If you’ve been reading The Frugal Farmer for any amount of time, ya’ll know that we’re on a super tight budget. We’ve learned how to cut expenses enough to manage our income and our high DTI well, but the things that really get us are those one-time expenses: the occasional doc bill, vet bill, or home or auto repair/maintenance bill. Since our budget is still pretty tight, there’s not really enough room in it to put cash aside for those one-time expenses yet, so we work in other ways to try and find ways to budget for them, as we no longer use credit cards. Here are some things we’ve learned about how to handle those one-time expenses:
1. Make a list. Keep a running list of what needs to be done if you know it’s coming up. If you know the dog is due for his shots in April, or that physicals or eye exams are due in May, write it down, along with an approximate cost. If you know that the roof will need to be replaced or that you’re going to have to put a new tub in soon, write it down. Your running list will allow you to have a big picture of how much money you’d ideally like to come up with in the next however many months, and help you better plan a way to pay for those items.
2. Search for discounts. Need a new bathtub? Search the flyers every week for home improvement sales on bath fixtures. Search Craigslist or Facebook for sales on what you need to buy and see if you can get it on sale, or get a quality used item for a fraction of the price. Last summer we knew we were going to need a large extension ladder to do some repair work on the barn. No one we knew had one big enough for us to borrow, and a new one was around $300, so we started checking sales, and found exactly what we needed on Craigslist from a guy who was downsizing his house, and it only cost us $165 after gas expenses. HUGE savings for us there.
3. Tackle them one at a time. If you know you’ve got doctor expenses coming up in May, don’t pick that month for your home repairs. Instead, schedule those in for another month when there’s no other one-time expenses due. Fit the cheaper stuff in in months where the budget isn’t so tight, and for more expensive expenses, look for months when your budget has more breathing room, like in June, when there’s no heating costs and usually no air conditioning costs.
4. Find extra income. If you know you’ve got extra expenses coming up in May, look to do extra work in April or the other months before that, ear-marking that extra money for your May expenses. Work overtime if it’s available, or find a one-time gig, like house-sitting for a vacationing family or pet-sitting, through a reputable side hustle service. The point is to try and earn the money ahead of time so that when those May expenses come, you’re not scrambling for cash.
Even on the tightest of budgets, there are ways to get the cash for those extra expenses.
What are your tips for handling extra expenses on a tight budget?