Fill Your Emergency Fund With Time

Emergency Fund Time

For the last six weeks, it seems that all I’ve done is sleep and cough. And wake myself up from sleep to cough.

The virus that brought me down this year was atypically nasty, and it was quite humbling to be so sick for so long.

And Life Goes On

When we’re sick, we still need to eat, drink, and bathe. Bills, mail, and emails still arrive, and the senders expect responses and payments. Our plants threaten to die if they don’t receive enough water, and our bosses and clients still expect us to do the work.

I’m sure you would understand if a Friday came and went without a post here, but I made a commitment to myself to publish every week for a year and I’m too close to give up now.

Emergency Funds Saved The Day

Money can help solve problems, and when we arrived home from the trip on which I caught the plague* to find a flood under our washer, I couldn’t physically complete all the steps required to pull it out, take it apart, diagnose the problem, locate a replacement part, reassemble the machine, test it, and repeat as needed.

It was all I could do to climb into bed and Google a repairman on my phone, call and croak out a few sentences of explanation, and crawl down the stairs to let him in.

I’m normally up for a challenge and a learning opportunity, but that day was not a good day. When it took a repairman less than 20 minutes to do what would have taken me several days, I knew that it was an excellent use of our emergency fund.

Non-Monetary Emergency Funds

When I hear the term ‘Emergency Fund,’ I think first of money, but this isn’t actually what helped us the most.

Yes, money can buy almost everything, but we had cushions built up to save us time and effort too.


We had frozen pizzas, frozen fruits and veggies, and a pantry full of dehydrated rice, beans, and soup to get us through the days we weren’t strong enough to leave the house. And popcorn. Glorious popcorn that we popped by the bucketful.


Our garden and fruit trees are on drip irrigation with a timer, so they thrive whether we pay attention to them or not. Sometimes a water line gets clogged and the plant gets an impromptu stress test, and occasionally we’ll unwittingly create a fountain for the neighborhood to enjoy, but for the most part the system works quite well.


My goal is Inbox Zero and most days are successful. So when I can’t think clearly enough to respond professionally for a while, at least I’m only starting from scratch rather than from a few weeks behind. Now that I’m feeling well enough to tackle my inbox again, it’s comforting to know that even with the delay my responses aren’t lagging that much behind everyone else’s.


Our internet, water, natural gas, electric, HOA, insurance, and credit card bills are all set up on automatic payment from our checking account. Typically, I’ll receive a bill, review it for errors, and monitor that the payment processed correctly. For the past few months, though, I let it go and trusted that all would be well. And it was.

Blog Posts

Oh, how I wish there were a way to automate the writing, but at least I can automate the posting. I had six weeks of posts and emails already written and scheduled, which turned out to be just enough.

Feeling Better

It’s wonderful to finally be feeling better, and I’m grateful for my health. As I look around my life now and try to pick up the pieces, it’s pleasantly surprising how little collateral damage there was after so much time doing only the bare minimum to survive.

Yes, the house is dirty and there’s some laundry to be done, but we didn’t starve, the power wasn’t shut off, and our fruit trees are thriving. And a post got published every Friday, even though I didn’t write a single word.

Replenishing Our Emergency Fund

The next few weeks will be busy as we catch up and rebuild our buffers, but having to use them only reinforced their importance.

Travel and illness are stressful, and anything we can do ahead of time to make life just a little easier during hard times is more than worth the effort.

What do you include in your emergency funds? What other tasks have you been able to automate? Let me know in the comments below. 


*It wasn’t actually the plague, but it sounds nice and dramatic, doesn’t it? Of course I was generous enough to share it with my husband so we were both out of commission for a while.

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Comments 19

  1. That sounds terrible. I’m glad you are feeling better!

    I love this idea. These are things we don’t really think about, but they could definitely have caused you some undue stress if you hadn’t prepared. I’m going to stock my freezer with frozen pizzas ASAP!

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  2. Good to see you’re feeling better, Julie! 🙂 Sounds like a nasty one. If only we could automate laundry somehow.

    These are excellent examples of how buffers can save the day. I’m a planner and I like the feeling of being ahead so I don’t have to cram things in at the last minute. I was 2 months ahead on blog posts, but with a vacation, doctor’s appointments out of town, and an upcoming surgery, my buffer is running lower, but I’m good through April! I’m sure grateful to have it!

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      Isn’t it amazing how time can fly by? Good for you for having such a nice buffer. I was torn between the security and not being able to write spur-of-the-moment posts on current events without a lot of work to change the order, but I think that planning ahead is the clear winner.
      Best wishes for your surgery!

