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Why You Need an Emergency Savings Fund

Life is unpredictable, but your finances don’t have to be.

An emergency savings fund may be the only thing keeping you afloat in the case of job loss, medical expenses, car problems, or other unexpected expenses. You could rely on credit cards, but this often results in a hefty amount of credit card debt. Start to save money now and you will save yourself many headaches later.

How to generate a savings fund

The best way to start saving is to start budgeting. Once you get your other essential expenses figured out, you can judge how much money you can afford to put away each pay period or each month. Include everything you can think of, not just the basics like housing and food. Your emergency fund should account for nonessential spending and entertainment, and your budget should reflect that.

“Put away $50 every week or every month, and create a two months’ rent cushion.”

Scarlet Paolicchi, Family Focus Blog

Learn more about budgeting made easy »

After you set your budget, create a monthly savings goal. How much do you want to have in your emergency fund by the end of this month? What about by the end of next month? Make sure this goal fits in with your budget, so you don’t stress about making it work.

Ways to free up extra money for your fund

  • Reduce spending: The most important thing you can do is limit your expenses. You can cut back on any number of things – going to the movies, buying coffee in the morning, going out to lunch at work, buying lottery tickets, the list goes on.
  • Direct deposit: Send a specific amount of your paycheck to a savings account that you don’t touch. Even if it’s a small amount, every bit counts.
  • Save your change: Get the whole family involved with this, because when an emergency occurs it impacts everyone.
  • Sock away a raise: If you get a raise, increase the amount you direct deposit. You never had that money before so it won’t hurt.
  • Slash credit card spending: That hefty credit card bill you pay every month plus interest prevents you from saving more. Stop charging.
  • Use coupons and sales: Check out online sites for coupons on groceries and other necessities, and you can always clip away too.
  • Avoid impulse purchases: Shop with a specific list of what you need to buy. If that doesn’t work, try only bringing the amount of money you need to buy what you are looking for
  • Find ways to cut back: Look for areas in your budget that you can cut back. For example, if you still have a home phone, it may be time to get rid of this service. Or that magazine subscription you haven’t read in months.
  • Compete with a friend: To help save more you might want to turn it into a competition with a friend who also needs to create an emergency fund. When you are trying to beat someone there is a greater chance you will actually save.
emergency savings

Another way to generate savings quickly is to sell things you already own. Get rid of old clothes, furniture, tech, etc. and get a little boost to your emergency fund. If you really need the cash, you can try a side-hustle like freelancing or driving for Lyft.

It’s also important to be flexible with your savings goal. If you pressure yourself too much when you can’t afford to save your goal amount, you could end up going into debt. If you get a raise or make some extra income but neglect to put extra cash in your savings, you could miss an opportunity to grow your emergency fund. Keep your monthly goal in mind, but don’t feel locked in. Adapting to your changing financial situation will benefit you in the long run.

How much should I put in emergency savings?

This answer is different for everyone, but if you have almost nothing saved up for emergencies right now, start with a goal of $1000. This gives you a good starting point and it will cover most emergencies. Most experts recommend saving 10 percent of their paychecks to get started.

After you reach $1000, it’s time to start personalizing your approach. Since you’ve already made a budget, you should know approximately how much money you spend per month. Conventional wisdom tells most households to strive for at least three to six months’ worth of savings to cover all their living expenses.

“Not having an emergency fund means when something goes wrong, it can be more expensive to address.”

Alison Tedford, Sparkly Shoes and Sweatdrops

However, a more common “better safe than sorry” mindset has been adopted by some experts, who recommend saving roughly nine months to a years’ worth of living expenses. This is largely in response to fears over job security during an economic downturn and the ability to stay afloat for up to a year while individuals are job searching. Be careful that you aren’t saving too much, though. Leaving too much money in your savings could mean that you are missing out on things like retirement investment opportunities.

Where to put emergency savings

Where do you put anything you might need in an emergency? Somewhere easily accessible.

For your emergency savings, this means keeping it in a bank account that you can withdraw from quickly. Choose a savings account that earns interest or a Money Market Account, so you can earn some money on your savings. High interest rates are your best friend when it comes to emergency savings accounts. Money Market Accounts tend to offer higher rates and variable rates, which are good in an economy like the one we’re in now. These accounts also offer tiered interest rates, so the more you save in the account

Note: You don’t want to invest your emergency money in stocks, because this is risky and you could lose your investment. You also don’t want to put it into an IRA or a CD, because then if you have to withdraw funds, you will face a penalty.

When should I use my emergency savings?

Maintaining an emergency fund takes self-control. You must be able to clearly define what “emergency” means to you. If you aren’t sure, ask yourself if it is urgentunexpected, and necessary. If a situation meets all three of these requirements, it’s a good idea to use your emergency savings to cover the expense.

“Keep saving as much as possible when you are able to.”

Scarlet Paolicchi, Family Focus Blog

Being prepared is priceless, which is why everyone needs some sort of emergency fund. By budgeting and creating the saving goals listed here, you will have the financial safety net that works for you.

Don’t have any cash flow available in your budget to start saving? Make a plan to eliminate your credit card debt to free up money, so you can start saving.