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Dawn's Column - Those Unexpected Expenses

POSTED September 13, 2011 9:27 p.m.

As I drove off after work the other day, my otherwise “healthy” car stopped running. Right there in the middle of the street.
I was fortunate to be able to coast off to the side of the busy thoroughfare and parallel park but it was after 5p.m. and at that moment I thought to myself, “Uh-oh. It’s after 5 o’clock. Nobody’s going to be open.”
After making a couple phone calls to family, I called my roadside service, then a local garage and, as luck would have it, I didn’t get the answering machine. I was told they’d be closed shortly but someone would probably still be there when the tow truck delivered my car. Whew. What a relief to know I wouldn’t have to leave my disabled car parked overnight on some side street.
My husband was due to take a business trip the next morning, so after driving him to the airport in his car I was able to go to work without having to rent a car.
The repair shop guy called me and gave me an estimate of about two hundred dollars. He said that if it was that amount or less he would just fix it but if it was going to cost more, he’d call me back.
A couple hours later my phone rang. It was him. I knew it was bad news. (Insert frowny face here).
A pricey replacement part and a sizeable amount of labor added up to a bill of about $500. Arghh.
So much for that weekend shopping trip I had planned to buy myself some new boots for fall. It’s important to shop early in the season so you get the best selection. My car is obviously unaware of this fact.
All joking aside, I’m thankful I had that money available. This is a good example why having money set aside, even if it’s just a small amount, is so important. Diligently putting a few dollars away, over time, can grow into a fair amount of cash. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
This issue with my car was not one of those things that I could ignore or put off repairing for a while until I had the money to pay for it or until I got my next paycheck. My car didn’t give me any warning by making strange noises, or sputtering, or spewing. It just stopped running.
I’ve heard this popular money expert say that Murphy’s Law always happens when you don’t have an emergency fund. If it can go wrong, it will – and it will happen when you can’t afford to pay for it. He said that having that rainy day fund helps to repel Murphy.
In my case, although something went wrong, the money was already set aside and my husband and I don’t have to feel stressed about paying for it or having to pay for it over the course of several months on a credit card. It’s a nice feeling to have.
One of my colleagues said I am “so darn frugal.” Although, I don’t really view myself as “darn frugal.” Remember, I really want those new boots for fall. Perhaps it’s a little more accurate to say I’m “somewhat frugal” or “fairly frugal.” I have my spending weaknesses, read my previous comments about new boots … and previous columns about shoes. However, I’ve learned some discipline about when I can or can’t afford to spend on luxuries.
Let’s face it, this is life. It’s unpredictable and unexpected things always happen; therefore, unexpected expenses happen, too. Things go wrong, sometimes those things cost a small amount to fix and sometimes they cost a lot. Whatever the case, it’s just a good idea to try to be prepared the best we can. Having some extra breathing room always makes me feel better.
Besides, I can forego those new boots for a little while. It’s only until that money I used from the emergency fund is replenished. In the meantime, there’s good news, it’s still sandal weather.

Dawn M. Henley is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at dhenley@oakdaleleader.com or by calling 847-3021.

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