On my way into work yesterday, literally a mile away from my office I hit an enormous pothole and blew out my front right tire. And this wasn’t one of the potholes that happen naturally up here in the great state of Massachusetts. This was a huge hole in the middle of the lane on the highway surrounding a sewer cover that a highway crew had clearly been working on the night before. They just hadn’t finished their work by the time the morning commute started.
So I pulled over and within 30 minutes there were four other cars pulled over in the exact same spot, with a flat tire from the exact same pothole. We all commiserated for a little bit before we were all eventually helped and went our separate ways.
It wasn’t a fun way to start the day, but I think there are a few lessons to learn from my experience. There are even some things I felt incredibly thankful for during this ordeal.
Don’t make rash decisions
Just before I hit the pothole, I saw the car in front of me swerve wildy into the next lane. I was taught early on never to do that without properly checking first, and since I didn’t have time to check I didn’t swerve and I hit the pothole. While I wish I could have avoided it, swerving without looking could have landed me in a much worse spot than a simple flat tire. As a general rule, making quick decisions with little information is bound to get you into trouble.
I don’t know how to change a tire. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. It would have been much more convenient and taken less time if I had been able to whip out my tools and handle things myself. Maybe I could have even helped out the other drivers, since I’m just that awesome of a guy! Instead I was at the mercy of others.
But I was still prepared, kind of. I have 24/7 roadside assistance through my auto insurance policy. So it was as simple as calling them up, giving them some information, and waiting for them to send someone out to help. Even if you can change a flat, having roadside assistance at the ready is incredibly helpful. Sometimes you just need to get towed, and how many people have the tools to do that one themselves?
But here’s where I faltered again. I didn’t have a spare tire, but I did have a doughnut so the guy put that on. I started driving away only to hear the same clunking noise that my flat was making. I checked it out and guess what? My doughnut was flat too! I hadn’t even thought to check on the state of my spare/doughnut, and to be honest I don’t even know how long it has been sitting in my car. Years probably. Luckily I only had to drive about half a mile to Costco, where I was able to buy a new tire and have it installed. Otherwise I would have had to be towed, which would have cost even more money. Clearly I was not as prepared for this situation as I could have been.
Things happen. Save for them.
The new tire, with installation, set my back about $115. Not a fun way to spend that money, but in the end I’m barely going to feel it. Why? Because I have a dedicated car maintenance fund that I send money to monthly. So that $115 is already there and ready to go, and my budget won’t feel a thing. This is exactly why it helps to keep dedicated savings for expenses that are expected but irregular.
Be thankful for the things we have
Within 10 minutes of pulling over, a state trooper was on the scene making sure I was okay keeping oncoming traffic away from where I was parked. We spend a lot of time complaining about government inefficiencies and tax-dollar waste, but it’s pretty nice to not be alone in a time of need. There are many places in the world where I would have been on my own, but not here.
The roadside assistance sent by my insurer showed up about 45 minutes after I called them. It was a pretty good response time, but I was already out of there by then. That’s because a Massachusetts Highway worker pulled over and helped everyone. Again, it’s nice to have help when you need it.
No one was hurt. It would have been very easy for a car to swerve out of control, flip over, or otherwise seriously injure its driver and others. But the worst that happened was that five of us had flat tires. Far from the end of the world, and much better than the potential alternatives.
It was really nice out this morning. About 65 and sunny. Not a bad way to be stranded outside.
As I said earlier, Costco’s tire center was just a half mile way. And my office was just a little down the street from there. All in all, getting this problem fixed was very simple.
Bad things happen all of the time. It’s just a fact of life. You can’t be prepared for all of them, but there are simple things you can do to prepare for some of the more likely ones. I certainly feel like I could have been better prepared, but in the end I had enough of a plan to get me through pretty much unscathed.
It was also nice to step back and reflect on some of the things I was thankful for. There were a lot of positives to an experience that had the potential to be very negative. I feel like that’s true with much of life, and it just depends on how you choose to look at things.
Other articles I think you’ll like
Johnny Moneyseed: The post title says it all: “Don’t get caught up in investment analysis paralysis”. It’s so important to start investing early and there are many good, simple, low-cost options out there. You don’t need to be an expert to get started.
Money for College Project: Some great tips on how to apply for college scholarships. This is something I really wish I had known more about when I applied to schools.
Hull Financial Planning: Our brain works hard to avoid stressful thoughts, such as the possibility of our own death. This can directly impact our financial security by causing us to avoid things like life insurance, long term care insurance and wills.
Club Thrifty: It can be tough to say no to your kids, especially when they have some well-reasoned arguments for why you should spend money on them!
Michael Kitces: An interesting look at how a strategy emphasizing future savings can actually be more effective than one focused on current savings.
The Frugal Farmer: Laurie shows some great perspective on when blowing your budget can be a good thing.
Fat Free Personal Finance: A powerful illustration showing how a small change in your 401(k) contribution rate can make a huge difference in the money you have available at retirement.
Frugal Rules: Terrific, simple advice on how to get started investing in stocks.