6 Unpredictable Expenses That Can Blow Your Budget if You Let Them
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You know those months when it seems like every single “extra” hits you at once? You’d been doing so well sticking to your spending plan—until your dog got sick and you had to rush him to the vet. And your car needed new brakes. And you had to buy a birthday gift for a last-minute party. And now your budget’s completely wrecked.

A scenario like that may be hard to predict, but it’s not an uncommon one. Think back, and you’ll probably realize something similar happened a few months ago and a few months before that, too. Because the truth is, the only thing unpredictable about unpredictable, non-monthly expenses is which one will hit you when. Unexpected expenses actually come up pretty regularly for most of us.

And that can really kill your savings mojo. So we’ve rounded up six of the most common (and costliest) pop-up expenses—plus tips on how to prepare for them so they don’t throw you off your game.

Vet Bills

Your dog may be your best friend, but he may not always be your budget’s. “Keeping your pets healthy can be expensive…and an unexpected surgery can set you back thousands,” says financial advisor Robert Baltzell of RLB Financial in Valencia, Calif.

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Aside from padding your pet-care budget line item, consider pet insurance, especially if your pet is prone to health problems. While you’ll pay a monthly fee—starting around $15 to $25, though it varies according to the type of animal, size and other factors—insurers like Healthy Paws and PetPlan will cover significant portions of your vet bill. That can translate to thousands saved.

Gifts

Showering loved ones with thoughtful gifts isn’t cheap. “If you’re lucky, you might get some advance notice of upcoming events, and you can start setting aside money,” Baltzell says. “But those unexpected invitations to birthday parties and bachelor parties can require you to dip into your savings [if you’re not careful].”

If you’re blindsided, control costs by choosing a meaningful or sentimental gift—like golf balls from your friend’s favorite course or a cool pair of socks to add to his collection.

For generic gifts, stock up early. “I pick out small, inexpensive gifts, like nice-smelling candles or pretty stationery, throughout the year when they’re on sale for those last-minute gift needs,” says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch. She also buys greeting cards at the dollar store. “Who wants to waste money on a piece of paper?”

Prefer to give gift cards? Sites like GiftCardGranny.com sell them at up to 70 percent off.

Medical Bills

If you’re like most employees, you can count on health insurance premiums being automatically deducted from your paychecks. But other expensive medical costs—from a new, non-generic prescription to a pricey procedure—aren’t so easily budgeted.

Before agreeing to pay the quoted price, shop around for cheaper options. Many pharmacies offer a discount card. You can also call your doctor to see if there’s a similar, cheaper drug, says Steve Anzuoni, Retirement Income Certified Professional for Boston-based Fairway Financial.

For the best prices on procedures, Woroch recommends checking out ZendyHealth.com, a platform where you can search for qualified health care providers, based on your budget. Or ClearHealthCosts, which offers comparison pricing for procedures and visits. Your doctors may also be open to negotiating their prices.

Finally, look into accredited stand-alone surgery or radiology centers instead of a hospital. “There are major price variations between facilities, so it’s important to review prices,” Woroch says.

August 25, 2016

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