Have you ever actually had an emergency?

What’s the most expensive emergency you’ve ever had?

Good question right? If you’re like me you’re lucky enough to have never really had an emergency. I mean, sure I’ve had to replace my car tires before. Or buy a last minute plane ticket for a family issue. But these things are relatively insignificant in terms of dollars required. Maybe $1,000 tops? Hardly requiring us to have $10,000 on hand.

I think it’s safe to say, in the seven years I’ve now had an emergency fund, I’ve used it exactly ZERO times.

I’m trying to wrap my brain around a situation in which I would have an unexpected and legitimate need for $10,000 cash.

The only thing I can really think of that would require immediate need for a large amount of cash would be a house related issue. Maybe my roof completely caves in? Or my furnace catches on fire and destroys my basement?

Is this the reason I keep $10,000 on me at all times?

Seems a little paranoid, don’t ya think?

Aren’t a lot of these concerns the very reason I pay for homeowners insurance?

I can’t help but wonder how many of you have, at one point, needed access to a significant amount of cash?

How much, and why did you need it?

Today you entertain me, with your emergency fund related stories 😉

35 thoughts on “Have you ever actually had an emergency?”

  1. I’ve never had a big emergency, but I definitely wouldn’t discount the possibility of one, especially if I owned a house. It’s like insurance, you never need it until you do.

    For me, the biggest emergency I’ve had was spraining my ankle a couple years ago. Over a month or two of physical therapy, doctor’s appointments, painkillers, and crutches I ended up hitting my $1000 deductible.

    However there have been lots of time that having money sitting around helped make my financial life easier, even if it wasn’t an emergency.

    • Very true last statement. It’s more of a mental thing to me rather than an emergency cushion.

      Additionally, it can help you not miss out on unexpected invitations. Someone recently offered for me to fill a spot on a fishing trip to South America at the last minute, and something like that wouldn’t be possible without that “emergency fund”. It would be a shame to be forced to forego things like that because of money.

  2. We don’t have a defined “emergency fund,” but we do have plenty of cash on hand separate from our investments. I like the peace of mind it brings. For me, part of being financially stable (and working towards financial independence) is the ability to not worry about money. My biggest fears are a health crisis or a house disaster–both of which would likely require an immediate influx of cash. I like knowing that we’re covered in the event of either.

  3. Twice for us.

    Once, it was part of the roof that caved in due to snow and water started gushing in through the walls of our guest room. That one hurt.

    The second time was due to our vehicle completely dying in the middle of winter after I had just accepted a transfer in work location to one 45 min away by car and with no public transit.

    Actually, I’ll add a third. The way our health insurance works, we have to pay costs upfront and then submit receipts for reimbursement. We have 21,000 CAD out right now from our emergency fund due to complications related to my daughter’s birth. We’ll get it back eventually, so it’s not a true emergency from the fund, but I’d rather have the cash on hand to pay the bill than try to charge that much to my CC.

    • Yikes! That first one doesn’t sound fun. And if insurance tried to count water damage as flooding, some insurance policies don’t always cover flooding. Something to think about also if your pipes burst or something if you aren’t covered by flood insurance.

  4. I think of the emergency fund more along the lines of if you got hit by a bus and couldn’t work while you recovered (help you top up disability pay) or were fired to essentially have enough money saved up to live off of for a few months without having to go into debt vs a one time 10K hit. Thankfully I’ve never had to use ours beyond unexpected car repairs!

    • Exactly! Having a lot of money stashed away would make me feel more comfortable and able to pursue other job opportunities without worrying about money in the meantime.

  5. I keep cash on hand, not so much as an emergency fund since there is always credit, but as a buffer against market drops.

  6. I had to have a furnace repair on Christmas day and last year my dog had 2 different and expensive health emergencies. All of that ended up on the HELOC and I am still paying it off.

    Today I am home sick from work and I am out of sick days. My sick days restart next week but I have caught something nasty and will probably have to stay home, without pay, all week. That will hurt. My work plan covered most of my drug costs and, because I am Canadian, the only cost associated with my hospital visits are the parking fees.

  7. I have a higher deductible on my auto and homeowners insurance, so I partially self-insure with my emergency fund. I have never had a claim on either policy (knock on wood!), so I keep my recurring costs low and a minimum of $5k in cash to cover the spread.

    Also, my brother just had $1,900 in car repairs last week after moving to a new state for a job. Moving costs + car repair = double whammy.

  8. My son spent 6 months at Sick Kids hospital in Toronto when he was 4 years old. We used our emergency fund to cover my living expenses since we lived far away from Toronto. Wouldn’t be without one. He is fine now but it was such a relief not to have to worry about expenses at such a stressful time.

