12 Helpful Tips for Building an Emergency Fund Fast
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It was 10 days before Christmas the year my husband got laid off and lost his job.
We had nothing to fall back on.
I worked part-time for a $9/hour. That certainly wouldn’t take us very far.
To top it off, we had to return every single Christmas present that year to pay our most urgent living expenses.
That’s not even the end of the story.
Not long after that, I also lost my job and my husband had some health issues and ended up in the ER with no health insurance.
It was a difficult time, and it took my husband nearly a year to return to a “good” job. (He wasn’t above flipping burgers until he could find a job with great income.)
Starting an emergency fund is so imperative to your finances. It’s literally an urgent matter for you to get one as soon as possible to deflect some of the worst possible financial disasters.
How to Build Your Emergency Fund Fast
1. Make it Top Priority
Your emergency fund should be at the top of your list of things to do.
Emergencies will happen. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
It could be a small emergency like a necessary appliance going out or something big like losing a job or a major medical expense.
Don’t do an accelerated debt-payoff strategy until you have an emergency fund in place.
Yellow Box – Need help getting your budget going? Join the 5-day budget challenge to set up a budget that runs on autopilot.
Related Article: 15 Easy Ways to Trick Yourself Into Saving Money
2. Set a Deadline
Set a goal for when you want to have your emergency fund saved up.
This should be over the course of a short period of time. Ideally within three months, six at the most.
3. Start Small, then Grow
Initially, save $1,000-$2,000.
This will get you through immediate and pressing emergencies without having to dip into a credit card.
A fun way to get a quick boost to your savings is to take the challenge by Bright Peak Financial to save $500 in one week.
4. Pay Yourself First
The first category in your budget should be what you set aside and save for your family.
Ideally, you’ll be saving at least 10% of your paycheck.
Count how many paychecks you’ll have until your deadline for your goal, then calculate how much you need to save from each check for your emergency fund.
5. Sell Stuff
Expedite your savings by selling items you no longer need or use.
You can try selling on eBay, Facebook or hosting a yard sale. Here are some ideas of things you can sell:
- Electronics - TV's, smart phones, laptops, tablets, etc. You can sell such items through SellShark.com.
- CD's, DVD's and Video games - Use the Decluttr app to easily scan items to find out how much they are worth then print a prepaid label to ship them in. Declutter will send you a check once they receive your items.
- Baby Items
- Gift Cards - Use services from Cardpool to sell old gift cards that you aren't going to use.
6. Earn Extra Cash
Another quick way to build your emergency fund is to bring in extra money.
You can do this by getting a second job for a short period of time or do one off jobs.
- Drive for Lyft or Uber. If you have a good driving record and a decent car you can start driving for one of these services within a few days and start earning money. Payouts are weekly so it’s a very quick way to earn money. Plus, Lyft and Uber frequently offer bonuses to incentivize drivers.
- Deliver pizza or other food – There are companies you can work for directly or you can drive for UberEats, DoorDash, or GrubHub if it is available in your area.
- Take a job as a server at a restaurant.
- Do seasonal work during holidays.
- Babysit for other families in your neighborhood.
- Offer pet care through Rover.com
- Become a tutor during the school year.
- Sell your photographs online.
- Offer freelance work with your computer or writing skills.
- Offer services through Care.com
- Do handyman, or cleaning services through Takl.
- Shop for and deliver groceries through Instacart.
7. Reduce Your Expenses
Cut back on items in your budget to save extra money and add the savings to your emergency fund.
Areas to cut from your budget
- Groceries (learn how I keep my grocery bill to $400 or less per month for my family of four.)
- Cable – turn it off completely or at least reduce to a low-cost streaming service like Hulu or Netflix.
- Cell phone – Check with your carrier for a better plan. Cut extra features that you aren’t using. If you need to you can reduce down to a pre-paid phone to be used for emergencies only.
- Eating out – Save money by always eating at home and sticking to your lower grocery budget.
- Insurance – Check with your insurance provider to see if there are new options or better plans available. You may also want to raise your deductible to get a lower rate. Be sure to compensate for the deductible by adding this amount to your emergency fund.
- Credit cards – Stop using them so you don’t incur new charges. You can also call to ask for a reduced interest rate and add the savings into your savings account.
Related Article: 20 Smart Ways to Save Thousands This Year
8. Buy Used
If there is something you need to buy and it can’t wait, try to buy used items so that you don’t cut into your savings that you are trying to build.
9. Get an Accountability Partner
To stay motivated and on task, save money with an accountability partner.
This can be your spouse if you are reporting to each other on how your savings is going.
You can also partner with a friend or another family member. Challenge each other to see who can hit your savings goal first. This can be a friendly handshake bet or whoever hits their goal first gets to visit the second-place person for dinner one night. Come up with a non-monetary prize.
10. Stash it Away Where You Won’t Spend It
It’s important to save your money where it won’t get spent unless there is an actual emergency.
Forgetting a gift for an anniversary or birthday doesn’t count as an emergency. Neither does going out to eat because you don’t have time to fix dinner.
Set up an online bank account that you don’t have easy access to. (i.e. You can’t do an instant transfer money into your checking account.) You can still access your money with a debit card that is kept in a safe place.
We use Ally Bank.
11. Avoid Credit Cards as an Emergency Fund
Whatever you do, don’t use a credit card as your emergency fund.
The reason for this is you’ll have to go back and make payments to pay off your emergency; on top of any payments you’re making for your discretionary spending.
You don’t want an emergency to hurt any more than it has to. Making extra payments for a large emergency expense can cause more harm than good, especially when you’re short on cash.
Related Article: Why I Avoid Using Credit Cards ... And You Should Too
12. Replenish It When You Use It
Don’t feel like you can’t use your emergency fund at all.
If your car breaks down and you need it to get to work, go ahead and fix your car. Use the money as it was intended to cover an actual emergency.
Once you’ve used any amount of money in your fund, it’s time to rinse and repeat the process and build your emergency fund back up. This becomes much easier to do it you do not have any debt.
We learned the hard way how important it is to have an emergency fund. I wouldn't wish that for you.
You’ll be happy to know that my family has fully recovered from our hard time of unemployment and a boat load of hospital bills.
This goes to show that no matter how difficult the situation seems, you can always work your way out of it and get back on track.
Start building your emergency fund today!