Receiving unexpected bills
No matter how well you budget, there's almost always an unexpected expense. We look at some of the most common reasons why you might get an unexpected bill and what you can do to resolve it.
Coping with the unexpected
You’ll usually have a good idea what your regular expenses are each month: like your mortgage or rent, food, petrol and bills such as electricity and gas. But it's harder to predict when you’ll receive an unexpected bill (that’s why they call them unexpected) and that can be financially stressful. Some common scenarios can be:
- You're in a car accident and you need to cover out-of-pocket expenses.
- You or someone in your family falls ill, and you might receive a bill for a medical expense that’s not covered by Medicare or by your private health insurance.
- You need to repair or replace a major household appliance, which can be costly either way.
- Someone you love passes away and you need to travel unexpectedly.
Why are unexpected bills painful?
If you receive an unexpected bill and you don’t have the money to pay for it, it might be tempting to look to a quick payment solution. The downside to these ‘quick-fix solutions’ is that they could potentially lead to more money problems later on. For example, you may use a short-term option such as a credit card or personal loan. The downside to these is that they can take longer to repay and often have high interest rates - so you end up paying more than the original amount. This adds stress on top of stress.
The good news is you can prepare for some of these situations before they happen. Although it sounds simple, creating budgets and a savings plan can help you prepare for bigger bills which you can anticipate. Also, ensuring you have adequate insurance will help protect yourself and your loved ones from the unexpected. You can hold many different types of insurance through your super. Use our insurance calculator to work out how much cover you might need and what it covers.
How super can help
If you're unable to work due to injury, illness or death, it may be possible that you or your dependents could be covered by insurance held through your super. This may mean that you or your dependents can still pay regular bills even if you're unable to work.
In addition, in times of severe financial difficulty, you may be eligible for early access to some of your super either through financial hardship or compassionate grounds.
Consider these next steps:
Check your Death, Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) and Income Protection insurance cover
If you don't hold any of these insurances, decide if you should take out this type of insurance cover
Apply to access some of your super early due to financial hardship or under compassionate grounds.
Preparing for the unexpected
Create a budget
You can keep some money aside for bigger bills that you know are coming (although you might not know exactly when they’ll come) such as a car service, dentist appointment or council rates.
Have a rainy-day account
Take a look at your current expenses and work out how much you can put aside for an emergency fund. This can help you pay for things that might pop up without warning. If you can, put away 10% of your wage in a separate account.
Organise health and general insurance
Having insurance in place for items such as your car, home, contents, travel and health can reduce the impact of unexpected expenses. This way, if the unexpected occurs, you might only pay for the excess, rather than the whole bill.
Sort out personal insurance
To ensure you’re properly covered check what policies you currently hold and apply for the cover that suits your personal circumstances.
Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support
Services Australia (formally the Department of Human Services) delivers government payments on behalf of the services above. Visit their website to see what you might be entitled to.Learn more
There may be times in life when you experience severe financial difficulty. In some circumstances you may be eligible for early access to some of your super to help meet your immediate financial needs. To find out if you’re eligible to apply please call us.
MoneySmart has free financial counselling if you’re struggling or in crisis.
Questions about accessing your super?
Speak to us about financial hardship or claiming under compassionate grounds.Get in touch