That’s how much my husband and I withdrew from our rainy day fund to pay for life-saving surgery and medication … for our cat.
Some people will look at that number and think, “Is she crazy? She spent that … on a cat?”
But she was having problems breathing, and we didn’t have much time to ponder the decision. Even if we did, it would have been no different. We have an emergency savings account. We love our animals. And it was within our means to pay for a surgery that could save her, so we did.
Having that cushion allowed us to make—and afford—a crucial in-the-moment choice. The whole point of keeping an emergency savings account is, after all, to be prepared for the unexpected, whether that means an appendectomy or a pink slip.
For that reason alone, it’s never too early to start building a stash of readily available cash. Many people put off building an emergency fund because they think, “it won’t happen to me.” But the LearnVest rule of thumb is to have at least three to six months of your net pay set aside (depending on your circumstances), because, as these real stories show, life doesn’t always go according to plan.
Eric Heininger, 28
The emergency: Car repairs
Total from savings: $1,060
When Heininger received a phone call at work from his girlfriend, Stephanie, at 8:55 a.m., he knew something was up. That seemed an unusual time for a daily loving check-in. “Her voice was trembling, and she said that she had just been involved in a car accident on the expressway,” he recalls. She was physically OK, but understandably shaken. The car was still drivable, so after speaking to a police officer on the scene, she drove the car—their only one—back home.
Heininger was shocked when he saw it. “I could not believe that our little 2006 Honda Civic was still mobile,” he said. “Cracked lights, broken pieces and crumbled panels. It was not damage that could be ignored beyond a mile or two.”
The insurance estimate was about $7,000. Most of it was covered, but there was a $1,000 deductible that the pair had to pull from their emergency savings account. “This was the perfect example of how we used [that money] without batting an eye,” Heininger says. They wrote the check, and six days later the car was as good as new. “We even splurged and spent an extra $60 to upgrade to a larger rental vehicle before we got our car back, to alleviate some of the nerves we had about driving after that jarring accident,” he says.