4 Surprising Expenses My Emergency Fund Has Covered

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You'd be surprised how many different situations can cause you to tap into your emergency fund.

Saving money in an emergency fund is one of the single most important things you can do to avoid debt and protect your financial security. In fact, building an emergency fund has always been my top priority, even above paying loans off early.

Emergencies vary, and it's impossible to plan ahead for every one. That's what makes an emergency fund essential. They prepare you for those unexpected expenses.

My own rainy day fund has covered a number of unusual costs that I definitely didn't plan ahead for. Here are four of the most surprising things covered by my emergency savings.

1. A large down payment on utilities

Many years ago, my husband and I bought a vacation home in Florida. We had never owned property in that state before and were excited to get settled there. But when we called to set up our utilities, the electric company wanted a whopping $980 as a deposit.

This was far more than we'd expected. But it was based on the fact that we'd never had an account with this company and the usage of the prior owners (who had run the air conditioner all the time during a very hot summer).

Since we'd just spent a lot of money on closing costs to purchase the property, our house account was drained. Of course, we needed to be able to get our electricity turned on. So we had to come up with the money somewhere -- and fast, since the previous owners had already scheduled for the utilities to be turned off. The good news was we were able to tap our emergency fund so the electric company could open our account before we lost power.

2. Overseas pet surgery

Our 11-year-old dog was extremely healthy -- until she wasn't. What our vet said was a "mild" heart murmur actually turned out to be congestive heart failure. We were told our dog had just a year left to live. To make matters worse, we were told she would likely pass away in a very unpleasant way due to a mitral valve defect that would cause her lungs to fill up with fluid.

When we asked what could be done, we were told the only hope she had was to have a complicated and intense surgery performed by only two doctors in the world. They happened to be located in Japan and London.

Obviously, pet insurance wasn't going to cover this, and the surgery was expensive -- as was the time off from work and the travel to England. Thankfully, our emergency fund had enough money to cover the procedure, and we were able to save her life.

At just over 14, she's snoring beside me as I write this (after taking a five-mile walk). And the cost of the surgery remains the single best thing I've ever spent money on. If it wasn't for our emergency fund, we likely wouldn't have been able to make it happen.

3. Tree removal

We live in a wooded area, so falling trees are a fact of life. Usually, my husband and father-in-law take care of them. But when a tree fell across our driveway a day after they had left on a trip, I ended up having to call a tree removal service.

The cost was around $900, and it wasn't something we'd budgeted for. So it came out of the emergency fund. It was a good thing I had this money available, too, as the tree removal service didn't take credit cards.

4. Car repairs after a break-in

Shortly after buying a brand new car, someone broke into it and stole my GPS. Unfortunately, replacing the window was extremely expensive. I was still in law school at the time and didn't have a car repair fund or a lot of cash in my bank account to fall back on. Fortunately, I'd saved up an emergency fund with earnings from my summer job. So I was able to pay the bill for repairs without borrowing.

These expenses aren't common ones, but they just go to show all the different kinds of emergencies that can happen, even when you think you're prepared. It takes a lot of effort and sacrifice to save up an emergency fund, but when you're prepared for surprise expenses and don't have to stress about how to pay for them, it's all worth it in the end.

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