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When You are Desperate for Cash…


As soon as my husband and I received our paychecks a week ago, I wrote a check for $1,000 to Toyota. If I don’t pay this chunk immediately, I miraculously find ways to spend it on anything other than debt reduction.

The VERY NEXT DAY, the electrical went out in our garage. My husband said he was more than willing to prolong repairing it but couldn’t because he thought it was ‘potentially life threatening’ blah, blah, blah.

I offered to avoid the garage area, the open electrical box, and the live wires near the light switch but for some reason, he didn’t trust me to remember not to touch the switch while hungrily running to the garage freezer for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s – plus, there was some mention of a ‘potential fire hazard’.

The cost of the repairs? $150.

The amount of cash in our account? $162.

The amount of food in our fridge? None.

Our grocery budget funded the repairs.

It’s times like these, we are supposed to dive into our emergency fund. Electrical/housing/safety problem definitely qualifies as an EMERGENCY but for some reason, I can’t touch that cash without feeling uneasy.

Instead, I looked around my house for something to sell.

My eyes fell on a lamp, still in the box with a receipt taped to the top, which I purchased 2 weeks ago. The lamp in our living room broke and all we have is a fixture with a bare bulb. I bought a $40 floor lamp from Target to replace it but felt uneasy about spending money so I left it in the box while I debated it.

While I stood in the returns line to get back some cold hard cash for groceries, my sister called. When she asked what I was doing, I told her I was returning a lamp for grocery money.

You know you’ve reached a certain consistent level of crazy when your sister doesn’t hiccup over the above statement and simply says, “Cool. Anyway, are you coming to mom and dad’s today?”


  • Reply Nichole@40daysof |

    I have done this before. Even pretty recently. I was kind of shocked that I was doing it, since we had become debt free except our mortgage. But we had moved to a more expensive house and I had a horrible time with the new budget. I completely understand not wanting to touch the emergency fund.

  • Reply NYGIRL |

    Isn’t that ALWAYS the way things happen? I somehow think that not having to dip into the ER fund by taking back the lamp gave you a much greater sense of satisfaction. Good for you.

  • Reply Eddie |

    No offense Beks, but I think a bit of life prioritizing is due here for the incident…

    Re-read and digest what you wrote: “My husband said he was more than willing to prolong repairing it but couldn’t because he thought it was ‘potentially life threatening’ blah, blah, blah.

    It’s times like these, we are supposed to dive into our emergency fund. Electrical/housing/safety problem definitely qualifies as an EMERGENCY but for some reason, I can’t touch that cash without feeling uneasy.”

    So, when something as a potential life endangering (what if a visitor stopped by with a child and wandered?) issue arises, and your husband (bless his soul) says it IS important, well, shouldn’t you have gone to the emergency fund immediately? Of course.

    Doing so serves 2 purposes: one is to get the job fixed ASAP, and two, is having the fund there to use FOR its’ intended purpose may have saved you a chunk of anxiety about raiding the food budget…

    I’m just suggesting you look at it more pragmatically…and hope make a future decisions a bit easier to make or manage if something of that ilk ever pops-up again.

    NEVER allow yourself to get blase enough about your finances and funds set aside so they go unused when the situation warrants they be used.

    (Been there and done that)

  • Reply Stephan |

    its great that you didnt dip into your emergency fund, but your budget is clearly not where it should be. This type of situation can be avoided, but it will take some more serious decisions regardign your spending and saving(cable, internet, landline telephone, etc can all be eliminated to save a couple of hundred dollars a month, perfect food money)

  • Reply Mary |

    You need a stockpile of food. Canned stuff, boxed stuff, enough to get by for a few weeks if need be.

    What if you lived in TN and you were in a flood zone, stranded in your upstairs, and the rescuers couldn’t get to you? You can’t eat a lamp. You should at least have canned soup with a pop top that could be eaten cold if necessary.

    And, seriously, check around and see if there are any food trucks in your area. I hear you get pretty good stuff.

  • Reply Michelle H. |

    I liked “the new level of crazy”!! ha! Hey you did what you had to do – good going!

  • Reply emmi |

    I’m with you that this wasn’t an emergency.

    Around here we suffer from the floodgate problem . . . once you open the floodgate, break the seal, pop the cork, whatever you want to call it, it’s hard to hold back on the next thing that suddenly seems like an emergency. Total obedience to self-made rules is much easier to deal with mentally. You don’t have to decide if this is “bad enough”. When it truly is, you will know. It’s somewhere around the time you go dumpster diving at your grocers at 3am on the night you just happen to know they clean out the cheese case.

  • Reply Beks |

    Eddie – My blase response was a joke. Obviously I wouldn’t let a life threatening potential fire hazardous condition exist knowingly. Apparently I need to be a little less sarcastic.

    Stephan – I live on a zero balance budget. All money has a place. There is no ‘floating cash’ on purpose. Floating cash is wasted. There simply wasn’t a category for weird electrical work. I run a lean budget – every dollar has a spot.

    Mary – Ha ha! Yup, you can’t eat a lamp. My husband and I have been eating the food out of our pantry so it didn’t get too old – perhaps we should have left some!

    Michelle – Thanks!

    Emmi – You hit the hammer on the head. I don’t want my first reaction to always grab for stored cash. I want to check out every option before I spent. Heck, spending is what got me here in the first place! I haven’t gone dumpster diving but if they have good cheese… I might consider it! ; )

  • Reply Joseph |

    Not spending money frivolously is a great thing. But this qualifies as a time when you need to plunk down the money to keep yourself safe and your home functioning smoothly. Thrifty is good. Miserly is not.

  • Reply mikey |

    Good for you, girl! Lamps taste horrible. Ignore those who just don’t get it – or get sarcasm…

  • Reply Christa |

    Hi Beks~

    I think this was a great idea! We also do a zero balance budget and the two categories we can dip into if we want/need to are food and gas. I’ve done the return thing quite a few times- when I bought the stuff I couldn’t live without it then something better or wiser comes along that I’d rather spend my money on. That’s the whole reason stores have return policies. I’m all for retail therapy (on a budget) 🙂

  • Reply Sally |

    Hi Beks,
    I think most people could tell you were being sarcastic! Please don’t adjust your style. I hate reading blogs where every word and comment is explained with a proviso and an explanatory note in brackets in case anyone doesn’t get it, or doesn’t agree.
    I still enjoy reading bloggingawaydebt nearly three years after I started!

  • Reply Cate |

    I don’t understand all the criticism, honestly! I think it’s pretty obvious that if necessary, you would have dipped into the emergency fund…but as it was, you happened to have a lamp sitting around that you could return. I call that creative. 🙂

  • Reply scotch200 |

    It is refreshing to read a blog that is personal rather than one that just quotes facts. It is more likely to get a following and keep people interested. Good writing!

  • Reply Bankrupty Ben |

    Hi Beks,

    I’ve got a couple of articles on my website about reducing expense but man you are hardcore. I bow before your frugality. My sister would have torn me a new one about how i’m so cheap

So, what do you think ?