Being Unprepared is Costly

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being unprepared

If there’s one I’ve learned in my 27 years on this Earth, it’s that preparation makes life go so. much. easier. I really believe that life is hard enough without being caught in a bad situation just because you didn’t do the heavy lifting ahead of time. I’ve been in situations where being prepared is basic, like actually putting diapers in a diaper bag before you get in the car.

I’ve also witnessed what preparation can do in dire situations, like how my dad had a working radio, generator, and microwave in the midst of Hurricane Katrina. I guess you can say preparation is in my blood. Here are some examples of why it’s important for your wallet too:

1. The Umbrella Principle

You know how stores always seem to have a bucket of umbrellas right by the door when it’s storming outside or those awesome ponchos that make you look like you’re wearing a trash bag? That’s genius, right? They always catch the people being unprepared who didn’t check the weather that day and had no idea it was going to start storming. After 30 minutes of non stop rain, customer after customer plunks down $7 for an umbrella. Before the store manager knows it, he’s had one of his more profitable days in a while.

This is just a small example of a principle that applies in many different areas of life. If you don’t have an umbrella when it rains, you might have to buy one (even though you already own one.) If you are about to run out of gas, you won’t have time to shop around for the cheapest station. If you waited too long to book your flight, prices are going to go up and up and up. Just a little bit of preparation goes a long way.

2. The Organization Principle

We talk about organizing a lot when it comes to money, and that’s because you just can’t have a good budget without keeping your receipts and numbers straight. I’m not saying you have to be absolutely perfect all the time since we all make mistakes, but organization helps you to be prepared and saves you money.

For example, if you prepare your taxes in a timely fashion, you won’t miss out on deductions. If you shop around and get your life insurance squared away nice and early, your family will be taken care of in the case of a tragedy. If you organize your pantry and know what you have in your house, you won’t come home with your third bottle of olive oil (not like I’ve ever done that of course!) 😉 In sum, the more organized you are in both big and small ways the more money you can save in the long haul.

There are other aspects in life when it pays to avoid being unprepared, like really being ready for a job interview or a big speech. All of those things can lead to promotions and more money down the line, so it’s definitely important to prepare for everything.



What are some of the ways you stay prepared throughout life? Can you think of a time that you were unprepared and it cost you (either a lot or a little)? What’s one of the easiest way to avoid being unprepared in everyday life?

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families. Check out her award winning blog,


  • debt debs says:

    I think having a routine keeps you prepared. The only thing I haven’t figured out yet is how to tackle the long to do list. Everytime something gets crossed off, something else gets added. But it still feels good to get that one thing done that’s been gnawing at you for awhile!

  • Mrs. 1500 says:

    Having a schedule is a great idea! We were on a road trip this past winter, and hadn’t checked our wiper fluid in a long time. We ran out and had to buy some at the gas station, which charges $5 a gallon, instead of the $.99 we could have spent buying it locally. Not a huge outlay of cash, but still 5 times the cost.

    Debt Debs, that list NEVER ends…

  • Liz says:

    I think it is always good to be a little over prepared than under prepared. For example, I don’t mind accidently picking up an item at the grocery store than I already have. What drives me crazy is when I have to make a second trip to the grocery store to pick up something I actually forgot the first time. It’s not the waste of gas money that really annoys me- it’s the waste of time and going to the grocery store!

  • Kathy says:

    Having a reserve fund (some people call it emergency fund but ours is not just for emergencies) really helps when the unexpected non-emergency happens. For example, we had some flooring replaced in our house recently. After the installer took up the old floor, we had to have some sub-floor replaced which added $1400 to the cost of the job. Then after the job was complete, we had to have a handy man come in and repair some things the installer damaged (long story). That cost us another $800. While we didn’t like having to pay out the extra money, we were prepared because we had saved in our reserve fund. Instead of wondering were the extra $2200 was coming from, we simply transferred the money to checking account and wrote a check. A much nicer feeling than the panic I would have felt had we not planned in advance for such contingencies.

  • I was not prepared for hurricane season in New York. I lived in Florida for 5 years and prepared while I was there, but didn’t think about it when I moved back to NY. We lost power for three days a few years ago and it was an immediate wake up call for preparedness and I am glad that we did because the following year, we lost power for 10 days because of Hurricane Sandy; however, we had everything we needed to make it through. We were inconvenienced, but not like others.

  • I think the BEST way to be prepared is to have an emergency fund. If you don’t have an e-fund you are almost asking for the hand of fate to come knocking at your door and deliver you a pricey car repair or an unexpected illness!

  • This past winter caught us unprepared for all those snow storms we had in the Northeast. We don’t have a snow blower so we had to shovel ourselves. One thing we did right was buy several bags of rock salt before they ran out and no one could find them. We were thinking ahead because we had already gotten so many storms that the rock salt was just running out so quickly. I’m glad we did because after the first week of February you could not find it anywhere!

  • Kim says:

    I think it helps to have a partner. I am often the one to forget jackets or umbrellas, but Jim always has them in his truck. I am the one who remembers to look for coupons or book things in advance. I get us there and he makes sure we are comfortable. It’s a good system. Now if only on of us goes, I often find myself freezing, but with 25% off.

  • Lauren says:

    I feel like being unprepared, financially speaking, is one of the quickest ways to end up in the cycle of debt. We stay prepared by looking over our budget and spending every week, sometimes several times a week. Staying on the same page with your partner is really important.

  • Dave Lalonde says:

    I’m a big advocate for preparation. In my car, I always have all the essentials prepared in case of any mishap on the road. Even when it comes to something as simple as a down pour, I have my hat at work, I have my umbrella in my car and of course, one at my home. I hate spending on items I already have. I always try to plan things out ahead so that way I don’t come across any situations like these…But I mean, a lot of times, it is unavoidable, and that’s okay! But preparation for me is definitely the key.

  • I’ve been interviewing for a few new positions within my company, and I prepared two ways. First I had looked at open jobs a year ago so that I could see what skills were in demand. I then went out of my way to develop those skills. Second I prep hardcore the night before or the two nights before an interview. I go through questions, practicing talking about my resume and experience, and think of and review examples.

  • It doesn’t rain often in California (in fact we could use more rain) so I bet stores do gangbusters on those days when it does rain because no one is prepared and can’t find their umbrella. I’m pretty sure that i have probably bought an umbrella or two under those exact same circumstances. LOL! Preparedness does go a long way. We try have an emergency earthquake kit and definitely have an emergency fund.

  • Managing time is key to becoming rich so I manage the heck out of it!

    I’d probably say be prepared just by planning in advance as far as possible. I find little goes wrong if I plan and no one gets in the way of those plans haha.

    Like going to a restaurant.. I like to pick it ahead of time so I can surf the menu online and pick out the healthy/cheaper options. Then I have enough time to bike to the restaurant instead of drive, etc. etc.

  • I’ve experienced the added expense of a failure to plan more times than I care to admit 😉

  • I would say my biggest expense in being unprepared is time lost. I need something, and I can’t find it because the house is so disorganized right now. We are working on that this week though. It’s power decluttering week at The Frugal Farmer house. 🙂

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