  9. When my father passed the funeral and burial costs were going to be just shy of 10k. No one in my immediate family had the cash on hand, and life insurance doesn’t just pay out lickety split. Good thing my grandmother stepped in and sent a check for the 10k, which we paid back when the insurance money came through a few months later.
    Now I know some people will say we could have gone a cheaper route, cremation, no vault, no casket, etc., but when you are grieving the last thing you want to do is not respect someone’s burial wishes.

  10. Two words: job loss.

    It can take time to find another job (particularly if you’re in a specialized field, and not just willing to take the next thing that comes along), and having a cash buffer to pay for expenses while you look (and are likely collecting unemployment) is definitely a big relief.

    Then again, that’s not an argument against investing your emergency fund — unless your unemployment happens during a market crash, you still should be okay, if not come ahead by investing your emergency fund. And in your situation (I believe you work for the government, right Ninja?) there is a much lower likelihood of being let go (although you do have government shutdowns to worry about, etc.)

    For me, having that emergency fund when I’ve lost jobs has really been a huge help/relief — I didn’t have to take the first lower paying/imperfect job that came along, but instead could afford to wait for the right opportunities to open up.

  11. I used my emergency fund between jobs, but I knew that I was going to change jobs and saved up an extra cash cushion just to be extra safe. I ended up using about 1 month of expenses out of my emergency fund.

    I also used my emergency fund when I moved apartments completely unplanned and then had some small medical issues. That allowed me to put a deposit down on the new apartment without getting my money back from the old apartment.

    I also used it when my car was vandalized a few years ago and I had to pay the $1,000 deductible. That doesn’t completely count though because I actually really just cash flowed that and saved a bit less that month.

    I initially set up my emergency fund because sometimes I had to go on work trips that were expensive on no notice and I needed to front the entire cost, so it was nice to have at least $5k easily accessible.

  12. Before we had an emergency fund, we only had a few vehicle emergencies, like new tires (we got a credit card for that one, it was before we were budget conscious and it was over $600) and a new alternator (I believe we were able to use money to pay for this, but I don’t think it was specifically an emergency fund). We recently bought a house, but the HVAC unit and the water heater are both nearly 20 years old, so we are working on setting aside money for when that is needed (we already have nearly $1000 set aside for that). It is one of those instances where something would just get old and stop working, so it wouldn’t be covered by insurance.

    But we’ve had an emergency fund of $1000 for 5 years or so now and have not had to dip into it that I can remember, so that’s pretty good. But my plan is to eventually have a fund of around $10,000 to cover any randomly large home expenses that may come up.

  13. Dental work. I had to have 2 root canals and a number of cavities filled. Insurance only covered some of it. Sure the dentist offers financing for that kind of work, but having the extra cash on hand allowed me to avoid owing money with added interest.

    You’ve already got the $10K right? I still say keep it in the savings account where it is still earning SOME interest. As of right now all the extra money is going into your taxable investments. You could go all in and put it all in investments, but you don’t HAVE to. We are in similar spots financially, and I think I am finally finding a balance that is comfortable with some money in checking and savings, the rest in TSP, Roth and taxable accounts. You’re balance might just be a little more aggressive though!

  14. Water heater gave out…it was ugly. Thankfully we had e-fund cash to get a new one (and get it brought up to code).

    It will be good for job loss or in the case of the wife’s unpaid maternity leave, to supplement.

  15. I usually keep $1000 in a fund for vet bills, tires, registration, stuff like that. In January, I found out my cat has feline stomatitis and needed to have All of her teeth pulled. This surgery cost just over $1000 and wiped out that fund. When we got our $3600 tax refund, I just stuck it all in that fund while we decided what to do with it. Well, yesterday my cat was obviously in pain again and I took her to a special vet dentist. He did X-rays and found out that there were still roots all over in my cat’s gums and she would have to go through another surgery to get them out. This surgery cost $3400! Plus she needed a night in a vet hospital due to low blood pressure during the surgery, another $250-$500. I’m leaving to pick her up in a few minutes. I’m in talks with the original vet because I think he should be liable for at least some of the cost. He assured me he was going to do X-rays and not leave any root fragments behind. Obviously he dropped the ball. But for now, we’re about $5000 into this. So yeah, real emergencies happen. I’ll just say the cat is really lucky my daughter loves her so much, because I never imagines myself dropping $5k on pet surgeries.

  16. Two weeks ago the water heater ruptured, so that would have dipped into the e-fund (2k expense) if the tax refund had not come that same day for the exact amount that we needed. 🙂
    Well technically we also upgraded to a tankless water heater so it was more expensive then a straight replacement.

  17. yes – I’ve had an emergency. My Daughter was born 3 months early, and got to spend 3 months in a hospital 90 miles away from where we lived. We needed cash to pay the insurance deductible, as well as all the other random expenses that came from living apart from my family and travelling every weekend entails.

