Updated on 02.13.15

Dealing With an Unexpected Financial Blow

You know it's out there. There are ways to prepare.

woman and tow truck operator observing broken-down car

Keeping an emergency fund for situations like this will make them at least a little less stressful.

It was the most bizarre sound I’ve ever heard.

I was driving down the interstate with both of my babies strapped into their car seats. Jingle. Jangle. Metal-on-metal. Jingle again. There were so many sounds coming from my car that shouldn’t have been there. Luckily, by some miracle, I jangled all the way to the car repair shop without getting into a wreck.

One minute my car was fine, keeping my little family safe. The next minute, it was making awful noises on the hectic New Jersey interstate. All it took was a quick — yet $800 — fix, and it was as good as new. I was prepared for the unexpected financial blow.

Because I have an old car, I already had a car-repair fund in my high-yield savings account. I was able to pay for the repair without affecting my regular budget. It hurt, of course, but I was able to do it without causing myself further financial harm. I tried not to dwell on the unfortunate situation and just be glad that I was able to make it safely to the shop. Keeping a positive attitude, it seemed, helped me feel a little better about the expense.

If you want to be prepared when the unexpected happens (and it always does), here are some steps to get there:

1. Know It’s Going to Happen

I’m not trying to be a downer or a glass-half-empty type, but in life, things just happen. It’s smart to expect the unexpected. It’s common sense to realize that something in your home might break at some point and require expensive repairs.

I’ve had many car issues in the past. That’s what I get for owning two cars that are both over 10 years old (but require no monthly payments, and for that I’m grateful!).

I’ve also had roommate problems where they didn’t pay their portion of the rent, which caused huge financial issues. Heck, I would even count becoming pregnant with twins as a big financial blow/surprise, because I was only planning on having one baby, not two.

However, when you are prepared for something to go wrong, you save yourself the emotional turmoil of being angry. Once you have a clear head when presented with a big financial problem, you can then take the steps to remedy it and not waste time being upset. It might seem hard in the moment, but it’s definitely possible.

2. Always Have an Emergency Fund

Personal finance bloggers are big fans of emergency funds, and that’s because they save you when financial blows happen.

It could be as simple as an unexpected vet bill because your dog ate an entire turkey leg at Thanksgiving dinner (not like I have any experience with that, of course). Or your child could get sick, or you could get sick.

All of these things are covered with an emergency fund. Just remember that as soon as you take money out of your emergency fund, you should immediately take steps to replenish it. I like to keep my emergency fund at around $5,000, because that takes care of most major expenses.

3. Keep It Positive

As I said, there is no point in getting upset when the unexpected happens. When my car started making all of those crazy noises, it wouldn’t have helped me to become stressed while driving down a very busy interstate.

Again, I know it’s easier said than done. But if you run into trouble financially, it’s important to keep a clear head. Carefully assess the situation and the damage. Try to understand how much it will cost you to remedy the financial blow. If you don’t have the money to pay for it, think of how you can get there — whether it’s through “side hustling” or the generosity of a family member.

If you do have the money to pay for your financial issue, go ahead and do it, and don’t give it another thought. It’ll drive you crazy to think of everything else you could have done with that money. Instead, be grateful you were wise enough to save ahead of time and start preparing for the next financial blow!

Have you ever had to pay for an unexpected financial blow? How did you deal with it?

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