There's a reason why all workers, regardless of income, are advised to set up an emergency fund with enough cash to cover at least three to six months' worth of living expenses. You never know when your roof might collapse, or when your company might suddenly decide to let you go, and without that extra money on hand, you could wind up in serious trouble should the unexpected arise.
Most Americans don't have enough cash on hand for an adequate emergency fund, so if you managed to establish one, you're somewhat ahead of the game. But what happens when you're forced to deplete that account and then start over from square one? Though it might seem daunting to rebuild your savings after taking a serious dip, here are a few ways to go about it.
1. Rework your budget
If you're looking to put some serious cash back in your bank account, then your first move is to examine your budget and revise it to maximize your savings. This basically means cutting or eliminating any non-essential costs, like leisure, restaurant meals, and new clothing purchases (unless you need a new wardrobe for your job, you can make do with what you already have). Of course, you can't, and shouldn't be expected to, live in an extremely frugal mode forever, but if you need to replenish your savings, aggressively slashing your budget is a good way to start.
2. Cut one major expense
Once you've gone through your budget and knocked out those non-essentials, your next step is to look at your major spending categories and find one that you're able to cut. It might be your car, your apartment, or your grocery bills, but if it shaves several hundred dollars off your monthly living costs, it's a sacrifice worth making.
While lowering a major expense might seem impossible, you may be surprised at how much flexibility you have in certain categories. If, for example, you're renting a spacious apartment, you can invest in a temporary divider, find a roommate, and cut your rent in half for a few months -- all without having to move. Similarly, if you go on a couponing rampage and make a point of buying only essentials, you can slash your supermarket costs and bank more savings. And while getting rid of a car won't be easy (or even feasible) if you live out in the suburbs and need it for work, if you live in a city with public transportation, unloading it could put a sizable chunk of money back in your pocket.
3. Sell some belongings
We all have things taking up space in our closets that we don't really need. If you're serious about rebuilding your emergency savings, take inventory and start selling the things you don't want or are willing to live without. For example, you might enjoy having a TV in your bedroom as well as your living room, but if you can sell one of those sets for a decent price, you'll be on your way to replenishing your savings.
4. Work a side job temporarily
Sometimes, saving a chunk of money quickly just isn't feasible without a significant increase in income. To that end, taking on a side job for a few months could be just the thing you need to restore your emergency fund to its former state.
The easiest way to find extra work is through your current employer, assuming you're able to do so. If picking up some additional shifts isn't an option, then you can try consulting independently in your current field, hitting up seasonal businesses for weekend work, or trying your hand at a series of odd jobs around town.
In fact, making extra money often boils down to creativity. If you're handy and rent an apartment in a larger building, you might try asking your landlord or management company to consider using your services when things get busy. If you like children, you'd be amazed at what parents might pay for the privilege of leaving the house without a diaper bag in tow. Your side job doesn't have to be consistent, nor does it have to be torture -- it just has to serve as a means of padding your income so that you're able to rebuild your savings sooner rather than later.
Amassing an emergency fund is easier said than done, especially if it's your second time around. But think of it this way -- if you did it once, you can do it again, and you'll be happier for it in the long run.