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Ask Dave

Emergency Test

Arianna needs some encouragement after a bunch of Murphy visits.

QUESTION: Arianna in Nashville says their emergency fund was depleted after their car broke down and her husband required surgery. Now they have a roof leak. Dave says this is a test, and do not flunk the test by going into debt.

Dave's ANSWER: When we were going through bankruptcy, I had a roof that was leaking. As soon as we said that we weren't borrowing money, water started dripping off the light fixture above the kitchen table. As soon as you make the decision to not borrow money, it seems like all you-know-what breaks loose. It's just part of the territory.

What I would do is just try to figure out what some of your options are. I had a guy come out and give me a bid to put the roof on for $6,000. He might as well have said $600,000 because I had nowhere near $6,000. Another guy said he could patch it temporarily and at least stop the worst of it for $1,000, but we didn't even have that. We had two little kids and no money.

Then another guy came out and gave me another $1,000 estimate, but then he told me what I needed to do was go to Home Depot and get some stuff to smear up there. It will look ugly, but he could show me what to do. He said that could last me for a few months until I saved up the money and then gave me a bid to fix the roof for $3,500. I fixed it, then saved up the money, and gave him the business because he showed me how to delay it.

I just kept digging for options and finding different bids and different suggestions until I found something in that situation that allowed me to delay it so I could pay for it. The good news is that $2,000 will fix your situation if you push stop on your total money makeover and save real fast to fix this roof, and you'll do whatever option you need until you have that $2,000. Then you figure out what that option is. I hope it’s not a tarp. It's pretty tacky, but if you have to do it, you have to do it.

I am not going to tell you to borrow money. I'm going to tell you that this is a test, so don't flunk the test. You can do this. I did it. In fact, the same thing happened to our stupid car. It's like God was saying, "This is a test." Did you really mean it when you said you're not borrowing money anymore, or were you just joking around until it got really tough?

I think there is a way to work around these things. You just have to change your mindset. You get creative and keep gathering options until you find the right thing that you can actually do to solve the problem. Something like what I just outlined will work.

The good news is that $2,000 will get you a long way into solving the problem. You need to get tight bids and ones that are hard, meaning they are not estimates, but actual bids. You can't have them going over. You can't have someone come to you and say that it will be another $500 because you'll only have $2,000 saved. You must have it all tied down and put a nice bow on the deal and then schedule the work based on when you'll actually have the money. I think you can do it. I did it, and it's about really drawing that line in the sand and saying you are really not borrowing money ever again.

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