The other day, I was feeling extremely hungry. So finding a random bag of popcorn hidden in the back corner of the pantry (Score!), I popped that bag in the microwave for 2:30 and waited for the delicious salty snack with anticipation. The wait was much longer than I expected. After two and one half minutes not a single pop had occurred. Thinking I had a bad bag, I did the logical think and ensured it was set to full power and started again with 3 minutes. The extra 30 seconds would surely do the trick! Nope! Halfway through, my daughter wandered into the kitchen and making a vinegar face said, “Daddy what is that smell?” It smelled like burnt ozone with that bad electrical quality that you can almost taste. Being a man of action, I stopped the microwave and opened the door to sniff around and stare at the sad un-popped bag. After a minute or so of that, I unplugged the microwave and announced that it was broken. Secretly, I was just glad I hadn’t burnt the house down!
I know this isn’t a huge problem but the expense of a new microwave was not one I had been expecting. But unexpected expenses do happen and they happen to all of us all the time. Water heater leaks, air conditioner stops cooling, pipes leak, windows break, medical problems happen and cars, especially if I own them, suffer from all sorts of mechanical maladies. In fact, unexpected expenses occur so often on small and big scales that we really shouldn’t be caught by surprise….but lacking perfection and a big old income to just fix thing, sometimes we are anyway. So here are some ways to deal with unexpected expenses, without turning to credit.
1. Preemptive Steps Are the Best
A savings account or slush fund is the key to dealing with non-monthly expenses. It has been said over and over again but I’ll be brief. You need to direct deposit money from each pay into a savings account where you can access it easily. Maybe you don’t have the recommended 3 to 6 months of income saved up and the idea of saving that much seems like a pipe dream with your income. Hey, I get it! The key is to start somewhere with something. Start by direct depositing 5% of each pay into your savings. The base goal is $500 bucks. Hey even if you only get to $200 and you blow a tire on your car, you can fix it without cutting into your other expenses or start digging a hole with credit. Start it today when things a relatively good and you won’t be sorry. But if you don’t have a savings account yet, well read on.
2. Make An Emergency Budget
Everyone should have an emergency budget. Use these budget worksheets from Apprisen’s website. List your expense and then determine which expenses are a priority or a need and which items you may not want to live without but you can in a pinch. Cell phone services can be reduced or switched to a discount carries with minimum or no loss of current services. Yes you can live without cable. There are endless free streaming alternates. Seriously, look it up. If you haven’t done this before you will be surprised at how much money you can free up. Also, if you have a major change like a job loss the emergency budget will be ready to help you assist with the adjustments that need to be made.
3. Get a Part-time Job
Okay, smart guy thanks for the tip! I know, I know but part-time jobs are there if you look and can often be worked around an already busy schedule. Ever consider driving for Uber or Lyft? You work when you want. The best times are often at night and on the weekend as well. The gig economy is booming and will continue to grow. Who knows maybe you can find your next career by starting part-time.
4. Consider Using Your Tax Return Early
Do you get a tax return? Have you considered taking some of that money early? It is your money anyway. Especially if you get a large tax return, consider claiming more on your W-4 to increase your take home pay. At this time of the year, you may have already paid your tax liability and can have it reduced or stopped all together for the rest of the year. You may be getting back every dollar you pay on federal taxes in your return next year anyway. Why not keep it now when you can really use it? As always, you should consult your HR department and a tax professional.
5. Sell Your Old Stuff
I spent Labor Day at the local flea market. I’m always amazed at the junk for sale! But your trash may be someone’s treasure and actually it is fun so give it a try. Craigslist and EBay and Facebook all have easy ways to list your stuff for sale. Maybe you are crafty. My neighbors are definitely crafty. They found some old pallets and painted them as American flags. They said they sold out in 3 hours. A little creativity turned into cash!
Finally, I’d like to say that staying positive will help you get results even when you’re broke and the car broke down at the wrong time. Let’s face it, there is never a good time for unexpected expenses and they always seem to happen at the worst time. Prepare for them if you can but know they will happen. Don’t let them get the best of you! Face them head on, knowing that it is just a bump in the road that you’re going to ride right over. Taking action will be the key to your success! So tell me, what have you done to overcome an unexpected expenses?