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Everyone who’s ever had an emergency will tell you money is key to making good decisions. We make bad financial decisions when we’re broke and desperate.
That’s why having an emergency fund is vital to starting any personal finance journey.
We currently keep a mini emergency fund of $1000 while we’re paying our debt and so far it’s worked out great.
Now we have a five-month emergency fund because we’re debt free!
But it’s hard to save, hard to know how much to save, and hard to avoid the temptation of $1000 sitting in your bank account screaming to be used. Here are some tips we’ve used to save and keep our emergency fund.
A note to those on the other end of the spectrum, nervous about draining your savings that low, trust me when I say you’ll be fine, just breathe, commit, and lean in. For the rest of us:
Tired of hearing about budgets yet? It’s like being on a diet and getting reminded over and over that you can’t have dessert. But the budget is the key to achieving your goal. Without a budget, your money will get lost in other “important” purchases and you’ll be wondering why you’re 6 months in and no richer than you were to start. Start that budget!
2. Sell Something
We sold old textbooks, clothes, furniture, even a toaster. Anything that wasn’t vitally essential to our comfort had to go. Craigslist is a familiar place to start but there are plenty of ways to sell stuff without leaving the couch. OfferUp is an app that allows you to post and put offers on items in your area and you can sell your clothes online to sites like ThredUp or Poshmark.
Related: How to Get Paid for Decluttering
3. Drop the Nonessentials
Cable, your landline, gym membership, any and all subscriptions, you name it. We have money flow out of our accounts that we barely think about. Look through your statement and consider relinquishing one or two things.
It doesn’t have to be forever but you may realize you didn’t need it as much as you thought you did.
4. Commit to not Spending for a Period of Time
If this girl can go without shopping for 2 years then you can go for a month. There are all kinds of things you can fast for a period of time that wouldn’t be sustainable long-term but are realistically doable for 1-4 months. Here are some posts with great suggestions on cutting your spending at
I love no-spend challenges (so much I wrote a book on how to do them well.) They help you cut out spending in the short-term to build better spending habits and pad your bank account fast.
Now that you’ve got your emergency fund:
Keep your emergency fund out of sight and out of mind. I like to say “don’t give yourself more credit than you’ve earned.” Open a credit union account that doesn’t charge fees for just letting your money sit in checking. Leave the card at home. I leave mine in the inconvenient file folder with the rest of my financial documents.
Then go pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s there if your car dies, you have to make a trip to the ER, your pet eats that leftover chocolate cake you left on the counter (how dare you.)
Running out of something isn’t an emergency; paying rent isn’t an emergency.
These are things that should be in your budget. Don’t give yourself the temptation to spend your emergency fund, you’re not going to be perfect so put parameters on your money to help yourself succeed.
And start saving on things you buy regularly so you can pad your checking account. We had emergencies we were able to cover without using our emergency fund because we worked on cutting our spending every month. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Use Blink to save on prescriptions.
- EyeBuyDirect to save on prescription eyewear.
- Energy saving methods like low-flow showerheads to reduce our utility bill.
- Sites like Restaurant.com for dining deals.
- Groupon and LivingSocial for deals on activities.
- ThredUp for nice secondhand clothing at steep discounts from retail.
- Take advantage of free trials at gyms.
- Shopping through Ebates when making any purchases online will get you cash-back from virtually any retailer.
- Apps like ibotta and Checkout51 to save at grocery stores and other big-box retailers.
- Use healthcare sharing to save big time on health insurance.