Our Emergency Fund is Under Assault

hockey fight

photo by pointnshoot

It has been a rough month in our household.  It all started when my wife took a spill in a parking lot after rolling her ankle.  She severely sprained her ankle, and even did some ligament damage.  She was prescribed crutches for a couple days, and an AirCast for 4-6 weeks.  Fortunately, it appears she avoided the need for surgery, but we won’t know for sure until the boot comes off.  The medical bills for x-rays, the ER visit, the orthopedic follow up, the AirCast, and the crutches are starting to roll in.

When It Rains, It Pours

A few days after her fall, on the morning of July 4th, we awoke to an unusually hot house and a broken air conditioner.  It was a particularly hot day, and by noon it was already hovering near 85 inside our house.  Our service guy discovered a burned out fan motor on the unit outside our home and put on a temporary replacement.  Fortunately, the motor was still under warrantly (barely), but we still owed $125 for the labor.

Over the weekend I was mowing our lawn and the mower died about half way through the job.  The nearest service center is about twenty miles away, so I asked if they could come pick it up.  They said, “Sure, for a $150 fee!”  Of course I said no, and immediately thought about the stuff I had loaded on a trailer that I could use to transport the mower.  When it rains it pours.

Our home computer crashed last week.  I guess it is expected since the desktop is now close to eight years old, which is an eternity in PC years.  While downloading email the system froze, and upon restart it would not boot up, citing a missing or corrupted windows file as the culprit.  I did manage to salvage my wife’s pictures she had transferred from a digital camera, but not backed up (lesson learned).  When I get some time I plan on wiping the hard drive and reloading the operating system to see if we can’t squeeze a little more life out of it.  However, we will definitely be backing up anything we save to CDs and will probably keep an eye out for any good deals on a new PC in the interim.

The real icing on the cake came last Monday evening.  My wife had prepared a new dish that we were all looking forward to trying. We had gathered in the kitchen and the kids were telling me about their day when we heard a loud popping sound.  We looked at the oven and the inside glass panel in the oven door had shattered, spraying glass all over our meal and rendering the oven unusable. We let it cool down, cleaned up the mess, and headed to Subway for dinner.

Moral of the Story

I’m more convinced than ever that having a solid emergency fund in place should be priority one in any good financial plan.  Our mission over the next two or three paychecks will be to replenish the funds we’ve used over the last few weeks, and hope nothing else breaks for a while.


  1. @Victor: Thanks for your ideas. I did swap out the hard drive on another machine, thinking it was just an OS issue, but no success. We bit the bullet and reloaded Windows (without removing the existing copy) which got us far enough to move things off our old profiles onto a thumb drive (as you suggested). It’s running again, but we have zero confidence in it so it has become the kids’ game computer.

  2. I’ve been a reader for a few months now but have never commented. I just wanted to tell you how much i both learn from and enjoy your posts.

    my wife and i are walking through the Ramsey plan and are nearing the end of step 3. it’s been about a year long road and we would never go back to how things used to be.

    it is so true about the emergency fund. what a no-brainer and yet we did without one for so may years and it really killed us. But attitude is everything and change is possible.

    we are proof!

    thanks for your blog.

  3. Wow, when it rains, it pours? That always seems to be the way though, and it makes a very good case for having an emergency fund. I’m currently working on building my own, because I never want to have to turn to a credit card for an emergency again.

  4. I am sorry to hear of your wife getting hurt, the computer going the way of all things techno and the lawnmower breaking down. It seems as life is as determined to march on as we are to march along, we just need to get into step. The emergency fund saved the day around here. We started a business three months ago with a plan in place, funds aquired, work scheduled and notice of early retirement submitted (does it sound as if we dotted it i’s and crossed the t’s?). My husband left for the project and all was well…(except for the stress I was feeling over the complete upset of our lives). My husband’s blood pressure soon returned to the normal range and I began to take a few breaths that didn’t require prayer…until the mail arrived with the notice that the loan we had taken was not “issued properly” so we must repay the entire amount within 10 days. We did have enough money in an emergency fund to repay the loan…out goal for our emergency fund was enough money to pay all the bills for the household plus food money for six months. We are repaying the fund now, a payday at a time, no penalty fees or interest to pay to anyone else (why didn’t we do that in the first place????? repeat…..emergency fund). Without the fund, my husbands new career and both our futures would not be in a good place. How can we place a value on peace of mind? Experience is a path to a life well lived. Glad things are back on track at your home.

  5. I know sucks to have to raid the Emergency Fund but the most important thing is that you are able to borrow from your savings and not resort to using credit. It looks like I am going to have to use my Emergency Fund real soon too.

  6. Well, that’s just what an emergency fund is for, but you seem to have had a run on it!
    Did you forget to mention the mirror you broke the day before all this ‘bad luck’ happened? haha

    PS – You might want to set up an additional fund for ‘replacement appliances’… which would have covered the A/C, lawnmower, and stove… Most of that stuff has a 10 /- shelf-life and has to be replaced sooner or later anyway. (and if everything goes really well, maybe 20 years.) I know in my case that my little window-rattler air conditioner is 12 years old now, and could go anytime 🙁

    I consider my emergency fund for things there’s no way I should have known would happen – like the broken leg and medical bills from that.
    I KNOW that appliances will have to be replaced someday/time… all of them sooner or later.

