Top 5 Faux Financial Emergencies

With Back-to-School season quickly on the horizon, shoppers all over America will soon reach maximum panic mode.  As hard as it is to believe, the vast majority of parents forget that their children start school every year in August (or September).  Obviously, I’m being exaggeratory.  However, many parents swear school shopping is an emergency and that they must use their “only for emergencies” credit card to get them through this unexpected situation.  Because I generally hate shenanigans, it is time for another great list—Top 5 Faux Financial Emergencies:

(1) School Shopping | While we are on the subject of school shopping, let’s park here a bit.  If something happens at the exact same time every single year, then it is not an emergency.  Emergencies by definition are unexpected, catastrophic, and costly.  College-ruled paper obviously does not fit this definition.

(2) Christmas Shopping & Other Gift Shopping | Christmas shopping and birthday shopping are in the same category as school shopping. These occasions happen at the exact same time every year but catch people by surprise way too often.  Even gifts for weddings and baby showers aren’t unexpected—unless you weren’t invited :-/

(3) Automobile Maintenance & Repairs | Not only are oil changes not surprises but there is usually a reminder sticker in your windshield telling you to change your oil after a given mileage or given date.  Other automobile repairs are a bit trickier but not exactly rocket science.  Tires eventually wear out.  So budget a little bit for a new tires every month until you need new tires.  Please use this same strategy for car batteries, brake pads, etc.  If your transmission goes out, then yes, that is an emergency.  Act appropriately.

(4) Brand New Minivan & Other Bad Car Choices | College students (usually with student loan debt) graduate from school and suddenly “need” a new car.  New parents (with student loan debt and maybe new debt now) suddenly “need” a new minivan because their paid-for sedan is too small and uncomfortable for their 8 pound baby.  Automobile purchases are a lot cheaper if you save up ahead of time and buy smart.  I know this.  You know this.  Yet, financing always seems to happen.

(5) Home Renovations | This tends to get the baby boomers more so than millennials, but it affects everyone.  You have a reached some sense of unhappiness and all of a sudden, your kitchen or bathroom just isn’t good enough anymore.  All of a sudden, getting a $50,000 home equity line of credit (HELOC) seems like the smartest thing ever.  It isn’t.

Can you name any faux emergencies that I didn’t mention?

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9 Comments
  1. Vacations that someone–and TBH, it’s usually the wife–insist cannot wait–also qualify. Not downing vacations in general, but you can totally plan those things. Truly. Only if you are recovering from the death of a loved one, or some similarly traumatic disaster, is a getaway a must-happen-NOW situation. I’ve seen young couples drop $4-5K on a Disney vacation that was supposedly 100% “necessary”, and then sweat making their car payments or mortgage payment. Why do that to yourself?

  2. Agree with vacations!
    Also Electronics! Just because your 60in flat screen went out does not an emergency make. That goes for phones, tablets, and computers too. Buy used if need be. People confuse needs and wants too often.

  3. I agree with this for the most part. But actual car emergencies DO count. You can’t know when a tire will blow because of a nail on the road. Now, things like an oil change that you have a sticker in your windshield for? Not an emergency. How many of YOU actually keep up with all the dates for those tire changes/oil changes/etc.? Seems you have to be the Batman of the Household to stay on top of that.

    • Nah, it’s easy. You only need to change your oil every 10,000 miles (especially newer models) instead of the 3,000 on the sticker designed to make the oil change places 3X as much money. I opt for 5,000 as a middle ground. Just get your oil changed when the odometer shows a multiple of 5,000 — 10,000; 15,000; 20,000 …

      Now turn that bat signal off! :-)

  4. Kala totally hit the nail on the head. The vast majority of bad financial decisions are made b/c: a)people confuse wants with needs, and b)we’ve stopped teaching kids the concept of delayed gratification.

    I bet Tom Hiddleston and the Cookie Monster could totally sort this stuff out.

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