I am excited to bring you a guest post today about how preparing financially can have a profound impact on how you react to a natural disaster.
Today’s guest post is from Mattie Givens of Growing the Givens.
Mattie is a working mom and overly excited Enneagram 7 who blogs at Growing The Givens. She has a passion for helping women set great goals and finding time in their busy schedules to achieve those goals. You can find productivity tips, marriage goal setting plans and resources to manage all that life throws at you on her blog or by following Mattie on Instagram!
In August of 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit the coast of Texas and then traveled over to Houston where it stopped and dumped 56 inches of rain in 3 days. It was a large scale disaster that leftover 135,000 households flooded or damaged.
Our family was one of those families who experienced flooding in our home during Harvey. We got about 2 feet of water in our house which meant that pretty much all of our furniture and belongings were ruined. It is a pretty devastating thing to see all of your belongings carried out to the curb to be discarded as trash.
What had been our joy-filled home just a few days earlier was now just an empty house that smelled like mildew and mold.
My husband and I had to decide what our next steps were going to be. We needed to decide if we were going to try and restore our home and make it our own again, or were we going to try to sell our flooded house and find another area to live in with less risk of ever flooding again.
There is a lot to consider when buying a house at any point of your life, and add on all of the stress that comes with a big event like a flood and it makes it tough to think clearly! We also had an 8-month-old at the time which led us to want to avoid having to live in a temporary space while our home was going through what could be a year-long renovation/restoration process.
We had also been flooded one time before Havey in another freak storm that ended up just sitting over our neighborhood in Houston. So we knew what we were up against with the restoration and we just didn’t want to risk ever being flooded again.
So we decided to sell our flooded home.
Financially, the big hit on selling our flooded home would be that we would have to sell it to an investor and the home was now only worth lot value. Our first home, the one that we purchased right after we got married, with all of the hopes and expectations that it would be an investment that would set us up well as we increased our net worth – was now going to be sold for less than we bought it for.
We did have flood insurance, which is a fantastic financial decision that I thank our younger selves for. Even with the flood insurance, it wasn’t enough to pay off our mortgage to the bank and put down a downpayment on a new house.
This is where I look back and thank my parents for making my husband and I take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course when we were newlyweds.
Since we had gone through that course, we really were set up well to manage one of the most financially stressful periods of our marriage. We had paid off our cards shortly after taking FPU, and didn’t have any other debt besides our mortgage. We had also been intentional about building up an emergency fund, and after our first flood experience, my husband was adamant that we keep a decent amount of money in savings “just in case”.
So with our emergency fund, extra savings and our flood insurance, we were able to sustain the loss we incurred on the sale of our flooded home and put down over 20% in a down payment in a neighborhood that won’t flood and is perfect for our young (and growing!) family.
how to prepare financially for a natural disaster
There are a few things that we did that I feel contributed to our ability to maneuver those financially tricky waters (no flood pun intended).
- Having a budget – We have had a monthly budget for the majority of our marriage and have done weekly or monthly check-ins on our budget depending on how tight money is at the time. My husband and I would meet more frequently if we were working toward a big financial goal or if things were a little tighter. We would meet less frequently if our expenses hadn’t changed in a while and we were making continued progress on increasing our savings. But we always met at least once a month. We also used Mint.com to track our budget since it is free and gave us a great view on how our budgets were going throughout the month.
Read: 5 Benefits of Budgeting
- Creating a Savings Goal – One of the best things we did financially was to start setting a goal for how much money we would save each month. Our income has increased since we first got married (thank goodness) and while our expenses have also increased (hello daycare costs), we have always made sure that we are not spending more than we make. As we get promotions and raises that bump up our salary, we make every effort to put that extra money toward savings instead of adding on extra monthly expenses. Because of this, we had a huge cushion to use when Harvey came in and turned our lives upside down!
Read: Sinking Funds The Savings Account You’ll Love
- Buy what you need – We are now almost 2 years post-Hurricane Harvey and I still have not replaced all of our furniture. We have all of the necessities (couch, beds), but there would certainly be some people who come over to our new home and think that things look a little bare in places. We have set up a “furniture replacement” category in our savings, and when we save up enough money in that fund, I am able to go in and buy new pieces guilt free. It is not always easy, especially in an Instagram world where you are bombarded with images of people’s picture perfect home. But financial security makes me much happier than new barstools or a new dresser ever will!
If I could pass on one bit of advice, it would be to not wait to get your finances together until disaster strikes. Unexpected events are stressful before you add in all of the financial implications. Do everything you can to set yourself up to be prepared for that rainy day!