In health care, there is a concept called “Activities of Daily Living.” It’s a measure of whether someone is capable of self care and includes activities such as bathing, dressing and eating meals. On patient charts, this is abbreviated as ADLs.
Perhaps a similar concept is appropriate for managing “problems in living” or PDLs. We all have them, and many problems we face are unexpected—things like a flat tire or car trouble, sickness requiring high co-pays for your prescriptions, losing your cell phone, or your washer stops working. Or perhaps your brother needs a place to stay for a few months, or your electricity goes out during a storm.
PDLs are the everyday nuisances that we all have to deal with on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes they seem to cluster, like when your washer stops working and you have a flat tire on your way to the laundromat. You get the idea, and you could easily add to the list. So how do you handle these? Is it even possible to prepare for them? In many ways, you can, but it takes discipline as well as good planning.
The first thing, of course, is to establish an emergency fund and not use it unless it is absolutely necessary–unless it is truly an emergency. Most people think they can’t afford to save, but generally it just takes a bit of discipline. You may need to start small and let it build, but if you save as little as $10 per week, in two years you will have a $1000 emergency cushion.
Developing a system for paying your usual bills so you don’t misplace them and miss their due dates will avoid late fees. Put payment reminders in your iphone. Also make note of the dates for expenses that occur only once a year or so, expenses like car registration fees, tax preparation costs, or annual deductibles for health or dental care. A brief monthly budget calendar is one way to avoid unexpected expenses that create other problems.
Keeping receipts and warranties for appliances and electronics, and keeping them together in an easy-to-find place makes good sense. Do the same for your health care records and your insurance policies. Be disciplined about the organization of important paperwork so that when you need a document to resolve a problem you can readily find it.
Unless prohibited, having copies of your house or apartment key made is a good idea, but don’t just throw them in a drawer. Instead, put an identifying tag on each and put them in a safe place like a file drawer in a folder marked appropriately, or, better still, buy a lock box and secure your extra keys along with other important things like your passport. This way, when your brother is staying with you, you won’t have to worry about him misplacing your only house key—and you won’t have to incur the expense of a locksmith.
Many PDLs can be avoided, or the impact can be reduced, with planning and prevention. Getting a flu shot or annual physical may help you stay healthy. Keeping track of the mileage on your tires may prevent a safety risk. Having an emergency preparedness kit in the event of a storm will help you deal with any aftereffects. Annually replacing batteries in your flashlight and smoke detectors simply makes good sense.
Part of becoming an adult is assuming personal responsibility, including responsibility for solving your own problems. When you have children, that responsibility is multiplied many times over. Therefore, learning to prevent or manage PDLs early on is an important life skill.