How To Plan For Unexpected Expenses
It’s just a matter of time before it happens. The transmission blows on your car right around the time your daughter needs braces and your washing machine decides to call it quits. All of these are unexpected expenses and something we need to deal with throughout life.
Being prepared as much as you can is your best bet when life throws you a financial curve ball.
Do your best to anticipate upcoming expenses. If you’re driving an older car, or your dishwasher has seen its better days, start saving up to replace the item. You may also want to start keeping an eye out for good deals on the replacement.
An even better strategy is to have an emergency savings fund. Set up a savings account and add to it monthly. Use it only for completely unexpected expenses. Make sure you know what’s in the account. And once you have to take money out of it replace it as quickly as possible.
This brings us to a good point. Here’s how to recover quickly after that purchase. Go over your budget (you have one of those, right?) and look if you can temporarily cut back on some things. Stop ordering Pizza every Friday night and make your own at home. Skip a night out on the town and watch a couple of movies on Netflix instead of going to the theatre.
Use the money you’re not spending for the next few months to refill your emergency fund. For an extra boost, work a few hours of overtime, do a few freelance projects or temporarily pick up a part time job to get back on track fast.
But what do you do when the expense comes up before you had a chance to set up the emergency fund? Take a deep breath and assess the situation. Can you make do without the item for a little while? Just long enough to scrape together the funds to repair or replace it. If it’s the dishwasher, that’s easy. You can wash dishes by hand for a little while. If it’s the fridge or the car you rely on to get you to work each day, that’s a different story.
If you need the item that broke, evaluate if it would be less expensive to repair than replace. Even if it isn’t the perfect solution, it may get you to work until you can safe up for a different car. Shuffle your money around and if there is no other option charge it to the credit card and get to work. Your one and only goal right now is to pay off that expense. If you stick every penny of discretional income in, it won’t take you long.
One your bills and credit cards are paid off, do what you can to get that emergency fund set up. Because you know something else will break down the road.
Put Your Savings On Autopilot
Putting a little money away for a rainy day isn’t always easy. You may have some good intentions, but at the end of the day, there just isn’t any money left. Somehow whatever you make is spend before you make it to the next paycheck.
Start by making a personal budget. Take a look at what you bring in each month. Next, write down your fixed expenses. These are things like rent, car payments, utilities etc. Figure out how much you need each month for groceries and other essentials. This is your bare bones budget. It’s good to know what you need to get by each month.
Next it’s time for a little bit of math. Start with what you bring in each month and subtract all your core expenses. What you’re left with is your discretional income. This will pay for entertainment, clothes, getting your nails done etc. And from here on out, part of that discretional income will go into a savings account.
Pick a number you’re comfortable with. Maybe that’s just $20 per month, maybe it’s $500. Put it in your budget and treat it like any other bill. It won’t take you long to get into the habit of setting aside that money for savings.
To make it even more hands-off, talk to your bank about setting up a separate savings account. Then set up an auto-deposit to have the savings transferred to the new account as soon as your pay check comes in each month. If you don’t see it, you’ll never miss it and your savings will run on autopilot.
Don’t forget to audit your savings from time to time. Take another look at your budget. Can you increase your savings a little more? Another great way to boost that savings account is to take any extra money – thinks like birthday cash, tax return, bonuses etc. – and put them straight into the savings account. Again, you won’t even miss the money, but it will help you build up your savings quickly.
Make sure your savings are sitting in an interest bearing account. Since you won’t be touching this money unless it’s a dire emergency, you should be able to earn at least a little interest. Talk to your banker about your best options and start putting your savings on autopilot.
One last tip: Talk to your employer about matching 401K funds. You may be able to get a contribution from the company you work for towards your retirement savings account.
Do You Have A Financial Safety Net? (And How To Build One)
Do you have a financial safety net? It’s something worth thinking about and setting up. What will happen to you and your loved ones if you lose your job for a few months? What if you get into an accident that may prevent you from earning a living? Or what if some unexpected expenses come up. Do you have anything in place to make sure the bills continue to get paid and your family is taken care of?
If not, now is the time to get started. But where do you actually start? Having three to six months’ worth of living expenses tucked away in an interests-bearing account is a good beginning. Figure out what your family needs to comfortably live on if all income stops. Then start saving as much money as you can until you have built up this safety net.
Put the money you usually spend on going out to eat, going to the movies, buying the newest TV and Tech gadget and the likes into your savings account until you’ve saved enough to have a comfortable cushion. Take make this step go even faster, add any bonuses, tax refunds etc. as well.
Don’t just stop there. Make it a goal to add to your safety cushion as you can and come back and revise your numbers from time to time. Your living expenses may go up or down over time and you can adjust how much you need to set aside in quickly accessible money accordingly.
Life and disability insurance are another important part of your financial safety net, as is your retirement money. Do you have a plan in place to continue to cover your living expenses (or those of your family) when you can no longer work? Call up your insurance agent and go over your current coverage. Make sure the insurance you’re paying for will pay out what you need and if not, make adjustments.
Once you have those two parts of your safety net firmly in place, consider investing any additional savings into higher interest bearing accounts. While you may not be able to access any money invested here right away, it will come in handy when you’re dealing with a long term financial emergency or are ready to retire. The plus side is that there are plenty of investment vehicles out there that will get you a much better return than your plain savings account at the bank. Talk to your financial adviser and come up with a plan that’s right for you, your family and whatever the future may hold.