This $5,000 Vet Bill Completely Changed My Money Mindset

emergency fund

Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

And while it’s always painful to end up on the receiving end of this saying, it’s usually most painful when it involves your finances. Even if you have an emergency fund to back you up.

I learned that myself just last month. I had just taken a big career leap (and risk) by quitting my full-time job as director of marketing for a financial services company and becoming a freelance writer and content marketer.

And while I still believe this move was the best one for me to take to achieve my business and financial goals, it’s hard to hang on to that sentiment in moments of financial crisis.

On my first day of full-time self-employment, my boyfriend and I had to rush our cat to the animal hospital. He had emergency surgery and a seven-day stay in the medical center.

And when we finally picked him up, he came home with a $5,000 bill for his treatment and care.

Expecting the financially unexpected

Before we go on, my kitty is back home and doing well. In fact, he’s happily snoozing on the chair next to me as I write this.

But that massive vet bill did nothing to ease my financial concerns.

I already had anxiety surrounding my departure from a steady paycheck to becoming 100 percent responsible for making enough money to cover my expenses. I felt like I had failed before I had even begun.

What’s more, I was already questioning if I would ever make enough on my own to go from “good income” to “building real wealth.” Would I always be scrambling for cash when something unexpected came up?

Thanks to some financial planning, I had $11,000 in emergency savings that took me years to build. But even with my emergency funds, the vet bill was a tough financial blow.

It led to a week of stress, anxiety, and tears as I worried about my pet and my future financial state. Yes, it was a relief to use my emergency fund and not worry about budgets or a newly unstable income.

However, it’s still painful to see that money leave. Even when it’s earmarked for exactly this kind of situation.

That’s the first thing I learned about getting hit with this huge expense: it still hurts to say goodbye to that money forever.

Making expensive, emotional decisions is not easy

Since this cat already racked up a similar vet bill in the past ($8,500 to be exact), I tried to draw a line in the sand back then. I said that I would not pay more than another $3,000 on medical expenses for him.

It sounds harsh, but I felt like it was the financially responsible thing to do. At the time, I was 24 years old and could not imagine ever having the kind of wealth that would allow me to continue dropping thousands on a pet.

However, while I had already made this “rule” that favored financial responsibility over my emotions, I broke down in tears when the vet gave me the estimate for this time around. It was over my financial limit I set for all pets. That meant the end of the road.

Yet, as much as it scared me to part with the money, there was no way I would tell the vet to euthanize my pet. Saying one thing about your money and doing another when emotions are involved is nearly impossible at the moment.

I learned a few things from this less. The first being financial responsibility does not trump family. And my cat is a family member.

The second lesson I learned is that you must prepare financially if you don’t want to make an emotional decision based solely on money.

Having an emergency fund — one that’s large enough at that — allowed us to make decisions free from restrictions about how much we could afford.

We all have a mindset around money

I write about personal finance for a living, so I basically live and breathe all this money stuff.

Yet, I had always dismissed the idea that I could have a mindset around money that was negative or detrimental.

However, this experience wiped that thought from my brain. I learned I absolutely do let mindsets, fears, and stories I make up about money take over and influence how I feel.

I have a scarcity mindset around money. This leads me to constantly feel anxious about running out of money or worrying that I’ll never have enough.

So when I took a hit in my emergency fund, I started thinking things like, “How will I ever afford to buy a home?” And, “I can’t dedicate money toward that goal because I only have so much and now it needs to go towards rebuilding my emergency fund!”

Money comes and goes (and that’s okay)

Essentially, I fail to recognize when I operate with a recency bias. This means I think the way things are now is how they’ll always be.

Therefore, I assume because I experienced a financial blow and now face rebuilding my savings with my self-employment earnings, I’ll always be looking at an uphill battle when it comes to money.

But the reality is, that’s not really the case.

This experience also helped me shift some of those money mindsets. I realized that I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life actively making money. That I’ve actually been succeeding at it.

It hasn’t always been easy. I haven’t always made enough (or what I wanted to make). I also haven’t always been happy with my financial situation or felt like I was making progress.

But I know how to make money. And if I operate from an abundance mentality, that means I believe there is enough out there for me to have a piece of that sweet money pie.

Ultimately, the point here is that what you think influences how you act and the way you perceive the world.

So if I act from an abundance mentality, instead of a scarcity mindset, and believe in my ability to generate more money, I’m more likely to remain open to possibilities. I’m more likely to see and act upon opportunities.

That, in turn, can lead to a financial abundance. When money flows out, that’s okay. I can always make more. It just takes some time.

Your earning potential and emergency fund is unlimited

Thinking from an abundance mentality also allowed me to see that my move to self-employment was still the right one.

I thought about what it would still be like if I were still working my day job. No matter how many hours in a day I worked, at the end of the month I’d still make the same amount of money.

I had received a paycheck from a set salary. And, there was no room for growth unless someone else decided I earned a little more on an annual basis.

But this month, I turned my willingness to work and hustle into extra income. I looked for additional gigs and filled my schedule to the brim in order to generate more money that I can use to rebuild my savings and emergency fund.

Self-employment can be scary and make you feel like you work on shaky ground. But this experience reminded me that there’s more stability — and possibility — than I think.

Ultimately, it took a $5,000 vet bill to remind me of the simple power of thinking positively and working hard. I can claim my share of responsibility for how I feel about money, the way I earn it, and what I want to use it for.

While it hurts to part with a massive sum like that, I feel more empowered around money for acknowledging my fears and worries, then letting them go.

I am now ready to move forward with a happy cat and a world of opportunity to build wealth throughout my life.

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