How to Build a Starter Emergency Fund in 30 Days or Less

Step-by-step tips on getting an emergency fund startedAn emergency fund can come in REALLY handy, giving you a cushion in case of job loss (or whatever else you deem an emergency). But building one is another story, right?

According to Bankrate.com’s monthly consumer poll, “28% of Americans have no emergency savings — none at all — and nearly half, 49%, don’t have enough to cover 3 months’ expenses.”

But you don’t have to be a statistic. Here’s exactly how to build a starter emergency fund in 30 days or less.

Day 1: Open up a savings account.

Open up a savings account using whatever bank you like — even a piggy bank that you write your name on works for now.

I use Capital One 360 because they let you easily create multiple, individually named accounts. So I have one named (appropriately enough) Jackie’s Emergency Fund. If you sign up with them too using this link, we could each get a small bonus. Or you could use Digit if you’d like to have your savings painlessly automated. (It’s my new favorite savings buddy.)

Day 2: Put at least $1 in your new emergency fund.

Funding your account means scrounging up at least $1 from somewhere. Dig through those couch cushions and coat pockets if need be, but get a dollar into your new emergency fund.

If your couch cushions are coming up short, here are 7 things you can sell for extra cash and 11 ways to earn extra money.

Day 3: Figure out how much you want to save up in the next 27 days.

I suspect part of the reason so many people are without an adequate emergency fund is that the whole idea of setting aside 3-6 months’ worth of expenses seems completely unrealistic. I know it seemed impossible to me for a long time. And who starts things that are impossible? So, don’t. Start something that’s doable instead.

Figure out how much you think you can realistically save up over the next 27 days. And the number you come up with? THAT will be your starter emergency fund. Don’t feel badly if it’s a small number, because any amount is more than you had before. It’s something that will insulate you from an emergency that much more than nothing. And any amount is a success.

Let’s say you want your starter emergency fund to have $100 in it. 100 divided by 27 is about 3.70. So you’d need to add less than $4 a day to your fund. Your options are to make more, spend less, or (ideally) both. Figure it out — getting creative if need be — and then send in today’s amount. Do a little happy dance while you’re at it, because you’re moving in the right direction! (Also, happy dances are fun.)

Day 4: Make savings a line item in your budget.

It’s really hard to save extra money, because who has “extra” money? So save FIRST and always instead, and then you’ll have it done.

Write the 27-day total you came up with into your monthly budget right now. Think of it as another bill, just like your cell phone or housing. (Don’t have a budget? Download my free budgeting printable.)

Oh, and don’t forget to send today’s amount in to your fund.

Days 5-29: Keep at it!

Just keep plugging away, sending in your $4 (or whatever) every day for the next 26 days. If you make or save more one day and want to get a jump start on the next, great! Go ahead and send that in early. Just make sure you aren’t cutting back too much, since you don’t want to have do dip into the fund to meet basic expenses. You only want it to be for emergencies.

Which reminds me, it’s time to figure out exactly what you consider an emergency. Me? It used to be only job loss. (But then I quit my job to work for myself.) So now it’s only medical expenses greater than my deductible. Everything else, I can either do without or wait on until I have the money.

YOU get to pick what constitutes an emergency in your life. So right now, make a list of the only things you’ll allow yourself to use that fund for. Just keep in mind that the more emergencies you have, the bigger your fully-funded emergency fund will need to be. Then stick to your list.

Day 30: Celebrate! (Then make savings a habit.)

Now’s the time to celebrate your progress. Go ahead and tell someone (me, if you like!) that you’ve met your goal and built a starter emergency fund. I promise I’ll be just as happy for you as the day I reached my first emergency fund goal.

This is also the time to add emergency fund savings to next month’s budget. (And every month after that.) Make saving for emergencies a habit, and keep at it until you reach whatever larger goal feels comfortable to you. (I have a year’s worth of expenses set aside now.) When you do have to dip into the fund (because emergencies happen to everyone at one point or another), don’t get upset. Instead, pat yourself on the back for having created the fund in the first place, and then get to replenishing it using the same methods you used to build it in the first place.

As someone who has gotten completely out of debt, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that here too. Sometimes people wonder whether they should pay off debt before starting an emergency fund. My answer is no, because an emergency fund actually helps prevent debt. So get your starter emergency fund done, and then worry about becoming debt free. (And when you’re ready for that next step, the Pay Off Debt app can help.)

