In the last installment of this series, I talked about routinely taking stock of one’s finances which is the first step in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class.
Routine, routine, routine. It keeps my life from going off the rails and crashing, leaving behind a red, hot ball of firey flames rivaled only by the entrance to hell itself.
The next step in Ramsey’s Financial Peace class is gathering an emergency fund of at least $1000 as quickly as possible.
It sounds simple, but have you ever heard of Murphy’s Law? Hold on to your hat because there’s more than one law – there’s 8 actually – about things going wrong, and we experienced most of them.
Step #1 of Ramsey’s Baby Steps is to save $1000 as soon as possible. He advises students to cut out extras and sell stuff to raise the money as quickly as possible.
We sold everything that didn’t have deep sentimental value, or we weren’t using.
We consolidated our children’s books into one case and sold the extra bookcase. We purged our daughter’s dressers, putting everything on hangers, and then sold the bedroom set. We also found some miscellaneous things in the attic that we put on the local Facebook swap page.
In addition to selling things, we agreed to cut out extra entertainment such as renting movies, going to movies, eating out, etc. until the emergency fund was in place. We pared down to the bare necessities. I even stopped using my Keurig and started brewing coffee by the pot again (lest you think otherwise, this is a BIG deal).
Within the month, we had raised $500. We were off to a good start, and we were excited.
To complete the emergency fund, we planned to use my income as a community college adjunct to pay off a couple of small doctors’ bills, and whatever was left over, would go into the emergency fund. In the meantime, we were going to set $25 a week for the next 5 months to make up the rest.
We thought we had a good plan.
But Murphy had other plans.
Almost immediately after we agreed on a plan to accumulate the emergency fund, the first and most well known of Murphy’s Laws kicked in right away with the second and slightly lesser known law following close behind.
1. If anything can go wrong it will go wrong.
2. If there is a chance of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.
The list started with the refrigerator dripping water and refusing to cool, and continued with the front and back brakes on my car needing replaced, my molar chipping in half while eating popcorn, the TV in the playroom braking, the garage door rollers beginning to fall off, some of the windows in the house starting to lose their seal with white filmy yuck accumulating in them, and ended with my mind reeling with so on, and so on, and so on.
Well, craptastic! Which one to do we fix first?
The inside of my fridge had turned into the likes of the cavern behind Niagara Falls. At certain times, I could actually hear the water pouring out of the freezer onto the top shelf of the fridge. The poor girl was incontinent! Mopping up the mess was a daily chore. I put small pans in the back to catch the water, but if I didn’t empty them daily, there was always an overflow to clean up.
In the past, we would have run to Lowe’s and bought a new fridge on their “No money down/12 months same as cash” plan. Then we would have used some of the emergency money to replace the brakes. But we had pledged on the first day of Financial Peace class to not make any new purchases until we had our emergency fund in place and we had saved the money to pay cash.
Well, craptastic! Stupid Murphy. Stupid pledge.
Okay, the pledge is actually not stupid. It forced us to either give in or buckle down. We decided to buckle down.
Determined not to break the pledge, we decided to try and nudge the fridge along with minor self-repairs so we could replace the brakes on my car. Having the brakes replaced was the most pressing to us because the safety of the family was at stake.
But what about my tooth? Wasn’t that also the most pressing?
Not exactly. Thanks to my atrocious pre-adolescent oral hygiene, the tooth was completely packed with silver amalgam, so I wasn’t experiencing any pain or sensitivity. Plus I hate the dentist (read about it here), so fixing the tooth was shoved to the back burner until we gathered the emergency fund.
After prodding the fridge along for a little over six months, the old gal gave up the ghost. She just stopped working. Not much we could do but get a new fridge.
At that time, the emergency fund almost had the required $1000. The 12 months same as cash idea was very tempting. We could get a fantastic fridge if it wasn’t for that pledge. We talked it over, each of us playing devil’s advocate to the other until we landed on the solution.
Sticking to the pledge, we went to Lowe’s with $500 in hand and bought a small fridge that would get us by for two years until we were debt free and had saved the money for the fridge of our dreams. At that point in time, we can either sell the $500 fridge or retire it to the laundry room to hold water bottles and such.
The Lowe’s attendant was flabbergasted that we not only refused to finance, but we also had the cash in hand. When I asked him if something was wrong, he remarked, “No. It’s just people don’t usually pay with cash.”
That’s when I remembered Ramsey’s mantra: Live like no one else, so one day you can live like no one else.
After that purchase, I started approaching our purchases with stricter boundaries between needs and wants.
a. We haven’t replaced the upstairs television. We have to share the one in the living room. Gasp!
b. My molar still isn’t fixed. It still doesn’t hurt, but it is next on the “fix-it list”.
c. My husband contacted a garage door company and they sold him new rollers for little to nothing. He Googled how to replace them himself.
d. We had one of the windows on the front of the house re-sealed and decided to install new windows when – you got it – after we are debt free.
Most of the emergencies we call emergencies are really not emergencies. They are just real life we didn’t plan for. We knew we were going to have to replace the fridge at some point; we just didn’t plan for it. Brakes need replacing, too. We just didn’t plan for it.
Now we not only have an emergency fund deposit each paycheck, but we have a home/auto replacement account as well. That’s a topic for a later post.
How difficult has it been to grow your emergency fund?