Predicting the Unpredictable: 6 Unexpected Expenses and How to Prevent Them

No matter how thoroughly you construct your budget, you will never be able to predict each and every future expense. Creating a general Rainy Day Fund is a good place to start in allocating unexpected costs, but sometimes several storms converge and you’re suddenly caught in a hurricane with little more than a cheap poncho to keep you dry. The best way to prepare for such a deluge is to identify as many potential squalls as possible and do what you can to avoid them.

Here are six common causes of sudden financial burdens and simple ways to avoid them (or at least weather the storm if you can’t get out of the way):

Medical Costs: Year in and year out, Americans in every demographic name unexpected doctor’s bills as their number one surprise expense. So listen well—one of these days you are going to get sick and you are going to have to pay someone to help you get healthy again; plan on it, prepare for it, and do everything you can to put it off as long as possible. Practice preventative healthcare by scheduling that annual physical more than once per decade. Wait in the waiting room, listen to your doctor’s advice, and happily pay the relatively cheap fee for such a visit; catching something serious early on can save you tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention your life.

Car Repairs: Just as your body will eventually break down, your car will some day call it quits as well (or it will at least require some lovin’ before it takes to the road again). This will happen less often and further down the road if you follow preventative measures similar to those that will keep you corporally sound. Every three thousand miles spend the thirty dollars on an oil change and stick to the book when it comes to scheduled maintenance. Better yet, don’t work your car so hard. Walk, ride a bike, carpool, or take public transportation to get to work. You’ll save money on skyrocketing gas prices and your ride will show its appreciation by spending more time in your garage and less time in that of your local mechanic.

Home Maintenance: Nothing makes you feel quite as powerful as walking around with a hammer in your hand. Learn how to swing one, or if you lack the inclination or dexterity to do so, make friends with someone who already knows how. Once this is accomplished, you can stop paying your local craftsmen a hundred dollars to drive to your place and quote a price that you can’t afford. Your local hardware store and all of the big national chains offer free classes on a variety of subjects, from rewiring an electrical outlet to adding a new deck to your home.

Replacing Lost or Misplaced Items: Nothing is more frustrating than spending your hard-earned dollars on things that you’ve already bought once and that have subsequently gone astray or vanished. Get organized to avoid such aggravation. When that fails, bring out your inner masochist. When you leave your iPod in the back of a cab, deny yourself a replacement for a year or even a few months and you’ll quickly learn to take better care of your possessions.

Entertainment: Do you really need to hit the same sorry bar three times a week, paying six dollars a piece for warm bottles of Bud Light? Is the new Matt McConaughey Rom-Com really a must-see in the theaters? Stay home one extra night a week, wait for the DVD from Netflix, and stash the cash. The extra funds will come in handy when your favorite 80’s band reunites or when an old college buddy unexpectedly rolls into town demanding a good time.

Unplanned Travel: Rarely a year goes by when you’re not called upon to make a last-minute trip, whether it’s to represent the family at your great-aunt’s funeral or celebrate your buddy’s ill-advised shotgun wedding in Vegas. Set aside a bit of money each month for just such an event. If December rolls around and you’ve had an unexpectedly uneventful year, find an eleventh-hour bargain to someplace warm and celebrate your good fortune.

Heather Johnson is a freelance business, finance and credit writer, as well as a regular contributor for site for comparing small business credit cards. She welcomes questions, comments, and freelancing job inquiries at her email address heatherjohnson2323[at]gmail[dot]com Money Crashers received no compensation for this guest post, and does not endorse any affiliations associated with the guest blogger.

  • Mac

    Medical costs are a biggy. Who knows what could happen to your or a member of your family in the next year. Hopefully nothing, but that’s why we all (well, most) carry health insurance. Even though I do have insurance, I still hope we never have to go because of our sky-high deductibles. So ensuring that we have money in the bank to account for such events is definitely necessary…but fortunately the hospitals usually allow you to pay them back over time.