It’s the Unexpected Stuff that Gets You

We are coming up on almost 7 weeks of unemployment for my husband.*  (I can’t believe it’s already been that long!)

From a financial perspective, we are doing OK.  I’ve left my 401(k) and our daughter’s 529 contributions at the same rates for now.  Did you know that Vanguard has a feature where you can skip investment contributions for a set period of time?  I used this feature for my IRA and brokerage accounts – contributions have been suspended for a few months.  I also cut back savings and canceled my employee stock purchase contributions (which probably needed to be done anyway).

Mr. FIREDup is getting unemployment right now, which helps too.  In our state the max unemployment is a little over $300 a week.  It’s not much, but it’s enough to at least subsidize day care expenses.

Due to unemployment, timing of the husband’s last check, and June being a 3-paycheck month for me, we haven’t had to dip into emergency savings yet.  But I question how much longer that will last.  Because we’ve had some unexpected expenses – and those are the ones that eat away at the financial bottom line.

We aren’t the only ones who have these unexpected expenses, right?  Usually there is surplus money at the end of the month to cover them, but we don’t have a lot of surplus right now.  (Finance experts would say you should have a budget category for these miscellaneous things…)

Some recent examples:

  • Vet expenses.  We have a 12 1/2 year old pug.  I got her when she was a puppy.  She’s been with me through switching companies/jobs, getting divorced, moving, getting married, and having a child.  She is, in fact, my first furry kid.  But age is starting to take its toll on her health.  In December she had an incident of vestibular disease.  If you’ve never seen it in a dog before, it’s scary – I thought she was dying!  Luckily she recovered quickly.  But last week she was again showing signs that something wasn’t right.  Friday we found out she has diabetes.  It’s easy to treat – two insulin shots a day.  But the office visit, blood work, insulin, and syringes added up to an ugly total vet bill.  There will also be an ongoing cost for the insulin and supplies.
  • Busted windshield.  A rock bounced out of a truck on the highway and cracked the windshield in my Forester.  Of course it was too big of a crack to be patched and the replacement windshield cost is just a little less than my insurance deductible. 🙁

These are just two examples of the random expenses that seem to pop up regularly for us.  It’s easy to cover these things when you have plenty of cash inflow, but it’s more difficult when budgets are tighter.  I think this is probably what keeps a lot of families from getting ahead.  If I skip that one latte a week I might have otherwise had, that’s going to break even with paying my vet bill in…oh, about a YEAR AND A HALF.

Do you have random expenses like these in your household?  How do you budget and/or pay for them?


*Editorial note:  Mr. FIREDup found out that another person from his former team was let go about a week ago.  There are many more things that could be said about this but I’ll just leave it here for now.

3 thoughts on “It’s the Unexpected Stuff that Gets You

  1. If me, I would be frugal on the ‘want’ things. Another way to prepare for the unexpected events that’ll come. But it takes a lot of patience and always reminding myself the future cause.

  2. our trick has been keeping a savings bucket with vacation/repairs combined for the past 12 years. it didn’t matter when we had 2 full time jobs but now it’s more like 1.2 jobs with a job loss. when the big surprises come the travel/vacations go away or get a lot more “budget” oriented. oh, and last year we underfunded mrs. smidlap’s roth. you can make those moves and stay on track if you are doing the right things when financial times are good.

    • We have a pretty healthy balance in our emergency fund, so it should be fine if we need to dip into it a bit. But we don’t have to do it very often, so it always stresses me out a bit!

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