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This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Policy & Disclosure page for full details.
Life can be so unpredictable. You never know when you can lose your job, when a pandemic will hit, experience a natural disaster, total your car, you get the point. This is why everyone needs an emergency fund.
There’s simple ways you can build your emergency fund up really fast by doing a couple of things like eating at home more than going to restaurants, or switching your electric bill, but we’ll go into all of that shortly. First, let’s take a peek and see what this whole emergency fund deal is about, shall we?
What is an emergency fund?
Have you ever heard the saying “When it rains it pours”? Sometimes the worst things can happen at the worst possible time.
We can never predict when those bad things can happen but the least we can do is prepare for it.
An emergency fund is money set aside to cover you for a set period of time when unpredictable events happen that affect your income.
It can provide a buffer for you in case there are months where you don’t have income or you experience a major expense that zaps all your money.
What is an emergency fund used for?
An emergency fund is money set aside to cover you for unexpected events like a loss of a job, medical or dental emergency, car repair, home repair, or not planned travel expenses.
Why an emergency fund is important
The worst situation to be in is to have bad events take place and not be financially prepared for it.
For instance, if a family relies on 1 person to be the breadwinner and all of a sudden the company they worked for was bought out by another company and laid off a whole bunch of people, what then? Can the sole breadwinner pay their mortgage or rent with a credit card? It’s unlikely, however there may be ways around that but it’ll cost more!
Or what if you own a home and all of a sudden your pipe burst flooding your whole first floor, you can’t wait for insurance to process it, and you need it fixed right away. All your credit cards are maxed out, then what?
You get the point, it’s always best to be prepared because you just never know.
Why start an emergency fund
Starting an emergency fund can give you a peace of mind when dealing with a crisis.
It’s best to start one when things are good and you actually have the opportunity to save.
Do this for you and your family’s financial well being. When unexpected things occur, you may have some slight relief to know that you have the funds to back yourself up when things get hard.
I wish someone told me this back then. In my 20’s my dog ended up getting hit by a car and needed surgery to fix her leg. I didn’t have any savings at that point so I used my credit card for her surgery. I probably held on to that debt for years paying over $1,000 in interest.
You don’t want to get stuck with having to resort to using credit cards for paying for big emergencies only to end up paying hundreds or thousands of interest over time because you were left in a bind.
What should an emergency fund cover?
An emergency fund should cover at least 1-6 months worth of living expenses. Ideally, it should cover 3-6 months of expenses but it’s great to start saving for your 1 month worth of expenses as soon as you can.
It can cover expenses like:
- Utilities + Telecom (Electric, gas, water, phone, cable, internet) $200
- Healthcare (Medical, Dental)
- Insurance (Car, Life, Home, etc.)
- Transportation (Gas, Tolls, etc.)
- Personal Expenses (Childcare, pets, etc.)
- Minimum Debt Payment
It shouldn’t cover things like:
- Clothes shopping
- Spa treatments
How should I calculate my emergency fund?
The best way to calculate how much you’ll need saved up is by adding up all your monthly amounts for your living expenses categories.
|Utilities + Telecom (Electric, Gas, Water, Phone, Cable, Internet, etc.||$400|
|Healthcare (Medical, Dental)||$180|
|Insurance (Car, Life, Home, etc.)||$200|
|Transportation (Car Payment, Gas, Tolls, etc.)||$75|
|Personal Expenses (Childcare, Pets, etc.)||$200|
|Minimum Debt Payments||$400|
|Total 1 Month Expenses||$2,655|
|$2,655 X 2 Month Expenses||$5,310|
|$2,655 X 3 Months Expenses||$7,965|
|$2,655 X 4 Months Expenses||$10,620|
|$2,655 X 5 Months Expenses||$13,275|
|$2,655 X 6 Months Expenses||$15,930|
How much emergency fund should you have?
Remember, this is your emergency fund so go with the savings goal that you feel most comfortable with and works best for your situation.
Most importantly, aim to get at least a 1 month emergency fund in your account. Then you can later start aiming for the 2-6 months worth of expenses.
For me personally, we saved a 3 months emergency fund. We also had a lot of debt, over $120,000 worth so we wanted to get started ASAP on knocking out our debt.
