Debt doesn’t just happen.
Debt happens because life piles up on us quickly, or we fail to understand what we are getting into.
Lastly, debt happens because we are human and we live our lives, which includes giving into temptation and getting through disasters each and every day.
For the month of April, it was all disasters.
Do you know the “Rule of Three”? No, it’s not that three celebrities die in quick succession (R.I.P. Prince, David Bowie, and Merle Haggard).
It’s that three terrible things have to happen before it gets better. It’s the “when it rains, it pours” situation that almost each and every one of us knows so well.
For my family, the “Rule of Three” isn’t just superstition. It’s reality. Much of our current debt revolves around three bad things happening before we can recover.
For example, my pregnancy and hospitalization, a caesarian section that kept me from working, and three NICU/PICU visits for our baby during the first three months of her life. That’s both pricey and painful.
So when we took on our debt goal of paying $20,001 by Dec. 3, 2016, we knew that we had to plan ahead for the “Rule of Three.” Much of that involved building a sizable emergency fund.
We saved up $1,000 per person in our family, for a $3,000 total.
In my mind, that would cover our hospital deductible, an unexpected trip back to our hometown of Chicago, and three months of rent in case of a job loss.
None of those three things happened in April, aside from a few doctor’s bills popping up. What did happen was a car accident. Long story short, I am learning that my new state of Wyoming doesn’t take very good care of their highways during snowy weather, and my poor little car ended up in a ditch with a busted bumper.
Given how much we use the car, we couldn’t just let it sit. When we got the $4,000 repair bill, we bit the bullet and tapped into our car insurance to get the cost down to $500.
Following the car accident, I lost a decently paying client, which reduced my income by a quarter per month, and we dealt with a collections agency who claimed that we hadn’t paid a sizable hospital bill from two years ago (though we’re fighting it).
The “Rule of Three” strikes again!
But this time, unlike all the times before, we were covered by that blessing that is our emergency fund. No credit cards. No unpaid debts. We took the proactive route.
The bottom line is that, while paying off a large amount of debt is admirable, it isn’t exactly smooth sailing.
Unless you put your life in a bubble and seal yourself in, you can’t predict what is around the corner. What you can do is be prepared, be safe, and be real.
Only 53 percent of respondents to a survey from May 2015 can access $400 for an emergency, according to the Federal Reserve Bank, – similar to our dearly departed bumper – without borrowing money or selling something they own.
Staying in that 53 percent is more important to us than paying off our debt. Being prepared for the next round of “Three” is a bigger priority than the chance to finally kill a credit card.
That means, for the month of April, our official debt payback total comes out to $600 (all pre-car disaster), which brings us to $12,067 for 2016. Only $7,934 to go.