Meanwhile, happy emergency fund building!

This post is a part of the Best Year Ever collaboration, where over 40 bloggers are sharing their tips and tricks to make 2015 your best year ever. Scroll down for more great articles from these bloggers!

Over 40 bloggers share their tips and tricks to make 2015 your best year ever. Check out this post on How to Build a Starter Emergency Fund in 30 Days or Less, then follow the links to the other great posts.

  1. How to Set and Keep Goals to Make This the Best Year Ever | Jen @ Girl in Garage
  2. 15 Ways to Stay Organised at Work During 2015 | Elizabeth Harrin @ A Girl’s Guide to Project Management
  3. How Personal Style Will Help You Achieve Goals Faster in 2015 | Cherene Francis @ Aura Image Consulting
  4. 10 Simple Ways to Eat Healthier This Year | Dawn @ Reveal Natural Health
  5. How to Make This the Best Gardening Year Ever | Kendra Spencer @ a Sonoma Garden
  6. 12 Scriptures for Goals and Guidance | Julie @ Loving Christ Ministries
  7. How to Build a Starter Emergency Fund in 30 Days or Less | Jackie Beck @ The Debt Myth
  8. Family Verse of the Week Challenge for 2015 | Jamie Yonash @ Life is Sweeter By Design
  9. Hot Work at Home Jobs for 2015 | Holly Hanna @ The Work at Home Woman
  10. A Year of Intention | Hilary Bernstein @ Accidentally Green
  11. 2015: Our Best Year Yet | Ashley @ Leaving the Rut
  12. Create a Better Life Story | Bronwen Warner @ Tummy Time and Beyond
  13. Get Ready to Get MDfit | Tom and Anne @ Eat & Be Fit
  14. 5 Free Ways to Learn Something New This Year | Sarah Fuller @ Earning and Saving with Sarah Fuller
  15. Healthy Leek Soup | Mirlandra @ Mirlandra’s Kitchen
  16. Health Resolutions: Baby Steps to a New You | Ellen Christian @ Confessions of an Overworked Mom
  17. 5 Ways Busy Moms Can Get Motivated to Work Out | Diane Nassy @ philZENdia
  18. Be Prepared for the New Year | Jennifer Dunham Starr @ The Memory Journalists
  19. 3 Steps to a Healthier Life in 2015 | Joe Goodwill @Average Joe Cyclist
  20. New Year’s Resolution: Cook More Often! | Kim Pawell @ Something New for Dinner
  21. I Should What? 28 Ways to be Happier | Karen Young @ Hey Sigmund
  22. 9 Ways to Get Healthier In The New Year | Amy Maus @ Home and Farm Sense
  23. In 2015 Resolve to Take Control of Your Money | Kristia @ Family Balance Sheet
  24. No More Tears at IEP Meetings: Make This Your Best Year Ever! | Lisa Lightner @ A Day In Our Shoes
  25.  How to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolution – For Real This Time! | Michelle @ Dishes and Dust Bunnies
  26. 52 Weeks to a Better You: Week 1 – Go to Bed Early | Mindi Cherry @ Moms Need to Know
  27. Food Street: How a Community Has Joined Forces to Start a Street Farm | Sam Walker @ Bubble ‘N Squeak
  28. Organizing Coupons with the Binder Method | Sara Steigerwald @ Sisters Shopping on a Shoe String
  29. How to Make This Year the Happiest Yet | Shambray @ Shambray.com
  30. A New Year, A New You | Sharon Rowe @ How to Get Organized at Home
  31. 5 Ways to Get Paid for Losing Weight This Year | Anna @ Real Ways to Earn Money at Home
  32. Tips for Successful Whole30 | Deanna Michaels @ From This Kitchen Table
  33. 75 Ways to Be Healthier in 2015 | Maryea Flaherty @ Happy Healthy Mama
  34. How to Make 2015 the Best Year Ever! | Jennifer @ My Boys & Their Toys
  35. Fashion Resolutions: How to Add Style to Any Outfit | Ellen Christian @ The Socialite’s Closet

One thought on “How to Build a Starter Emergency Fund in 30 Days or Less

  1. My family has been on our Debt Free journey since April of last year. Though we we were successful at setting up a budget and living on less than we made we were operating without an emergency fund. Thankfully Murphy did not visit us in this time. Now we have a fund and boy does that make you feel better.

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