In case of (money) emergency, break glass
Nicole and Maggie’s “where can you tap if you came up short” post was good fun.
My short answers:
Credit cards first assuming it’s under 50K and not a long term recurring expense. Pay it off with….
1. Expenses checking account.
2. Savings specifically holding money for the expenses account.
3. Emergency cash fund.
4. Several CDs.
5. Sell off stock portfolio.
6. Retirement savings.
(How short is short??)
7. Sell the property if it’s that bad.
But of course that just triggered a bunch of questions. What are we talking about when we say, short?
If I “overspent” in any given month (wedding expenses, I guess are the only thing that has recently been in this category), it’d be on the credit card. Those are paid in full with cash in
my our checking account specifically meant for paying bills. We put our paychecks in there, less our automated savings, so whatever’s in there is “fair game”. Of course, when that goes above a certain amount, I skim right off the top and put it in emergency savings too so that grows a little faster than generally planned. What? I LIKE SAVINGS.
(Shoot, I LOVE savings. Like I love donuts. And I love donuts.)
I still leave a healthy amount in there (up to several thousand) because nothing in the emergency fund comes out for anything short of a medical emergency, job loss or death in the family. At that, while we didn’t do anything extravagant so it wasn’t an unreasonable amount, Mom’s funeral was paid in full with a check the day of the arrangements. And before that, her major dental expenses went on my credit card, and was also paid off in full. So that checking account can bear up against a few strains pretty easily.
If we are talking job loss, though, that’s a different story. That’s ongoing expenses for an undetermined amount of time so I’d be looking at ways to mitigate the lack of income (unemployment income, freelancing, consulting – whatever) at the same time as tapping the emergency fund.
I spent almost a year unemployed. During that time, I worked the network HARD while freelancing and writing; back then the emergency fund wasn’t nearly as healthy but the expenses had also been trimmed back to a fare-thee-well, so the rate of withdrawal wasn’t truly atrocious. Scary, yes, because once I was tapped out, that was me AND my family on the street, but objectively, not that bad.
Our expenses now have grown: two households, two dependents, pets, long distance family to visit, etc. We CAN cut back in some ways but not a whole lot. So the list generally stays the same.
It’s both comforting to know that our savings could probably carry us at least a year based on our expenses not changing and assuming no emergencies (though c’mon, one bad turn tends to breed another), and scary to think it probably couldn’t last 2-3 years. My comfort zone lies in a much higher amount of savings.