We quickly called a local plumber, and he was down to our house in 10 minutes (can't bet small town service!). Thankfully, most of the cost for replacing the water heater will be covered under the warrantee (we just have to pay for labor).
But, this "loss" reminded me of a spread sheet I created (I actually made it even before we purchased a house!). This spread sheet lists the average life expectancy of different appliances/structural items within your house (follow the link for an even more detailed list of appliance/home life expectancies), as well as the average cost to replace. Then, I broke the cost down into a yearly total, and finally a monthly total.
Most people don't even think about future costs/repairs...but, you have to be prepared so you do not find yourself turning to a credit card (or worse yet a pay day advance!).
Take the above spread sheet and incorporate this into your budget for 2013. Using the averages (the life expectancy/replacement cost is all based on the average life/cost, your actual cost may be less or more) to help you prepare for the unexpected.
Oh, and don't worry. You don't need to back date for "older appliances". The likely hood of you having to replace all these items according to the life expectancy is rare. Just start saving the monthly total, and you should be pretty well set for when items need to be replaced.
Also, you can easily customize this spread sheet to fit your specific needs. For example, if you have your eye on a particular dishwasher....replace the average price with the cost of your "wish list" item. The total will adjust accordingly, so you will have a better grasp on what you will really be spending when it comes time to replace your appliances.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like me to send you the spread sheet. :)
Added tip! Check Craigslist or similar sites in your area to find slightly used appliances. You will save a TON!!!!
Also, if you are not yet a home owner, please take these numbers into consideration. Your housing costs should not exceed 35% of your income. That's mortgage, insurance, property taxes, utilities, AND repairs.