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How to deal with unexpected expenses

When something happens and you know it's going to be costly, it can give you that sinking feeling – especially when it’s a cost you haven’t prepared for.

What is an unexpected expense?

An unexpected expense is a cost that suddenly pops up, and you need to cover it. It could be a large bill or damage to something valuable that’s not covered by your insurance. 

When an unexpected cost does happen, there are steps you can take to help you tackle the issue financially.

What to do if an unexpected expense happens?

1. Start straight away

When something bad happens, it can be tempting to ignore the issue for as long as possible. But the sooner you start to act, the sooner you’ll be able to get back in the clear. Acting quickly can help prevent the possibility of things getting worse before they get any better.

One of the first steps you may want to take, is to check if the expense is covered by your insurance. 

2. Evaluate your options

Do you have savings, an emergency fund or an arranged overdraft you can fall back on? If so, now could be the time to use them.

If not, can you get assistance? If it’s a large bill, there may be an arrangement you can come to with your supplier. 

Another option is an arranged overdraft, credit card or personal loan which could temporarily help you cover the expense. However, these will come with an interest rate and possible fees. If you do look at borrowing, take some time to set a repayment plan so you know exactly how much you'll have to repay and when you should finish making repayments.

Before making any decisions about borrowing, make sure you’re aware of all the potential costs and risks. You'll also need to meet any financial eligibility criteria, and credit is subject to status.

Explore: Should you get a credit card or loan?

3. Create a plan

Once you’ve decided on how you’ll tackle the expense, create an action plan with the various stages written down.

If you’re using your savings, this could be planning how you’ll get your savings back to the level they’re currently at. If you’re borrowing money, or repaying the expense over time, this will be your repayment plan.

Explore: How to create a budget

4. Talk to someone

Everyone is different but you may find it helpful to talk to someone about the expense. It could be a partner, family member or friend – as long as it’s someone you trust. Talking about things can help put your mind at ease and make you more accountable for what you set out to do. If you feel comfortable, share your plan and ask the person you trust to check in from time to time to make sure you’re on track.

If you want to get professional advice, there are a number of organisations that can help. You can find out about free independent money advisers in your area from:

The following helpline services can offer help and advice:

If you’re an HSBC customer and you’ve missed a payment or are worried about missing one in the future, we're here to help. 

Visit our money worries support page for more information.

5. Build a buffer

Once you have things back on track, you may want to build a buffer of at least 3 months’ worth of living expenses, in case something happens in the future. This is often referred to as an emergency fund and can mean you’re covered when things don’t go to plan.