Despite knowing the importance of an emergency fund, and growing mine this year, I am pretty confident that I won't need it. After all, grad school is a stable source of income and support, and I have good medical insurance (seeing as I'm still on my parents' plan for now). So I thought of my emergency fund as a nebulous thing that I wouldn't need for 5 more years, just in case I can't find a postdoc position or there's a gap between defending and my start date.
But this semester I started thinking about whether I'm going to stick all the way to the PhD. Maybe I'll leave and just teach? Maybe something else will come up? Classes have sucked and I know that's a big influence, so I'm not going to make that decision until I have my Master's in hand (another 1.5 years), but the thought is there.
Simultaneously I've been thinking a lot more about my relationship with my parents lately. And how much I do not want to move home (visiting can even be a challenge). And then it occurred to me, that this was the reason to have an emergency fund. So that I can continue to live on my own for several months while I transition to a new position, if my path changes that drastically. In the same way that some folks build up an "F You" fund so they can leave their job with some security, my emergency fund is my backup plan to stay independent if I choose to pursue non-academic goals.
I feel like the money I'm socking away "just in case" has more of a purpose now, and that gives me more reason to stick money in the account. There's probably some discipline to saving with no purpose, but I'm glad to have an idea of where this might go.