How to handle large, unexpected expenses

What can you do if your expenses for the month are blown out of the water and you’re not prepared?

Ideally, everyone would have an emergency fund they can dip into when needed and their budget is in order so they are prepared for all bills. The reality for many families is quite different.

Car repairs, insurance excess, huge electricity bills and medical expenses are some of the common unexpected expenses. Suddenly needing $2,000 (or more!) can be extremely stressful. Depending on what the expense is, you might have options to help you, otherwise, you might need to find it all yourself. We cover both options below. This post does contain affiliate links for products and services we use. Check our full disclosure here.

Getting Help

For some expenses, you might be able to ask for help. This could be negotiating with the company, help from charities or you might have options to remove the expense completely.

Large Unexpected Bills

Many Australians are facing astronomical electricity bills lately which is leaving them scrambling to pay it and terrified to turn the heating on. With your electricity and other bills, first look for ways to reduce them. E.g. 17 ways to reduce your electricity bills or 19 ways to keep cool in summer. Next, look at how you will pay for it.

If this bill is significantly higher than normal and you are on a lower income or Centrelink, you might be able to get help from charities. Places such as Vinnies, the Salvos, Barnardos etc. have options to help pay for utilities. If you are a member of a church, they might be able to help you. Also, with higher bills, check your meter and usage. Is this really how much electricity you used? Is the meter faulty? Do you have any appliances causing issues? Doing a thorough check will help ensure the bill is correct and you know what to expect next time.

Next, look at your other bills and work out how much these bills cost you per year. Divide that amount into how often you get paid and that is how much you need to start putting aside to cover these bills as they come up. To find the money this time, you might need to look at ways to make more money. Check out the freeĀ 5-day fast money boost for ideas.

Medical Expenses

Our health isn’t something we can put off. The longer you do, the worse it gets and sometimes, ill health or injuries are unavoidable. While we do have a great public system here, not everything is bulk billed and things can add up quickly.

That said, you might have some wiggle room. I was able to negotiate with my specialists when I had severe health issues. The anaesthetist removed their fee for me, the surgeons did it all with no gap (I was a private patient) and my private health insurance put a 6-week pause on my payments. Meaning, I got 6 weeks free while I recovered. My GP often bulk bills or gives me a discount even though their practice doesn’t offer that. Check out this post for tips to deal with medical expenses and get things cheaper.

Mechanic

Shop around once you know what needs to be done. Ask for quotes, talk to people and do your own research. I’ve had times where I was told it was going to cost a fortune. Once I was told there were issues with the electrics in my car. Upon some research, I discovered it could be a fuse and not everything. $3 + 5 mins later I had fixed it myself and my car was fine for years! Sometimes what seems huge can be a quick and simple fix.

If it’s not, ask about payment plans. Some places offer them. I’ve been extremely fortunate with my mechanics and found loyalty (when I have a good one) certainly pays off. A mum and dad team in Sydney were fantastic about letting us know what needed to be done immediately and what we could hold off on, plus they dropped me home and picked me up when the car was ready. My parents have gone to the same mechanic for 20 years, so when I moved to Canberra I rang up and said I was their daughter and he knew who I was, took care of me and made it easy.

Where To Get Help

As mentioned in the bill section, various charities such as Vinnies, the Salvos, Barnardos, Anglicare etc help. Local churches (particularly if you are a member), drop-in centres and community centres all have options.

These options can’t be used all the time though, so don’t rely on them. Next, you could apply for an advance of any Centrelink payments you get. This will reduce your Centrelink payments over the coming months to repay that advance though, so it’s only delaying things.

Make Money To Pay For The Unexpected Expenses

It might feel like it’s easier said than done but there are so many ways you can make money quickly. Sometimes it’s a matter of juggling your expenses a little, getting freebies and discounts in an area you might normally spend money and redirecting what you would have spent to the bill. Other times you need to bring in more cash.

Freebies And Discounts

Firstly, check out our huge list of Aussie freebies here. It includes cash, discounts and offers from companies. If any of them are for something you’d normally spend money on, grab the freebie then put the money you had planned to spend on it (e.g. food) straight to the expense. Check out this post with how to get free and super cheap groceries for more options. And look at this list of Australian VIP/loyalty/reward programs too.

Go over every reward program you belong to and cash in. Flybuys and Everyday Rewards are two which come to mind and might surprise you. Check any online survey sites to see if you have money sitting there you can cash in. We have a list of the best Australian ones here. My favourites have been Octopus Group, Vindale and Swagbucks.

Use Cash Rewards to get cash back on anything you buy online too.

Sell Things

Usually, the first thing anyone does or suggests when people need to make money fast is to sell things. What do you have lying around your home you can sell on Facebook, Gumtree or eBay? I’ve made over $10,000 a month buying things to resell and while I haven’t been as active with it lately, I still make good money with this when I try.

Other Ways To Make Money

Each month I share the ways I have made money on the side and how much it generates. You can find them all here. Read 43 ways for single mums to make money, check out the best apps in Australia to make money, 51 ways to make money from home and any other post we have on making money here.

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