6 Unpredictable Expenses That Can Blow Your Budget if You Let Them
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Home Maintenance and Repairs

From leaky dishwashers to seasonal expenses like snow removal, pop-up home expenses can sideline any budget. If it’s not your first year living in the home, do an audit of last year’s bills and note the times expenses spiked (like in July, say, when you kept the air conditioner on for hours). Find your average, then adjust your budget. If you don’t need the full amount, bank it for later.

“Unless it’s an emergency, like you have a leaky roof or your air conditioner fails in the middle of a heat wave, most home maintenance and improvement projects should be built into your budget,” Woroch says. An emergency savings fund can cover urgent repairs (try to set aside at least three months worth of expenses).

Child Care

It’s no secret that kids can be expensive. Even if you’re used to having another mouth to feed, out-of-the-ordinary expenses crop up all the time, from school field trips to summer camp extras.

Whenever you can, Baltzell recommends making plans—especially for the summertime—as early as possible in order to lay out your options and take advantage of early-bird discounts. It’s also wise to review the previous season’s budget to get a ballpark of costs, then put away a percentage each month.

If you have older children, he suggests getting them involved in the planning process, too—asking for them to chip in a portion of the cost of something they want from their allowance. This may not take much off your own plate, but you’ll be grooming responsible savers for the future.

Car Maintenance and Repairs

While your car payment is unlikely to fluctuate, insurance payments and fluctuating maintenance costs may slip your mind. “A good rule of thumb is to plan on spending 10 to 15 percent of your total monthly budget on all automotive expenses,” Anzuoni suggests—and include everything from maintenance and repairs to gas and commuting costs. Again, if you don’t need the funds one month for, say, new tires or your registration, chances are good you might the next.

That ensures you won’t have to put off any necessary work that might end up costing you more in the long run. An AAA survey found that 35 percent of Americans have skipped or delayed recommended service or repairs—which ultimately costs them $100 more each time they visit the auto shop.

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