It seems like there has been a lot of disaster and destruction in the news lately. Earthquakes, wildfires, flooding, tornadoes, and smaller scale events like the fire in Mapgirl’s neighborhood earlier this week.
Before I even begin talking about the subject, I want to reiterate Mapgirl’s statement that you need to make sure you are insured and that your insurance policy is up to date. Yes, that means you too, renters. I don’t care if you don’t think you own anything of value. If your building burns down or even if something less tragic happens, like a pipe bursts and destroys everything in your apartment, you’re going to want to be able to replace some of it. Your IKEA bed may not seem all that valuable to you now, but it’s better than sleeping on the floor.
I continually remind myself that stuff is just stuff. Yes, it may have sentimental value, but at the end of the day, it’s just things. That said, having watched coverage of the flooding in the midwest, I can’t even imagine having to rush through my home, pick out the few things that I can fit into my car, and just leaving the rest to be damaged or destroyed by the flood waters.
I spent a bit of time thinking about what I would want to rescue from my home, and it really forced me to think about what sort of value I place on items – and thus, where I should and shouldn’t be spending my money. (It also made me think about the fact that I have too much stuff.) What would I put into my car if I had to evacuate?
Of course, the first thing I would grab would be my cats. I don’t count them as stuff. Yes, they’re pets, and some would consider them possessions, but I think any pet owner would say that a pet is more than just something you own. (I would also take some clothes and any prescriptions that I might be on, supplies for the cats depending on where we’re going, and snacks and water, but that would be more for convenience and safety than to prevent things from getting destroyed. Phone/wallet/purse also falls into this category.)
I would take my laptop and my external hard drive. But because I use Carbonite (if you want to sign up, leave your e-mail for a referral link – you get an extra month free and I get 3 extra months), everything on my laptop is backed up and can be restored. Additionally, I keep a backup of all my photos, documents, and music on discs that I keep in my desk at work. This is one huge advantage to the digital age. A friend is currently working on scanning all of her old photos, and I think that is a project I might try to take on as well. But for now, I would grab my photo albums and the few framed photos I have around the house.
I keep a fire box with important paperwork like my birth certificate and passport and copies of my cats’ immunizations (I’m not sure those need to be in there, but then I know where they are). So I’d grab that, along with my filebox containing tax returns, school transcripts, banking info, etc. Of course, if I ever do anything about creating a digital filing system, that filebox would also not need to be rescued from impending disaster.
Other than that, I’m not entirely sure what I would grab. I have a box of “stuff” that I have saved – anything from awards to sweet notes from friends and family to old journals. It might make the cut, though I can’t say I know what’s all in that box at the moment (yet another thing to add to the to do list). There are also a few small items kept in a glass hutch that have a lot of meaning to me that I would take if there was time.
Yes, I have a lot of things that have a lot of sentimental value that, if there was time, I would try to save. Things that I can’t imagine ever voluntarily getting rid of. But at the end of the day, I don’t even have that many of those, and I wouldn’t be devastated by their loss. Most of those are tied to memories, and I would still have the memories.
So when I think about it, I don’t really have much in my home that I can’t bear to get rid of. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I plan to reduce my worldly possessions to what will fit in my car. While I don’t need the framed art on my wall or the collection of books on my shelf, I certainly enjoy them and have no plans to get rid of them anytime soon. And I would find it tough to know that all of that had been destroyed.
What does this mean in terms of personal finance? Well, as I said, it means that I should check my insurance, just to be sure. But I think it also means that I should continue to think about what I do and don’t need in my life and maybe where I can cut back to save money. And that I should be thankful that I haven’t had to worry about all my possessions being destroyed.
What would you put in your car if you had to evacuate?
Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.