Home » Ways to Handle Unexpected Family Expenses

Ways to Handle Unexpected Family Expenses

The following is a guest post.  If you are interested in guest posting for The Frugal Farmer, see our Guest Post tab at the top of the page or by clicking here.

About today’s author: Dave Stephenson is a dedicated internet blogger that loves to write about lifestyle and the world, covering topics including family, health, and pets, all the way through to technology, media and travel.


Ways to Handle Unexpected Family Expenses

Most families understand the fact that raising a family is filled with costly expenses, many of which are unexpected and require a little financial flexibility.  An unexpected expense could be anything: unplanned home repairs and spur-of-the-moment medical expenses are certainly two of the most frequent.

Without proper planning, unexpected family expenses can quickly drain a budget and leave very little money left over for anything else.  So what’s the best way to handle these financial “surprises”?  There are a number of ways to get around such problems and keep the household running smoothly:


What are you really responsible for?

 When a financial emergency pops up, most people are so stressed with wondering how they will come up with the money that they don’t really consider the notion that they may not be responsible for the entire bill.  It is important to take a step back, assess the situation and establish exactly what your rights and responsibilities are in such an instance.  For example, if there is a water leak in a rented home, it is the landlord, not the tenant, who is responsible financially.  Before footing the bill, whatever it is for, it is essential to check out the matter thoroughly.  If the matter is health related, for example,  will the health insurance cover any of the required treatment?  Or if the washing machine breaks down is it still under warranty?  Don’t rush into grabbing your check book and doling out money until you’ve assessed the situation and determined what you’re really responsible for.


Create a family budget

 No one can predict the future, so budgeting for a specific emergency expense is impossible.  But what’s not impossible is planning for everyday expenses such as the mortgage or rent, groceries, utility bills, and school fees.  Bills that a family pays every month, or on a regular basis, are easy to predict and plan for.  So, create a family budget and stick to it.  Then, it will be easier to carve out some extra cash to set aside for any unexpected bill that might arise.  The key is to make sure that the extra funds aren’t used to cover everyday expenses.


Buy only what you can afford

 A common mistake that many families make when managing their money is buying things they just can’t afford.  A good rule of thumb is to always pay with cash or a debit card, which draws directly from one’s bank account.  In this way, credit cards are not used for day-to-day expenses and sinking further into debt is avoided overall.


Preparing for a fiscal emergency

 Having that emergency fund set aside is a great idea, but how realistic is this when most families today are surviving paycheck to paycheck?  Making room in one’s budget for unexpected expenses isn’t as hard as it may seem – the trick is to just start small.  For example, every time a deposit is made into your checking account, use online banking to transfer a small portion of the income into a separate savings account that is not easily accessed.  Click here to read more about different family banking options.

Another good tip is to put any extra money into the emergency fund – a tax return, a bonus at work or an extra paycheck are all ideas of extra money you can add to your emergency fund.  Families can also fund their emergency account by putting off a large planned purchase, such as an expensive family vacation or a new car, or perhaps by bringing supplemental money into the family by doing things such as holding a garage sale and putting the proceeds into the spare account.  Because the purpose of this account is to tide the family over in times of financial duress or a spell of unemployment, the overall goal should be to have three to six months worth of living expenses set aside to meet such unexpected financial emergencies.

By preparing your family and putting some of the above tips into place, unexpected family expenses will have much less of a negative impact on your family, both emotionally and financially.  Decide today to prepare your family.


  1. Pauline says:

    As an individual it is complicated to plan for emergencies, I can only imagine as a family, chances are 5 times more likely something will happen! Having a buffer can help weather most unexpected events.

    • Laurie says:

      Yes, I can see how it would take a different plan, Pauline. Maybe we could do a joint post sometime about the differences in financial planning for families vs. individuals. 🙂

  2. Great point on the E-Fund! I think many hold back from doing it because they can’t put away thousands of dollars all at once. Starting small and putting away any extra money you may get is a great way to get started at building it up.

    • Laurie says:

      I agree, John. We read a great tip one time about putting away 1% of your net paycheck, so we’ve been doing that and it’s working out well. Despite our super-tight budget, 1% is doable for us and we don’t miss it.

  3. The first thing I would do would be to drop my savings rate. I save 50% of my income every month, so that means that I can basically double my expenses at a moment’s notice.

    My second point of support is my emergency fund.

    Finally, as my passive income streams become larger, they could be redirected towards handling emergencies as well.

    • Laurie says:

      Great points! You made a smart move by putting yourself in a situation where you can survive on 50% of your income and save the rest. We too are working on putting some passive income streams into place.

    • Laurie says:

      Isn’t it though? We’re learning that too. No matter what your situation, you can usually put a little something away if you really try.

  4. I am a huge proponent of emergency funds. If there is one thing in life we can predict, it is something unexpected will happen – and cost money! When people are paying down debt, they don’t always want to build their emergency fund at the same time, but I think that’s a mistake. All your efforts could quickly disappear if something happened and your only option was to put it on the credit card. Yes, it may mean it takes a couple extra months to get out of debt, but that peace of mind and money available can be a huge lifesaver.

  5. I’ve started to put any extra earnings on top of my regular income into a seperate account. It’s amazing how quickly it builds up and it’s nice to know that I’m covered if something unexpected does come up, great post.

  6. You never know what expenses pop up. This was my no grocery spending week, but my daughter has been sick for over a week. We had to shell out for a doctor visit and then I went to the store and bought food I thought she might eat, Fruit Loops, Animal crackers, gatorade, stuff I don’t normally buy. When your little bean pole isn’t eating, you’d buy anything to perk up their energy. If I had no savings, all this would be on the credit card. Having an emergency fund is tremendously important, especially with kiddos! Also, Love the new Gravatar!

    • Laurie says:

      Kim, we just went through that a couple of weeks ago, so I know what you mean – our oldest lost 4 pounds! A doc visit and the food/meds needed to fix up those little sweeties can easily reach the $200 mark, which can really mess things up financially without that emergency fund. Sending good thoughts for quick healing for your little pumpkin.

Comments are closed.