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Use smart strategies to handle unexpected expenses
You’ve budgeted out the essentials. You’ll be able to cover your rent, utilities, loan payments, and groceries for the month – with a little leftover for entertainment and savings. But are you ready to handle those unplanned expenses that will inevitably pop up from time to time? It’s important to know the difference between expenses you couldn’t plan for and expenses that you simply forgot to plan for. For example, even if it catches you off guard, a quarterly tax payment isn’t exactly the type of unplanned expense we’re talking about. Similarly, a payment related to typical car maintenance isn’t an unplanned expense.

A Few Examples of Unplanned Expenses

So what exactly do we mean when we say unplanned expense? We’re talking about bills stemming from sudden, emergency situations. If an earthquake causes damage to your home or a hit-and-run accident leaves your car battered, you’ll have to pay an unplanned expense. It’s difficult for even the most careful person to budget for these kinds of unpredictable incidents. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck when an emergency occurs. Here are a few strategies that will help you overcome a sudden financial hurdle.

Be Ready to Make Cuts

It’s wise to prioritize your usual list of expenses in a way that allows you to make cuts when necessary quickly. Now is a good time to ask yourself questions such as:
  • Can I decrease the amount of money I spend on groceries each week?
  • Is it possible to drive less and save on gas?
  • Does my electric bill have to be so high?
  • Are there cheaper ways to entertain me?
Of course, some expenses, such as rent payments, simply can’t be decreased or avoided. The trick is to identify what areas you have some control over. You don’t need to make those cuts at this very moment (although it’s a good way to start building up an emergency savings account). However, your first step in handling an unplanned expense should be to modify your budget and decrease spending wherever possible. This might involve some discomfort, such as relying on public transportation rather than your own vehicle to get to work. Just keep in mind these cuts are temporary until you can address the emergency in front of you.

Build a Resistance to Impulse Spending

Depending on your spending habits, making cuts to your budget might not be enough. If you have a tendency to make impulse purchases, it’s time to shake that habit. Here a few basic tips:
  • Don’t window shop – and that includes online browsing. Now isn’t the time to tempt yourself with products you don’t actually need.
  • Question your impulses. Ask yourself if the item you want to buy will delay your ability to cover those unplanned expenses.
  • Have a strict spending plan. This is especially important when you’re grocery shopping. Aim only to buy items that are on your list.

Find Extra Income

Can’t squeeze your budget any tighter than you already have? If you can’t spend any less, look for ways to earn more. Here are a few ways to accomplish that goal:
  • Pick up extra hours. Perhaps the most obvious place to look for additional income is at work. Inquire about working extra shifts, if possible.
  • Sell some items. Look around your living space. Do you own anything that you could sell at a yard sale or online? Yes, this might mean giving up items that you love but don’t actually use. Clothing that doesn’t fit, old DVDs, unused decor – be ready to put a price tag on these kinds of items.
  • Freelance. Do you have a marketable skill such as graphic designing or writing? Look for ways to monetize those skills and bring in some extra income. If you don’t want to engage with clients who are strangers, ask your friends or family members if they need any help. You might even find someone who simply needs a babysitter or dog walker.


Submit an application for a personal loan from a bank or credit union. Use the funds to cover the unplanned expenses, and then follow the repayment agreement. If you’re not careful about observing interest rates, loans can lead you down the road to additional financial problems. The same issue arises if you use a credit card to handle the unplanned expenses. With that in mind, use these options as a last resort.