Budgeting · Financial Health

On using that emergency fund

Congratulations! You’ve stored enough of your earnings to have a fully funded emergency fund.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) you now have to use it. And you don’t know for how long. A major challenge of living off of the emergency fund is having to make choices about downsizing your lifestyle. This is challenging because it’s been your lifestyle for so long it may difficult to realize where cuts are needed in order to choose between essentials and conveniences.

When you began saving you estimated how much you’d need for essential expenses. For example, transportation is a need; realistically you’re not going to stay locked inside all day. The other day I got off the train and checked my phone to see that the next bus I needed to get home would be over 45 minutes! Just inhumane, especially as the temperature was below freezing. I couldn’t remember having to wait so extremely long for a 15 minute bus ride. Then I remembered I’d been budgeting for taxi rides in these instances. In this case, I couldn’t justify a taxi as an essential expense but my only other choices were to freeze and wait or freeze and walk. I choose to walk.

It would have been easy to classify the expense as essential when it’s actually more of a convenience. The taxi would have saved me time but I didn’t need to urgently get anywhere other than to the warmth of my home. Walking provided my daily exercise and even if I choose to wait, I could have sat inside a nearby restaurant and used my time productively. Taking a taxi would have avoided the inconvenience of waiting in the cold but it wasn’t essential to get to my destination.

While I’ve budgeted for a few months, I don’t know how long it will truly take to find my next job but I am choosing to be conscious of my expenses (and weather a few inconveniences) until then.


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