Tips to Help You Fund (and Keep) Your Emergency Fund

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Everyone who’s ever had an emergency will tell you money is key to making good decisions. We make bad financial decisions when were broke and desperate. That’s why having an emergency fund is vital to starting any journey in finance. But it’s so hard to save, and then you’ve got the temptation of $1000 sitting in your bank account screaming to be used. Here are some tips we’ve used to save and keep our emergency fund. We currently keep a mini emergency fund of $1000 while we’re paying our debt and so far it’s worked out great. So a note to those on the other end of the spectrum, nervous about draining your savings that low, trust me when I say you’ll be fine, just breathe, commit, and lean in. For the rest of us:

 

Budget

Tired of hearing about budgets yet? It’s like being on a diet and getting reminded over and over that you can’t have dessert. But the budget is the key to achieving your goal. Without a budget your money will get lost in other “important” purchases and you’ll be wondering why you’re 6 months in and no richer than you were to start. Start that budget!

 

Sell Something

We sold old textbooks, clothes, furniture, even a toaster. Anything that wasn’t vitally essential to our comfort had to go. Craigslist is a familiar place to start but there are plenty of ways to sell stuff without leaving the couch. OfferUp is an app that allows you to put an offer on items in your area, Poshmark is a website that lets you post clothes for sale, and yes, people still use ebay.

 

Drop the Non Essentials

Cable, your landline, gym membership, any and all subscriptions, you name it. We have money flowing out of our accounts that we never think about. Look through your statement and consider relinquishing one or two things. It doesn’t have to be forever but you may realize you didn’t need it as much as you thought you did.

 

Commit to not spending for a period of time

If this girl can go without shopping for 2 years then you can go for a month. There are all kinds of things you can fast for a period of time that wouldn’t be sustainable long term but are realistically doable for 1-4 months. Eating out, coffee, alcohol, the bargain bins at Target, these are luxuries you can’t afford if you don’t have money saved for legit emergencies.

 

Now that you’ve got it:

Keep your emergency fund out of site and out of mind. Open a credit union account that doesn’t charge fees for just letting your money sit in checking. And leave the card at home. I leave mine in the inconvenient file folder with the rest of my financial documents. Then go pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s there if your car dies, you have to make a trip to the ER, your pet eats that leftover chocolate cake you left on the counter (how dare you.) Running out of something isn’t an emergency; paying rent isn’t an emergency. These are things that should be in your budget. Don’t give yourself the temptation to spend your Emergency Fund, you’re not going to be perfect so put parameters on your money to help yourself succeed.

Budgeting is a B Word – Budget Myths Debunked

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First I’d like to say thanks for responding so well to these few posts. It’s rewarding to have small nuggets of my experience be useful to others and I hope to keep being an encouragement to you all!

Now for the fun part, budgeting. Everyone I talk to about debt tells me “I know, I need get on a budget.” In my head I’m like “duh!?!” But the truth is, I remember what it’s like to be single on a 36K income staring 60K of debt in the face. It’s horrifying, overwhelming, and seemingly impossible. So I just ignored it. I let the interest pile up and said I just can’t do this. Flash forward two years and the budget is a vital part of my life. I am by no means a master budgeter and I’m always the one that ends up going over budget (sorry babe) but it by no means negates the massive change in our lives the budget has made. There are things I’ve learned about the budget, especially in the last year, that have debunked what I used to think and I’ll share them with you in hopes that it won’t take you as long to figure them out as it did for us.

 

The Budget is Just Going to make me Feel Guilty

My primary reason for not budgeting was the guilt I felt about every purchase I made. Even if it was necessary and in the budget I was constantly thinking about what the budget would think of me or do to me, so spending money was torture. I couldn’t see living the rest of my life that way so I’d give up. The fact is that the budget is not the master, you are! When someone told me the budget is meant to give freedom, not shame, in your purchases it changed my perspective. The game became to spend the entirety of budget (with some pacing) because that’s why we’d allotted for it. I still occasionally feel guilt but now it’s because I have someone to keep me accountable if I make frivolous purchases over the budget. Instead of buying something and feeling guilty about it the whole time now I think about my purchases and make sure they’re really needed or wanted. I’ve learned that the things I spend my money on define me to some extent and now I spend with intention rather than guilt.

 

I’ve Gone Over Budget So I Should Scrap it and Start Again Next Month

If you can’t do it perfectly you shouldn’t do it at all right? It sounds silly when you say it in your head and it is equally as silly in real life, especially with something as nuanced as spending. There is no such thing as a perfect budget. Our budget changes every month and throughout the month to account for surprises, what we need to save for short term, and Murphy’s Law. When emergencies come up that have to be dealt with immediately, for big things we’ll take it out of our emergency fund (what a concept) then replenish that or for smaller things we shave off the current month’s budget to accommodate. The budget is finite but fluid. You are the master of the budget, not the other way around.

 

If I Make a Budget Then I’ll Really Know How Bad my Finances are, and then I’ll be Sad

I hate being sad. Some people will do anything to avoid being sad, like ignore all their flaws and problems to exist in a constant state of ignorant bliss. And by some people I mean me. Budgeting makes you look at how YOU are spending your money. In my early days of budgeting that looked like a ton of Starbucks transactions and bar/ restaurant trips that I barely remembered. It also meant studying the compound interest my loans were accruing. It’s hard, even after paying our debt down to almost half I still get sad when I look at how far we have to go, I get sad about saying no to eating out or getting coffee out just because I feel like it. It’s so worth it though. In the long run, when we’re debt free and our budget reveals all the money we had but could never use, it’ll be like getting a huge raise! But it means you have to start with sad, move on to mad, and graduate to determined, because ignorant bliss never lasts forever.

 

Mint Tracks My Spending, so That’s My Budget

A budget is essentially telling your money where to go, not finding out where it went. Automatic tracking tools are useful but they are not budgets! The best way we’ve found to stay accountable to our budget is manually entering in our expenses. I initially thought I would find it annoying to input every expense but it’s the annoyance that causes inspection and reflection on my purchases. We are aware of every purchase (which unfortunately means no hiding coffee purchases from your spouse, sad always) and know when we’re close to the top of the budget. We personally use the free version of EveryDollar. My favorite feature is copying lasts month’s budget to the next month. We’re always tweaking throughout the month so as we change, the budget changes with us.

 

What do you hate about budgeting? If there’s any topic you’d like to see on the blog let me know!