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Are You Prepared for a Financial Emergency?

Picture This

You arrive home after a week with your family over the holidays expecting a wonderful, warm, cozy home. You’ve already made plans to unpack and relax, maybe even take a bath drinking a delicious micro brew. 

Heck, you can unpack tomorrow so you can probably enjoy a book and just hanging out with your spouse. Tonight is about relaxing.

Are you there? Which micro brew are you drinking?

Then reality happens. You realize that your house is FREEZING COLD!!! I’m talking, you can see your breath cold. Kiss your relaxing, cozy night goodbye. You have big problems on your hand. 

Unraveling the Mystery: What The Heck Happened? 

We immediately knew something was horribly wrong. My first thought was frozen and broken water pipes with water spraying all over our basement, inside our walls, and across the entire floor. It felt like a nightmare.

I went straight to the thermostat to see just how cold our house was.

This is where the bad news started. The thermostat was completely blank, no reading at all. As I was fiddling with the thermostat, Jenna checked out all of our faucets for busted pipes and to see if they even worked.

Fun fact, when your house is 34 degrees, the toilets freeze and you can’t go to the bathroom. In addition to the toilets, all of our faucets were frozen too. Now imagine your wife is 7 months pregnant and has to pee every five minutes. This added a whole new layer to our adventure. 

I needed to figure out a solution NOW!

After a panicked phone call to my father in law, we diagnosed that the thermostat ran on batteries, and they were dead. As a result, nothing was communicating to the furnace that it needed to be running, so it just stopped sending warm air throughout the house.

So, if your thermostat runs on batteries, make sure they work. And if you don’t know if your thermostat uses batteries, I strongly encourage you to check! 🙂

Sadly for us, new batteries didn’t solve our problem. The furnace kicked on for about 5 minutes before shutting off again. Now we were back to square one. A freezing cold house and a furnace that isn’t kicking out warm air.

And my very pregnant wife getting more and more frustrated with every passing minute.

Let’s Pause to See the Effects of Freezing Temperatures on Household Items

For a bit of comedic relief, let’s look at some footage of how freezing temperatures affected our home.

When In Doubt, Call a Professional

My wife is no nonsense when it comes to house stuff. She quickly got on the phone with the first person that showed up on a Google search to help us diagnose the problem.

I’m going to save you all the details, but after an hour and a half on the phone he diagnosed for sure that we needed a new thermostat.

I don’t know who this guy was, but he was a saint. He talked us through every possible troubleshooting situation he could think of and even offered to drive 45 minutes to personally help us out. Whoever you are, thank you so much!!!

I quickly drove up to Home Depot to get a new thermostat. If you’ve never bought a thermostat, there are about a hundred options ranging from $25-$300.

We knew we wanted a nice thermostat with wi-fi capabilities so we wouldn’t be caught with our pants down again.

I’ve been dreaming about getting a Nest since I first read about it last summer, so that’s what I got! We’ve only had it for three days, so I have no idea how much energy and money it will save. I do know that it looks really cool though! 🙂

Once I got home, it took about 45 minutes to fully install the thermostat. 

My wife went to chill at a friend’s house while I installed it to a) go to the bathroom, and b) she was crazy stressed out watching me try to install the thermostat.

When I was done, I knew I did it right when the furnace started up again!

It was the most amazing sound in the world, like music to my ears! I swear the heavens opened up and angels started singing.

It took until morning for the house to get up to a normal temperature again. So we bundled up and snuggled the crap out of our dogs. We all needed the extra warmth.

It was winter camping in our house haha

Our Frozen House Survived with Minimal Damage

Luckily, we got by mostly unscathed. It could’ve been a catastrophe. At one point we were wondering if we would need to buy a new furnace.

A very basic furnace is priced around $2,800, which would have been a huge blow. Thankfully we avoided that. Unexpected events like a broken furnace is why it’s so crucial to create an emergency fund.

More on that later. 

Our kitchen sink took the brunt of the damage. We found a small gash where the back of the faucet burst. When we turned the faucet on, a stream of water arced out of the gash.

I mean, it still technically worked, but wouldn’t be a good long term solution.

In addition to installing a thermostat, we added installing a new kitchen faucet to our very short list of household projects we can do ourselves!

I’m basically Fix it Felix!

As far as we can tell, everything else is okay. The only other damage was several dead plants. My wife is pretty devastated about our aloe plant, but still has hope that it will pull through. (update: it didn’t)

You Never Know When You’ll Need Your Emergency Fund to Come to the Rescue

I like to think of our emergency fund as a superhero. It swoops in to save the day when something bad happens. It’s super dependable and gets us out of tight spots without sending our budget spiraling out of control.

If you’ve never heard of an emergency fund, or haven’t started one yet, they are amazing.

The idea is to save up a specific amount of money to use for emergencies only, hence the name. For example, when your thermostat stops working and your house is 35 freaking degrees, or something like that.

I recommend starting with $1,000 and then expanding from there if you need to cover bigger emergencies. Many personal finance experts suggest saving 3-6 months worth of expenses.

You never know what will happen, so it’s always good to be safe.

Two Reasons You Need an Emergency Fund (And Why I Love Having One)

1. Peace of Mind for the Day to Day

When I rented an apartment, I didn’t feel the need to have a super huge emergency fund. I mean, if anything broke or was damaged in an accident, the landlord was responsible to replace it. It didn’t cost me a dime.

So the only big expense I worried about was my car.

