So, you’ve decided to protect your family and secure your finances by creating an emergency fund. Great! But where do you begin?
Setting aside money ensures that you won’t be derailed by unexpected auto expenses, illness or worse.
But here’s the problem: you can not touch this money! It isn’t discretionary income. Nor is it a rainy day fund.
You are trying to set aside enough money to secure your lifestyle for a period during dire circumstances.
Handle with care! Wait…Don’t Handle at all!
So how do you start an emergency fund with no money?
It’s far less complicated than you may think. It just takes a little willpower and determination.
What is an Emergency Fund, Anyway?
It’s exactly what it sounds like…money you set aside for the times when the unexpected happens.
Things that are truly an emergency.
That means that as you set up your fund, you’ll need to decide what constitutes as an emergency. Typically, it’s those bills that cannot be let go, no matter what the circumstances.
In our home, it’s the food budget, all utilities, (i.e. water, heat, electricity, trash pick-up, etc.) gas for our vehicle, insurance, etc.
It is NOT lattes, dinner through the drive though cuz your meeting went late, a new outfit…you get the idea!
Do I Even Need an Emergency Fund?
You need an emergency fun because, well…emergencies happen. If you’re caught without a back-up plan for how to finance those emergencies, you could get yourself in a heap of financial trouble.
Maybe you’ve been skating by without a plan for the unexpected, and if you’ve made it this far without getting yourself into trouble, count your blessings and then start saving!
If you want to take charge of your finances, then you need to start an emergency fund NOW!!
How Much Money Do I Need for My Emergency Fund?
How much do you need to stash away?
Some financial advisors suggest having 3-6 months of expenses tucked away for unforeseen events.
First, it is essential to decide what amount would cover your monthly expenses. These would include rent or mortgage, food, insurance, energy and auto expenses.
When you have created a working budget, it’ll be easy to have an accurate number. Remember, these are the things you need to be able to pay for so that in case of emergency, your world will not be immediately affected.
Having an emergency fund buys you time.
There are many differing views on how much you need for your emergency fund and the answer depends somewhat on your circumstances.
How big is your family? Is your employment fairly stable? Do you have debt?
Depending on the answers to these questions, you’ll need to save for around 3-6 months of expenses.
However, some people are more comfortable with saving even more. It all depends on your situation. Three to six months is a fairly safe starting point.
As a minimum, it’s recommended that you save at least $1,000 to begin with. That will at least cover minor emergencies that are of course, unforeseen.
How do I Actually Start an Emergency Fund?
Once you have your expenses all totaled up, subtract that number from your monthly income.
What money do you have left to start a savings account? Decide how much you will set aside monthly (no matter what) for the emergency fund.
You can allow no room for excuses, here. Especially in the beginning.
Make a contest out of it! Challenges are more fun when you see it as a game instead of punishment. You are taking control of your financial security!
Where Do I Find The Money to Fund an Emergency Fund?
Where can you find this extra money?
You can be creative in saving money. First of all, make sure you aren’t spending money you don’t need to! You’d be surprised at how much money goes out the door without you even realizing it.
Sit down and scour through your monthly expenses. Can you lower your internet/cable bill? How about ditching the drive-thru a few times a month. Pass on the frappés and coffee drinks. Deny yourself an extra snack.
Check to see if you can renegotiate any contracts you might be in (auto/homeowners insurance, utility bills, etc.) Get on the phone and call to ask for your bill to be lowered. Even finding an extra $10 a month here and there can really add up.
Another area you may very well be able to save is your grocery bill. This trick helped me save over half of what I had budgeted for the week!
You could have a classic change jar!
Put all your change from the day and collect it until it is full. Remember it all adds up! (In a world of electronic banking, this may take more time than it did in our parents’ day, but still!)
Some banks have a free change-counting service. Take that money and put it in the emergency fund. Do NOT go and spend it!
How about a tax refund this year? If you put it away instead of purchasing something, you will be well on your way to a fully invested emergency fund. Delayed gratification at its best.
Simplify and sacrifice. Especially when getting started, you will have difficult choices to make. Once you discover the power of saving, your desire to save (and not spend) will skyrocket! It does get addicting! Trust me!
Open a separate savings account than the one I know you already have (please tell me you have one). Add as much as you can to your emergency fund as often as possible.
Every little bit counts. Just imagine if you can put away $20 every week! That would be over $1,000 in one year.
Once you get going, make it a habit!
Once I Have My Emergency Fund, Where Do I Keep It?
But where should you keep this money you worked so hard to save?
Under your mattress? Please, NO!
While it’s good to have these funds readily available, the money should not be too convenient to get to.
You will need access, but if that cash is too handy, you may not be able to resist when temptation comes calling in the form of Girl Scouts at your door with cookies, or an 80’s movie bundle on eBay.
Remember as a kid when your buddies wanted to buy ice cream, and you didn’t have any money. You didn’t want to ask mom or dad. Staring you in the face was your adorable plaster pig.
The hole in the bottom is too small to grab any dollars out…what are you going to do? Your choices are “pass” on the ice cream or smash the pig!!
The lesson from this stroll down memory lane is this: If you use something to keep the money safe that you can not easily get into, you’ll probably leave it alone!
Don’t smash the pig!
What If I’m Living Paycheck to Paycheck?
You can still do it!
For years my husband and I believed that we could not save extra because our income was so tight. We worked hard to stay debt-free and while that’s a great feat, it’s didn’t help us save for emergencies or ever get ahead.
The best advice I can give you if you’re living paycheck to paycheck is just to start now. Even if you can only save $5, that’s something to the plus!
Over time, you can use the tips I’ve listed here to increase the amount you’re saving.
But for now, just get started. I really think it’s more about having the mindset of saving and being more intentional with your money.
You can do it!
What About My Friends and Family?
What if my loved ones don’t understand why I am suddenly being so frugal? Tell them that you’re working on starting an emergency fund and that you won’t be going out to eat as much as before.
But assure them that you can still have fun! Suggest alternative (cheap or free) options. Sometimes, getting a group of friends to do the same thing can be inspirational.
Ask your friends to join you in starting their own emergency funds. See who would be interested in this process as well. Have a friendly competition to see who can reach their goal fastest!
Once you’ve saved that much, stay in the groove of limiting your spending.
Once I’ve Set Aside My Emergency Fund, What’s the Next Step?
Continue on with the mindset of saving. Don’t just spend like crazy once you meet your goal!
Financial Security is on Your Horizon!
Many congratulations on taking this step toward financial security! Now that you’ve learned how to start an emergency fund with no money, the sky’s the limit.
Soon you’ll feel the rush of resisting temptations and adding to your savings account – because like I said, saving money gets a little addicting! (In a good way! 😉 )
How about you? Do you want to know how to start an emergency fund with no money? Are you stuck wondering how to save extra money when you’re living paycheck to paycheck? Comment below and let me hear your thoughts!