The past month has not been an easy, nor a frugal one at the Cheapskate house.
The water supply valve for our washing machine failed, causing a leak that required us to turn off all the water to the house until a plumber could come the next day.
I was grateful that I had been home when the valve had failed and that our family room wasn’t flooded.
Then, a week later, I put our minivan in the ditch. I was driving the little guys home from preschool on our familiar back roads, when I accidently dropped a tire off the edge of the pavement onto the gravel shoulder. I over-corrected when I went to pull the van back onto the highway, lost control of the minivan, and put it in the ditch.
Fortunately, none of us were hurt, but I had to call a tow truck to pull us out. The car appeared to be driveable at the time, so I took it to get an estimate for the body damage (some scratches and a cracked bumper). The estimate came in at $1,100. Since our deductible is $1,000, we decided to not put in a claim to our insurance.
But then, it got worse. We went to town a few days later and the van made some not-so-nice noises. And the battery light came on. A trusted mechanic found that the impact of going into the ditch had caused extensive damage to the radiator, alternator, and several belts and hoses. The mechanic’s estimate: $1,200.
At this point, we decided to file a insurance claim. Because I hadn’t reported it immediately, and I’d driven the vehicle afterward, my insurance company gave me the third degree. We also weren’t allowed to start any of the repairs until their claims adjuster had been out to look at it and take photos.
This began a major challenge for us as we live 30 miles from everywhere and our main family vehicle was out of commission for two weeks. Renting a car was not an expense we wanted to take on. I relied on the generosity of my parents (who also happen to be my neighbor) to help get the kids to preschool. My husband got to try his hand at grocery shopping and errand-running after his work day was done.
These two incidents reminded me of why having an emergency fund is so important. I was annoyed by the valve issue, and I felt incredibly dumb for the accident with the van, but in both instances, I knew that it would not destroy our finances.
If we had not had an emergency fund, we would have had to put the repairs on a credit card. The interest we would have paid, would have been a constant reminder of an unpleasant time in our lives.
Sure, it’s not at all what I wanted to spend our money on, but the important thing is that nothing happened that couldn’t be fixed.