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Close Be prepared for inevitable expenses

For my family, 2011 was the year of unexpected expenses.

The clothes dryer broke in January. The water heater started leaking in November. Our rickety picket fence fell down in a spring windstorm. The dog needed surgery this fall. And my 8-year-old car was totaled in an icy rear-end crash last month.

Thankfully, none of these expenses broke the bank, largely because we'd prepared for the unexpected. In reality, new appliances, household repairs, pet costs and vehicle expenses are not a matter of if but when. If you want to avoid going into debt, you need to be ready for "when," whenever it may come.

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