Sometimes I think I should turn in my personal finance blogging card. This past week, I’ve been confronted with two different money dilemmas that have me stumped: emergency funds and found money.
I understand the basic principles of both. Emergency funds are one of the most talked about topics in personal finance. And na-na na-na boo-boo, finders keepers pretty much sums up my feelings on pennies on the sidewalk. But it turns out, I have a knack for complicating even fairly straightforward topics. Perhaps you’ve got some advice?
The Current State of Our Emergency Fund
Currently, we have one savings account. Actually, that’s a lie. We mostly have one savings account. Mr. P also has a separate account from before we were married that he hasn’t closed. Imagine cobwebs and spiders. So I’m basically breaking two cardinal rules of personal finance. Our money is all jumbled together, and my husband has a separate account for no other reason than sheer laziness*.
The reason why our money is all jumbled together is a little bit more complicated. First of all, I’ve been in a never-ending love affair with a small, local bank. They are wonderful. But they’re also small and local. So the idea of having sub-funds or accounts within an account will probably never come to fruition. So open a separate account, Penny. Exactly. I’ve gotten that far. But then I got stuck.
How much money do I move? Previously, I always thought $10,000 of our savings was our emergency fund. That would cover three months of expenses if we both lost our jobs. But then life happened. After the calamities of late 2015 and early 2016, a
wind storm microburst blew apart our two-year-old shed and did a number on our roof. While the insurance is going to cover most of the expenses, we still have a $1500 deductible. When I crunch the numbers, I started to realize that $10,000 isn’t so much after all. Not when life happens.
So now I’ve arrived at a new number. Our emergency fund is going to have $20,862 in it. Currently, we spend $3477 a month, including our mortgage, property taxes, and insurance. So this number would cover either six months of unemployment for both Mr. P and myself, or three months of unemployment with $10,000 for housing catastrophes. Because if the day ends in y and you’re a homeowner, there’s the chance of a disaster.
If push came to shove, I know we could trim more of the fat in our expenses. It’s also unlikely, though not impossible–as I learned the hard way–that we would both lose our teaching contracts in the same year since we work in different districts. So I’m feeling pretty confident with this amount. The question is: Should I?
The Moral Dilemma
The next dilemma of the week has to do with found money, found gift card money to be more precise. In an effort to set a positive example for my students and because I like to look out for the environment whenever possible, I pick up trash when I see it. It could be in the hallway. It could be on the sidewalk. If I cross paths with a receipt on my way into a store, I pick it up and toss it.
Last week, I attempted to do just that. Mr. P stopped at Walgreens on our way to visit my family, and I spotted a merchandise credit for a department store in the parking lot. The foil code on the back was scratched, so I was convinced that a person tossed a zero-balance card out the window at the back of the lot. Mr. P insisted that I check the numbers before tossing it, which is when the nightmare started. In addition to having to admit he was right, I also feel like a thief since it turns out there is $47 on the card.
There were no other cars in the back of the lot, so I couldn’t ask anyone. That would have been too simple. I called Walgreens to ask if anyone had reported a missing card. No dice. So now I’m stuck. When I checked the card balance on line, there is no option to register it since it is only a merchandise credit. I contemplated putting up a post on Craigslist, but I don’t want to conjure up all sorts of craziness unnecessarily. Part of me is hoping that when I check the balance next it will be zeroed out somehow. Because I love irony. There’s nothing quite like naming your blog after found money and then being wracked with guilt when you find some.
*With my luck, this will be the day he reads my blog. Hi, honey!
So Tell Me…Care to solve my emergency fund woes for me? Bonus points if you can help me decide between a Discover savings account at 0.95% with a $100 sign-up bonus or an Ally savings account at 1.0%. After you’ve tackled that issue, got any ideas for this gift card dilemma?