    Im very thankful we had an emergency fund. At 3am when you’ve got a very small baby in the hospital, the last thing you want to start worrying about is money and how you’re going to pay for everything.

  18. We needed to hire a lawyer — STAT — and there was a $2500 retainer up front (and which we replaced twice as it drained over the course of our representation). Granted, we hired a really good, fancy lawyer — but he saved us from $150k in medical bills, so it was well worth it!

  19. Insurance doesn’t cover all home problems, so don’t count on it in every situation. Replacing things like water heaters and AC units are definitely not cheap, so you need a fund for those. I have a friend who has had one house issue after another, so she’s needed a lot of extra cash on hand. And e funds are essential for job loss in my opinion.

  20. I have not had any real emergencies yet, but I know one is bound to creep up eventually. I keep an emergency fund of a little over $10,000 which is probably conservative given my situation but it gives me peace of mind. I’ve had this for about 3 years and like you I have not really had to tap into this fund for an actual emergency yet.

  21. NO… all kinds of emergencies usually end up on the credit card. I don’t know what got into me but suddenly I have 30K in savings, it started out as a Emergency fund but after reading your post I will use some of that money to get rid of my car loan, makes no sense to have money just sitting there.. .thanks!


  22. Iam currently going through cancer surgery and treatments for my nine-year-old jack russel. That emergency fund is being worked right now.

    Get insurance for your PETS. No really — now.

  23. Well, I have the same train of thought as you… why have all this cash just sitting in one account. I do have a dedicated Emergency Fund with about $1,300 in it today and another $5,000 available in another account and another $1,000 in a different savings account. Of course, in a true emergency, I could stop with debt repayment and that would save us about $1,500 in one month in a serious pinch.
    Fortunately, the worst emergency we had was an $800 vet bill, but that we were able to cover that (with said emergency fund). I’m currently trying to boost the amount in my savings accounts for emergency and a potential move.
    Sounds like a lot of people have had some mega emergencies! Makes you realize that when things go wrong, they can really go wrong.

  24. Job loss would be #1
    Significant damage to home: furnace dying; water heater replacement
    Car replacement (so you don’t have to finance)
    Pet illness/surgery (incredibly expensive!)

    If you have a taxable investment account, you can always withdraw money so that could serve as an EF.

    One of my friends had stock in an American company that was sold to an Irish company. Unbeknownst to them, when that happens, the IRS swoops in and taxes the value of your stock. They got hit with a $33,000 tax bill. That’s a real emergency as you don’t want to mess with the IRS.

  25. It’s more of a mental thing. As a federal employee, your job is probably more stable than most. But in 2008 when the economy was freaking out, and layoffs were everywhere, a solid emergency fund was a huge sources of comfort.

  26. My emergency fund, just a small $1,000, was a big help when my fiancé was hospitalized for two months. We didn’t know what the outcome was going to be and he really required having someone there to be with him, especially throughout the night. I was working a fee for service job at the time, with no earned time or any sick time to take so it was a huge financial burden to take time off to spend with him. Without that money I would have racked up credit card bills to pay for all my expenses while going down to half time at work. Instead I got to be with him in his time of need with less worry about finances.

  27. I’ve never had a big financial emergency, but my mom’s house had a leak which flooded her bathroom a few years ago. It ended up costing around $7,000 to repair the damage.

    I mainly keep our emergency fund in case my husband and I are without work for an extended period of time. We both work freelance, and occasionally jobs are a little hard to come by. Just want to be prepared!

  28. Since we have an EF, and I am such a planner that our EF has an EF, we don’t have emergencies. Annoying, unplanned things happen, but they aren’t emergencies. Last year, husband crashed up a car. We got the insurance payout, added some from the EF and got the new car…and a month later, that one ran into a tree (according to him, since it was on ice, it really wasn’t his fault) and we had to get a new new one. I was annoyed, but not panicked. He went out and got ANOTHER new car thanks to insurance and the EF. (For the record, both of these were used cars, but they were new TO US.)
    Our EF may be high for some people, but since about $50,000 of it is in an after tax mutual fund, I consider it both savings and investment. We have the small EF in a prime reserve account…and can tap that with a check.

  29. I needed an emergency fund, but I didn’t have one.

    Super long and painful story short, I had a legal court battle. I needed to pay a $5000 retainer. I racked up a $17,000 lawyer bill and won the case. But then the asshole appealed the case and I needed to pay the initial $17K before I could re-hire my lawyer to do the case all over again, plus another $20K for the appeals trial. So I basically needed $37,000 to get through this very important thing and didn’t have it.

    A part of me is forever missing because I didn’t have this money available to me.

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