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Tips For Finding The Money to Start Your Emergency Fund

Six Tips For Finding Extra Money to Start Your Emergency Fund

Because everyone prioritizes his or her spending needs and wants differently, you'll never catch me telling you that you should be spending a certain amount of your income in one category or another. Budgets depend too much on how much money you bring in, your cost-of-living, and your debt situation for me to suggest how to allocate your funds. So, while it's up to you to decide how your money is best spent, I will tell you that having an emergency "rainy day" fund is a key component of feeling more financially secure and can save you from debt-tragedy if an emergency were to arise.

Here's how strongly I believe in building a savings cushion: even if you're not going into debt because of your lifestyle, I would argue that if you don't have any savings to fall back on it can be as detrimental as living beyond your means. I'm not talking about a down payment sized account, because it's true that any savings is better than none. Figure out how much you want to save and put a deadline on it — and use our savings calculator to do the math! The very best way to stick to a savings goal is to have the money transferred from your checking to savings account before you have the chance to spend it, and once you've figured out a way to cut your expenses so that you have extra cash you'll be on your way. Many people have expressed their exasperation at trying to find the money to contribute to savings, and for my tips on where to find extra money


  1. How many nights do you go out with friends? Cut it back by a day (unless your answer was one night) and find an alternative — maybe have friends over instead of going out.
  2. Is your gym one of the more expensive ones in your city? There are certainly cheaper alternatives and you won't have to look too far.
  3. Close to paying off a credit card? Put what used to be your monthly payment into your emergency fund.
  4. Do you find that you're constantly throwing out perished items from your refrigerator or stale pantry items? That means you're not shopping smartly and are buying things that you're not sure you'll use. Write down the ingredients you'll need for the week's meals and buy only the items on your list, and if it's unrealistic that you'll grocery shop each week, plan to make certain meals during the week and pick up the ingredients the day of when you're out and about.
  5. Do you get your nails done every week? Think about changing to every other week and save the difference.
  6. If you live in a city and rely on cabs to transport you on evenings out that can come out to be $20 if you go out both nights. Consider sticking to places in walking distance for a while and saving your would-be cab fare instead.

You don't have to cut things out of your life that you enjoy, just scale back slightly and modify. Once you're in the habit of saving, you'll find more and more ways to boost your emergency fund. Keep in mind that the best way is to automate your savings — you're less likely to spend money if it's in your savings account and you have to make the conscious effort of transferring to your checking account if you want to spend it.


