Preparing for Known Unknowns

Preparing for Known Unknowns

So, I really screwed up last week.

The first Monday of 2017 was going great: I woke up early & headed to the gym for an intense circuit training session. By 7AM, I had worked out, eaten my 3 daily breakfast tacos, and showered & dressed. I sat down at my computer with a cup of coffee and cranked out 5 different important emails while jamming to the Classical Piano Spotify station. I’m feeling great about how 2017 is looking and it’s not even nine AM.

So, of course, I promptly tip half a cup of coffee all over my beloved Macbook Air. The coffee seeps underneath my seemingly useless “keyboard protector.” My little Air’s screen goes black and it makes ascritch sritch scritch noise that sounds like the noise my cat makes when I accidentally lock her inside a kitchen cabinet. Well, this isn’t good.

Don't do this!While the computer “dries out” upside-down, I start brainstorming. Here’s the thing: I need a computer (and a pretty fast one at that) to do nearly all of my work. I’m self-employed so if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. There’s no corporate IT to replace my computer. This unfortunate meeting of my dark roast & Macbook Air could have really been traumatic financially.

But planning ahead means my clumsiness is simply inconvenience not disaster: not only was my computer mostly backed up, my finances were, too. My computer was 4 years old, and for the past several years, I’d been putting away $50/month in a “Computer Replacement Fund.” I’d been hoping to make my computer last another year, but the fact that this timeline was shortened is not a big deal.

Clicking “purchase” on a $1,300 virtual shopping cart with overnight shipping could’ve been devastating financially but I planned for an inevitable outcome and made this unfortunate circumstance just “life”. Replacing my computer was a “known unknown” – I knew eventually it would give out, I just didn’t know when. Slowly but surely I prepared for that possibility, putting some money aside each month.

Rolling with the financial punches is better than the alternative: panickedly delaying my rent or a bill in order to replace my main moneymaking equipment. Or having to turn down paying work because I don’t have a functional computer would be even worse.

What are your known unknowns?

So here’s your assignment for this week: think about what your money “known unknowns” are and plan for the unexpected. Some ideas:

  • Know you’ll have to travel on short notice to visit an aging loved ones? Price out the most expensive last minute ticket or rental car, and start putting aside money in your budget for it every month. Give yourself the grace of a buffer so you don’t have to miss an opportunity to spend time with those that matter most to you.
  • Wear glasses? What does it cost for you to get the most blinged-out glasses? Last time I got glasses, I didn’t shell out for the anti-reflective coating because I was too cheap. Let me serve as a lesson to you: anti-reflective coating is modern optometry magic & totally worth the extra $115.
  • Own your home? Look around at your household appliances. Do you know the age of your water heater? Most water heaters only last 8-10 years, so if yours is 8 years old, you might want to start planning for its replacement.
  • Have a tent & sleeping bag that are patched within an inch of their life? Figure out what a replacement would cost you and make a plan to replace it before you’re in the woods.

So, what known unknowns? How are you able to prepare for them?