This week, we paid off Mr. P’s car loan. Approximately 56 minutes after clicking “submit” on the payment, our furnace started squawking. I had a morning appointment to keep, but Mr. P promised to stand at the ready in the basement. I’m not entirely sure what that entailed, but I like to imagine him with a fire extinguisher and the HVAC guy on speed dial.
When I returned home an hour later, I was assaulted with the smell of burnt toast. Since Mr. P isn’t much of a breakfast eater, I could only assume things went from noisy to worse. Sure enough, there was nary a squawk or a squeak to be heard. Silence filled the house. Mr. P had turned off the furnace and put in a call for the repairman.
Bidding Adieu to Our Emergency Fund
Like any slightly neurotic personal finance blogger, my first instinct was to log into our savings account and stare longingly at our emergency fund: $10,000* and a some odd dollars and cents in interest. I know a lot of people put a lot of thought into emergency funds. I can’t say that we’re exactly those people. There wasn’t a whole lot of science to how we arrived at $10,000. It’s roughly three months of my take-home pay. It’s roughly ten months of our mortgage. It’s enough to get by for a while. More than any of that, though, seeing that 10 in front of the comma offers me a real sense of security. And as the temperature quickly dipped in our house, I was convinced that security was about to be shattered.
The Power of an Anchor
After bidding a fond farewell to our emergency fund’s quintuple** digit status, I opened a new tab and got to Googling. I already had $5,000 in my mind as a ballpark estimate for the cost of a new furnace, but I wasn’t really sure where that came from. Did I learn that we when replaced our AC unit two summers ago? Is that something my mom told me? Had a random fact from long-gone consumer education course suddenly bubbled up in my brain? Realistically, I probably saw it on social media somewhere. Thanks to wonderfully reputable and entirely nonspecific sources like Angie’s List, I learned that new furnaces could cost anywhere between $2,500 and $14,000. I would be lying if I didn’t say that at that point I was briefly contemplating selling our house and finding a rental somewhere.
I had another appointment, so I left Mr. P with the checkbook and a space heater. As soon as my appointment ended, I punched in the numbers to his phone. A chorus of “Please let this be under $5,000, please let this be under $5,000” pulsed through my mind. Because my frantic thoughts control not only my fate but that of the entire heating, ventilating, and air conditioning universe. I am that good.
“Take a deep breath,” he answered, effectively stopping my heart. While Mr. P tried to tell me that it was $500 to purchase and install a new motor, my brain had latched so firmly onto $5,000 that I thought he misspoke. After assuring me that he did know what he was talking about, he let me know that a new wheel would also have to be installed once that part came in. Altogether, we’d end up spending about $600.
In a few short hours, I went from feeling like the most misfortunate of Midwestern souls for losing a furnace on a subzero day to the luckiest. That’s the power of anchors. $600 is a lot of money. Paying for that repair is going to pull our emergency fund total below my beloved $10,000 mark. Regardless, I’m going to ride this high for a while. I may not have won–or even played–the billion-dollar Powerball, but I certainly feel a lot richer.
*We do have additional savings earmarked for future
expenses punishments for owning a home like siding and a roof.
**I’m an English teacher. It’s my job to know obscure truths like triple, quadruple, quintuple.
So Tell Me…Have you had any unexpected home repairs crop up lately? Has anchoring ever worked to your advantage?