I’m Glad I Had an Emergency Fund: 4 Real Tales of Life Gone Wrong

Cheryl Lock

emergency fund$4,528.78.

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

Chicago, Illinois
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.”

RELATED: What Really Counts As a Financial Emergency?

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.

  • ana

    Those are great examples. My e-fund has saved me when I’ve had to do multiple repairs to my heat pump the last couple of years. It’s so nice to be able to just write a check and not stress over it. But then you gotta build it back up!

  • tracy

    These are truly good examples, of people thoughtfully spending money on things essential or important to them.

  • Sarah

    The title of the article is misleading in regards to the last two stories. David didn’t have an Emergency Fund, he had to pull the money from an account that he was using to save money to move to another city. Alyssa was not made redundant or fired, she chose to change careers. That doesn’t fit with the criteria listed in previous articles on Learnvest of when it’s OK to dip into your Emergency Fund. This is an interesting piece but it’s not the first time the title of an article is misleading on this website.

  • Danielle

    I had to use my emergency fund late last year. I had some unexpected medical expenses for the first time in my life (I’m 26 and it was encouraged that I get the insurance plan with a high deductible since I rarely get sick). Well it came back and haunted me with a $1800 deductible which needed to be paid during the holiday season. I’m eternally grateful I learned good money habits as a child and had enough of an emergency fund to cover it and holiday traveling!

  • Chitownchica

    I just made it through a six month life changing event that had me out of work. The only thing that saved me, and was a huge stress reliever, was that I had been putting away money into an emergency fund for the last 5 years. Its going to take a while to build it back up, but I don’t know where I would be now had I not been diligent in the past.