I'm a strong believer in having AT LEAST six months savings available to pay for emergencies, for everyone who has the capability to do so. That has proved helpful in the past, for example when I was starting my business and had very limited wages. This last month, all that saving sure proved to be a blessing after a series of unfortunate, bothersome events.
A few weeks ago, we had to have some expensive plumbing repairs performed. Which, actually, only involved unclogging a drain. Yet it was a particularly critical drain, located between the kitchen sink and the washing machine, which received a lot of traffic. The drain wasn't completely clogged, but it was clogged enough so that every time the washer drained, the kitchen sink backed up with fetid slime. I could put up with that, but it was also overflowing at the site of the washer and it started to erode our drywall. I began to worry about mold. So, the problem had to be fixed.
Of course, the drain happened to be a kind which is tricky to unclog (it even has a special name which eludes me at the moment). Three visits from the plumber, one repaired ventpipe, two plumbers on site, one rental of a special plumbing camera, three holes cut in the drywall and the kitchen cabinet, and three visits to the roof later, we had a clear drain. One plumber jigged some celebratory "you da man's" while the other smiled modestly. And there went $800.
NEXT. We started out on our weekend getaway, my first vacation in a year. Halfway to Tulsa, the Prius began to show some belligerent signs of uncooperation. The brake light came on. The car shifted into neutral. And the A/C stopped running. I shall file the three hour return journey, in which we had to stop the car every five miles to let the car cool down, in 95+ degree heat with an unhappy two-year old, under "character-building / third-world-living experiences."
I can't blame the Prius, which had been giving us signs of anxiety for a few weeks in the form of giant red warning lights on the dashboard. I DO blame a certain Toyota dealership for not fixing the problem after two visits to their shop AND an oil change, all of which was done before we left on our getaway. Thanks for nothing, Dub Richardson. And there went another $650 and a vacation that didn't happen.
Finally, the computer, which began emitting a strange smell last Monday. At first I thought it was my toddler playing with matches. The smell was somewhere between sulphur and chlorine, and later proved to be a very abused DVD writer that had blown a fuse and shut down my five year old computer for almost a week. It was an interesting lesson in e-withdrawal for someone who is used to being connected to e-mail, blogging, and doom-news all day long. Thanks to my husband's co-worker hardware genius, we now have a working computer (temporarily, at least).
So there you go - accidents happen. Things wear out and break, repairs need to be made, appliances need to be replaced, and not necessarily in nice tidy affordable three-month increments. Sometimes they all pile upon you at once - and you might suddenly realize that the property taxes and car insurance are also due that month. That's when it pays to have some cash in the bank... or some really, really, nice relatives.
Of course, at some point, these repairs will no longer be affordable for many of the formerly middle-class, and that's when workarounds start to become permanent. Families will learn to share one car instead of using two; people will start line-drying their clothes because the dryer died; occasionally some will have to haul water by hand when the city can't repair the water line for two months; and others will become quite glad they have a cell phone, all their important information backed up or printed out, and a library - because they can't afford to replace the computer that just gasped it's last, wheezing breath.
Until then, I'm glad I'm a saver.