The problem with emergency funds

OK, so this is my latest issue.

JW at Need to be Debt free recently blogged about his wife’s car breakdown. I couldn’t believe the number of people who gave him a hard time about not getting the car repaired earlier, as though keeping the family financially above water and working two jobs somehow wasn’t enough to be `fighting the good fight’ of debt reduction. It’s worth remembering sometimes that though everyone is sharing their situation in this kind of forum, the way you deal with your debt is, in the end, up to you ….

Anyway, I know we need to get some work done on both our cars eg new brake pads, replace a tyre etc. Traditionally I put money away in a billpaying account to cover this kind of stuff, but recently the outgoings from this account have been keeping the balance so low that I know there’s not enough to pay for the repairs we need. Here’s the thing. We do have some more money in our emergency fund.

However, I have resisted the urge to use that. I guess the reason is that if I use that money everytime I need car repairs I’ll be forever topping up the EF. When do car repairs actually become an emergency? I know it shouldn’t be when the engine overheats or the car gives up completely, but where’s the happy medium.

One way to deal with this would be to just use the money in the EF to get the repairs done and repay it once there’s enough in the billpay account. But I always hate mixing up funds like this. It makes everything so messy.

I guess it’s stupid to leave money in the EF when you need to use it but mentally, I still hate the idea of spending it, even before I get to my target.



  1. An emergency fund to me is to be used when things come up. So, in JW’s case, his wife’s car broke down and they needed to get it repaired and that’s what the fund is there for. I don’t understand either how people can jump down his throat for not maintaining the car. You can’t really forsee car troubles. I married someone who is completely into maintaining our cars and all we do to maintain our cars is get regular oil changes and if there is a dire repair that needs to be made, we stop driving the car until we can save up enough to fix the car.

    I know what you mean about not wanting to use the fund because you work so hard at having a little bit of savings, that it’s hard to part with it when something happens.

  2. debtfretter said

    Yeah, I think anyone who owns a car is in danger of constant `emergencies’ as it does seem they have a deep and abiding connection to the contents of your wallet!

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