In Case of Emergency

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(The car may have a birthday bow, but I totally paid for it.)

There are myriad reasons why I’ll never forget the day my parents dropped me off at university. Early that morning at the beginning of September, we loaded up my little red Pontiac and my dad’s F150 with all the bits and bobs I’d deemed necessary for dorm life, and started on our journey. It wasn’t a long one – my alma mater is only about an hour outside of my hometown – but of course, it still held a great deal of significance for me. I’d been pretty wishy washy that summer – I didn’t really know what I was doing with my life, despite signing up for higher ed, and had been particularly flighty during that final week at home. I can only assume that it was for this reason that I found myself that morning, not yet on the edge of town, puttering to a full stop onto the side of the road. With a sigh, my car seemed to be offering me a great, big middle finger: I had run out of gas for the first time.

Adding insult to injury, my parents pulled off behind me on the shoulder, just moments later. In another situation (you know, like a genuine and unforeseeable car problem) having my parents pull up conveniently to save the day would have been a lifesaver worthy of eternal gratitude. In this particular instance though, I’d have rather called my worst nemesis for help than my dad. On the day they were finally ready to test my independence by dropping me off at school, I’d proven myself incompetent less than two kilometres from home. On the upside, ever since then I know exactly how far my car can get once the “LOW FUEL” light starts flashing, which I’ll admit has come in handy in the past four years.

I don’t remember what was said (probably for the better), but my dad put enough fuel in my tank for me to make it back to the gas station in town, and we started the trip again. Hours later, after we’d made it to our destination and unpacked, my parents took me out for lunch.

If you’ve ever been in Kingston Ontario on “Move In Day” during lunch, you’ll know that none of the restaurants is a particularly pleasant place to be. Everyone’s dropping their kid off for the first time, the service is slow and there’s no parking. It’s a pretty high-stress environment, and having a conversation is difficult. The only thing I really remember about that day is that my dad took a fifty dollar bill from his wallet, signed it, and handed it to me.

He said, “This is not for pizza.”

Okay, it wasn’t that cryptic. The signed fifty was to be tucked away in my wallet in case of emergency – he said he was going to check and see if I had it whenever I came home. I can’t remember if he ever did, but I kept it.

I have spent it. I’ve spent it a couple of times over the past four years, and while I’ve never technically used it for pizza, I used it for beer once. It’s come in handy, but truthfully I haven’t ever used it on an emergency. Every time I’ve spent it though, I’ve replaced it within 24 hours: it’s always in my wallet, and I treat it like it isn’t even there. It’s from that fifty that I learned one of my first financial lessons: to always have a buffer, just in case. As badly as that day started out, it also set me on a path to financial literacy and made me realize my dad probably had another few gems up his sleeve to help me learn…


avatarAuthor Bio ~ Laura (23 Posts)

Laura is a recent graduate who moved back in with her parents for a year to complete her post-graduate studies. It turned out to be a great way to save money and learn more about personal finance - a topic she realized was sorely overlooked throughout her entire formal education. Since realizing this, Laura has started documenting her personal finance journey (and also her entry into the Real World) on her new blog, Dutch Baby.

One Response to “In Case of Emergency”

  1. A good lesson well learned. When I was younger I too carried a fifty dollar bill tucked away for emergency. I didn’t use it for a very long time but one day my car broke down on the 401. I too was out of gas and had to be towed to a gas station. I learned two things. One:carrying the fifty was wise
    Two: nobody (including tow truck operators) want to take fifty dollar bills :-(

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