I always encourage readers of this site to save up an emergency fund that can cover your cost of living for at least 3-6 months and has enough of a cushion to handle anything unexpected that comes along if they can’t afford it. I am glad I followed my own advice. Experience showed me why it is important to save up for an unexpected disaster.
The Horrible Flush
One evening, I was in my condo after dinner and made a visit to the bathroom. I flushed, and as I walked out of the bathroom I heard a bubbling sound in my other bathroom. That’s odd, I thought, and I walked in to see what was going on.
I had no idea why, but my second toilet was bubbling. Perplexed, I flushed it to find that it was clogged and not draining. I thought that was weird, as it had not been used in at least 12 hours and my roommate would not have left a toilet in that condition. I plunged it and it would not clear.
I walked back into the other bathroom and, to my horror, saw water pouring out from the base of the toilet across the bathroom floor. I quickly turned off the flow to the toilet and grabbed a lot of towels to keep the water from spreading. I knew this was not just a plugged toilet, this was a serious problem.
The next morning, I called a plumber highly rated on Yelp first thing and they said someone would be over between 9am-11am. A little after noon, he finally showed up and got to work. They told me my issue was symptomatic of a deep drain clog, most likely not caused by a simple bathroom trip, and would require a toilet to be removed and a machine to deeply clear out the pipe.
The estimated cost was about $200. Fine, I said, just make it work.
So he went to work as I went back to my work, working at home that afternoon. He easily removed the toilet and cleared the pipes. The second toilet was instantly fixed. As he went to return the first toilet, he found another problem.
My toilet had not been sitting evening on the floor due to the tiling, and it was raised off from the wax seal, not giving a full connection to the floor, which is what caused the leak from the base of the toilet. After adding new bolts and adjusting the flange, he was able to get the toilet to set better and seal the leak, but it was not a quick fix. It took an extra hour beyond the estimated time of a drain clearing.
$340 Was Not a Big Deal
At the end, with parts, repairs, and extra time, my bill was $340. That is a lot of money. But, thanks to the emergency fund, I never had to worry. I always keep at least $5,000 in a “just in case” emergency fund, and have been working to save a $30,000 liberty fund.
This is a story when following my own advice worked out well for me.
What About You?
If you had a sudden $340 plumbing problem, or car repair, or medical bill, would you be ready to handle it? Please share your emergency fund strategy and progress in the comments.
P.S. – Pooping didn’t clog the drain, it just sounded clever when I was writing this.
Image by Wonderlane / flickr