Read more about that here:
If you want to start your own debt free journey, grab your free debt thermometer and enroll in the free 5-day Debt Free Bootcamp to finally take back control over your money.
5 Tips to Build Your Emergency Fund Fast
It helps to give you better control over your finances. You may even be surprised to see that you have hundreds or thousands left over to use towards your emergency fund.
Budgeting showed me that my hubs and I were spending nearly $1,000 a month just on food. That’s a lot isn’t it? You’d be surprised how much those $5 Starbucks drinks or $10 lunches add up to in a month.
Set aside room in your budget to save for your emergency fund.
2. Cut Unnecessary Expenses
Did you know that you can literally be saving hundreds a month just by switching companies, finding less expensive alternatives, and cancelling unused services? Hundreds a month turns to thousands of savings in a year.
Don’t you want more money in your pockets starting now?
Some things you can look into for savings:
- Pack your lunches and eat at home more often
- It’s way healthier and saves you tons of money.
- We saved $500 a month just by packing our own lunches and cooking at home during the weekdays.
- Negotiate or change energy providers
- Shop around for cheaper car insurance or home insurance plans
- Shop for cheaper home and cell phone plans
- We saved $1,764 a year just by switching our cell phone carriers from Verizon to Cricket Wireless. The strangest part was that my service worked a whole lot better when I switched. We pay $80 a month for two lines, unlimited data, unlimited text, unlimited calls, plus by hubby got a free smart phone when he came on to Cricket. I was also able to switch my iPhone over from Verizon to Cricket.
- You could be saving over $1,000 a year just by making a simple switch.
- There are also other cellphone companies like Metro PCS and Boost Mobile stores which all offer great rates at very affordable prices, check them out.
- Cut cable without really cutting it out
- Cable TV was something I didn’t want to part with. I love my reality TV shows, don’t judge! Guess what? We were able to cut the cable with our internet/cable provider but still stream our favorite channels with something called Philo. Our internet cable bill went from $152 down to $55 ($97 a month or $1,164 a year in savings) and we don’t miss any of our favorite shows.
- To use Philo, all you need is internet and a streaming device like a Roku, Amazon Firestick, or Apple TV.
- PROS OF PHILO
- Has 61 popular channels including A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, BET, CMT, Comedy Central, Cooking channel, Discovery, Food Network, Hallmark, HGTV, Lifetime, MTV, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon, TLC, Travel, VH1, and much more.
- If you follow a particular show, Philo is going to have all the previous seasons on demand.
- Live stream your channels just like cable.
- Ability to fast forward through commercials just like cable
- Unlimited DVR space
- CONS OF PHILO
- No local channels (Use a free service called Locast.org for local channels
- Overall, there really is not much to dislike about Philo, it’s basically the same as having cable but at more than half the cost. Going with Philo has been one of the best decisions. There’s no reason to give more hard earned money away to companies for no reason. Check them out, you won’t regret it.
Streaming service that lets you watch your favorite channels live, all seasons, plus unlimited DVR just for $20 a month.
Sign up for free here at Philo and try it free for 7 days. (That’s what I did before cancelling the cable)
- Cancel unnecessary subscriptions and memberships
- Do you have subscriptions to things like monthly makeup bags, monthly goody boxes, and more? Have you really used the boxes to it’s fullest? If not, then go ahead and cancel the subscriptions. It’ll save you hundreds over the long run.
- I cancelled two of my makeup boxes with Ipsy and Sephora because I only really ended up using just 1 or 2 things from the boxes and the rest started turning into clutter. I ended up saving $22 a month or $264 a year.
- The same goes for membership programs. If you don’t get much use out of your memberships, then you’re better off saving money and canceling it.
3. Get Cash Back When You Shop
Getting cash back when shopping is a great way to have extra cash to save up for your emergency fund.
Have you bought anything online before? If you haven’t used cash back sites before then you’re missing out on free money for something you’re already doing.
Rakuten used to be known as Ebates. It’s so simple to use.
For instance, if you wanted to buy something online from Macy’s, you’ll go on Rakuten.com and check to see if there’s any cash back offers. Today I saw they had 6% cash back. Next all you have to do is click “Shop Now”. It’ll send you directly to Macy’s where you’ll resume shopping as usual.
