My boyfriend and I recently moved out of a rent-controlled apartment in Los Angeles.
I realize that the above isn’t a popular statement.
When you’re sitting on a $1,400 one-bedroom apartment where the rent can’t go up more than 3% a year, you really don’t want to give that up and you might think anyone who will is downright crazy. Yet we did, and I am (almost) positive it was the right choice.
A few months ago, we were walking back to our apartment when a man drove up yelling obscenities, highly sexual comments, and a whole host of unmentionable things. It was so completely out of the blue, made weirder because we weren’t even provoking anyone.
We ran inside the apartment, but the man saw exactly where we went. Knowing where we lived, he yelled at us through the door and threatened to come back again. That was the moment that made us question the safety of our surroundings.
We toyed with a lot of options before deciding to move. Our apartment is easily seen from the street. Nonetheless, we looked into security cameras, home security systems, and putting additional bars on the windows. Our less-than-cooperative landlord combined with the idea of buying monstrously expensive security equipment brought us to the bracing reality: We should just move.
Yes, it was an overly-cautious move. But we were lucky enough to quickly find an amazing place at a reasonable price and decided to do what was right for us.
Ultimately, I think this is exactly what that ever elusive "emergency fund" is for. You have an emergency fund so that you can pay to get out of a bad situation.
For example, if you live with a significant other, but you want to break up with them, not having the money might hold you back from moving out (this is sometimes referred to lovingly as a "f*ck off" fund).
Or, if you want to leave a job because your boss treats you terribly, not knowing how you’d pay your rent without that paycheck puts you in a precarious position.
Similarly, if you feel like your security is compromised in your apartment, having the funds to remove yourself from the situation is absolutely crucial.
We ended up looking for places in our price range, and decided we’d only move if the new place felt like a step up from the old one. We didn’t just want to be driven out by fear. We wanted to treat this horrible situation as an opportunity to find a place we loved. We got lucky, and found exactly that (for a good price).
But there was a rub. To secure the new place, we had to put down a deposit (consisting of the usual first and last month’s rent) on the spot. Because we didn't plan to move, we weren't saving for it. So I tapped my emergency fund.
And that’s how I spent $6,000 in one day.
Fortunately, it didn’t set my personal financial goals back too much, because I had saved for something weird to happen. Being able to take the money out of my emergency savings so quickly meant that I could give my boyfriend time to pay me back, and it didn’t mess with any of my monthly bills.
It’s now six weeks later, and I’m almost done paying my emergency fund back. After my boyfriend paid me back his share, I needed to replenish only $3,000 of my e-fund. By the end of this month, it will (at least financially) feel like this whole moving debacle never even happened.
Seriously, go ahead and use my misfortune as a reason why you need an emergency fund. Though, ideally, you’ll never get threatened outside your apartment by a guy who vows to come back with a gun.
But the reality is that life happens. And life happens a lot.
Financial experts will say you need three to six months worth of expenses saved up in your emergency fund. And that’s true.
But what’s more true is that you need enough money saved up so that you can move at a moment’s notice without going into credit card debt, enough money that you can support yourself for a couple months if you get laid off, and enough money that you can walk out of a job where you’ve been harassed without worrying about how you can afford your bills.
Build up that fund so you can leave your drama in the rearview mirror.