Life is unpredictable. At some point, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to pay for an unexpected purchase.

While you can't plan for every possible scenario, you can take steps to prepare. Whether it's paying for a car repair or replacing your dishwasher, it's important to budget for unexpected expenses. Having a solid financial plan, complete with contingency plans, can provide you with peace of mind and the flexibility in your budget to cover an unplanned financial cost.

What are unexpected expenses?

An unexpected expense is an expense that comes as a total surprise. You didn't see it coming and couldn't predict that it was going to happen. Examples can include things like health emergencies, emergency home repairs and parking tickets.

What is an irregular expense?

Unlike an unexpected expense, an irregular expense shouldn't come as a huge surprise. An irregular expense may not happen on a regular basis like your rent or mortgage payment, but it is more predictable than an unexpected expense. Examples of irregular expenses include property taxes (if not paid monthly), insurance premiums and replacing your laptop.

How to budget for unexpected expenses and irregular expenses

Creating a monthly budget can help you to prepare for unexpected and irregular expenses and work towards your financial goals. Rather than trying to pull together money at the last minute, budgeting can help you be more proactive and able to adapt when expenses come up. Even if you have a good handle on your money, a budget can help you to focus your money so you can achieve your financial goals faster.

Create a budget

To create a budget, make a list of all of your sources of income. This can include income from your job, rental properties, or child support. Next, record all of your expenses. Consider different categories including:

  • Regular expenses (mortgage, rent, utility bills)
  • Unexpected expenses (home repairs)
  • Irregular expenses (replacement laptop, attending friends wedding)

Now, subtract your expenses from your income. A positive number means you bring in more money than you spend. A negative number means you are spending more than you make and need to make some cuts.

If you are an eligible Scotiabank customer, you can make personalized budgets by using Scotia Smart Money by Advice+.* This tool, which lives in your Scotia mobile app under the Advice+ tab, lets you set up how much you want to spend each month on different categories, like groceries and entertainment. With your budgets, you will find out if you are underspent or overspent in each category. If you are underspent anywhere, that could be a great opportunity to start saving that money in places like an emergency fund. 

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What's in a budget?

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Scotia Smart Money can also help you keep on track with personalized insights and real-time recommendations that are based on your spending habits.

What kind of insights will you be getting? You find out things like if you’re reaching your credit limit, when your paycheque is deposited into your account and budget recommendations based on your spending history. 

To save more and spend less, consider cutting things like take-out, subscription services, entertainment, and other non-essentials. Once you free up some cash, it's time to start setting financial goals and setting aside money for unexpected and irregular expenses.

Get started with Scotia Smart Money by Advice+ today

Create an emergency fund

When creating your budget, be sure to set aside money for your emergency fund. An emergency fund is one way to budget for unexpected expenses. But just how much should you budget for unexpected expenses? Experts recommend that you have three to six months' worth of living expenses saved up in case you encounter a significant unexpected expense or if you can't work.

Living expenses include things like your rent or mortgage payment, utilities, insurance, and food. Your emergency fund is not meant to cover non-essential expenses such as new clothes or a haircut.

To start building up your family's emergency fund begin by establishing your financial goals. How much do you want to save per month or how much can you realistically save per month? Use helpful tools like our Money Finder tool to work this  into your budget. Even if you can only put away $20 per month, it's important to start building the habit of saving. It's okay to start small. The bottom line is having something in your emergency fund is better than nothing.

Automate your money

For those looking to save time and effort when it comes to money management, consider automating your finances. To get started, set up direct deposit with your bank. Now you are in a position to automate everything from your bill payments to your savings, and investments.

Automation can make it even easier to maintain a budget and reach your financial goals, making it simpler to do your daily money management. Consider setting up preauthorized contributions to your investments.  Simply determine your financial objectives (e.g. investing 10% of your paycheque or saving $250 per month in your emergency account), set your automated payments, and then it's hands off. All you have to do is monitor your monthly statements to ensure your money is going to where it's supposed to and you are building towards your goals at a rate you are happy with.

How to pay for unexpected expenses

Even if you've already started to grow your emergency fund or put money into a targeted savings account, it can still be a challenge to pay for an extra expense. Whether it's an unexpected medical expense, car maintenance, or replacing an appliance at home, you may find yourself in a situation where you haven't set aside enough money to cover the entire expense.

There is a cost-effective method you can consider using to help ease the financial burden and take control of your personal finances: an installment plan.

Installment plans

An installment plan feature on your credit card is among the ways you could consider to pay for unexpected expenses. Rather than trying to put together a lump sum amount to pay for an unexpected or irregular expense, an installment plan is a flexible option to split up a payment on your credit card over a period of three, six, or 12-months.

Installment plans works differently than the way you usually pay for balances on your credit card. The amount you have put on an installment plan on your credit card (whatever your purchase amount is) is then broken up into installments (fixed payments each month) that you will pay over a specific time period.

Scotiabank now offers Scotia SelectPayTM which allows you to convert eligible credit card purchases of $100 or more into a fixed monthly installment plan with no interest and a low fee.1

You can set up the installments on your existing Scotiabank credit card and convert your purchase into an installment payment program right after you make it.

How can an installment plan help me with my budget all year?

You want to build a budget that works for your financial goals throughout the year, beyond just when the unexpected happens.

You also may want to think about how are you managing your cashflow for daily expenses, like groceries or school expenses, or to help you build towards savings goals like a new bike, vacation or getting those amazing sneakers that just came out?

An installment plan can be a great tool to help you plan out those expenses and schedule how you are going to pay them off on time.

With the fixed installment payments, you will know what exactly your monthly payments will be and how much you need to set aside to make your deadlines. Let’s dive into how you can best use your installment plan throughout the year.

Tips for managing your installment plan

To take full advantage of the benefits offered by Scotia SelectPayTM, keep these three tips in mind:

  • Stick to your budget – Once you've created a budget, it's important that you stick to it. Installment plans help you know exactly what your monthly payments are for any purchases you’ve converted to a plan, so you can better incorporate them into your budget. Knowing what payments are coming up each month can help you better manage your finances and stick to your budget. Scotia Smart Money by Advice+ can help you with this by giving you a full view of your cashflow and monthly transactions. Remember that while an installment plan is a great way to prepare for large expenses and manage your cash flow, having too many installment plans at once can cut into your necessary expenses and undo your careful budgeting.

  • Track your monthly payments – This is easy to do using online banking or Scotia mobile app. All of your plans will be available to see all in one place.

  • Make your payments on time – Like your credit card payments generally, be sure to stay on top of your payment due dates and make your payments on time.

Ready to get your finances on track for your future? Come in and speak to a Scotia advisor today