I blame the car. I’m convinced that it’s jinxed.
It all started last spring, when my husband bought another car. I had no problem with that. We had been a one-vehicle family for six years.* With two teenagers learning to drive and another not far behind them, it was becoming apparent that another car would make life for us much, much easier. So my hubby set out on his own to make a responsible purchase. He spent a few weeks researching models, prices and what was available locally for sale. He finally came home with a used, paid in full, late model, dependable sedan that our teenagers will have no desire to show off or hot-rod. I had no complaints.
Timing could have been better, though. This was the same month as some large, expected expenses: annual home insurance premium, semi-annual house taxes and car insurance, 90k mile servicing for the minivan, summer camp fees for four kids, replacement of our 15 year-old dead lawn mower, two pairs of glasses for myopic teenagers who would like to be able to see when they drive… you get the idea. Even though we were completely prepared for all of these expenses, our checking account balances sunk temporarily lower than my comfort zone.
And then everything in our house started to break down.
First, it was the central air conditioning, which (luckily) was quickly fixed by a repair guy. Fast forward a couple of weeks, when our microwave stopped working on Monday, then our dishwasher stopped cleaning dishes on Wednesday. That Saturday, our clothes washer suddenly decided it didn’t want to spin anymore; naturally, the day before the kids and I were going to pack for a week-long camp and we kinda needed clean clothes. Hello, laundromat! It’s the savior when Murphy’s Law visits your laundry room.
While the kids and I were away at camp, my hubby (a regular Mr. Fix-it) fixed the microwave and the clothes washer. We’re still washing dishes by hand. We’ve found that it’s not so bad when there are six pairs of hands in the house that are old enough to take turns. Frankly, the dishes are cleaner than that durned dishwasher ever got them. Sure, we plan on fixing or replacing it in the future, but padding our cash cushion is a higher priority at the moment. There couldn’t be much else in our house that could break down since we got that second car, right? Nothing more could go wrong… right?
And then the clothes dryer broke down.
I have named that car “Murphy”.
As I whine and complain about all the recent mishaps in our home, and how uncomfortably low our checking account balance has sunk, I must remind myself that we have been very fortunate to be able to cover all of these expenses. Our balance has sunk, but it has certainly not reached zero. We can still cover all the bills. We could even replace our dishwasher and clothes dryer with cash if we really wanted, instead of hand-washing dishes and hanging clothes on the clothesline. We choose to have other priorities at the moment. I must remind myself that there are many people in the world who are not so fortunate.
There are some who don’t have any choice but to wash dishes by hand and hang their clothes, plus much, much more. As my youngest daughter reminded me during her bath the other night, some people in the world must walk great distances to get water from rivers and wells, and then they must carry it home. We are fortunate to live where clean water pours abundantly from the many faucets in our home.
I must remind myself that we have hands that can wash our dishes and hang clothes until these appliances are repaired or replaced. Those occasional, expected large expenses will not come around again for a few more months. We know how to live frugally and know how to keep our expenses low, so our cash cushion can be filled with a little more comfortable padding. We know that this is slump is only temporary.
Murphy’s Law comes into everyone’s life at some point, and he always has bad timing. This is often when many dive into a great deal of debt, charging everything on credit, because they weren’t prepared with a cash cushion (Many call it an “emergency fund”). The car, the insurance premiums, the taxes, the mower and all our expected expenses were not emergencies. Appliances breaking down right and left were.
How much of a cushion do you need? Some recommend at least a thousand dollars. Personally, that is way below my comfort level. Some recommend at least a few months’ worth of expenses. Seriously, I feel more comfortable with MANY months’ worth of expenses available. I’ve been criticized because we could put those funds into riskier, less available investments that could bring us higher returns. Instead, I prefer to sleep well at night, as I still do, even now. Find your comfort level that lets you sleep well, too.
In the meantime, we will be tightening our frugal belts, paying closer attention to how we can reduce our expenses until we have a larger cushion again. Hopefully this will inspire me to write more as well.
Next post will be about how it looks like Murphy (both the law and the car) might be with us for quite a while.
*Sort of. We have been fortunate that my husband drives a company vehicle not only during work hours, but to home and back as well. His employer owns it, though, not us.