Now that I’m a homeowner, it’s a whole new ball game. Anything could happen and I’m stuck footing the bill. Having a larger emergency fund gives me peace of mind that when the inevitable happens, we have a plan and will be ready.

Whatever gives you peace of mind is a good indicator.

2. I Can Fix Problems Without Worrying About Prices or Taking on Debt

When things break, we have enough money stored up to fix most problems without spending the next 6 months eating ramen. It would’ve been a huge blow to replace our furnace this weekend, but we have the money in our emergency fund to pay cash and move on with a warm house.

Also, when we replaced our thermostat and kitchen faucet, we had the luxury of choice. We didn’t need to settle for the cheapest options to just skate by. Instead we bought the ones we really liked.

How Much Did Our Mini Emergency Cost Us?

Like I said before, we got extremely lucky. All in all the costs were pretty minimal. According to ACME Home Services, damage from frozen pipes can range anywhere from $5,000-50,000 depending on the amount of water damage.

So we dodged that bullet! Phew!

Here’s how our costs stacked up.

CNBC published an article in September of 2017 with statistics on how much money Americans have stashed away in a savings account. 57% had less than $1,000, while 39% had no savings at all.

It’s never a bad time to evaluate your finances and see what you can change. If you don’t have an emergency fund, I’d start there before I worry about any type of debt. Like I said before, your peace of mind is so important to help you weather small emergencies.

If you’re in the boat with no savings, even a minor emergency like ours could send your budget spiraling out of control.

Reason #738 Why You Need an Emergency Fund

Emergencies are going to happen, it’s just a fact of life. The big question you need to answer is, “how prepared are you when an emergency DOES strike?”. Here are a few pretty common emergencies to plan for.

These are real events that happen to real people just like you and me. An emergency fund protects you from all of these nightmare situations. It helps you weather the storm and come out standing strong.

Let Me Know in the Comments

How has your emergency fund saved your butt?

Our budget and goals changed our lives and it can change yours too.

As an Educator and Personal Finance Blogger, Jamie has helped hundreds of families learn how to budget, save money, and pay off debt (go here to subscribe and start your debt free journey). Read our debt free story, “How We Paid Off $73,000 of Debt in Less Than Four Years”.

Reason #738 Why You Need an Emergency Fund

18 Responses

  1. We are so thankful for our emergency fund. This past summer we needed our emergency fund three times in five months totaling almost $5000. Obviously that’s way more money than we had in our emergency fund but we had been cutting out things we didn’t need to spend money on we were able to pay for all three emergencies without getting a loan or putting it on a credit card. Yes we would have rather used that money else where, such as paying off our credit card but thankful we didn’t have to add to our debt.

    1. So sorry to hear about all the emergencies! Thats a lot in such a short time. That’s such a relief that you didn’t add to your debt though. You at least stayed even rather than digging a new whole. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

  2. Totes agree on the need for an emergency fund. Sorry this happened, buddy. Glad it all worked out relatively easily. Love the blog and the pictures! You rock.

    1. It’s always worth it to have the extra cash on hand just for the peace of mind. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Much appreciated.

  3. Emergency funds help make sure you’re actually addressing the root of a problem instead of issuing multiple patch fixes. Most of the time when something goes terribly wrong, you can either pay something like $1,000 to fix it entirely or $100 to issue a patch fix but you’ll end up having to patch it 10 times over the next several years. Cash is a beautiful, beautiful thing!

    1. That’s a really great point! It’s like buying brand new pipes instead of patching with duct tape, haha. New pipes are going to last a lot longer and allow you to sleep better, and drier at night.

  4. You’re lucky it was just the thermostat and not the furnace. I actually had to dip deep into our emergency fund this past summer when the central air died. Of course we were in the middle of a heat wave and it was 96 degrees outside with no end in sight. The new unit cost $4,800…ouch! but I was glad to have the money on hand when I needed it.

    As for which micro brew…I’m thinking maybe some Nugget Nectar from Troegs would hit the spot. 🙂

    1. Wow! That’s a big hit to the emergency fund. It’s amazing how it often seems to happen at the worst time, like a heat wave, or a crazy cold spell for us.

      That micro brew sounds delightful. I’ve been digging an IPA from Bau Haus (I think I spelled the right).

  5. I’d never felt the need for a very big emergency fund (I’d rather have the money working for me instead of just sitting in a bank account barely earning interest). Then we had super expensive months back to back to back… feeling the need for a larger one now. But also our new 50% savings rate is a bit of an emergency fund in and of itself.

    1. I’ve heard a lot of people prefer to have emergency funds invested so it still works for them, but also liquid enough to take it out if they need. Or slap it on a credit card until they can pull it out. For us it gives us peace of mind knowing we have cash on hand if we need it.

      And having a huge savings rate is pretty clutch too! ☺️ Well done ?

  6. Our emergency fund is invested and we have 6 months wages available on credit cards all with zero balance. Don’t see the point of having large sums of cash doing nothing for something that might never happen. If we have a car repair or New fridge needed we just cut back what’s going into investments until the credit card is back to zero.

    1. Hi Mark! I’ve heard of that method too. I imagine it depends on the size of the emergency, but are you typically able to pay off the credit card balances before the interest kicks in?

  7. My emergency fund consists of you tubing it and seeing if I can fix it myself! The great news I signed up for your online class and I’m on my day 2!!

    1. That’s a great way to save money! That’s awesome! I hope the course really helps you set up a budget! If you have any questions in getting set up, let me know.

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