Setting the stage- the necessity of having an emergency fund…
So picture this, you’re driving along your merry way home from work and you run up on the curb trying to avoid Mr. Peterson’s dog. The dog is fine, but your tire is not. It’s blown.
Not only have you just blown a tire, but you’re tired (of course), your kids are waiting for you at home alone, and your spouse texts to say that he is running late as well and can’t come rescue you.
Now, you have a blown tire, kids home alone, stress quickly climbing the ladder, AND now you have to call a tow truck. The worst part?
You don’t get paid for 2 days. You have $37 in your bank account.
The above scenario, or something much worse could happen to any of us on pretty much any given day (because, Murphy’s law!)
Emergencies Don’t Always Call 911
Financial emergencies don’t EVER call 911- they call YOU and your bank account!
They really don’t care if you’ve had a bad day at work, or you only have $37 left in your bank account, or that not only do you need a new tire, but now you’ll have to call and pay and wait for a tow truck, with Mr. Peterson and his dog watching.
This situation has gone from annoying and inconvenient, to a true financial emergency, all because you don’t have an emergency fund.
That $37 won’t go far, but your credit card will cover it all, so don’t worry, right?
NOPE. You should worry. Because if you have just experienced a financial emergency and you don’t have the money to cover it, they you are in a real life (non-literal) emergency!
You might think at this point, “well hey, I’m not rich and I don’t have tons of money lying around, how am I supposed to have the money for any emergency that comes along?”
Related articles on money, budgeting, and saving:
But Financial Emergencies Are a Double Edged Sword
You may have thought up to this point that developing an emergency fund is too hard for you right now. You are living paycheck to paycheck and there is just no easy way that you can see to be able to save gobs of money.
However, if you don’t have an emergency fund when a financial emergency arises, then you will probably be forced into spending money on a credit card to deal with the emergency (since you likely don’t want to drain your bank account to zero).
When you spend money on your credit card for a financial emergency, you actually end up paying EVEN MORE money for that emergency because of interest (I’m guessing that if you don’t have the money for the emergency this month, you’re not going to have the money to pay off your credit card next month, and interest will accrue).
So now, that financial emergency has turned into a long term thing which you will be paying on for longer than you want to, and paying more than you should have to!
The Better Way- Develop An Emergency Fund
I haven’t explicitly said it, but if you haven’t gathered by now, an emergency fund is a special savings that you keep ONLY for financial emergencies.
- You blow a tire while driving
- Your hot water heater goes out in winter
- Your dog needs a surgery ASAP
- You completely forgot your best friend’s birthday and need to buy a last minute $50 gift
A financial emergency can be anything that come up and demands money, that you didn’t plan for in your budget.
It may seem like having an emergency fund is a bit overkill, but in reality having an emergency fund turns the financial situation from an emergency to just a little bump in the road.
If you are living paycheck to paycheck and don’t have an emergency fund, then you probably feel like it’s an emergency when you kid forgets to tell you that they signed you up to bring store bought cupcakes for the 25 other kids in his class for a party today, and you don’t get paid until tomorrow.
Not having an emergency fund turns that small problem into an emergency.
Have I convinced you yet?
Good! Let’s talk about the how.
How to Make Your Emergency Fund- Even If You Have Nothing Saved
It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace classes.
In his guide to taking full control of your finances, he discusses 7 steps (called baby steps so they are not so scary) that anyone can take to get out of debt, and build wealth.
The first step is to develop a starter emergency fund of $1000.
This may seem like a lot, but this is something you can do!
Dave Ramsey says to do this as fast as possible in order to not have unexpected financial needs become actual emergencies.
How to Build an Emergency Fund Quickly
- Cancel your cell phone for a couple months
- Have a garage sale
- Cancel all memberships and subscriptions
- Pick up extra hours at work
- Find a side hustle
- Sell something
If you’d rather not cancel your life to build an emergency fund, you could try building it a little more slow and steady.
How to Build an Emergency Fund Slow and Steady
- Pick a couple of the options listed above
- Save $38.50 per paycheck for 12 months (or 26 paychecks)
- Save $77 per paycheck for 6 months (or 13 paychecks)
- Save $143 per paycheck for 3 months (7 paychecks)
- Participate in a savings challenge like these
You can save at your own pace, but it is in your best interest to put your emergency fund in place as quickly as possible so that bumps in the road don’t become emergencies.
Remember, every little bit counts, and success is made up of thousands of smaller successes!