When you’re setting financial goals for yourself, it’s easy to stay focused on how to make more money or how to save for a major expense, like buying a house. But it’s also important to think about having an extra stash of cash for an unexpected plot twist, like losing your job, a pricey car repair, or a major dental emergency. These are just a few of the reasons why you should have an emergency fund handy. Let’s take a look at how to get started and how much to save.
1. Set up a separate savings account. It’s best to go with a high-yield savings account so you can earn the most interest possible, but the biggest goal should be to have a dedicated account just for your emergency funds. If there’s a good chance you’ll drain the entire account for an emergency, then opt for one that doesn’t require a minimum monthly balance. The financial website NerdWallet has a great comparison tool if you need some help looking around for a bank that’s right for you.
2. Track your spending. Track what you buy and how much you spend each week to get a better idea of what your true cost of living is. Be sure to include your ongoing expenses like rent/mortgage, loan payments, credit card payments, utilities, and anything else you pay for each month. By looking at all the things you spend money on, you’ll have a better idea of how much you’ll need to support yourself if you were to lose your job. It’ll also give you some insight into where you can cut back to really put some horsepower behind your savings goals. To get started, you can use a trusty pen and planner to track your cash, or download an app like Mint that will automatically categorize and analyze your spending.
3. Create a savings goal. Once you know how much you need to get by, set a goal to save. To keep your goal attainable, start with saving three months’ worth and grow your emergency fund from there. How much you should save is up to you, but a common rule of thumb is to have at least three to six months of living expenses in the bank. Financial expert Suze Orman argues that to feel and actually be financially secure, you should save for at least 8-12 months of coverage. This way you’ll have enough to cover a variety of scenarios without going into debt.
3. Set and forget. Saving any amount of money can feel intimidating, let alone enough for 12 whole months, and it may be especially daunting if you’re already on a tight budget. To get you going in the right direction, try outsmarting yourself by setting up a direct deposit that automatically transfers a set amount from each paycheck into your emergency fund. Alternatively, you can check with your bank to see if you can set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking to your savings account. Another way to automate your savings is to use an online service like Digit to help you save without putting too much brain power behind it. Whichever method you use, the goal is to make saving automatic.
4. Replenish what you use. If you find yourself in a position where you need to dip into your emergency savings, make a plan of action to replace whatever you took out. If you had to withdraw money due to a job loss, make padding the account a priority once you get a new job. If you had to take some money out for an unexpected expense, follow all the same steps that you did to make it rain in your saving account when you first started. This is a great way to keep yourself from relying on credit cards to cover the unexpected, thus keeping your financial security intact.
Do you have an emergency savings account? What steps did you take to make saving a reality? Tweet us your tips @BritandCo!