I haven’t had much luck with my car recently. You may recall that a few days after I returned from my holiday with my mother someone pulled out of a side road and crashed into the side of my car. Fortunately he wasn’t going very fast and swerved once he saw me coming, so the damage was limited to dented bodywork. That’s all going through the insurance at the moment and my car has been fixed and looks fine.
I was glad to get my car back after having to drive a hire car for several days, but then last week it let me down. I had travelled for about an hour from home to do a visit for work and as I turned the car on when leaving, the radio didn’t come on. I just thought, oh God, the radio has packed up now and was frustrated that I wasn’t going to be able listen to my podcast on the way home. I then started pulling off and the dashboard display went blank except for a few red lights, one of which said ‘P/S’. The steering also became difficult. I turned off the engine and got out the car user’s manual. There was no information about what the ‘P/S’ light meant, but it said that the vehicle should be taken directly to the garage.
I sat there for a minute or so and considered calling the recovery service, but decided to turn the car on again and low and behold the radio and the dashboard display came on. I decided to drive home, avoiding the motorway in case the car failed when going 60mph. It was a very stressful journey and I was relieved to get home safely. When I did so I rang the local garage and arranged to take it in the following day. They identified a problem with the battery which has now been replaced and I am hoping this has solved the fault.
All the way home I tried to tell myself that it could be worse. The fact is that whatever was wrong with the car I have money in the bank to pay for it to be mended. In fact I have enough savings to buy a new car (well a second-hand one) with cash tomorrow. Now I don’t tell you this to brag and I don’t want to have to buy a new car, but I do have the luxury of being able to do so if I need to.
This all got me to wondering what it must be like not to be able to pay for those problems that crop up. I need a car for my job and so couldn’t go without one. I would therefore have had to get a bank loan or a car on credit. This would mean paying interest. If it was just a matter of paying for repairs that would be even more difficult if you didn’t have money in the bank. It might mean paying on a credit card if you have one or getting a pay day loan. Both of these mean that the repairs are likely to cost you more than you actually paid for them.
I felt stressed at the thought of having to get my car repaired or to have to buy a new one, but was at least able to tell myself that both of these options were open to me and within my means. I can only imagine how much more stress I would have felt if that were not the case.
Many financial bloggers recommend building up an emergency fund and the events of last week are a prime example of why this is so important. Life is a series of problems that we are given to solve and some, if not all of them, require money. Even if I could fix the car myself I would still have had to buy a new battery to install. We all like to think that things won’t happen and we’ve got much more interesting things to spend our money on than insuring against the future and events which in reality are inevitable.
So if you haven’t got an emergency fund then I would strongly encourage you to start putting away money for one. In the long run it will save you money as you will be able to avoid the interest payments associated with loans and credit card payments.