It’s House On FIRE Day!
No, not the Financially Independent, Retirement Elective kind of FIRE. The kind where your house almost burns down. Electrical issues are no joke.
It was only a few weeks ago – my husband, a stay at home dad, was downstairs with our three kids getting ready for the day. I was upstairs working remotely. All of a sudden – the light in the room started flickering. It was growing bright, dimming, and growing bright again.
Hmm, that’s strange, I thought – and then I started hearing yelling coming from downstairs.
What on earth could be going on??? I thought to myself.
Little did I know that today would be a reminder of the importance of emergency funds.
Running Downstairs – To Find Chaos
I went out into the hallway and saw THAT light was doing the same thing. Then I yelled downstairs “What’s wrong?” because I continued to hear yelling.
I ran downstairs to find ALL the lights were doing the same thing. We started to hear sounds and popping when the lights would grow bright. Suddenly my middle son, who was turning 12 that day, yelled that he saw smoke!
Actually, he yelled that he saw ozone, because my husband had earlier commented that the smell of ozone was heavy in the air. But we knew what he meant – smoke.
And where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Or there soon will be.
Behind the couch one of our surge protectors was smoking. The air filled with the smell of electrical fire. My husband unplugged the surge protector – which was hot to the touch and singed with smoke. It was also partially melted.
Had we not been home, it certainly would have caught fire.
It was in the midst of this that we realized what was happening- it was a power surge! My husband yelled to get the kids to get outside the house, and I helped them and the pets all onto the porch in their pajamas. Meanwhile, he ran downstairs to throw the breaker to the house – it’s located in our basement.
After throwing the house breaker, everything went dark. The strange noises and popping stopped, but the air was still heavy with the smell of electrical fire.
Back upstairs, I grabbed the fire extinguisher just in case something else was on fire, and told my husband to call the fire department. Luckily the kids and pets were safe outside on the porch, and there was no visible fire or smoke. I opened up all the windows to try and air out the house.
The fire department came quickly and investigated the house for fire somewhere we couldn’t see it. Luckily, there was none. And some of the firefighters helped entertain my four year old – letting him sit in the fire truck and pretend to drive.
Hooray for firefighters making a scary experience a bit less scary!
The Electric Company Comes
The fire department called our local electric company, who came out in under an hour to fix the issue. Apparently, there was a problem with the line from the pole on the street to our house – the nutral line became exposed or something like that, and the power was surging uncontrollably into our house.
What, I’m not an electramatrician, I know not of what I speak.
The damage was:
- One broken oven with a fried circuit board
- One broken HVAC system – same problem
- Five broken surge protectors
- The power to the porch wouldn’t work
But luckily we were all safe and sound. And the electric company was going to be responsible for paying for the damage.
We just finished getting everything repaired this past week and we’re getting ready to send in the request to the electric company for damages. We had to have three separate companies come to fix the oven, HVAC, and electricity to the porch respectively. And had to go out and buy surge protectors.
You know what this reminded me of? The importance of an emergency fund.
Emergency Funds and Electrical Fires – When Life Happens
Yes, in the end this is going to end up costing the electric company, not us. But we had to front all those expenses.
The total is something just over a thousand dollars, to get all those things repaired and replace the surge protectors.
There have been many, many times in my life where having to front a thousand dollar expense and wait to be reimbursed with be a tremendous strain on the budget. It would have to go on a credit card, and I would have had to hope we would get the reimbursement before the bill was due. Or I wouldn’t have been able to pay for it at all.
This would have turned a situation that was stressful enough (I mean, our house nearly caught fire!) into something much, much worse.
But with an emergency fund, when life happens unexpectedly, you can rest easy.
There’s just no way we could have predicted that something like this would happen. As I said, I’m not an electramatrician. I don’t look at the electrical line between the pole and the house, and even if I did, I wouldn’t know what I was looking for anyway.
Emergencies are when life happens. The tire to your car goes flat. You have to miss work because of an injury. Your dishwasher breaks. Your toddler decides that ripping one of your blinds sounds like fun. (b roll footage for this).
When life happens, you don’t want to be stressed about money on top of the emergency you’re dealing with. Dealing with the knowledge that your house nearly caught on fire is stressful enough!
I know how fortunate we are to have an emergency fund. Many Americans can’t cover a thousand dollar emergency like this one.
If you’ve been looking to start an emergency fund, this post over at Get Rich Slowly has some good tips. Remember, the important thing is to start! You don’t need to have months of expenses saved right off the bat. Every little bit helps put that much more cushion between you and financial disaster.
But…My Emergency Fund Doesn’t Make Much Money!
Sometimes you’ll see people advising to keep your emergency fund in the stock market, or not to have one at all. I’m someone that has experienced a variety of emergencies in her life. A few major ones, like when my husband lost his job when his factory closed and the stock market tanked during the Great Recession. Or when my husband almost died of septic shock seven years ago.
And tons, and tons, of more minor emergencies – from hornets deciding to build a home in my basement, to a sick cat, to a blown tire, sick kids, and any number of other things.
I’m almost forty years old. Us old folks have been through a lot of life events, and with that comes emergencies of all sorts. That’s why old people are always telling youngins to have an emergency fund.
That’s why I feel most comfortable with a good cushion of cash in a high-yield savings account earning over 2% interest. Sure, it’s not going to earn me amazing returns.
But it’s a heck of a lot better than what most banks offer. 0.1% interest, what?????
I think of it like a form of insurance – it’s not there to make me money, it’s there to protect me when I need it. At at least it’s an insurance premium I pay to myself, that I earn interest on, rather than a premium I pay to a company to never see again.
I hope you have an emergency fund, to help you when life happens. Even if it’s not the “gold standard” of three to six months of expenses, every little bit helps. Don’t let the large “standard” emergency fund figures keep you from getting started!
If you’re interested in bonus content – seeing me discuss the emergency, shots of the damage, and interviews with my husband and kids about what happened – be sure to check out my YouTube video!
And if you want to see what a bunch of my personal finance friends have in THIER emergency funds, be sure to read through this Twitter thread.
I Want To Hear From You!
Do you have an emergency fund – and if so, have you ever had to use it? Or are you working on one? Let me know in the comments down below.
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5 thoughts on “Home On FIRE! The Importance Of Emergency Funds”
This happened to one of my neighbors a few weeks ago. They lost hvac, microwave, and some other stuff. I’ve been working on getting someone to trim tree branches away from our service drop. This motivates me to stop procrastinating.
Being able to sleep at night with a cash emergency fund is worth more than a few percentage interest points in my mind. We also use a high yield online savings account for our emergency fund. We established it when we bought our first home, and two homes later fortunately haven’t had to use it.
I had money in an emergency fund that I didn’t touch for a decade. Then a month ago my hot water service died.
I was so glad that money wasn’t an issue.
I’ve had to use our emergency fund multiple times this year: toilet overflowed and kept flowing, garage door rusted out, daughter’s appendicitis, and another unexpected surgery. Yes, health insurance thankfully covers 95% of those medical costs and we are healthy, but 5% of a surgery still is a few $k. So grateful for our rainy day fund when it’s been a torrential year! Glad you all were home when the surge happened – it could have been worse!
We’re so glad too-I hate to think what would have happened if this was one week later while we were on vacation! Glad to hear your emergency fund has been there when you needed it too. Now hopefully you get some sunshine and can rebuild it (plus enjoy a bit of a break!)