By Jeff Lachman, Branch Manager, Onalaska
Whether you are living paycheck to paycheck or have some extra cash every month, it’s important to save for that rainy day when the roof starts to leak. You never know when you’re going to need a little extra emergency cash to pay for an auto repair or broken furnace, or cover your bills during a temporary lay off at work. Check out these tips to get you started saving:
- Set a monthly savings goal. Develop a habit of saving regularly and it will be less daunting. Try setting up an automatic transfer to your savings account on each pay day.
- Keep the change. When you have an extra dollar, or five, after breaking a $20, drop it into a jar at home. When the jar fills up, move it into your savings account. If you don’t carry cash, you could try a mobile savings app like Qapital, Acorns or Digit.
- Tidy up your checking account. If there’s money left at the end of a pay period, move some into your emergency fund.
- Cut expenses. Look at your checking account and identify expenses you can trim. That way you’ll have cash left over to build your emergency fund. Some ways to save include carpooling, cooking more meals at home, saving leftovers and avoiding small daily purchases such as takeout coffee.
- Get supplemental income. If you have the time and willpower, get a second job or sell unused items from home to accumulate more money for your fund.
- Save your tax refund. You get a shot at this once a year at tax time — and only if you expect a refund. Saving it can be an easy way to boost to your emergency stash. When you file your taxes, consider having your refund deposited directly into your emergency account. Alternatively, you can adjust your W-4 tax form so that you have less money withheld. Then direct the extra cash into your emergency fund.
- Assess and adjust contributions. Check in after a few months to see how much you’re saving, and adjust if you need to add more. This is especially important if you go through an expensive major life event such as marriage or a move to a new city, or have an emergency that causes you to dip into your existing fund.
How Much You Should Have in an Emergency Fund
Rule of Thumb: Save three months’ worth of living expenses (mortgage/rent, utilities, gas, food, etc.) in your emergency fund.
HOWEVER, if you have people who depend on your financially, like children or a spouse, your emergency fund should be a minimum of six months’ worth of living expenses. This is especially true if you work in a career that has high turnover or a high injury rate. Then you’ll want to have double the amount of emergency fund as someone who works in a tenured career where layoffs rarely occur.
Top 5 Reasons to Have an Emergency Fund
- Protects your family in case of a job loss
- Provides reserves for medical or other family emergencies
- Gives you the ability to pursue attractive investment opportunities
- Reduces stress, which increases health and well-being
- Creates a cushion to use for major household repairs