How to Mentally Adapt When You Have a Financial Emergency

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you’ll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

Money problems come in all shapes and sizes.

Clearly, I am concerned about things like a COVID pandemic, war, civil unrest, and economic collapse.  I’m a news junkie and am gifted (or cursed) with a vivid imagination.  But personal things can cause a lot of upheaval when you are on a tight budget.  And if Murphy’s Law holds true (and it often does) whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, generally at the worst possible time.

A financial emergency is pretty overwhelming, and how you adapt mentally can make a world of difference in the outcome.

Here’s an example of Murphy’s Law in action.

Take my SUV, for example. (Please, take it and give me a different one!)  I was merrily driving down the road a few years back when I noticed that it was beginning to overheat. I pulled over, let it cool down, and limped in at 20 miles an hour to a nearby shop, hoping it was something little like a leaky radiator cap.

Alas, it was something big like leaky head gaskets. And by big, I mean about $2000.  Oh, and another week or so without a vehicle.

My poor little emergency fund, that I had been cultivating and growing, was now kaput, along with a couple of weeks of pay.  Imagine my delight.

I was seriously upset. In a funk. Blue as the moon. Which would, of course, get me precisely nowhere.

First, you have to improve your attitude.

If I had allowed myself to linger in that funk, all I would have done was think about what I was missing, how I was stuck at home, and how awful things were. Not productive.

I started feeling ever-so-slightly better when I thought to myself, “Hey, this is ‘practice’ for a real, genuine, can’t-leave-the-house disaster. I can write about this.”

Not much better, but better enough that I was not weeping into my coffee or planning a dramatic 10-mile walk to the nearest Starbucks so that I could plunge face-first into a gigantic Frappuccino for solace.

Then I started thinking about the stuff that I had really planned on getting before starting my no-grocery-store challenge.  Like laundry detergent, for example.  I was also going to hit the farmer’s market and stock up on some veggies that I don’t yet have growing at my place.  Alas, what I had was…well, what I had.

Then I started thinking about the awesome ways I could deal with these things. And I felt inspired and energized because of the challenges.  Also, I had something interesting to write about, because it is a sad reflection of the economy that many of us are in a situation very much like this, where one large unexpected expense can be temporarily life-altering.

While it still bit the big one that I had to spend $2000 on a vehicle repair, as soon as I changed my attitude and began thinking about solutions instead of problems, I felt a thousand times better and reverted to my normal optimistic self.

Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.  ~ Albert Einstein

Second, be creative in your solutions.

So, in response to the instant, “Oh my gosh, I’m stranded and I need so much stuff from the store” reaction, I began doing an inventory of what I have on hand to fulfill those needs.

I’d been planning to make my own laundry detergent for ages and had all of the supplies on hand in such abundance that I could wash clothes from now until the Second Coming and still have homemade laundry soap left over for those white robes. (You can read about making your own laundry detergent HERE.)

As far as the food was going, well, wants aren’t needs. We had a pantry, home-canned goods, and stuff in the freezer.  I’m always well-stocked and we’d honestly have been perfectly well fed if we didn’t go to the store or farmer’s market for the next 6 months.

I realized that honestly, there isn’t one single thing I desperately needed that I can’t make or improvise.  And maybe I’m weird but I find improvisation to be a lot of fun, and I get an actual “rush” when my make-shift solutions end up working really well.

You know that quote, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  I really like that far better than the Murphy quote.

Third, there are usually some silver linings.

We had moved recently and now that we were on foot, my daughter and I decided to take a different route and go for a walk each day to explore our new area.  This was some great Mom/kid time, good exercise, and we were able to learn more about our surroundings instead of always being too busy to go exploring.

In many personal catastrophes, there are similar perks if you look at them the right way.

  • A loss of a job means you have more time to spend with your family.
  • A financial crunch means that you might spend more time cooking wholesome ingredients from scratch instead of buying fast food or convenience items.
  • Not having a vehicle means you save money because you have no place to spend money.
  • If you have more time on your hands, no matter what the reason, you can get going on some of those projects you’ve been putting off.
  • When you need something you can’t afford to pay for, sometimes you can learn a new skill and create it yourself.
  • If the power goes out, the family comes together. There are no video games or TV shows or internet-surfing sessions to get in the way of hanging out. Memories are made of times like these.

