I Used My Emergency Fund, and I Liked It

I used my emergency fund, and I liked it. 

More precisely, we found an issue with our two-story foyer window. When we replaced our front door (for the second time!), we had the bottom of the foyer window resealed with an epoxy thanks to an excellent observation from a new contractor. While that surely saved this new door, we were still noticing water drips in our thankfully unfinished basement. 

Our contractor came back out with even more scaffolding this time and got all the way to the top of the window. His initial ground-level guess was that he would have to redo the whole seal. What he actually found was that there was more than a one-inch gap in places. He actually sent us photos from on the scaffold with his hand in between the window and the brick. No wonder a hard rain always leads to tiny water drips in the basement. 

As soon as scaffolding was mentioned, I knew this would be costly. But when the window ended up being in much worse shape than anyone imagined, I gave up the idea of trying to cash flow the contractor visit.

Instead, I pulled $660 out of our home emergency fund and called it a big win. 

I know, right? This seems like a weird thing to celebrate. But it shouldn’t be. Hear me out. 

Your Emergency Fund is Insurance, Not an Investment

The way we talk about emergency funds is all wrong. (And I’m not just talking about the bozos who claim $1,000 is enough. Save more. Much more!)

The first mistake we make when we talk about emergency funds is talk about making money from them. 

I have no interest in making money on my emergency fund, and neither should you. I don’t view it as an asset. Instead, I look at it as a safety device. It’s a form of insurance. I want it to exist and hope to never need it.

As a result, this money sits (mostly very) liquid in a savings account that we can tap whenever we need it.

And we do.

Part of why people hesitate to use their emergency funds is because they lock them up in CD ladders or short-term investments or Roths or bonds. For us, that’s too much work. It makes a deterrent to use the fund, which defeats the point of having an emergency fund in the first place. 

Emergencies suck. I want my emergency fund to simplify my life, not further complicate it, when things start to go sideways. I’m stressed enough, you know?

So we leave it alone and completely tune out conversations about “beating inflation” and “losing value”. 

The Wrong Way to Talk About Emergency Funds

The bigger mistake we make with emergency funds, though, isn’t where we keep them. It’s how we talk about them. 

Emergencies are bad. They suck. You get it, I get it, I already typed that. But just because you’re in a hectic, chaotic, or unexpected part of your life doesn’t mean that you need to extend that negativity to your emergency fund. 

Emergency funds are great. I love my emergency fund because I’m proud that we built it. But more importantly, I think my emergency fund is worth celebrating because it means that I can save my own butt. 

One of our basement walls continues to look like a toddler couldn’t quite make it to the bathroom after any sort of heavy rain (regardless of how much money we forked over for professional waterproofing). Water damage ruined a really expensive front door. So when we finally found the real culprit, I didn’t have to ask Mom or Dad, Discover or Visa, or anyone else for help to fix this home ownership snag. 

I fixed it myself. And by fixed it myself, I happily mean paid an expert with the right equipment.

Flipping the Script on Spending Your E-Fund

In the personal finance world, it’s not uncommon for talking heads to treat people, especially women, like damsels in distress. From a business perspective, it makes sense that they want us to think we need someone else for support. But the truth is, when it comes to money, you save yourself. 

RELATED POST: Here’s to Strong Women: The End of the Damsel in Financial Distress

FIRE money allows you to save yourself from working until you drop. An FU fund lets you save yourself from toxic situations. Your emergency fund? Yeah, that’s you saving yourself, too.

Which is why I’m celebrating the fact that we used ours! We saved ourselves (and our house). It’s an act of independence and resilience, the culmination of a savings job well done. 

Of course, it stings to see the balance drop. After all, our emergency fund is not going to refill itself quickly. Not with childcare and before/after-school care and everything else we have going on in our budget. But we  funded it once, and I’m confident we can do it again. 

While we work on scrounging up the money to restore our balance back to where we like it, I’m not going to be mad. I refuse to see it as a sign of weakness. I’m flipping the script to remind myself that when things got stressful, I bailed myself out. 

And that’s something to smile about. 

So Tell Me…When was the last time you saved yourself with your savings?

6 Comments

  1. We have unexpected large expenses with surprising regularity (most recent: sprinkler system needed a major repair). Since we earn more than we spend, I basically just make sure we have at least a certain level in checking/savings every month and then when I have $X extra over my target, I move that $X to the stock market.

    Currently we also have a couple of secondary emergency funds in high interest savings accounts. I know we probably have too much there, but it’s nice knowing we could withstand a long unemployment spell.

  2. I recently gave my Emergency fund of 15K to my son to help with a house deposit.
    It’s a weird feeling not having it there… I’m building it back up again. Just hit the 2K mark last week!
    Love having that pool of cash lurking in the background until it’s needed!

  3. We are about to dip into our emergency fund to pay for the medical bills for Goofball’s broken arm and surgery. A little bike ride is turning into $20k.

    Fortunately, we didn’t try to use any of our emergency fund towards the down payment on the new house – which we closed on ONE DAY BEFORE his accident.

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