When my children were babies, my husband (at the time) and I were flat broke. I mean rob-the-kids’- piggy-banks-to-buy-macaroni-and-cheese kind of broke. We cut corners on every possible expense to provide shelter and the bare necessities for our young family. One kid was still drinking infant formula and both were still in diapers. Ouch! Big ticket items that added up to huge expenses! Our out-going expenses far exceeded our income. When it came time to buy renter’s insurance, I laughed it off. There was no way I had room in our budget for something as frivolous as renter’s insurance! And besides, I rationalized, what could possibly happen? In my mind, buying renter’s insurance was a waste of money, no matter how much someone else tried to convince me that we needed to purchase it, if for no other reason than peace of mind. I knew that the insurance was pennies a day, but when you are breaking into piggy banks to put food on the table, pennies a day translated into actual food I would be taking from my babies’ mouths.
Then one day, our apartment building burned to the ground. Burned. To. The. Ground. I clearly remember the date was April 30th, because in the midst of the most shocking event of my life, I saw the irony that the next day was May Day. May Day, May Day, our ship is going down!! Help!
No one in our apartment building had renter’s insurance. We were all left to start over. In fact, my family was the luckiest family (if you can call having your home burn to the ground lucky), because we lived on the ground floor and the firemen were able to pull some of our belongings out onto the street for all the world to see. My son was 6 months old and my daughter was 1 ½ years old. Now we were homeless with no resources to start over except grit, determination and the kindness of strangers.
Fortunately, the fire happened during the day and no one was injured in the fire. We found out later that the fire was started because of an electrical short in the unit directly above ours. But, alas, everyone in our building was suddenly homeless and trying to put their lives back together, regardless of the cause. The Red Cross stepped in and helped, friends and neighbors offered food, clothing and a couch to sleep on. Co-workers raised money to help us get a new apartment and buy some clothes.
This was a horrible situation to be thrust into. No one is ever prepared for an emergency of this magnitude, but without renter’s insurance we were straight up out of luck. There was no insurance settlement to ease our transition to new housing or help offset the cost of replacing nearly all of our possessions. We were on our own to piece together our new lives. After the fire seared a hole into our lives, I felt foolish for not being more responsible and protecting our family for such a nominal cost. Pennies a day would have protected us and given us a somewhat softer landing after a catastrophic event like the fire we experienced.
Not wanting to tempt fate, ever since the day of the fire, I have made sure our home and our belongings are insured. This is a call to action: if you don’t currently have renter’s insurance, get it! Today! You most likely will never need to use it, but in the event you do, you will be eternally grateful that you made such a small investment in yourself and your belongings. While I couldn’t prevent the fire, I could have protected my family. I wish I had listened to the whispers of others to buy renter’s insurance, but I chose to ignore those whispers. Hopefully, if you don’t already have renter’s insurance, you can learn from someone else’s (mine) mistake and not have to actually experience the lesson to heed the warning.