How to Plan and Deal With Unexpected Money Drains

by David Ning · 9 comments

unexpected charges can ruin our holidayA man once told me that nothing should be unexpected because we can always expect that something unexpected will happen.  Right now, I’m too upset to figure out whether I agree with this or not because the unexpected occurred to me – I received a bill from my doctor for $100.

“Your health insurance will cover this” is what I hoped for.  “Your insurance didn’t cover Hepatitis A Vaccine. Please pay the balance due” is what I have to deal with.

There’s so much to complain about this bill but instead of the long rant post, here’s how I managed to not let this expensive wreak my budget and my mood (it is close to the holiday season after all).

  1. The Emergency Fund – The tired and true advice of having an emergency fund.  The only reason why we keep coming back to this is because it is truly a life saver.  I know many of you don’t have one, so start contributing to one right away.  If you haven’t set one up yet and feel that you don’t have the means to do so, try starting small because even $25 or $50 a month can add up over time.
  2. Stop Stretching the Budget – In other words, do not live paycheck to paycheck anymore.  We are extremely good at expanding our spending habits, so many of us gobble up as much of the paycheck as we can.  Consider keeping our spending the same when we get a raise, or try the many ways to cut spending.
  3. Dispute It –  If it’s an overdraft fee, try calling your bank to see if there’s a way to get it waived.  As for my bill, my doctor did offer to let me pay with 4 installment of $25 instead of $100 if that helped.  Try to be calm and find a solution instead of being frustrated because the person on the other side of the phone can really help.

Unexpected or not, expenses need to be paid sooner or later.  While it’s easy to feel upset about these charges, some preventive maintenance can keep it from ruining our mood (or in my case, a great start to the holiday season).

Pay the unexpected bills with money we already have and stay cool.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Mrs. Jim says:

    I love your advice to dispute things that you are wrongly charged for. I had to have 3 surgeries in a 7 week period. My insurance told me (in writing) that it would all be covered. Well, I just got one bill after another after another after another. The insurance company finally said it was their mistake and that they’d clear it up – ha! It’s been 4 months and I am still getting bills that should have been covered, but I’m not giving up. I’ve been paying for this insurance for 26 years and it’s the first time I’ve really had to use it.

  • Jules H. says:

    Emergency funds are definitely a great cushion. I feel for you, David, with the unexpected medical bill. My car was vandalized last week and some important things stolen from inside, so my emergency fund is totally helping out right now. It’s just kind of sad that my savings will go to pay for the ramifications of someone else stealing from me. I wasn’t out shopping on Black Friday, but apparently someone got a good deal out of my car.

  • Andrea says:

    This applies more to hospital expenses than a doctor visit …

    I can’t remember where I saw this, which is unfortunate because I’d like to give credit where credit is due, but for people who don’t have insurance and are stuck with much higher bills than insurance companies would pay, I read a suggestion to find the amounts Medicare/Medicaid would approve for the same procedures and offer those to providers as a negotiation point. It requires getting an itemized bill from your hospital with procedure codes.

    And #3 on this list is usually my first course of action. Try being nice, and if that doesn’t work, escalate, write letters, etc. In some ways, it’s my anger management therapy. 😉

  • lulugal says:

    I got stuck with a bill for Anesthesia MONTHS after my surgery and countless bills.

    I worked it out with the hospital where they offered me a chance to pay the bill in six installments at 0% interest (after MUCH pleading). That worked for me because I could tweak my budget to find $50 every month…..instead of find the whole amount at once.

  • CD Rates Blog says:

    Wow. Your complaining about $100. This reminds me of your HENRY post a little while ago. Try $5000 in “unexpected” Dr. Bills. Thankfully the hospital allowed us to make payments, interest free.

    Remember, to read the fine print and know your plan. We finally switched to an HSA which really caps our Medical expenses and allows us to budget. With a family of 8, the HSA has been a lifesaver.

    cd :O)

  • Rick Vaughn says:

    Good post.

    An Emergency Fund certainly makes the sting of a unexpected bill not so painful. $100 is not so bad in the scheme on things. I’m sure you’ll have no problem Ning.

  • abelle | Only in Silence says:

    I am using only one credit card since 2003. The first annual fee was waived (promo), meaning, you will start paying the annual fee on the 2nd year onwards. What I do when the annual fee is due is call the credit card company and have it waived. So since then, I haven’t paid any annual/renewal fee for my card ;o)

  • MoneyNing says:

    Craig: You might want to just call your insurance up and ask which ones are covered while which ones aren’t.

  • Craig says:

    An emergency fund is key. I have started my own fund although to be honest it also is my vacation fund. $100 unexpected fee sucks but isn’t terrible. I am like you and could not live paycheck to paycheck it is too stressful. I have some doctor bills coming up and am not exactly sure what the insurance will cover, and what bills I still will need to pay. Any advice?

    Craig
    http://www.budgetpulse.com

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