In a perfect world, we would all have well-funded emergency funds at all times, and it something unexpected came up, we would be able to handle it and then quickly replenish said emergency fund and be prepared for the next emergency.
Wouldn’t it be nice if things were perfect.
In the real world, sometimes we’re just not prepared for everything. Maybe you had a series of emergencies in short succession. Maybe you’re getting out of debt and don’t have a fully funded emergency fund. Maybe you’ve just recently realized you need to turn your financial life around and are still trying to undo years of mistakes. There are a whole host of reasons as well as a combination of reasons why a financial emergency can leave us in the lurch. Whatever the reason, sometimes we’re just not prepared.
Something I have been trying to drill into my own head lately is the idea that there is no shame in not being able to afford something. I recently had a very expensive car repair totally wipe out my emergency fund as well as any reserve funds I could come up with, and then some. Not even a week later, I got the definitive news from my dentist that I need all four of my wisdom teeth out, and after some investigation I am about 98% sure that my dental insurance doesn’t cover it. My dentist expects me to schedule and get the teeth out before my appointment to put a filling in at the end of February. But at that appointment in February, he’ll get the news that I’m not having them out until September. He’ll think I’m putting it off because I am scared, because when he told me I need them out, he interpreted my negative reaction to be fear. It was fear, but not fear of the procedure – fear of the bill. And although at the time I let him assume he was correct, I now intend to set him straight on that fact.
There is no shame in the fact that I have to budget to pay for an expensive medical procedure, and I don’t intend to act ashamed about it. I am human and life happens. The timing of these events are unfortunate, and necessitate me spacing them out to some degree. I don’t intend on being without an emergency fund, and I don’t see my wisdom teeth coming out as a true emergency that has to happen right this second. Yes, they need to come out sooner rather than later, but they can wait several months. I refuse to be ashamed about the fact that I don’t intend to go into more debt to fund this.
Sadly, the reality is, I still feel embarrassed about it in my head. But I am practicing talking to my dentist. I am practicing simply explaining that I can’t afford the procedure at this time and I am budgeting for it and will have saved the money by September. Because there is no shame in the truth, and the truth is – we have to budget and save over time to make this work. I get so hung up on “appearances” and the idea that money would cause me to put this off makes me feel like I can’t keep up the appearance that we’re doing just fine. But maybe that’s a good thing. Because doing things this way is a much better alternative than just going into more debt and hoping we can fix it later.
And if more things happen to further derail our plans, we can adjust and go from there. I’d rather live in full awareness of reality and be a little embarrassed than in a fantasy world I create with available credit. And by budgeting, I can slowly build up the funds to have the teeth out and not have to worry about paying for it later. Worrying about paying for it beforehand is a much better place to be.