Join The Conversation
Captious Captious 8 years
I actually SAVE money by eating out. I tried and tried to buy food to prepare at home but after years of finding that what my roommates hadn't stolen had all basically gone bad because the portions are more than I can eat before they do (and I'm nocturnal so getting specialty cuts of meats/half loaves of bread etc isn't an option because the counters are all closed a few hours after I START work) I realized that I actually spend less money if I eat out. I always have leftovers that I eat later in the day, and I get to decide what I want to eat on the spot instead of following what I THOUGHT I'd want to eat this week at the beginning of the week.
cherrydarling616 cherrydarling616 8 years
Those are all great tips. Im having a hard time with the food part though. I live with two guys (my boyfriend and his best friend) who insist that we all share food costs and make meals together which makes it IMPOSSIBLE to have any sort of nutritional diet. Whenever we go to the store everyone just grabs items off the shelf and then we are all expected to split the costs at check out. And majority of what they are buying (two cases of beer for example) I dont even touch! So normally I just end up eating out anyways resulting in double the food cost! Im frustrated.
shanimalcracker shanimalcracker 9 years
Oh my gosh, eating out definitely makes it hard for me too! It's tough because if you want to see friends or socialize at work, this usually means going out to eat. Even if you get a fast food craving at night or something, that can easily be $6 and all of that really adds up SO fast!
vouninou vouninou 9 years
I realized recently that food was also what kills my budget ... when i calculated which part of my paycheck goes into food, I had a huge "WOAW !", plus I know that I throw away a lot because I always end eating out. I definitively need to work on that. You know we spend a couple of bucks here and there for coffee, take away lunch, thinking it's not that much but when you count all of those, that's a lot of money.
skigurl skigurl 9 years
for me, it's buying lunches that kills me i easily spend 50$ a week on food, not including dinners out, and it's really crazy to think how much i could save if i brought a lunch...but i just can't bring myself to doing it!
smiling smiling 9 years
Many good tips. Recently I was "economically stimulated". What a wakeup call! For the first time in a long time, I didn't have an immediate place for the money to go. I put it into a separate account. Wow. It's still there. $600 doesn't sound like a lot, but when you didn't have it, it's kind of amazing. It seems to have a life of its own now - attracting other money to it. Had a little money left over when my next paycheck came - it's like the money's calling - "Come on over!" Twenty-somethings, pay yourself first. It will pay you later. Use the power of compound interest to fund your dreams later. I know someone working overtime on a job who bought a house late last year with a decent down payment. He will pay his house off in less than 3 years on that overtime. That is his goal. He's not materialistic in many other ways. So he will get that goal done. And have a paid for house sooner than many others. I'm taking baby steps in comparison. Not wasting grocery food is one thing. Eating out less for me would be another. Buying clothing on sale is a biggie for me. I look for sales, almost never pay full price. With gas at $4+ a gallon, folks will be making changes. On Sunday Morning/CBS, Bill Geist talked about the "staycation" - staying home for vacation. Did that a lot back in the day - it just didn't have a fancy name. Took a train trip downtown yesterday - jammed to the gills with people. $4 gas is affecting ridership. Dr. Phil gave some advice years ago I appreciated. You can't work on your problems "all the time". You need to have an occational "vacation from your problems." That was when I started going downtown for a day trip in earnest. You eat at home anyway, so no big deal. And no hotel stay at night keeps it cheap. To be in a new environment looking around for several hours, it changes your perspective-for the better. You don't have to spend scads to do that. PS - Free Advice Spoiler-Free on Indy Jones 4 - Matinee. HBO's John Adams worth seeing-period. DVD, Blockbuster, however.
emalove emalove 9 years
These are great tips. A savings account for any type of emergency situation that might spring up is essential.
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 9 years
My huge problem is throwing away food. I need to work on that one and figure out how to shop wisely.
shanimalcracker shanimalcracker 9 years
All good tips. :)
dcfashionista dcfashionista 9 years
I do follow most of those tips.
hmcmcd hmcmcd 9 years
I am always throwing out food. I hate it, but I just can't seem to ever plan my grocery trips right. A lot of the other tips don't apply for me b/c I don't go the gym, I don't live in the city, and I stopped getting nails done (every week) about a year ago.
sorrowja sorrowja 9 years
One last thing for people throwing out food if you cook on Monday and have leftovers take it to work for lunch on Tuesday. My husband and I do that and it limits our trip to the ATM because lunch can run from $10-$15 per day which for both of us can add up to about $300 for the month. Another tip . . . sorry this is so long try going to the movies on Tuesday nights in nyc I know that movies are $5 on tuesday nights vs. going on some other night or the weekend when it's $10.50 per person. On a Tuesday it's also less people and it a more ideal movie night I think.
sorrowja sorrowja 9 years
Great Tips . . . with all the financial madness going on we all need an EF. Each period before my check hits my account I create a budget and pay myself first. It's also a great idea to link your bank cards to bank promotions which gives you points or cash back. Some banks allow you to cash in the points for gift cards and even plane tix. Also shop around for interest savings and if the interest rate on one account drops your bank always have another promotion in which you can transfer over your funds.
vanillabeans vanillabeans 9 years
The wasted groceries thing gets me every time. I'm always throwing out things every week. Sigh...
GinaSnyder GinaSnyder 9 years
This is great -- thanks so much!
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
Thanks for the tips, I am just rebuilding my EF since I used it during my last lay off. Now that I have a new job, I have a designated amount every pay period going into savings. I want to save more so I can start saving also for my housing fund.
Brooklynbee Brooklynbee 9 years
Good tips - and thank you so much for not saying "Don't drink a latte every day!" That 'advice' is always given in magazine and newspaper articles on how to save money - and really, most people already know if they are spending $4-8 a day on coffee that it's absurd.
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
MindayH I agree with you about monitoring. I used to live off of a part time job making $7.50 because I always had my check register with me and knew exactly how much the money I had at every second. Now I don't do that anymore because I do it on the computer at home and I spend so much more.
MindayH MindayH 9 years
I switched out coffee for tea. I drink tea at work (free) and when I go to a coffee house I order tea, which is usually half the price as coffee. Hoping that when the weather warms up I will be spending less on cabs! Monitoring what I spend really makes a difference.
gigill gigill 9 years
I do pretty much all of these and I still don't have much money...
bengalspice bengalspice 9 years
I have my paychecks automatically split between two accounts. I have a set amount that goes into a checking account I use for all my spending. I have the remainder amount deposited in an account I don't use at all. I never think much about that remainder of my check that gets squirreled away, even when I get a raise. I concentrate on spending just the allocated money I have in my spending account. My spending never changes because I'm used to having just a set amount to spend.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
Good tips...but I already do most of them!
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
I'm starting saving the pay after my wedding. I just got my CC down to 0 and will not have to be spending money on wedding crap anymore.
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
Thanks for the tips. I seriously need to start saving. I spend too much eating out, shopping, and on alcohol.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Great tips. I think I need to start eating what's in my freezer vs buying more food.
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