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Why You Need an Emergency Fund

Why You Need an Emergency Fund

So, I’ve started a 60 Day Budgeting Challenge (you can sign up for it here), and with that, I’m really taking a hard look at our own finances – where we excel, where we need help, what I want our money to do for us. 

I’m not, by any means or in any way, shape or form, a financial expert. We have debt (but not for long!). We don’t always make the best financial choices. But I am great at budgeting each month (I can really work a spreadsheet, y’all!)…and we’re getting pretty good about making better financial decisions. We’re paying cash for as many things as we can pay cash for. And we’re getting OUT of debt.

Spend Well Budgeting SystemAlso? Being in control of our money is better for our family. We have less stress in our lives when we are in control of our finances. We control our money – it doesn’t control us.

As we work to get out of debt, this is becoming more and more of a priority in our lives, and I want to share some of that here.

And today I want to talk about emergency funds.

I shared a story with my budgeting challenge group about how having an emergency fund has saved us, over and over again, when hit with an unexpected financial setback.

Have you guys seen the movie Up? The scene where they keep filling their jar full of coins for a dream vacation only to use it over and over again for financial emergencies? I kind of feel like that, sometimes.

I know it’s hard to get used to following a budget. I also understand that the budget in your head and on your paper may not always play out in real life as you expect it will.

That’s totally normal.

Emergency FundAs you get better at budgeting (it’s a skill!), you’ll notice that it gets easier to stick to your budget. This is partly because your budget will become more realistic for your needs as you figure out what’s working and what’s not. It’s also because you’ll get better at making smart financial decisions! And speaking of smart financial decisions…I want to talk about a time we *tried* to make a wise choice with our money but instead found ourselves in a {very} costly situation.

And our emergency fund saved our bank account…over and over and over again.

Years ago, we decided to downgrade our cars. This was, in our estimation, a Good Financial Decision (cheaper cars = less debt). 

One of the cars we purchased, though, was a total lemon. The WORST, you guys.

Within the first month of owning it, it needed an expensive ($1,000) repair. Luckily, we had an emergency fund. We drained it to pay for the repairs, then starting rebuilding the fund.

Shortly after we fixed the car, it broke down again. We pulled from our freshly-funded emergency fund. Again.

Rinse, wash, repeat.

Until we had spent thousands of dollars in car repairs. A new engine, a new heating unit (after months of driving in 40-degree weather without heat…brrrr!), new everything. We spent as much on car repairs as we’d spent on the actual car. Every time we’d fix something, we’d think, “That’s it! That HAS to be it. This car has basically been rebuilt from the ground up!”

Until it broke again.

I hate to think about what we could have done with the money we spent on that car, but here’s the thing: we had the money to pay for those repairs. It wasn’t comfortable, but we didn’t go into more debt over fixing that dumb car.

I learned two lessons here:

  1. Always check out Consumer Reports detailed reports on car reliability before choosing a new car (seriously – we subscribe to Consumer Reports now and have used their car buying service for every vehicle we’ve purchased after The Lemon)
  2. Fund your emergency fund first.

Emergency FundsIf we didn’t have money in the emergency fund, we’d have put the repairs on a credit card, or borrowed money, or shifted bills around and fallen behind on something else. The emergency fund allowed us to pay cash for those repairs. 

The car didn’t provide us with the savings we’d hoped for when downgrading. Quite the opposite! But we didn’t incur more debt or fall behind on our bills, because we had an emergency fund.

Other times we’ve tapped into our emergency fund include:

  • Paying our annual HOA dues because we forgot to include them in the budget (oops!)
  • Emergency vet bills (what a relief to know we had the money we needed to pay for an unexpected illness or injury for a pet)
  • Repairing a broken windshield
  • Groceries (yep…there have been months when we’ve had to raid the emergency fund for basic needs…which is what it’s there for!)

I like to have $1,000 in our emergency fund, and we keep it in a savings account. Your number might be different, and you might prefer to keep it in cash. The important thing is just that you have it – and don’t touch it for “emergencies” like TARGET HAS PENS ON SALE. Ha.

As I start sharing more about our journey to get out debt, and how being on the same page financially makes our family happier (it really does), I wanted to start here – with the emergency fund – because I really believe it’s key to avoiding more debt. It has helped us so many times.

I’d love to hear your emergency fund success stories (HEY – any time you can tap into your emergency fund instead of putting an unexpected expense on a credit card, it’s a success!).

I’d also love to have you in my 60 Day Budgeting Challenge, which you can learn more about here.

Please join me on Facebook for easy recipes, meal planning help (meal planning is key to staying on-track with your budget!), and family-friendly activities! You can buy the Spend Well Budgeting System (pictured in this post) here.

Budgeting Challenge Carrie Elle


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When my mother was a young bride with a small child, a neighbor told her she should have a secret emergency fund. I don’t know if there were any warning signs to make her tell my mother this, but when the time came for her to leave my father she had the funds to move out.

I never felt the need to follow the advice that helped my mother so much, but if you think one day you might need it, stick a few dollars away each week.

Where did you get that cute book you put your money in? It is adorable and looks like it really helps with budgeting. Thank you

Hi my name is Diana, I need your help. I have never done a budget. I’m divoriced and behind on all my payments. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how to make it all work.

I love the notebook with the pockets for money, where can I get one?

I just ordered the book! Can’t wait to start saving ?

Next time you need a used vehicle you should check out my family’s business. Family First Automotive We dont check credit. Here, Your WORD is Your CREDIT! We are just north of Dallas in Sanger. We would love to help you out next time and not get into that situation!

Are you going to ever get Secret Garden spend well notebooks back? I absolutely love it and want one!

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