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We want to believe that we can plan for everything, but unfortunately life can be full of expensive surprises. Having an emergency fund is essential to a successful budget, especially when finances are tight. It seems overwhelming, but there are several easy ways to build an emergency fund fast.
How much you actually set aside in your emergency fund is up to you. Many people recommend at least $1,000, but I recommend at least one month worth of expenses. We aimed for a higher emergency savings balance as our family grew since our chances of needing an emergency fund also grew.
The quickest way to rack up debt is to live without an emergency fund. If you don’t have money set aside for the unexpected, you are forced to rely on credit cards or loans.
Building an emergency fund is easier than you may think. There are 10 easy ways to start an emergency fund that you can do right away. These are the things we did when we first started our own emergency savings.
10 Simple Ways to Quickly Build an Emergency Fund
1. SELL YOUR THINGS
Most of us have a healthy stash of items that we don’t need or use anymore. Gather up everything that is in good condition and sell it. We have sold so many things over the years, and it has really helped us get out of debt and build savings.
Where you sell your items can depend a lot on where you live. We have had success on a few different platforms:
- Facebook Marketplace
- Neighborhood Facebook groups
- Community Boards (ie. church, mom groups, work break rooms, etc.)
We have done most of our selling on Craigslist and neighborhood group boards. We just make sure to meet in a public place as often as possible.
2. WORK A SIDE HUSTLE
Earning some extra income in your spare time is one of my favorite ways to start and grow an emergency savings. There are endless ways to make a little bit of extra income if you know what you’re good at.
I am a huge believer in turning hobbies into extra income.
A few ways you can work a side hustle from home include:
- Starting a Blog- Read my guide for how to start a successful money-making blog
- Become a Virtual Assistant
- Start a Photography Business– You can sell prints of your photos, photograph couples and families, or sell stock photos.
- Become a Freelance Writer- One of my favorite freelance writing courses is Elna’s Cain’s Writer Website in a Weekend.
- Start a Direct Sales Business– I always recommend doing this for a product you use and love.
- Start a Subscription Box Business– This is a fun way to make predictable income doing something you love.
3. ADJUST YOUR BUDGET
The quickest way to adjust your budget to put more focus on savings is to look at your variable expenses each month. Variable expenses are the expenses that change each month and you set an amount for. Examples of variable expenses include:
- Dining Out
Look at your current budget for these items and decide where you might be able to cut your spending. Most often, groceries and dining out are the best place to start.
- A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning for Families
- The Meal Planning Strategy that Helped Us Cut Our Grocery Bill in Half
- 11 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget
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4. CUT UNNECESSARY EXPENSES
Most people have around five to ten subscriptions or memberships that cost $5-10+ per month. These add up quickly and cutting them out of your budget can be the key to building your emergency savings.
Are you a member of a gym? You might even be a member who never attends (it’s happened to all of us). Find ways to work out for free or at-home to cut this out of your budget.
5. DO A SPENDING FREEZE
A spending freeze is when you choose a specific amount of time that you won’t spend ANY money outside of your fixed expenses like rent, mortgage, and utility bills. You take a break from all spending outside of the necessities and allocate what you would have spent into savings.
How serious you get with a spending freeze is up to you. You could do it for a weekend if your spending tends to get out of control only on the weekends. Go big and do it for several weeks if you want to!
If you want to dip your toe into a spending freeze, you can cut out certain luxuries:
- A certain amount of time without your weekly manicure
- Cut out work lunches
- Skip date night
One of the biggest ways that we’ve been successful with a spending freeze is skipping grocery shopping and getting creative with what we have at home. Cutting out grocery and restaurant spending for a week can get that emergency fund started fast!
6. PAY YOURSELF FIRST
The best way to prioritize saving is to pay yourself first. This means putting money into savings before any other expenses. Calculate how much you want to allocate towards savings and transfer that money into your savings account before you allocate money towards any of your variable expenses. Waiting until the end of the month to save what is left over will often lead to disappointment.
7. HAVE IT AUTOMATICALLY WITHDRAWN FROM YOUR PAYCHECK
One of the best things we did was have our savings automatically withdrawn from our paycheck and transferred to the appropriate account. We noticed that if we had the money in our hands, we would be too tempted to spend it.
When you have savings automatically transferred out of your paycheck, you begin to adjust to that smaller paycheck amount. You barely notice the savings coming out. It’s truly a case of out of sight, out of mind in a good way!
8. REDUCE CURRENT EXPENSES
Find ways to reduce your current expenses so that you have more money available for savings. Some ways that we’ve cut expenses, even fixed expenses, over the years include:
- Price Shopping- We found the most success with home, auto, and renters insurance. There are companies that will actually price shop for you to find you the lowest rates.
- Switch to a cheaper cell phone plan
- Negotiate your bill at the end of a contract- Cell phone, Internet, and Cable companies are often the most likely to reduce your bill if you say you are going to switch companies.
- Get rid of cable- Switching to streaming services to shows and channels you actually watch
- Carpool to work to save on gas
9. USE ANY EXTRA INCOME
Every once in a while you will receive what I like to call ‘windfalls.’ This is money that you did not plan into your budget. This can include:
- Third Paychecks if You are Paid Bi-Weekly
- Tax Refunds
- Cash Gifts
10. DO A SAVINGS CHALLENGE
You can do your own personal savings challenge where you set aside a certain amount of money each week towards savings. Many challenges have a growing amount each week. For example:
- Week 1: Save $10
- Week 2: Save $15
- Week 3: Save $20
And continue going from there until you get accustomed to saving money or have grown a savings to the point where you feel comfortable. I’ve never personally done a savings challenge, because I like to budget by paycheck and be extremely intentional with every dollar, but some people love a good challenge!
Resources that I Love
Ebates: Ebates is a total no-brainer for saving money when shopping online. Every time you shop online, click on a store through Ebates to receive cash back on all of your purchases. Get $10 after your first $25 purchase when you use my link.
Ibotta:Ibotta is my favorite app for saving money on groceries without clipping coupons. Get cash back on your groceries just by uploading your receipts. Get $5 just for signing up when you click on my link.
$5 Dollar Dinners:If you love the idea of a meal plan but hate actually creating one, I highly recommend $5 Dollar Dinners. Erin outlines amazing meal plans on a budget.
MyFreezEasy: If you love freezer cooking or are interested in using it as part of your meal planning system, the MyFreezEasy shop is the place to start. Erin lists out all of her favorite tools, freezer meals plans, and more for making it as simple and budget-friendly as possible.
Real Plans: Real plans is an amazing meal planning resource, particularly for families with special diets. Real Plans helps you quickly create a meal plan based on the types of foods your family likes to eat and/or dietary restrictions.
Thrive Market: I order most of my pantry staples from Thrive Market. Think Costco meets Whole Foods with thousands of healthy food and personal care items. Get 1 month free PLUS 25% off your first order when you go through my link.