How to Deal with Unexpected Financial Emergencies

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It happens to everyone sooner or later. You get a cold that takes a weird turn for the worse. You get rear-ended. You lose a job. Your landlord sells the house you’ve been renting, and you have to move. Your computer dies. Whatever it is, even though you’d been doing your best to scrimp and save, this unexpected expense is not something you can easily afford. What do you do?

The action you take is going to depend on upon the nature of the expense. Is it a big bill that you might be able to break down into smaller, more manageable payments like a medical bill? Or is it something longer term, like  trying to find cheap SR22 insurance after getting caught driving while uninsured? We’ll talk about how best to approach both of these types of situations.

Great Big One Time Bills

In the case of giant but one-time expenses like a medical bill or your car needing a massive repair (or even needing a new car altogether), the best thing you can do is ask about setting up a payment arrangement. Trust us on this: hoping the bill goes away or trying to dodge collection attempts will only hurt you. Most companies–even medical companies and the IRS–are more than willing to work with people who make a good faith effort to pay off their bills regularly. Sometimes they won’t even check your credit before setting up these payment plans…though rest assured that if you default on these payments, the default will be reported on your credit history.

Typically the criteria used here is your annual income (verifiable through tax records and pay stubs). If you can afford to pay off the bill within a certain period of time (usually seven years or so) you’ll be approved, and you can begin making payments. If you can’t, there are other options available to you including debt consolidation and bankruptcy.

Note: Bankruptcy is no longer the death sentence it used to be, we promise.

Smaller but Long Term Bills

Finding the money to make these payments or to accommodate a new bill, like the aforementioned special insurance is a little trickier but should still be doable.

The first thing you’ll need to do is scour your budget. Can you make cuts anywhere? Can, for example, you take 10 percent away from what you put into savings or other bill payments and put it toward this new account? Can you trim the amount you spend on groceries or other incidentals?

If you are already living on a stretched too thin budget, do you have the time/energy to take on another job or start a side gig? You’d be surprised at how many ways there are to earn money on the side of a full-time job. Sure it might eat up your free time, but hopefully it won’t have to be that way forever, right? Though, you might find that your side gig allows you to pay down other debts quicker, which is a good thing!

When You Need It Now

Hopefully, these instances are a rarity, but they do happen to people from time to time. Having to suddenly find new housing or afford a trip home to take care of a dying loved one or to flee from a bad situation. When you need a bunch of money right now, what do you do?

The first thing you should do, and you probably already know this, is to look around you for items that you can sell and sell quickly. This is not a time to get sentimental. If there is an emergency, selling your television or some jewelry might be the only way to get the money you need.

If housing is the issue, your best bet is to put your belongings in storage and then couch surf for a while as you work to build up enough savings to pay for a deposit and moving fees. Yes, this is a hard thing to ask from your friends, but surely they’d rather help for a week or two at a time than see you homeless!

If the money is for something else, and you have some time to get it together, you should set up a GoFundMe account and promote the heck out of it. People are more generous than you might think!

Most of all, do your best not to give in to prolonged panic. Freak out for a few minutes, sure, but then do your best to stay calm and look for opportunities for help. You might be surprised by how many you find!

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