Budgeting for "surprise" expenses

Written by
Peter Dunn

Budgeting is easy. No really, it is. You list out your monthly expenses, set a budget for fluctuating categories like food and entertainment, and then you spend only what you budgeted for. It's really that simple. But, of course, there's always a 'but'. Tell me this doesn't sound familiar: You are trucking along one month, staying on budget like a boss when an unexpected expense comes up. Your license plate needs renewed. Your dog needs to go to the vet for his annual exam. Your yard needs treated.

The thing is, none of those things are actual surprises. You just forgot about them. So often I hear people complain about unexpected costs like car maintenance, but really you shouldn't be surprised when your car needs an oil change. It happens regularly, just not regularly enough for you to remember it.

At your next budget meeting take time to list out your "surprise" bills/expenses. I think you'll be surprised at how unsurprising these surprise expenses are. Many of them actually occur on a regular basis, whether it's annually, bi-annually, or every 3,000 miles.

Here are a few expenses you need to be on the lookout for:

- Car insurance

- Homeowner's/renter's insurance

- Vacations

- License-plate renewals

- Car maintenance

- Landscaping

- Tuition

- Veterinary bills

- Clothes

- Property tax

- Birthday and holiday spending

- Income taxes

Hopefully this list will also jog your memory about other expenses you often forget about. Everyone budgets differently, but adding columns which list out annual, quarterly, and bi-yearly expenses is a great way to keep track of obligations which don't occur often. Avoid the "oh crap" moment when an expense comes up. Take a yearlong look at your budget. Knowing when a month has extra bills will prevent going over budget or worse, not being able to afford the expense at all.

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