Our grandparents used to call it “Saving For a Rainy Day”. We now call it “An Emergency Fund”. Call it what you like, but everyone has sudden, unexpected and usually unpleasant ‘surprises’ that arise. In our current Coronavirus-induced economic downturn, having an emergency fund is more important than ever. The Federal Reserve estimates that over forty percent of Americans wouldn’t be able to come up with $400 to pay for a financial emergency and I suspect that statistic has grown even larger given our current state of affairs.
As a Financial Coach, I’ve worked with many clients experiencing the stress of knowing they should have an emergency fund but struggling to figure out how to even start getting one going. There are some tactics, most of which are quite simple, that can jump-start your emergency fund in just a few weeks. Not every strategy will work for you, but surely you’ll find a few on this list that you can start implementing today!
- The Side Hustle: Everyone has a hobby or a passion that they could turn into a side hustle. Just think out-of-the-box! Love to golf? Be a weekend golf caddie. Love to bake?
- Make custom cakes and sell them. Love your dog? Do some pet sitting.Find Your Spare Change: Remember that change jar sitting on your dresser? Roll it up and use the funds to start your emergency fund. By the way, there’s a national coin shortage due to Covid so your bank will welcome your coins!
- Sell Your ‘Junk’: We all have some ‘stuff’ that we never use or don’t really want anymore. Use Facebook Marketplace, other social media, Craig’s List or even have a yard sale and get rid of unwanted items from your home. Not only will you be able to start that emergency fund, but you’re house will look neat and tidy.
- Points to Cash: Take a look at your credit card points and see if the financial institution allows you to convert your credit card points into cash. Some of the largest banks, such as Chase, Capital One and Bank of America, allow you to do this on their premium credit cards. If your credit card does not allow you to do this, you can always start using up your points to pay for every day expenses and take the money you would have spent on those items and put that in an emergency fund.
- Round It Up!: There are several apps, such as Digit and Acorns (https://digit.co/ and https://www.acorns.com/ ) that connect to your credit card and round up your charges to the nearest dollar, then deposit the rounded-up amount into a bank account. While it would take you a long time to amass any substantial amount with this tactic, those dimes and quarters add up over time!
- Go Public: Tell your friends and family what you’re trying to accomplish and ask that instead of birthday gifts, they contribute to your emergency fund. Heck, most of us can live without another candle, sweater, necklace
- Jackpot Money: No, I’m not suggesting you go to Vegas. Rather, see if you have any unclaimed money coming to you. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (https://unclaimed.org/ ) there is currently $42 billion dollars in unclaimed life insurance, dividend checks and bank accounts that have gone unclaimed. Often, the recipient isn’t even aware of the funds. Make sure you only use reliable sources to check for these such as https://www.missingmoney.com/en/ or https://unclaimed.org/. Be careful of scams that claim they can find money for you.
- Keep your dividends: If you have some kind of investment portfolio with dividends that are being reinvested, you may want to pause this for a while and receive the dividends instead. These can be used to fund your emergency fund. Once your emergency fund is complete, you can switch back to having your dividends reinvested.
- Get Paid For Your Opinion: There are numerous companies that will pay you a small amount to tell them what you think about a product or service such as Swagbucks, Global Test Market or Opinion Outpost. Simply by giving them your feedback or a product review, you could put a few bucks in your emergency fund.
- Increase Your Homeowners Insurance Deductible: If you own a home, consider raising the deductible on your insurance policy. This could save you several hundred dollars a year. Statistically, there’s only a 5% chance you’ll have to make a claim this year, as the frequency of homeowners claims is small. Take that money and start your emergency fund. Just know that if you DO have to make a claim, you’ll be responsible for more of the damage.
- Consider Refinancing: Interest rates are at historic lows right now so look into refinancing your home, your car, your personal loan or even a student loan. Even credit card companies will sometimes cut you a break. It’s worth a phone call to fee up some money.
- Money from Your Employer: Check with your employer to see what they have in place already for reimbursement benefits that you may have overlooked. Some companies offer child-care reimbursement, tuition reimbursement, free gym memberships or even cell phone discounts that could free up some money. If your company doesn’t currently offer any of these, it never hurts to ask and see what they’re willing to put in place.
Pick one, pick a few, it’s up to you!