Expect the Unexpected
Prioritizing an emergency fund (savings for three to six months of expenses) is paramount to being an independent adult. You heard it here first: Saving for a lovely vacation or coveted new toy should absolutely come second to saving for the unexpected.
Here are the eight expenses — both big and small — that every lady should budget for.
Nobody has job security. Nobody. People get fired, companies go under, clients can change their minds, and contracts can be broken.
But if you suddenly lost your job tomorrow, would you be okay for a few months? You should plan to be — and factor in three to six months’ worth of rent or mortgage payments, monthly bills, and groceries. Don’t forget to budget for any necessary transportation expenses (for all those job interviews you’ll be going on).
Divorce/Split From a Partner
The divorce rate may be on the decline for younger Americans, but it nevertheless continues to be on the rise for baby boomers. So we’re not talking about twentysomethings who got married too young — divorce is up among people who have been married for decades.
Reconcile that how you will, but the bottom line is that relationships (of any stripe) can and often do end. As of 2011, more than a quarter of senior women living in poverty were divorced or separated.
For stay-at-home partners, perhaps this means a postnup to ensure you’ll be financially compensated for your time away from a desk in the event of a split. For partners who make significantly more money, perhaps this means actively communicating about who is funding which long-term financial goals and what the expectations are surrounding those goals.
But for everyone, it means having enough resources of your own (read: in your own name) so if your spouse walked tomorrow, you could pay rent and maybe fund a moving van.
Birth Control Failure*
The costs of getting pregnant can be pretty steep and, similarly, so can remaining child free.
Know the cost of Plan B (as well as where you can procure it safely) and the cost of an abortion per available provider. (According to the Guttmacher Institute, one in three American women will have had an abortion by the time she reaches age 45.)
If you live in a state like Texas that could potentially have fewer than 10 working clinics (or clinics with 72-hour waiting periods), factor in gas, necessary hotel expenses, childcare, and any resources you might need for follow-up appointments.
If you can’t afford all those expenses for your constitutionally protected right, see whether telemedicine abortions are available in your state.
*If you’re partnered to a man
Cab Fare Home
I live in New York City and I’m fond of telling my female friends that if they can’t afford a cab ride home after a night out, then they can’t afford to go out.
Prioritize and budget for your safety. If at anytime you feel unsafe — whether you’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood, your date sucks, your train is out of service, your car breaks down, or you get separated from your friend who drove — you should be able to get in a taxi and go home. Do not scrimp on this expense. Pay the outrageous sum of money if it means getting home safely.
Even if you’re vigilant about tune-ups (which you should be, because it will save you money), cars have the grand capacity to do just about anything: break down, malfunction, and get hit.
If you’re buying a car, be sure to ask the previous owner or the car dealer if there are any problem spots you should pay special attention to and how much maintenance on those areas generally runs. Compare prices between mechanics and know what your model costs for routine malfunctions so you don’t get cheated by swindlers.
That Random Time You Need Professional Makeup/Hair
Whether you’re into lengthy beauty routines or stick with sunscreen and lip balm, there are some professional moments that call for more than your everyday regimen. And while you can cut corners (buying dupes of high-end makeup brands), sometimes it pays to turn to a professional.
Whether you’re getting a blowout for a third-round interview for your absolute dream job, a media appearance, an important work function, or that annual summit where you need to network like crazy, invest in your look.
In circumstances where you have a very limited time window in which to make a solid impression, looking polished is worth it.
Health care is no place to scale back, especially if it’s preventative care like breast cancer screenings, Pap tests, and pelvic exams. These exams are not optional and they keep you healthy.
Know and plan for any copays or out-of-pocket expenses as well as any necessary follow-up procedures. Additionally, stay attuned to your family history. If people in your family tend to have a history with skin cancer then, yes, absolutely opt into that expensive yet optional test for that funky mole.
Brace yourself — with your savings account.
If you just got married or had a particularly robust year as a freelancer, keep Tax Day in mind before you order bottle service. You could be hit with an astronomical sum — like a “they must have gotten this number wrong” kind of sum. If you have an accountant, they should be keeping you abreast of what your bill could look like.
While there are options available to you if you can’t pay your tax bill, you’ll save yourself time (and money!) if you can just write that one check and not talk to the IRS for another year.