I'd heard a lot about "Eff Off Funds" and how important they were for young women, especially. I'd always have the same reaction when I read a trend piece on the phenomenon: "Isn't that just a savings account?" and generally shrug it off as another online fad. That was until my own savings morphed into an Eff Off Fund -- and saved me from an emotionally abusive relationship.
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I won't bore you with too many details of my relationship because they weren't unique: I met someone, fell in love despite the misgivings about him from almost everyone who was close to me, and ignored all the red flags I saw in the early days. After six months, he moved in with me. Six months after that we found a new apartment and signed the lease together. We never opened a joint bank account in the three years we were together, but we were financially linked. We shared rent and bills, things neither of us could afford to pay alone.
Over the years we lived together, things got bad. There were, of course, good times -- everyone who has ever been in a bad relationship knows that you live and die by those good times -- but the bad far outweighed them. I was bullied, manipulated, and made to feel small and weak if I ever showed emotion or expressed dissatisfaction. It was miserable.
When I realized I had to leave, I was in a bind financially. Work was slow and one of my regular writing jobs had ended abruptly. He was finally making enough money that if I walked out, he could cover all of the expenses -- but I wasn't so flush. When you take a checking account with $20, add an angry man with a loud voice, and subtract all your self-confidence, your Eff Off Fund equals freedom.
Over the years I'd been squirreling away money into my savings. I never told him exactly how much I had or that it was enough to leave, buy a flight home at a moment's notice, and keep myself fed for at least a few months. Looking back, this was a pretty good indicator that the relationship wasn't a safe one in the first place.
Things got really bad really quickly. I'd tried to stand up for myself, my needs and my dreams for the future, and it escalated into a complete breakdown in communication. Often that meant him screaming and me crying, with many hushed phone calls with friends and family urging me to get out.
With my Eff Off Fund ready to go, my exit was technically, if not emotionally, simple. I booked movers to come with a couple of days notice because I didn't have to think about shopping around for the cheapest deal. With my Eff Off Fund, I could just get it done as quickly as possible without bargain hunting because the money was already separate from my daily essential spending.
I was luckily able to sleep on friends couches when I felt unsafe at home, and my Eff Off Fund let me buy food for meals and chocolate for feeling better. Even if I didn't have that network, there was enough if my Eff Off Fund that I would have been able to book an Airbnb or a hostel for those nights. Ten days later, I was on a last minute flight from New York to Melbourne, Australia, and 24 hours after that, I was in my mother's house.
With four months still left on our lease -- and my named still signed to it -- my Eff Off Fund gave me the unique ability to not only make a quick exit, but to pay my way out of a contract that might have otherwise bound me to a bad situation. When I think about what would have happened without that Eff Off Fund, I shudder. I probably still would have left in a hurry -- but everything would have been paid for by credit card. Shouldering debt at the same time as watching your life fall apart is an extra stress that I'm glad I didn't have to deal with. Plus, for months, possibly years, later, I'd still be paying off those debts, every month looking at a reminder of the emotional trauma.
Having a Eff Off Fund not only saved me when I needed to escape, it meant that everything was clean and contained. Emotional scars take time to heal, and you can't always "fix" them without help -- but knowing that you can always rely on yourself to get out of a bad situation is kind of priceless.