I just had an unexpected expense that would put almost half of Americans into a tight spot financially.A car repair — or rather several car repairs — have me a little peeved this week. However, considering 44% of Americans can’t cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing money or selling something, being a little peeved isn’t really a big deal.
This is part of why I save. It’s why everyone should have an emergency fund. It’s why you should budget for things that you don’t see coming but recognize can.
I won’t bore you with all the details of the car repair. The basics are that the alternator in one car went bad. One mechanic replaced it for $250. Four days later, the car died again about an hour away. A mechanic there said the new alternator was bad. That replacement cost $460.
I’ll get a refund for the shoddy alternator (although not the labor) and get about $150 back, but that’s still $560.
To make matters worse, the day before the car with the second new alternator was ready to be picked up, another car experienced a similar problem.
This time it turns out it’s not the alternator, but the computer that’s gone bad. It stopped sending a signal to the starter. Cost of repair: $500.
That’s just over $1,000 I didn’t plan to spend, for those keeping score.
The moral of the story
Confucius say: A fool with a car and his money are soon separated.
I don’t suspect that was an actual Confucius quote. Maybe Lincoln? Or Einstein. Could be Edison. Possibly Maya Angelou. Everything they said was basically made for the Internet.
No, the real wisdom here is that this is an annoyance, not an emergency, because I set aside money for exactly this reason. It won’t affect whether I go to the grocery store, or put money in an IRA, or pay my mortgage or my credit card in full this month.
It was money I could have used to go to the movies three months ago, or buy a not-quite-yet-needed new pair of shoes last month. It could have been sushi and drinks, or a new cell phone. Instead of being any of those things, this money is an alternator, a computer and labor from three mechanics.
What it isn’t is a real emergency.
And for that, I can’t even really get all that annoyed.