7 Emergency Expenses and How Much to Budget for Them

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I’m sure you agree that things can go awry even with the best-made plans. From a financial perspective, it’s essential to be prepared for an unexpected emergency.

That’s why money expert Clark Howard recommends everyone have an “oops” fund for unexpected expenses. 

In this article, I’ll list seven unexpected expenses that can bust your budget and share Clark’s advice on preventing that.

Unexpected Expenses You Should Plan For

If any of these unfortunate events happen to you, you might have to pay — quickly — to get them fixed. Even if you make an insurance claim, you’ll almost always have to pay a deductible.

Let’s take a look at some things that could happen to anyone and how much those things could cost you out of pocket. 

Note: The prices listed below are for illustrative purposes only and will vary based on many factors including where you live.

7 Small Emergencies That Can Break Your Budget

EmergencyPrice Range
Child care (one week)$201 to $565
Cell phone screen replacement$70 to $300
Cracked car windshield$60 to $100
Dryer repair$107 to $246
Pet Surgery (Cat)$1,500 to $3,000
Tree Removal$200 to $2,000
Water heater repair$221 to $966

Of course, there are many more. But as you can see, unexpected expenses, even the kind that happens all the time, can add up quickly. So how can you make sure you’re prepared?

Clark’s Solution: Build an ‘Oops’ Fund

When it comes to dealing with unexpected expenses, Clark says the key is to practice something we should be doing anyway: saving.

“If you don’t have savings then you’re not prepared for the ‘oops’ in life,” Clark says. “Because oops happen — all different types and sizes — and a lot of times we’re not in a position to deal with them.”

To be prepared for the unexpected, Clark wants you to follow this two-step process:

  • Save Money
  • Create an Oops Fund

How To Start: Save Money

The very first thing you need to do is get out of debt. After that, begin saving money by putting away small amounts of your paycheck. Even $10 a pay period is a starting point. As the weeks and months go, see if you can double that to $20 a paycheck.


Track your progress by writing it down. Create a budget to help you stay on track.

Once you’ve got some money saved, you can open a savings account that allows you to gain interest over time.

Final Thoughts

Clark says the numbers show that if you’re not saving, the risk of financial difficulty is much higher.

“Surveys show, no matter how the question is asked, that roughly half of Americans cannot handle a simple financial hiccup in their lives — some part of our car breaks, or something in your home needs repairing or replacing or whatever it is that’s a surprise,” he says.

“That’s why having savings in an oops fund or emergency fund is so important.”You may be wondering how to go about building an oops fund. Read our in-depth guide on how to create an emergency fund.

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