We all know we need to have an emergency fund, but how to make that happen is another story. And why do you even need one? Simply put, an emergency fund allows you to deal with those unexpected expenses that always seem to pop up: broken appliances, car repairs, or in our military life, PCS expenses, and Murphy’s Law. Without an emergency fund we often rely on credit; which further sets back your financial goals and can cause anxiety and stress.
You may be thinking that saving for an emergency fund is way too hard and just not worth it. I can tell you: it’s worth it. About two weeks after my husband came home from deployment (I know right? He was home…CRAZY!), we discovered our dishwasher had been leaking–probably for months–but the water was pooling underneath the laminate floor. Luckily, we had insurance that paid for the water mitigation and new floors. However, our deductible for insurance was $1000.
We were about to leave on our post-deployment vacation and had we not had an emergency fund to pay the deductible, I would have been a wreck. Knowing how stressed I get about money, I most likely would have cancelled our trip and used the trip money for the repairs. I can personally attest to the stress that unexpected costs can cause. I had no desire to be spending $1000 right then, but there was no other way…we had to repair our home. Two days later, we left for Disney and had an amazing well-deserved vacation after a long deployment with our children. And the best part was I knew we weren’t going to be in annoying debt when we returned!
If you don’t have an emergency fund, consider it a crucial lifeline, and start saving now for tomorrow’s rainy day. Here are five ways to start an emergency fund.
- Start small. Even saving $20 a week for one year would give you $1000. That $20 could come from making coffee at home, packing your lunch for work instead of buying, renting a movie instead of going to the theater, or more carefully planning out meals at the grocery store.
- Put the savings into a separate account before it goes into your checking account. Most banks will allow you to set up automatic transfers. Put that $20 a week into a savings account and don’t allow yourself to even think about it as money to spend.
- Use your tax return to start your emergency fund. Saving even just half of any tax refund would greatly increase your savings. Again, choose to have your tax refund deposited directly into your savings account, rather than your checking account.
- Involve the whole family. Decide together that making an emergency fund is a priority. Older children can understand the importance of having money set aside for unexpected expenses. Everyone can look at ways to cut back on spending.
- Use the free financial resources available to you as military families, and make a budget and stick to it. When making your budget make saving for an emergency fund a priority.
Saving money in an emergency fund isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it in the end. If you don’t have any sort of savings, why don’t you? What’s keeping you from setting yourself up for financial success? Leave your questions in the comments and we’ll answer them!