How Do You Handle Unexpected Expenses?

How do you handle those unexpected expenses?

It must be something in the air around here, because unexpected expenses are popping up out of the woodwork like crazy. I had a doctor’s appointment. Our dog started limping for no apparent reason yesterday, and since he needs a trip to the vet anyway for shots, we’ll have that looked at too. This morning, I got up and grabbed my glasses — and they fell apart. And who knows what I’ll learn at the periodontist appointment I have later today.

So how do you handle unexpected expenses? There are pretty much three options: avoiding, minimizing, and planning ahead.

Avoiding expenses

I used to pretty much just stress out, because for a while there I didn’t have enough money for basics, let alone unexpected expenses. So back then, I’d try to avoid them. I would probably not have gone to the doctor unless something seemed pretty desperate, I’d have taken a wait and see approach with the dog (which we may do anyway, since it could be something very minor). I still try to avoid unexpected expenses where possible, but sometimes it’s hard.

Minimizing expenses

Minimizing is another option. For example, we can get shots for our dog much cheaper if we take him to Animal Control. They offer vaccines too, and it’s quick, easy, and pretty darn cheap. If you can make it past all the other animals up for adoption without bringing a few home, that is. For something like glasses, there are places online where you can get a replacement pair very inexpensively. I’m a big fan of ZenniOptical. Or there’s always duct tape, depending on what’s broken. And of course you can always do things like shopping around for car insurance.

Of course, in many cases being proactive by taking good care of things in the first place can minimize expenses. When it comes to your health, preventative care is much less expensive (and easier) then trying to deal with a problem that’s been going on for a while or that has progressed. Sometimes though, you still have health issues or other types of things that pop up, despite your best efforts to prevent them. That’s where planning ahead comes in.

Planning ahead

No, you can’t plan ahead for your dog to wake up with a limp, or your son to need an emergency appendectomy. Nor would you want anything like that to happen. But you can categorize the most basic types of things that you end up spending money on unexpectedly, and plan ahead in general.

For example, you can build an emergency fund for the big stuff, and you can set aside money regularly for the smaller things. Some people like to keep a fairly large cushion in their checking account that’s enough for the stuff that may pop up each month. I prefer to keep various funds.

By far, planning ahead has been the best way to handle things in our situation. It’s so much less stressful to not have to worry about money on top of whatever is going on.

How do you handle unexpected expenses?


  • I try all three, but when I have to spend money, I have to spend money and I suck it up and dig into my e-fund (and I’m usually amazed at how calm I am about it since I fret about buying Starbucks). But, that’s what it’s there for. Then I usually cut back on my regular expenses (bare-bones it, DEFINITELY no SB!) to build some back.

    • Oh that’s a good point about making sure to build the emergency fund back up when you do need to use it. No sense in letting it dwindle away!

  • I just had to deal with this, not only for a bachelor party expense, but a new car battery while on the bachelor party. I was lucky that my tax return came the same month. I do have an emergency fund, but sometimes these unexpected things can kill us. Best to just roll with the punches and not get mad.

    • They do seem to come in batches sometimes. Planning ahead can really help soften the blow when that happens.

  • Thanks for the great tips. It’s always a good idea to have a good savings cushion put aside for those unexpected expenses – when the car dies suddenly or your son needs an appendectomy. The trouble is when these things pile up one on top of each other and you can’t keep up. Hopefully, with good planning and a the self control to cut back where you can, life’s surprises won’t put you in the hole. Thanks for the great post!

    • Yeah it’s no fun when everything seems to happen at once, but it’s also a sign that there really are a lot of benefits to keeping that emergency fund available.

  • Planning ahead! We keep track of every penny we spend, so that enables us to look back over the past 12 months and add up all the “unexpected expenses.” We total the year, divide by twelve, and make sure we set aside that amount each month. If one of our self-categorized unexpected expenses pops up, then we just withdraw the money from savings to cover it. Since we’re regularly saving for this, it doesn’t deplete our savings (although there’s always the possibility of unexpected expenses being much higher than the previous year in which case we have an emergency fund).

  • We definitely plan ahead. We know that unexpected expenses are a part of life, so we keep enough savings in our savings account to take care of things until we had time to cash out investments if need be.

  • i definitely think that having a fully funded emergency fund is the most important aspect of preparing and handling unexpected expenses that may crop up.