The only difference is, Rakuten will get you that promised cash back when you make a purchase. Once, you reach at least $5, you can get the cash back by a check or Paypal.
Don’t miss out on free money.
Sign up today with my special link here and get your $10 welcome bonus + $30 cash back when you spend $30 (It’s like getting $30 for free!) Rakuten won’t disappoint, check them out.
Swagbucks is a site that gets you money for all sorts of things but they also get you cash back for shopping as well.
Swagbucks also gets you points which convert to cash via Paypal or gift cards to do things like take surveys and polls, play games, try apps, watch videos, complete daily tasks, submitting receipts, and shopping online.
Swagbucks is a great platform to earn a little side cash when you have some free time. I usually earn points while I’m watching some TV at night with the hubby.
Sign up for free here at Swagbucks and earn a $10 welcome bonus
- Tip: You can get discounted gift cards on Swagbucks, it stretches your money a bit further.
If you haven’t heard about Groupon, you need to sign up like today!
Groupon hosts many local businesses near you and they offer major deals and coupons to promote their stores. Groupon has all sorts of local businesses listed on their site from auto, beauty & spas, restaurants, gyms, fitness, home services, meal prep, online learning, personal services, retail shops, salons, activities to do, travel and more.
These businesses offer huge discounts. I’ve seen discounts anywhere from 10%-92% off. I’ve seen deals for Microdermabrasion Treatments which would go for $150 but with a 78% discount it goes for only $32. Or even a $1,650 laser hair treatment going for $120 with 92% off.
What’s great about Groupon is that many people purchase these coupons so they leave reviews for you to go through. You can always check out the ratings of a business before you purchase the coupon. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Sign up for free here at Groupon to start getting your MEGA savings.
Honey is a browser extension that instantly saves you money by searching all coupon sites to find you the best coupon code when you’re checking out online.
Plus it also gives you cash back offers at your favorite stores in the form of “Honey Gold”. It acts like a point system. Each 100 Honey Gold is equal to $1.
Once you reach 1000 Honey Gold points, you can redeem it for a $10 gift card from places like Walmart, Amazon, eBay, Sephora, Nordstrom, and more.
Join Honey with my link here and you’ll get 500 Honey Gold points after your first online shopping purchase.
Do you buy groceries? If the answer is yes, then you need to try Ibotta. You could be missing out on free money when you shop for groceries.
Ibotta has over 300 stores that participate in their program. Ibotta gives you cash back for shopping at your favorite grocery stores and big retailers. They have all your main grocery stores like Kroger, H-E-B, C-Town, Aldi, Foodtown, Randalls, SHOP ‘n SAVE, ShopRite, Stop & Shop, Sprouts Farmers Market, Target, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and so much more. It’s a very simple app to use and you get real money back which you can cash out once you earn $20.
Not only can you get cash back for grocery shopping with Ibotta, you can also earn money back in other categories like grocery pickup and delivery, online shopping, beer, wine & spirits, clothing, health & beauty, specialty, restaurants & bars, convenience, travel, home & auto, kids & baby, pet supply, sports & outdoors, and subscription & delivery. There’s over 300 stores to choose from.
Ibotta also allows combining manufacturer’s coupons to get you more savings.
Sign up for free at Ibotta and use the code YDIGCFJ to get your $20 welcome bonus
I got $8.75 cash back from my last shopping trip at Walmart. Ibotta is awesome for people who hate spending time looking for coupons. It comes in handy for me since I just don’t have the patience to clip coupons.
Don’t miss out on free money for things you may always do like shop for groceries. It’s so simple to use, you’ll love it!
Do you ever just toss your receipts when you get them? Turn your receipts into an Amazon gift card.
ReceiptPal is an app where you scan your receipts and accrue points. Once you get enough points, you’ll get an Amazon gift card.
Types of receipts to scan:
- Gas receipt
- Restaurant/fast food receipts
- Shopping receipts from any store
- Service receipts
- Pretty much any type of receipt
For every receipt you submit, you’ll get a punch for your card. If you scan 4 receipts, you’ll get 100 points. Once you fill up 5 cards, you will get multiple entries into their sweepstakes for $250. Also, Receiptpal will give you random chances to get entries for their sweeps.
