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Build your emergency savings

How to build emergency savings to help with unexpected expenses and lay the foundation on your path towards financial well-being.

Man and young daughter putting money in piggy bank

An emergency fund is a critical component of creating a more secure financial future, both short- and long-term. The new year is a good time to tackle the first steps of establishing a savings plan for unexpected financial needs.

Ready to start, or build up, your emergency fund — and better prepare for a solid financial future? Follow these steps to help build a necessary financial reserve.

  1. Set an emergency fund goal.
    Emergency funds are designed to help you when the unexpected — a car repair, home damage, even a lost job — happens. The savings acts as a buffer, eliminating the need for credit cards or loans to cover immediate and unforeseen financial obligations. An emergency fund should equal about three to six months of living expenses.
  2. Set up a monthly goal for your emergency fund.
    Review (or set up) your budget to find out how much money you can allocate monthly toward the emergency fund. You’ll want to decide on an actual amount, as well as a dedicated contribution frequency (which you can set up as an automatic transfer). Even if it’s a small amount, starting today may make a big impact on your savings.
  3. Open a separate emergency fund account, and make your first deposit — even if it’s a very small one.
    Once you’ve created “emergency fund” as a line item in your budget, you’ll have an easier time putting money away on a regular basis. Consider setting up automatic transfers on a regular basis from your checking account, or arrange to have a percentage of your paycheck direct deposited into the savings account each pay period.
  4. How can other resolutions help you build an emergency savings account?
    Meet your goal by reviewing your budget, eliminating unnecessary expenses and then depositing extra money leftover in your emergency fund. Perhaps there’s a magazine or streaming subscription you can go without. Or, maybe look into reducing cable or phone bills to see if you can save some extra money. Since that’s money you’ve already been spending, it’s easy to send it to your savings account instead, meaning it’s less likely you’ll miss it.
  5. Find other budget areas to trim.
    Take a look at spending categories, including dining out and, yes, your routine coffee habit and other incidentals, to see if you can trim a few things out and give a quick boost to savings instead. Be sure to immediately transfer the money to your emergency fund so it doesn’t get spent elsewhere on small day-to-day purchases.
  6. Put a portion of unexpected cash in your emergency fund.
    That may mean bonus money, a tax refund, or even small proceeds from selling something you own.
  7. If you withdraw from your emergency fund, come up with a plan to replace the money.
    Go back over your budget again to see if you can find a source of extra funds to replace any money you used. Or consider a short-term side job, such as seasonal or one-day-a-weekend work, that helps you refill your emergency fund.
  8. Remember — it’s OK to start small, but most importantly, just start.
    Several hundred dollars can often be the difference between a car repair and a credit card bill, and you can accumulate that just by saving a few dollars a day over the course of a few months.

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