There are some people who, unfortunately, know what it's like to need an emergency savings fund. Anyone who has had a car break down unexpectedly or lost a job likely knows this feeling all too well.
The moments after those situations are the ones where you question what to do next. Your answer probably has a lot to do with how well you prepared for this unforeseeable incident. If you have a plan, you might enter the situation a lot more confidently than if you weren't ready.
Preparing for emergencies isn't easy. You never know what is coming your way, or how it will affect your finances. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, something simple like the need for a new transmission can send you into debt.
The best way to combat these unpredictable debacles is by having an emergency savings account. There is only one main rule for this emergency fund, but it can be tempting to break it. The rule is this: Only spend the money on expenses that could not have been predicted.
That means you can't spend it on the car insurance payment you forgot to save for, to fund a vacation at the end of winter or to buy a new television.
This may all sound obvious, but many people struggle with this rule. If you know that keeping your emergency money in the same account you use to pay your monthly bills will create a savings challenge, look to an alternative spot to keep it. Bankrate suggested keeping in another account or financial institution altogether .
"I like using an account away from my normal checking account to build a psychological wall between my spending habits and my emergency fund," Ray Lucia, a radio host that focuses on financial topics, said to Bankrate.
Make sure you aren't able to get your hands on this money easily. If you have a debit card or checkbook linked to the account, don't carry them with you.
Take small steps
Just getting started is another obstacle that trips a lot of savers up. A good goal to strive for is setting aside enough money to live entirely off savings for at least four months. Seven or eight months is even better. This will carry you through an unexpected job search. Without it, you may find yourself jumping at the first opportunity that comes your way, or choosing a minimum wage job just to make ends meet.
Saving enough money to pay all your bills for eight months is difficult. It takes some solid budgeting and a lot of patience. The loftiness of an eight-month goal might make someone avoid making the first step toward building up the emergency fund.
"Begin with a small, attainable goal, like saving just $500."
Instead of thinking about an end goal that seems largely out of reach, The Simple Dollar suggested beginning with a small, attainable goal, like $500 . This goal can be met slowly by putting aside $10 a week for a year, or more aggressively, such as saving $50 per paycheck. The latter will get you to your target amount in less than six months if you get paid twice a month.
Identifying money to save
If you are just beginning to save money for the first time, it can be difficult. If you were living paycheck to paycheck before, it might seem unrealistic to set aside money from your monthly earnings. But if you don't begin now, you may find yourself in a bad situation somewhere down the road wishing you had.
The first place to look for extra money to set aside is within your current expenses. Some tips you might find helpful include:
- Negotiate with your car insurance or credit card company to get lower interest rates
- Begin tracking your grocery spending to find where unnecessary money is going
- Consider finding a cheaper apartment, or getting roommates
- Cancel your cable subscription
If you can cut down on expenses in any of these areas, you may find saving $10 or $50 to be a little bit easier. Piece by piece, your emergency fund will begin to grow. Soon, you'll feel comforted by the fact that you have a safety net ready for when the unexpected happens.
. 5 ways to grow an emergency fund
. A Step-By-Step Guide to Building a Big, Healthy Emergency Fund