How to Build an Emergency Fund

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So, you've figured out you need an emergency fund... now what? There are many many options to build an emergency fund. Read to find out what works for you.
Photo Credit: Sadlej

So, you’ve figured out you need an emergency fund… now what?  There are a few different ways to build an emergency fun.  I’ll divide them into two different categories.  Quick ideas for those emergencies you have NOW, and  Long Term ideas if you aren’t in a pinch.  Read What is an Emergency Fund if you aren’t sure what it is.

Quick Ideas

Sell Something

Rummage through your closets, garage and under the bed.  There are many places to sell items for quick cash such as Craigslist, a garage sale, or Facebook community groups.  Some examples would be tools that you don’t use any more, clothes that don’t fit, and old toys the kids quit playing with.  You can build an emergency fund using “junk” you have around the house you haven’t used in years!  If you have a TON of “junk”, try a quick yard sale if it’s the right time of year.

Find One-Time Opportunities

Lots of quick jobs are posted on Craigslist.  Check it out and see if anyone is looking for a quality you have.  Do you know how to do oil changes, sew and mend, or create designs?  Those are just a few ideas.  Also, there are online surveys or other companies that will pay you to do random activities.  Another option is to check with your neighbors.  Are any of them in need of a dog walker/sitter or house sitter?  For more ideas, read my list of How to Make Easy Money Fast ideas.

Tax Refund

If it’s close to tax season, designate a specific amount of your tax refund to go to your emergency fund.  Since emergencies tend to be pricey, having a big chunk of cash can make a big difference.


If you receive an annular bonus from work, put it towards your emergency fund.  Like with your tax refund, this can be a big chunk of cash to get you started.

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Long Term Ideas

Cut your Budget

Are there areas in your budget you can cut for the next few months?  Some examples would be your pleasure, cut it by 50%.  Stop buying those soft drinks or coffees.  Maybe try to take a sack lunch to work.  Another idea is to try to “eat your pantry” and spend less on groceries for the next few months.  Read this list of every day frugal living tips you can apply to save extra money to build an emergency fund.

Automatic Payments

Each month have an automatic payment go to your savings account.  This could be from your paycheck (which will help you NOT see the money go), OR can be from your checking to savings account.

Check your Bills

Call your utilities companies or phone companies and see if there is a way to lower your bill.  Just yesterday I called my Internet provider because they increased our internet rates.  Buy “cancelling service” then “becoming a new customer” I am now able to save $40 a month!  I then was able to sign up for automatic bill pay (which I hate doing), to save $15 MORE on top of that.

Do you have a Costco, gym or other membership you aren’t using?  Cancel those and put that same money into your savings towards your emergency fund.

Supplemental Income

First option in this category would be finding a second job.  This is never a fun option, but just working for 1-3 months can  really help build an emergency fund and can be worth it.  As you may already know, around the holidays there are lots of companies hiring “seasonal” employees.  This can be a quicker way to earn money over a few months time period.

Use your Extra Income

Do you already have a side job that brings in come extra cash each month?  Use that extra cash to deposit directly into your savings to help  build an emergency fund.

Set up a Savings Goal

Building an emergency fund can be tricky.  Set up a goal to put a pre-determined amount into savings each month.  We put $100 a month.  If you can only afford $20 or $50, that’s OK.

Any little bit will when an emergency arises.

Collect your change

Are you a family that uses cash over credit cards?  Great!  Pay for everything with bills, then put ALL your change into a bucket.  Take that change bucket when it gets full to the bank and put it into savings.  Read some ideas about where to store your savings.

Use your Extra Paycheck

Do you get paid bi-weekly or weekly?  If you do, every 4 months you should receive an “extra” pay check.  Use that extra paycheck to put into your savings to build an emergency fund.


Just start little by little to build your emergency fund.  Taking it one small step at a time, or $100 at a time will keep you motivated.

The important thing to remember is START.

Any little bit you have in your emergency fund WILL help!  Need more info?  Here is a great article on “16 Steps to Filling Up Your Emergency Fund“.   Why do you need a fund?  How will it help you?  Think of some emergencies you had in the past where a fund would have been helpful.

Then, check your self, put on your work boots and get back to saving!

What are some ways you’ve found have been helpful in saving?

Further Reading:

Why do I need an build an Emergency Binder

4 Steps to Create your Budget

6 Things to do Before you Budget



As always, if you love what you read or have found it helpful, please PIN, share or comment below.  You can also like my Facebook page to get updates or subscribe to my email list.

Thanks for reading!


This post may contain affiliate links.  Read my affiliate link disclosure here

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