It’s Raining, It’s Pouring: 5 Steps to Building (or Rebuilding) Your Emergency Fund

February 23, 2013  |  

In 2010, I had a pretty great PR job working for a local foundation. I was making double what I thought I should be making as an early 20something, had great benefits and a flexible schedule that allowed me to beat traffic to my kids’ daycare on a daily basis.

Imagine my shock when I was laid off later that year with no warning. My first thought was, “Oh, my goodness, how am I going to pay the mortgage?”

Luckily, my husband and I had gotten serious about saving in the two years prior and we had managed to sock away six months worth of living expenses. Coupled with my unemployment income, we managed to stay afloat until I built my freelancing business up to point where I was back at my original salary.

But anyone will tell you that freelancing isn’t a walk in the park. Sometimes clients paid late (or not at all) and we’d have to dip into our savings to cover the bills. As a result, we’re now looking at building our emergency fund back up, using some of the same tactics we employed previously.
Experts recommend you save at least three months expenses, with some saying that saving enough for a year is key in these shaky financial times. We fall somewhere in the middle, trying to get back up to six month’s worth of expenses. It’s not easy, but it’s doable.

If you’re looking at your savings and realizing there could stand to be a few more zeros at the end of your balance, read on for tips on how to make sure your family is covered in case of an emergency:

1. Realize that it’s easier to build a rainy day fund when the sun is still shining. When things are going relatively smoothly, that’s the time to be diligent about saving. Once an emergency hits, you’ll more than likely find yourself without a cent to spare and will kick yourself for not starting earlier.

2. Set a realistic goal of how much you’d like to save. Trying to save $20,000 when you only make $25,000 per year might not be realistic. Instead of thinking in terms of how much you’d like to have saved at the end of the year, think about how much you can afford to save right now. Is $20 a week reasonable for you?

3. Make it automatic. If you have to make the transfers between bank accounts or to the little jar in your cupboard, do you really think you’ll do it? Probably not. If you’re banking online, you can easily set up money to transfer between your checking and savings at any interval you choose, whether it’s weekly, biweekly, or monthly.

4. Make it a game. Challenge yourself to see how much you can save. Cancel one recurring bill you have (do you need both a Netflix AND Hulu account?) and put that money in your savings. Instead of going out to the movies, make it a Redbox night.


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