My $1,031.20 Chipped Tooth

Life Doesn't Take Visa, It Takes a Few Facepalms and an Emergency Fund

Life happens. One day, you’re in a study room at the library, getting tons of writing done and making money. The next, you’re home, sneaking a bite from the tub of cookie dough in your freezer when one of your back molars chips.

You freeze, mid-bite, wondering if that was your imagination. Sure enough, you gingerly reach your fingers into your mouth and extract a portion of your tooth. You just stare.

Next comes the expression of suppressed misery as you slowly feel your chipped tooth to survey the damage. The cookie dough has lost its allure. Everything is jagged and unnatural, but thankfully there’s no pain.

You wander around for the next few days, compulsively checking your broken tooth every 3.8 seconds. Finally, the day of your dental appointment arrives and the news you secretly knew was coming, arrives.

“There’s too much filling and not enough tooth. You’re going to need a crown. After insurance, it’s going to cost $1,031.20.”


That’s one expensive chipped tooth.

I called Dontae and shared the bad news with him. I felt guilty thinking about how many things we could buy with that money. I thought about the dozens of articles I’d have to write to make that much.

I shared these feelings with my husband and he answered back with, “We’ll take it from our HSA, and what that won’t cover, the emergency fund will. You know you’d never have to pay for this with your writing. It’s covered.”

Those two words.

It’s covered.

That’s what we learned (slooowly) what saving for emergencies is all about.

It’s for the moment when the unexpected calamity already happened and you’re just about to pay for it.

It’s for the moment when the dental assistant tells you that you can pay in installments and you’re able to say, “We can pay it off today.”

It’s for that moment when you’re discussing the event with your spouse and you calmly follow the plan you set in place years ago instead of arguing and casting blame.

How We Built an Emergency Fund

After taking Financial Peace University in 2011, we learned about and followed the baby steps to financial freedom. Here are the first three:

  • Save $1,000 for emergencies
  • Pay off all non-mortgage debt
  • Save 3-6 months of expenses for emergencies

It took us two months to coordinate our very poor budgeting and saving skills as newlyweds to complete baby step #1. But we did it.

It took 22 months of aggressive saving to pay off our $22,000 of debt. But we did it.

Finally, we plugged away at our emergency fund and managed to keep it steadily above the “3 months of expenses” mark. Now we put away everything extra toward a house down payment, replenishing the emergency fund, and saving for other expenses like our HSA, auto insurance, clothing, Christmas, etc.

It’s NOT perfect. But, it is so worth the work.

Ever have a face palm financial moment? Leave a comment below.

Photo Credit: dentist878 via Compfight cc

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6 thoughts on “My $1,031.20 Chipped Tooth

    • I’ve always had a troublesome mouth, so I wasn’t too surprised. Wish I would have flossed better as a kid. Now I’m going to be that pesky adult shaking my finger in kids’ faces saying, “Back in my day…” Actually, I sincerely hope I don’t become that person, haha.
      Laura recently posted…My $1,031.20 Chipped ToothMy Profile

  1. We are in the midst of saving our big emergency fund, and we keep getting significant dings. A car repair ($1,200). A vet bill ($1,600). And a low Canadian dollar to boot – my husband buys most of his business equipment from the U.S. and every dollar’s worth now costs $1.47. Yikes! But the good news is that none of these things have made us go back into debt. It’s all been covered. Just like your tooth. I hope it’s doing well now.
    Prudence Debtfree recently posted…Debt Déjà Vu: Get out of Debt And STAY out!My Profile

    • I like your choice of words when you said “significant dings.” Stuff like that is VERY significant, but when you have the money to cover them, they’re dings instead of wrecking balls. So awesome that you’ve managed to come through all that without going deeper into debt!

      The tooth’s good. I have a temporary crown in place for the next two weeks, so I have to chew all my carrots on the other side of my mouth and floss differently, but no paid or discomfort. Whoop whoop.
      Laura recently posted…My $1,031.20 Chipped ToothMy Profile

  2. Oh no!!! What a bummer. We just found out yesterday that our half of our daughter’s braces will cost just over $2,600. The plan: ramp up the HSA contributions so that we have the cash to get it done and can reduce our taxable income at the same time. Hopefully we won’t have to take a dime out of savings. It’s frustrating when these types of expenses come up, but it’s such a relief to be able to pay for them with cash, isn’t it?
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Finding My Frugal Farmer in SpainMy Profile

    • Way to have a plan in place, Laurie. We are so glad that a portion of every one of Dontae’s checks goes into our HSA. It already took a hit a few months ago, so we had to rob a little from savings, but you’re right, it is a huge relief to pay things off and stay on top.
      Laura recently posted…My $1,031.20 Chipped ToothMy Profile