevitably go wrong during the time you own your house, and often it’s several Big Somethings right in a row.

For around $400, a qualified home inspector can scrutinize your casa and give you an idea of what repairs are in your future. The inspector may help you estimate the costs, or you can get a membership to Angie’s List (which is where we found our contractor, by the way) to see what others paid for similar repairs.

Or you can simply start plugging money into a targeted savings account for your home. Eric Tyson, author of “Personal Finance for Dummies,” recommends setting aside 1% of the value of your home each year for this stuff. In most years, you won’t spend that much, he says—but inevitably a year will come along when you need every dime.

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Hi Liz,

What’s your take on car warranties? I would like to buy a certified used car (even though the sales people have been trying to steer me from certification to a warranty). I like the idea of “starting fresh” — knowing what’s been worked on.

While car searching, until I find one, I’ve been saving the amount I’ll be paying monthly, and am thinking of using that as my “repair” fund. It’s at $1,000 now, but I’ve heard the AC in a car can run three times that. When I read those car warranties, though, there seems to a lot of “exceptions” — meaning, even though a bill may run “x,” the warranty will cover only a portion of that. So, I figure, create a fund, and use that when needed. Thanks. Pati


Extended warranties are profitable for dealerships, which is why they push them so hard. Consumer Reports says, and I agree, that they’re typically a waste of money. Check Edmunds.com’s “True Cost to Own” feature for the car(s) you’re considering; it will give you a good idea of what to expect to spend on repairs and maintenance over the next five years.