Level 1 – 2,200 points = $5 Amazon gift card
Level 2 – 4,000 points = $10 Amazon gift card or 9,250 for a $25 Amazon gift card
Level 3 – 17,250 points = $50 Amazon gift card or 32,250 for a $100 Amazon gift card
Fetch Rewards App
Fetch Rewards is another easy app you can use to earn cash back to redeem for gift cards or magazine subscriptions. Fetch Rewards has over 256 brands that they work with. For instance, if you went grocery shopping and bought anything from brands like Tropicana, Cheerios, Hellman’s brand, and over 250 others, you’ll get points when you scan your receipt.
Once you get enough points, you’ll redeem them for gift cards at Amazon, Target, and others or get free yearly magazine subscriptions.
Another great feature about this app is they accept non-grocery item receipts too. However, you’ll get most of your points with your grocery receipts.
- Tip: Get free gift cards to give out for birthdays or holidays and you don’t have to spend a dime.
Use the code 7JKFH when you sign up to Fetch Rewards and you’ll get 2,000 Fetch Points ($2.00 in points)
You can also refer others and earn 2,000 points ($2) yourself and your friend/family will earn 2,000 points ($2) as well.
Instead of tossing your receipts, turn them into money.
Overall, don’t miss out on all this free money out there. You could be earning back a good amount of money each month by using cash back sites when you shop, earning free cash on survey sites, and even getting money back for grocery shopping and scanning receipts. These can all help you save extra for your emergency fund as fast as possible.
4. Make more money on the side
Another way to quickly build your emergency fund is by making more money. There’s lots of ways to do that without stressing yourself out too much.
Work extra hours
If it’s possible, can you put in a little extra amount of time at work? If you get paid hourly and your company gives you overtime pay, why not? For instance, let’s say you get paid $15 an hour. If you put in an extra hour a week, that’s $60 a month or $720 a year. Not too bad huh?
Ask for a raise
Has it been a long time since you received a raise? Then maybe it’s time you get rewarded for all your hard efforts. Don’t be nervous to ask for a raise. If you put in the time and hard work, then why not? You deserve it! Go for it, you’ve got this!
Getting a raise can get you hundreds or thousands of extra dollars a year! You know what, it never hurts to just try. Sometimes bosses and managers can conveniently forget to give you one so it’s best you remind them of how awesome of an employee you are.
There are actually tons of side gigs you can do to earn some money. My hubby even drove for UBER once, and he brought in thousands in a few months just driving in the evenings and weekend.
Some side hustles you can try:
- Start a Blog (unlimited income potential, opportunity to make 5, 6, 7 figures a year)
- Club Thrifty – Budget Living and Travel – Makes $21,566 a month
- Just a Girl and her Blog – Lifestyle – Makes $41,700 a month
- Art of Manliness – Men’s Lifestyle – Makes $33,333 a month
- Show me the Yummy – Recipe Blog – Makes $46,000 a month
- My Wife Quit Her Job – Making Money Online – Makes $80,000 a month
- Sarah Titus – Selling Printables – Makes $250,000 a month
- Make up to $25 an hour as a full service shopper (shop for customers and deliver)
- Make $9-$15 an hour as an in-store shopper (shop for customers and prepare for delivery)
- Work on your own time whenever you want
- Deliver Takeout Food
- Offers jobs ranging in caretaking, babysitting, tutoring, and more
- Offers benefits like 401K, dental, health, life, and vision
- Rover.com – Dogsitting can earn you over $1,000 a month
Side money with survey sites
Do you ever find yourself with a little bit of extra free time like at the end of the night or even when you’re running a load in the laundry? You could be earning free cash during those times with survey sites.
Get paid to take surveys online with Survey Junkie. For every 1000 points you’ll get a $10 gift card or cash via PayPal. During your spare time you can complete these surveys to make some money here and there. On top of simple surveys, they even offer phone surveys which can pay $5-$100, Test some products to make $5-$50, and join focus groups that pay anywhere from $25-$150. Realistically, you can expect to make anywhere from $3-$10 a day. If you make $10 a day for 30 days straight, that’s $300 a month. Not too shabby.
