Underestimating Unexpected Expenses

Our fence broke last week. Well, scratch that, our neighbor’s fence broke last week. We share a fence along the back of our two yards where they butt up to one another. The neighbors technically own this fence, though we have the other sides of our yard fenced in (with fencing we own) to keep our dogs contained.

We have two dogs and the neighbors have two dogs and last week while I was working from home I let my dogs out as I usually do. I always watch them when I let them out – they don’t get to stay out unattended, but it was raining so I just kind of stood in the doorway while they went out. I made sure they peed and then of course they made a beeline for the back fence to see what the neighbor dogs were up to.

Within a moment or two I realized I had three dogs in my yard instead of the usual two. Fuck. A slat on the fence had swung loose and let the smaller of the neighbor’s dogs into my yard.


I will admit, I didn’t act very neighborly. It was raining out so I trudged outside in my robe (it was the morning!) and hauled my dogs back in the house. Then I nudged their dog back through the fence. Then after I had done all that the neighbor pokes her head out of the door and calls to her dogs to come in.

I may have said something less than neighborly as I shouted over the fence that they needed to fix the broken slats because their dog was in my yard. URGH.

But you know what they say, “good fences make good neighbors”, so I immediately called a local fencing company to schedule them to come out and quote me on putting in a new fence between our two yards. Because the other sides of our fence had seen better days, I had them quote me two full sides of fence and a quarter of the other side (subdivision fencing is complicated when different neighbors own different amounts of fence).

The guy who came out to measure was nice, but it wasn’t until he e-mailed me my quote that I realized I had no fucking clue what a fence cost.

I thought I did. I had googled, of course, and was expecting the quote to come back in the neighborhood of three thousand dollars or so.

Apparently, I live in fucking la-la land because the quote I got was for NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS.


Let’s just let that sink in for a moment.

I immediately started laughing in that kind of nervous sort of hysterical way people do when they’re uncomfortable. Because there was no way I was going to spend NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS on a fence.


I immediately turned to Facebook and started polling people I knew. “Did you have a fence put in? Who did it? How much did it cost?”

Yeah… so apparently, fences cost a fuck-ton of money.

I have a few other people coming to give me quotes. I hope that one of them will be more reasonable. But how did I underestimate the cost of a fence so badly?

And now that I have underestimated. Now that I’ve convinced myself a fence should only cost 4k instead of 9k. How to I readjust my expectation when it comes to having to have this work done?

I need to have a fence put in (or my neighbors need to fix their fence) in order to keep my dogs safe. I also would like to put in a fence that isn’t crumbling or rotting so its definitely something that needs to be done soon – but I hadn’t planned to replace the fence this year.

Instead, I had planned a couple of other house projects that are already underway. If the fence had broken two weeks sooner I could have readjusted my priorities, but down payments have already been paid and contractors have already been scheduled to do work that I had been saving for with my trusty SmartyPigs.

So, now what? Do I suck it up and just put in the new fence even though it means dipping into savings? Do I hold out hope the fence lasts for one more year so I can replace it on my own timeframe?

What do you do when these unexpected expenses come at you?

What do you do when your concept of what something should cost is so grossly out of whack with how much it really does cost?

How do I handle this?

We’ve had a few other unexpected expenses crop up this spring with regards to our rental condo and so I’m feeling frustrated and helpless as I watch money drain from our bank accounts. Money I had earmarked for other things.

But all of this is part of our journey to financial independence and the fact that, for the most part, I can just roll with it is something I should actually be proud of.

It still doesn’t mean I need to be happy about spending a ridiculous sum of money on a fence, though.

The last thing I want to point out is that it’s good to have an emergency fund for reasons like this, right? Unexpected expenses should be something you can roll with if need be. But make sure your emergency fund is as bulked up as it should be, because these emergency expenses always cost more than you think they will.

When was the last time you got an unexpected dental bill, for example? Those are always more money than you think they should be!

So, I’m going to just leave you with this sage advice… don’t be like me. Have a better understanding of what your upcoming expenses might be (the tires on your car won’t last forever). And make sure you’re socking away enough money to cover them.


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