Everything is going smoothly and to plan, and you think everything is fine, and then BAM, something crops up that not only causes you a whole heap of stress and inconvenience but a lot of money as well.
Hopefully, you have some savings to cover the unexpected costs, but often, we live on a paycheck to paycheck basis, and it is hard to build up a little nest of savings. When this happens, it can leave us on a cliff edge financially.
However, you find the money; it is always better to prevent where possible.
There is no way of predicting when an expensive financial disaster will strike – but there are ways to prepare so that you can;
- a) Reduce the risk of them happening.
- b) If they do happen, you are in a better position to deal with them.
Let's take a look.
What are Common Unexpected Expenses?
Unexpected expenses are things that suddenly crop up that you probably have not budgeted for.
For example, your dental check-up, annual eye exam, car renewal policy, and your utility bills are not unexpected expenses. You know that these things are going to crop up, whether they're weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually.
This makes them much easier to budget for because you can put aside the money to cover those throughout the year or month as part of your regular budget. General home maintenance and car maintenance should not be a complete surprise either – ideally, you should be putting aside a small amount of money for this.
An unexpected expense is something like a medical emergency, a natural disaster such as flooding or storms, a vet bill, or your car being entirely written off. These are the things that could happen to you at any time, but you can never be sure if they will – or how much they will cost you if they do.
That means you can’t just fit these expenses into your regular budget; it takes a whole different sort of planning to prepare for them.
How you deal with an unexpected expense depends wholly on what kind of liability it is. For some, you can buy insurance to protect you from the cost. For others, you might have to flex your muscles and do a bit of DIY instead of hiring a professional.
Others, there is no option but to fork out a shed load of cash.
Some healthcare costs – checkups, medicines, minor illnesses, etc.– are easily budgeted for. However, if you are rushed into hospital for emergency surgery for a burst appendix or are involved in an accident, that's a whole different ball game – and one that can cost a lot of money.
The last thing that anyone wants when they or someone in their family are seriously ill is to be worrying about the financial implications of the treatment.
How you can avoid it: This is one that is difficult to avoid. No one wants to be sick or injured, and it is impossible to prevent it entirely. However, you do have some control over your health.
For example, if you are a smoker, think about quitting. If you drink a lot of alcohol, look at cutting down. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting enough exercise can be extremely beneficial to your health – it can reduce the risk of heart disease, many types of cancer, and type II diabetes.
Working on improving you health can pay massive dividends, quitting smoking can save you money on health insurance and losing weight can save you money on life insurance. Additionaly, you can turn your goal to get fit into cash by using apps that pay you to walk or signing up for programs that will pay you to lose weight.
You can also fight off many germs by practicing good hygiene, such as washing hands regularly and keeping up to date with your vaccination program.
How to deal with this expense: Even if you are the healthiest person in the world, that doesn’t prevent you from becoming injured or make you immune from every disease and illness. This is precisely why everyone should take out health insurance.
It protects you against huge health bills, turning a substantial and unpredictable expense into an ongoing one that you can budget for. It isn't cheap, but neither is medical treatment. Other ways that you can cut your medical costs are by doing things like using walk-in clinics and urgent care centers instead of hospital emergency rooms, asking your doctor about cheaper treatments, and more generic drugs and negotiating with providers.
If you have pets, you may well know what it is like to have to rush them to the vet. When your cat has been hit by a car or your dog has got hold of something they should not have, you want to get help for your pet as fast as you can.
In situations like this, the cost of any treatment does not cross your mind. However, once they are out of danger, you find yourself landed with a massive bill from the vet.
How can you avoid it: It's not all that dissimilar to protecting humans against illness and injury. Having your pet neutered stops them from breeding and all of the costs associated with that. The neutering process can also reduce the risk of some illnesses and diseases to your beloved animal.
You can prevent poisoning by finding out what kinds of substances can hurt your pet and make sure you keep them well out of reach. Keeping your pets indoors or on a leash when they are outside helping to protect them from cars and other animals.
Finally, take them for a check-up every year. This gives your vet the chance to spot any potential health issues and treat them before they turn into something bigger and more expensive. An annual vet visit that you can budget for in advance is a lot cheaper than an unexpected health crisis in the future.
How to deal with this expense: When faced with costly treatment options, you have two choices: make the heartbreaking decision to them put to sleep or pay the bill and deal with the debt later. If you take out insurance, it will cover the cost of significant vet bills, and, as we mentioned with individual medical insurance, a small planned expense is much easier to deal with than an unexpected huge one – or the decision to let go of your pet.
To an extent, car repairs should be accounted for in your budget. We all know that they need servicing at least once a year, that they will need new tires and oil changes, and you usually have a rough idea of when things like timing belts need changing.
However, there are some things we can't plan for, such as an accident causing significant and widespread damage to your car.
How you can avoid it: Drive less, for starters. The less you drive your car, the less wear and tear there is on your vehicle – and the less likely you are to be involved in an accident.
Keep up to date with your cars maintenance schedule – just like annual health checkups, a maintenance check will give you warning of problems
How to deal with this expense: As with you, and as with your pets, your car can be covered by insurance. In the case of an accident, your insurance policy should pay out to cover the cost of repairs or to replace your vehicle.
Plan Now to Save Money Later
You can't prepare for everything, but you can reduce the risks. Many unexpected expenses can be covered by insurance, but once the problem has occurred, it is too late. Spend some time now protecting you, your loved ones, and your belongings and save yourself a whole heap of money and heartache in the future.
Michael launched Your Money Geek to make personal finance fun. He has worked in personal finance for over 20 years, helping families reduce taxes, increase their income, and save for retirement. Michael is passionate about personal finance, side hustles, and all things geeky.