Sign up for free here at Survey Junkie and start earning
Swagbucks is a fun site that let’s you earn points that converts to cash via Paypal or gift cards. I’ve mentioned that you can use it to get cash back for shopping but you can also earn points for things like: take surveys and polls, answer questionnaires, play games on your phone, shop online through Swagbucks’ site to get points, redeem points for buying certain food products, complete daily goals, enter competitions, try out apps, sign up for free trial services, scan your receipts, and refer others.
Swagbucks uses a point system where you get awarded with SB points, you can then redeem those points for cash back via PayPal or gift cards through popular companies like Amazon, PayPal, Walmart, Visa, iTunes, Starbucks, eBay, and so much more.
Sign up for free here at Swagbucks and earn a $10 welcome bonus
InboxDollars is another survey site where you can take surveys/polls, watch videos, play games, search the web, get cash back by shopping online, and even get paid to clip coupons through InboxDollars. They have paid out over $50,000,000 so far to millions of members.
Join InboxDollars for free and get your instant $5 just for joining.
What to expect when using these survey sites
There are companies out there that need people’s opinion, that’s how these survey sites were born. They offer incentive for people’s opinion on products and services.
With these sites, you can expect to make anywhere from a few bucks to a few hundred a month depending on how often you use it. Keep in mind that it’s not something that’s going to replace your income but it can get you some extra cash each month to throw at your emergency fund. Who doesn’t want free cash?
It’s especially nice to earn points which turn to cash or gift cards for just answering some questions or even playing games during your free time.
One thing to keep in mind is when taking surveys, not everyone will be accepted for certain surveys. Before you take a survey, you’ll be asked some basic screening questions. There is a chance you’ll get disqualified but don’t worry there will be plenty of other surveys to take part of. Plus these sites will generally give you a couple of points for trying.
5. Mindful Spending
A big part of saving up for your emergency fund is by spending more mindfully.
So you may be wondering what’s mindful spending?
All you really have to do is think twice before you buy something.
Before you buy that $300 purse, $200 pair of sneakers, $1,000 iPhone, really ask yourself if you TRULY NEED it at that moment.
Not saying you can never have the things you want but you can make a better plan for it.
You can save some money each month and set it aside so that you can buy it at a later time.
One thing to keep in mind is that impulsiveness can get you into a lot of financial trouble.
Just look at us, we managed to accumulate over $127,000 worth of debt by living impulsively in the first few years of marriage.
If you get some extra money, instead of heading straight to the mall, put it towards your emergency fund.
Is an emergency fund the same as savings?
Typically an emergency fund is different as savings in terms of intent. The emergency fund is meant to be an amount of money put aside to be used for unexpected crisis.
Savings on the other hand is money set aside for things you want to buy in the future, like a home down payment, car, school, clothes, electronics, etc.
Where to keep your emergency fund
For an emergency fund, you want to have access to the funds right away in case something happens. This is where it may differ slightly from a traditional savings. You want to keep the emergency fund where it’s easily accessible like a checking or a high interest savings account and not locked in any CD’s, stocks, and bonds.
Savings on the other hand can be put into a high yield interest savings account, stock, CD, and bonds because you will mostly likely know when to pull the money out to use it.
Put your money in a High Yield APR Savings Account from Nationwide / Axos Bank. They’re offering 1.05% of interest which is the highest around. Sign up here at Nationwide / Axos Bank to lock in that rate.
When should you start saving for your emergency fund?
You can start saving for an emergency fund right away. The sooner you save up for one, the better prepared you will be for unexpected emergencies.
If you get a raise or get a nice tax refund, put it towards building your emergency fund.
Should you save for an emergency fund or pay off debt?
Sure, paying off debt is really important because it saves you money in interest over the long run. However, having a safety net is even more important, If someone loses their job with maxed out credit cards, then what? How can they pay the rent/mortgage or feed their family? Having that security in place for you and your family is just as important as saving interest on debt.
It’s not to say that you should do one or the other. You can do both.
I do highly suggest saving up for your 1 month worth of expenses first. Then whatever extra money you have left at the end of each month going forward can be divided in half. One half going towards your fund and the other being applied towards your debt.
Keep saving for your emergency fund until you reach the amount you’ll be comfortable with in case you lose a job or something else happens. Once you reach that goal, take all extra money each month to apply it towards your debt.
For us, before we put 100% of any extra money at debt, we saved 3 months worth of expenses.
