Saving money for pleasant aspirations such as retirement, buying a house, or college for your children is important. However, saving for those unpleasant moments in life is equally as important.
Unfortunately, things like the loss of a loved one, unemployment, medical emergencies, or expensive home and auto repairs can wipe out your bank account and potentially sink you into unwanted debt. Setting aside savings for occasions such as these can allow you and your family some cushion and breathing room when you may need it the most.
While it can feel burdensome to build your emergency fund, there are specific steps you can take to make the process easier on yourself.
Set goal milestones
Experts recommend an emergency fund have enough to cover 3-6 months of living expenses. To calculate this number, add up your monthly costs in the following areas and multiply according to how many months for which you plan on saving.
- Rental or mortgage payments
- Utility payments
- Insurance payments
- Gas and car payments
- Debt repayments
Don’t get discouraged if the number seems high or unreachable. Break your overall savings goal into smaller milestones.
Start with a goal of $500, which would cover many common emergencies. Once you reach $500, work your way to $1000 and continue from there in the same manner. Using this process will make your overall savings goal feel more obtainable.
So you’re not caught off guard in the event of an emergency in the future, be sure to adjust your emergency fund numbers to accommodate an increase in your monthly living expenses adequately.
Look for savings opportunities
Sometimes there simply is no money left for saving. When this is the case, look into where you can cut corners with your current spending and bills.
- Reduce your power bill by regularly turning off lights and electronics.
- Opt to cook at home more often. Dining out adds up quickly.
- Carpool with coworkers, family, or neighbors to save on gas.
- Bring your lunch to work instead of picking something up.
- Cancel recurring membership fees for services you don’t use or need.
Set up a dedicated savings account
The money you’re saving for your emergency fund should be kept separate from your checking account to prevent it being used for other expenses.
Set up a savings account with your bank or an online financial institution instead. Your money will earn interest, and you can transfer money into the account each pay period.
Sell unused items
When you have an important goal like saving for an emergency, looking outside of your work income for extra ways to bring in money can be helpful. Selling nonessential items you own is an easy way to do this.
Look around your home for unused toys, furniture, electronics, clothing or other items and sell them to your local consignment shop or online.
Work extra hours
Whether it’s picking up overtime with your current job or seeking a part-time job, this can go a long way towards fulfilling your emergency savings target.
Putting in this temporary extra effort if you’re able can mean reaching your goal faster and give you peace of mind.
Be vigilant with your savings
When you’re working hard to save for emergencies that are bound to come up, it’s important that this money remains only for this purpose.
Be sure to strictly and clearly define what constitutes an emergency for you and your family.
Don’t allow things like presents, vacations, or other impulse buys to deduct from your fund. You’ll thank yourself later.