• Phil Kennedy

How I Ended Up with a $1,600 Water Bill

Back in early August, our neighbor informed my wife Emily that water was running down the slope on the side of our house. Further inspection revealed that the water was pouring from our lawn's irrigation system. Emily called me at work to share the bad news, and I raced home to see if I could fix the problem. After closing a valve, I temporarily resolved the issue.

The irrigation company came by the following day and quickly identified the source. One of the irrigation pipes had ruptured just below the surface. With a couple of shovels and about an hour's work, the two experts fixed the leak for about $165. I thought I had completely taken care of the issue until I received this month's water bill, which contained a comma. "$1,600!" The pipe must have been leaking for some time, and we didn't even know it. Water could have been pouring out for weeks since we left for our Florida vacation back on July 11th.


I called the sanitation authority to figure out how to proceed, and even the customer service rep gasped after giving him my account number. "Did you have a leak," he asked. I explained that we identified the leak in early August, but it must have been like that for days or weeks without our knowledge. The rep said we could fill out some paperwork and attach our invoice from the irrigation company as proof we fixed the problem. We only have to send in 50% of the charges ($800) until the sanitation authority adjudicates our case 8-10 weeks from now.


Luckily, Emily and I have the $800 sitting in our emergency fund. Every homeowner knows that "Murphy" will eventually come and pay them a costly. A gas line may rupture. A refrigerator may finally die. You may accidentally drill into your home's sewer pipe while hanging a decorative wall shelf and only discover it three years later when raw sewage is eventually leaking onto your carpet (yes, this happened to us too).

Without an emergency fund, you're not just inviting headaches into your life but also potentially long-term money problems. Putting the unexpected expense on a credit card may lead to finance charges, thus exacerbating the entire experience.


Losing $800 for something like this doesn't feel great, but it's not the most costly thing to happen. Every time something goes wrong in the Kennedy residence, it seems like we end up coughing up our $1,000 insurance deductible. On this occasion, I have to remind myself that I was initially relieved to discover that water had not penetrated the house when the leak occurred. If this is the worst thing that happens to us in 2021, then I'll be glad to accept the consequences knowing we have our emergency fund in place.

These are the things I'm discussing with the clients I coach and the FPU students I lead. If you would like to take me up on a free consultation, then feel free to schedule your time on a convenient date.


Until next week,

-Phil


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