    Good attitude! And after all, Life’s a Matter of Attitude 🙂

  7. Most of these are due to home ownership. If you make the decision to purchase home and thus purchase all sorts of appliances you must be prepared to pay for all of those things, i.e. you have to have lots of money on hand.

    IMHO it is not possible to consider yourself ‘frugal’ if you put A/C. I live in Texas which is relatively warm and have never put A/C. Ceiling fan, yes. Maybe if you lived in Riyadh or Islamabad or Delhi. Face it, nowhere in America gets hot enough to put on A/C. Putting A/C if it is less than 115º F or so is just another Supersized American extravagance for people with lifestyles of excess.

    IMHO ….

  8. House Renters in our rural area provide their own appliances and mow their own lawns – so it’s not just home owners who have those expenses, but also renters.

  9. The fan motor on our a/c needed replacing last year. My husband was able to do it. We still had to purchase the motor, though, since the warranty ran out. It still saved us a couple hundred dollars. My friend was able to learn, via the internet, how to replace 40 year old water pipes leading to her house, and did it. She saved a couple thousand dollars, improved her water pressure and replaced her pipes with modern materials.

    Both my husband and my friend are DIYers, and have had huge savings (or cost avoidances) as a result. According to my husband, all you need is the right tool (of which he has all!). I would offer that the next time something is broken or needs fixing, find out if it’s something you can do yourself, and maybe you can avoid touching your emergency fund.

  10. @Frugal Bachelor: I don’t know, you may be more hardcore frugal than I am! I live in the southeast, and it does get over 100 degree here with high humidity. Going without AC is just not an option for us. I’ll gladly scrimp in other areas to run my AC, but it’s a personal choice.

  11. My A/C costs $5/month to run for the 2 months I like it on. It cools one room, and I stay in that room. For me $10 is well worth the comfort and wellness. I had heatstroke as a kid in Florida – as a result, I still tend to get heatsick over 90. I chose not to suffer and be sick.
    Plus, I don’t live in an area where I feel safe sleeping with the windows opened…
    So $10 is my personal choice. Doesn’t get much more frugal than that. The fans costs that much to run!

  12. I have been reading your twitter updates so I knew about your oven, but not the rest. That really stinks! When it rains it pours and I am glad that you were able to handle the crazy monsoon that hit your family. I hope your wife is better soon and that you can get things back in order again!

  13. @FrugalDad, now you realize you’ll need to make another post letting everyone know how all these problems were resolved. The oven was a definite stroke of bad luck as well as your wife’s ankle. Emergency funds are the perfect fit. I don’t believe there is a need to separate it into a “this type” of emergency and “that type” of emergency. They are usually all emergencies and you will need them all to be made right immediately.
    On the mower though, was it a push type or a riding mower? If it is a push mower, it can’t be anything too serious as they are pretty simple machines. I find many times that either something came loose (spark plug wire or fuel line) or the air filter is too clogged for the engine to function. If it is a riding mower, make sure to tell the mechanic what you were doing and if the machine made any funny noises before it died. Clunks, pings and metal-on-metal shearing noises will give the mechanic good info as to where to look for the problem.
    BTW, that must’ve been an old oven. I don’t believe that newer ones suffer from that problem. Make sure to look for used or refurbished units as new ones are never cheap — I’ve looked!

  14. That’s rough. Then again, what’s the point of an emergency fund if it never gets used? I can only imagine you feel even more validated in your savings as a result of it.

    As far as losing data from your computer, I myself am a big fan of Google services. I keep all of my documents, financial or otherwise, on Google Docs (they recently started storing PDFs, which is great for statements). I do the same with pictures on Picasa and email on Gmail. Basically, I’m never without my important stuff no matter what computer I’m on, and any one could go up in smoke without me losing a thing. Just a tip. 😉

  15. I completely agree about the “when it rains it pours” comment. It’s been the same way for us this year. First my wife spends three weeks in the hospital. Then we discover mold in our basement and find out we may have to pay $2500 to fix the leak. It’s always one thing after another.

    Thank goodness we had an emergency fund in place for all these things!

  16. Wow! So sorry for all the bad happenings. We’ve been there done that with the pouring rain. We now finally have an emergency fund, albeit small, in place after being married for 7 years. I’ve been following Mary Hunt’s strategy in Debt-proof Living.
    It really is such a relief with no worries when unexpected things happen because of our emergency fund. I used to panick immediately after something happens that affected our finances, but no more!

  17. FD
    Give yourself a pat on the back for having set up an emergency fund. This should be the cornerstone for every family’s financial plan.Ignore the experts that say you don’t need one, that this money can be put to a better use. These EF’s help to provide a little extra peace of mind.