Can your emergency fund be too big?
If you have an emergency fund larger than 6-12 months, it may be too large.
Remember that since you want easy access to it, you may put it in a checking or high yield interest savings account like the one from Nationwide / Axos Bank.
The interest rates on a saving account is very low compared to stocks or mutual funds.
You don’t want too much of your money just sitting there earning very little interest where it can earn you more money elsewhere.
Should you save for an emergency fund or invest?
This really depends on your personal situation. Most likely, you’ll want to start that emergency fund even if it’s 1 month worth of expenses. However, if your company is offering 401K match, then go ahead and invest up to the match because it’s free money and it’ll accrue interest.
Ultimately, it comes down to your peace of mind. Are you okay with having your emergency fund tied up in investments with a risk to lose money when you need to pull it out for emergencies?
Or you can always just save 3-6 month worth of expenses and anything above that, invest it. Either way, you don’t want so much money just sitting around your savings account barely keeping up with inflation while it can be earning you more.
What to do after emergency fund?
So what’s the plan after saving up for that emergency fund? Well, if you have debt then focus on getting rid of it. Debt, especially those with high interest rates like credit cards are the worst! With interest, sometimes you can end up paying almost double of what you owed in the first place. Getting rid of debt is really important.
You can also start investing your money or saving for investment opportunities. Start putting away money for your retirement, start saving for an investment property, or even capital to start a business.
Don’t forget to put money aside to have some fun. Life doesn’t have to be so serious with saving, paying debt, and investing. Enjoy life along the way, go on trips, try new hobbies, enjoy some concerts. You can still have fun without it costing a fortune or at the expense of your financial future.
What’s the difference between emergency fund, rainy day fund, and sinking fund?
The emergency fund is 1-6 month (ideally 3-6 months) worth of essential expenses saved in case something unpredictable happens like job loss, illness, and any of the other reasons mentioned above. It’s meant to keep you and your household financially stable at least for those months while things normalize again.
Emergency fund and rainy day fund
A rainy day fund is different from an emergency fund. The rainy day fund should have anywhere from $500-$2,000 and is only meant for small unexpected expenses. It’s meant to absorb small expenses without tapping into your full emergency fund.
Some examples for a rainy day fund:
- Blown tire
- Kid’s braces
- Minor house repair
- Unpredictable school expense
Emergency fund and sinking fund
A sinking fund is used to save for predicted expenses. It’s basically money set aside for that particular planned expense so that you don’t have to dip into your emergency fund.
Some examples of a sinking fund:
- New computer or phone
- New car
- New roof for the home
- HOA fees
Should you keep the emergency fund, rainy day fund, and sinking fund separately?
It’s entirely up to you if you want these funds separated.
What we did for our situation was keep 1 month worth of expenses in my checking account and keep the rest in a high yield savings account. I combined my sinking fund and emergency fund together but kept track of it on my budget. We figured, if you save your 3 months worth of expenses, you’re bound to have enough for the rainy day fund, sinking funds, and emergency fund all in one.
Building your emergency fund is important, it’ll give you and your family a slight peace of mind when it comes to the worst case scenarios. Cause let’s face it, we’ll never truly know what tomorrow can bring. The least you can do is try your best to prepare for the worst financial situations.
Remember, it’s all about baby steps. Don’t think you have to save for a 6 month emergency fund overnight. It’s a lot of money. Start small. First aim for a 1 month worth of expenses saved then work your way up to a number that fits you and your family’s financial situation.
There’s going to be a lot of ways for you to start saving for your emergency fund as fast as possible. Starting a budget can help you see exactly how you’re spending your money, you’ll be shocked to see how much you’re spending on certain categories.
Next, you can save hundreds a month just by simply switching phone carriers, switching to Philo instead of cable, or shopping around for insurance companies.
Third, earn free money back for things you normally do like shop online or buy groceries, you could be getting back hundreds a year!
Fourth, make some side cash by taking up a side hustle, you never know when it can launch into a full fledged business.
Lastly, always think twice before you buy and create a savings plan for the things you really want instead of buying impulsively.
Hope these tips were helpful and will get you on your way to building that emergency fund.
Let today be the day you make the change to finally start getting out of debt. Begin the process by enrolling in the free 5-day Debt Free Bootcamp.