Financial Fundamentals Blog

How to Start an Emergency Fund

Happy couple sitting at a table reviewing their finances

Loss of income, unexpected medical or home expenses, and even a new job or child —  life can send unexpected things your way, both stressful and wonderful. You want to make sure you’re as prepared as possible, no matter what. 


You may not be able to prepare for every contingency, but you can build a life raft now to sustain you through tough situations. It’s time to create an emergency savings fund.


What Is an Emergency Fund?

An emergency fund is a specific savings account set aside for unforeseen expenses. These can include car repairs, home repairs, medical bills, loss of income and even assisting with the transition to a new job when you’re without a paycheck for a while. 


With costs rising for everything from eggs to utilities, establishing a financial cushion may seem easier said than done. We’re here with the essential information you need on how to start an emergency fund.


How to Start an Emergency Fund

Your emergency fund is tailored to you. The amount you want to set aside in your fund is going to depend on your needs, and your strategies for saving are also going to depend on your unique situation.


1. Set your goal.

Determine how much you want in your emergency fund. Generally, it’s a good idea to aim for enough to cover 3-6 months of expenses. However, you might choose a smaller amount so you can hit your emergency fund goal faster, with a lower financial strain. 


Not sure where to get started? An emergency savings calculator is helpful as you determine your savings goals!


2. Create a system.

You may choose to set aside a certain amount every day, week, payday or month. Setting up automatic transfers is a common method, and it doesn’t require much additional monthly work. 


As you think about creating a system for saving, don’t feel like you need to achieve your goal as soon as possible. Remember: Choose a system and amount that works for you, and the process will be easier to follow without creating additional strain. 


If sticking to the goal is hard at first, start small and treat your emergency fund contribution like a bill. Set aside your emergency fund money at the same time you pay your monthly bills. With this strategy, you’re ensuring your contribution to the emergency fund instead of waiting until the end of the month and finding out that there isn’t money left to set aside. 


Making sure tax time is a part of your emergency fund saving system can be beneficial. Review your deductions to see if you can adjust them and put extra money into your emergency fund, instead. And don’t forget that your tax refund can be a great way to get started with a large amount in your emergency fund!


3. Evaluate your budget.

If your monthly expenses feel too tight to put money aside in an emergency fund, it may help to evaluate your budget. Start by looking for regular costs that can be easily cut. For example, is there a streaming service you’re paying for each month but never using? The monthly fee for this service can go into your emergency fund, instead. 


4. Earn interest instead of paying interest. 

Don’t let your emergency fund sit idle! Look for a savings account or a money market account that pays out interest. The interest dividends may be nominal, but they’ll add up over time. Because these accounts are generally free, the interest earnings are essentially free money to build your savings while increasing your financial security.


5. Treat yourself.

Celebrate your successes, especially when it comes to achieving emergency fund milestones. Recognize what you’ve accomplished by finding a couple of small ways that you can celebrate. This could be a nice movie night with your family, dinner out or a new book by your favorite author. Choose something that’s meaningful to you and then set your next emergency fund saving goal to help provide motivation and encouragement to keep going.


6. Maintain your emergency fund.

One of the most important things to remember: Don’t be afraid to use your emergency fund when you need it. That’s what it’s there for. If you have to use a portion or all of your fund for an emergency expense, just work toward building it back up again with the same strategies you implemented previously. 


Your living costs are going to change over time. For example, your living cost changes as your family grows or as your children go off to college, which means your emergency fund goal is also going to fluctuate. By periodically evaluating your living costs and making the appropriate adjustments, you can make sure you have the same financial stability as your income and expenses change.


Improve Your Financial Stability Today

Building an emergency fund can seem overwhelming at first, but it’s an important step toward financial stability in case of unexpected life events. 


Whether you’re ready to get started with your emergency fund or need more information, 7 17 Credit Union has you covered with emergency fund resources and savings accounts to get started.