  3. Glad to hear you are feeling better Julie! I know people at work that have had two or three rounds of illness this year. Glad you had the posts ready to go. I would have had to shut things down because I just haven’t been able to get ahead. I wish I had a uniform to wear to work. It would automate a lot of morning decisions! We have most things (bills, etc.) automated too. I just don’t want to use more “bandwith” on things that I don’t have to worry about. I hope spring is a healthier season for you!

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      Thanks, Vicki. I shouldn’t complain because I hadn’t really been sick in almost five years, and that made it all the more surprising.

      Wearing a uniform is a great time-saver, and it’s nice to not have to waste any mental energy on my scrubs except making sure they’re clean. I have heard of professional women who have a uniform of a certain color of blouse with black pants and they have multiples of each. Does this sound appealing to you or would you be bored with it?

  4. Sorry that you were sick, but glad you’re feeling better! Six weeks is pretty epic.

    This is a great point that most people forget. We focus on building up a monetary emergency fund, but often ignore the rest. I am guilty of failing to build a blog post emergency fund, for sure. I’ve missed a few posts due to busy weeks at work and illness that wouldn’t have needed to be missed if I was better about building up a back log when I had more free time. I’m working on this now, though!

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      Matt, I have a hard time deciding where I stand on this. Yes, I had some written in advance, but I also think that we should be allowed to (in fact, encouraged to) take vacations. Vacation should mean true rest, not just working twice as hard the week before and the week after to make up for being gone. Will I ever learn to practice what I preach?

      At my ‘real’ job, I only get paid for the shifts I work. There’s no paid time off for anything at all, so full-timers who want to take vacation work just as many shifts but squish them into fewer days. We’re also highly encouraged NOT to call in sick, and if we do take a day off we won’t be paid and we’ll have the guilt of calling in a colleague to cover for us. It’s sad that many companies, even in healthcare, don’t do much to promote employee health.

  5. Jeez, thank god you didn’t have the plague. I was nervous there for a moment, especially since I know you have a fondness for hiking in the desert. Anyway, of all the things you mentioned that pertain to our hidden emergency fund, automated bill pay is what resonated with me most. I remember years back dreading the start of a new month. I would sit at the kitchen table and spend an hour or so cutting, folding, licking, pasting, and writing to get all my payments ready to mail. How archaic those days look in retrospect! Thanks for another great post, Julie. And I’m so glad you’re feeling better. Colds aren’t fun.

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      Thanks, Mr. G. I too remember having to write actual checks–The Horror!
      Bill pay is great as long as the companies don’t mess up. Over all the years, Sprint (twice) and Healthnet (once) have been the only ones to totally botch things, so that’s a pretty good record. I also had a waiter at a restaurant increase his tip significantly once too, so every now and then double-checking the statements is worthwhile.

  6. So happy to hear you are feeling better – I went through a similar illness in January and it wiped me out. Thankfully I didn’t have a washer emergency during that time! 🙂 You are so right, though. Emergency funds are important not just for financial downfalls but for physical ones as well. Being sick for so long takes all your strength and, though it is hard to relax to the idea of not controlling everything, sometimes you need some frozen pizza and lots of popcorn to make it through. The collateral damage is never as bad as you expect it to be. 🙂

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  7. That’s an interesting item to add to our emergency funds. I like it! Time is all we have, yet we’re all so willing to to trade it away on things that don’t really matter. I’m trying to me much more protective of my time, even if I have to pay for that (like you did with your dishwasher).

    The whole reason I’m pursuing FIRE is so that I can buy my freedom. So why wouldn’t I buy back a bit of time before then if I can?

    Glad to hear you’re feeling better!

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      Thanks, Ty.
      Sometimes I think of saving time as a game, but it can conflict with my decluttering penchant too. For example, when I go to Costco and buy four tubs of peanuts and two mega-packs of toilet paper, it means that I won’t have to buy any more for a while and will have quicker shopping trips in the future, but it’s a slippery slope.
      However, I don’t know how anyone in the desert could have gardened before timed irrigation systems were developed. They’re only second to AC.

  8. I’m so glad you’re feeling better. That sounds awful. And major props for being so far ahead on your blog. I always kick myself for writing the week of (night before?!), and I never regretted it more than when morning sickness showed up.

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      Yes, but your posts are so heartfelt and timely. I love them for their honesty and depth, and sometimes that gets edited out when we have too much time to think about it.

  9. I’m sorry you were sick, but glad you had put aside the resources to help you through. Thinking of your emergency stash as well as your emergency fund really does expand the scope a lot. We stock the freezer, but I’m particularly bad at writing posts ahead.

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      If we think of it in terms of ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ having food is way more important than writing, so it looks like you’ve prioritized correctly!

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