Sometimes I’m astounded at the solutions my kids come up with. They are so bright and creative and those talents really shine in situations where problem-solving is necessary.

Challenges build character.

By learning to turn a negative situation into a more positive experience, we become stronger and more adaptable. That’s what survival is all about. The most well-read person on the planet will have difficulty adapting to troublesome times if they’ve never had to do so.  How you react to those bad things that happen is the true definition of the person you are.

Personally, I choose happiness and optimism. The rain always stops falling eventually. And then the flowers can grow.

When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.

— Peter Marshall

How to Mentally Adapt When You Have a Financial Emergency
Picture of Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is an author and blogger. She's the single mom of two daughters and credits extreme frugality and a good sense of humor for her debt-free lifestyle. She is the author of numerous books, the editor of, and is the founder of a small digital publishing company in the emergency preparedness niche.

6 thoughts on “How to Mentally Adapt When You Have a Financial Emergency”

  1. One thing that I’ve learned to do is to break the situation down into individual tasks.
    Example: no power.
    Individual tasks: light, heat, entertainment, cooking, water, communication, reporting power outage, determining when power is likely to be restored, keeping morale up, etc.
    Breaking down the situation keeps you from getting overwhelmed if you are alone, helps you divide tasks up so it doesn’t fall all on one person if you have others with you who can help, and keeps you organized so you don’t forget about something potentially important.
    If you find a weak point in your prepping that comes out in your crisis situation, don’t view it as a setback, but rather an opportunity to improve your preps for the next emergency going forward, and deal with the weak point as best as possible.

  2. An alternative not mentioned is if you’re in an area served by uber (especially if you’re working from home and don’t need daily rides), uber can serve you for even several months if you need that much time to rebuild your funds.

    Also, consider that sometimes a mechanic’s quote like that $2,000 monster can be cover for what might turn out to be a much simpler and vastly cheaper job — which might never be disclosed to you if the mechanic is a “wee bit” dishonest.

    One example could be a dying thermostat — an easy changeout. Another example (which I’ve been through) was an overheating engine (an Italian aluminum 4-banger) that turned out to be deteriorating O-rings in the head gasket. That still required pulling off the head to get to that gasket so the O-rings could be changed out before reassembly. Depending on the vehicle mileage the head gasket might not even need to be changed at all. Simple job. (OK — I did have a set of metric wrenches and the experience to do that job.)

    And for a little entertaining background on the origin and variations of Murphy’s Law, see this:

    10 Versions of Murphy’s Law for Universal ‘Truths’
    ‘If Something Can Go Wrong, It Will’ Is Only the Beginning

    A final thought is this quip: Necessity is the mother of invention. Of course unrepentant quipsters have modified that into an impolite version.


  3. Oh I remember October 1975 Oh yeah we were hit with the first what was known as stagflation high unemployment and you could see you that led to the near collapse of New York City just a breakdown of government. Blackouts, mass dislocations through the 1970s. Live beneath your means pay cash destroy credit cards like I did no more credit cards is living free from debt. I can accomplish free of credit card, mortgage and car debt by living a lean lifestyle forgot I have no children or spouse. You can say I live extreme minimalist but not a Unabomber I still enjoy modern conveniences like a toaster or microwave oven I just don’t need to own them.

  4. I have lived thru 2 blown headgaskets, sh*t happens. You really do need an emergency fund. Sooner or later there will be a job loss, or you’ll be compelled to move unexpectedly, or the furnace will need replacing, or…a $2000 car repair.
    Since 1972 I have always kept about $5,000 readily available

  5. Prepping is hard to do when you’re broke (even though, according to the kids huddled on your couch, emergency lighting should be near the top of your list). Olive oil or cooking oil has been used as a lamp fuel since biblical times. You might call it a proven technology. It produces light on par with a candle if you know how to do it. You can even burn Crisco and butter. “Olive Oil Lamps &c.” (in both Kindle and paperback) gives 15 designs for homemade olive oil lamps (more like 22 or 23 if you count the variations). It can even reduce stress when there’s no money for flashlight batteries.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New From The Frugalite


Related Posts

Welcome to Your Frugal Backyard Staycation

When most people are hitting the road to go on an expensive holiday, frugal families are considering staycations instead. Here are some ideas to give your kids something cool to write about in their inevitable “what I did last summer” essay and some ways for adults to relax and recharge, too.

Malcare WordPress Security