While the holidays are supposed to be a joyous time of the year, often, they instead become a source of stress. This especially holds true for those who feel pressured to bust their budgets in an attempt to shower loved ones with elaborate gifts or throw the party of the century.
Still, those expenses, and other holiday ones, like decoration and travel, should come as no surprise. What might shock you, on the other hand, is having to make a last-minute home repair right around the holidays.
Believe it or not, 73% of Americans say that household emergencies are the most stressful aspect of the holiday season, according to data from Verizon Connect. And surprisingly, 40% of U.S. adults expect to make more service calls during the holidays than any other time of the year.
Of course, anyone who owns a home knows all too well that even seemingly minor repairs can be expensive -- especially when you're forced to call in a professional over a weekend or after hours for an immediate fix. Throw in the fact that you might face a holiday premium of sorts for expedited service, and it's no wonder home-related emergencies are such a source of anxiety this time of year.
If you're losing sleep over the notion of having to make an unanticipated home repair, you should know that there's a solution that can mitigate much of the stress you're experiencing. It's called an emergency fund, and the sooner you build one, the more peace of mind you'll get.
You need that safety net
Nobody wants to spend money on heating repairs, leaky fixtures, or other such home-related items that are necessary but hardly fun. But there's a big difference between knowing you have the money to cover such an expense and wondering how on earth you'll manage yet another bill this time of year.
The solution, therefore, is to build yourself an emergency fund. That fund should have enough money to cover a minimum of three months of living expenses, and ideally, more like six months' worth.
Why the need for so much money in the bank? Home repair issues aren't the only expense that can catch you off guard. You might get injured, wreck your car, or encounter a host of scenarios where you suddenly need money. Or, you might lose your job, in which case having three to six months of living expenses at your disposal becomes crucial.
Also, you might think a leaky roof will only cost you a few hundred dollars to repair, but if it turns out that roof needs to be replaced, you'll be looking at thousands instead. And while you probably won't be happy about having to shell out that much cash, you'll be less stressed about it if you have that money in the bank.
Building your emergency fund
Amassing three to six months' worth of living expenses isn't easy, and it's not the sort of thing you can pull off overnight. But if you rethink your spending over the next number of months, you might have your emergency fund nice and ready by the time the next holiday season rolls around. So take a look at the things you spend money on at present and pledge to cut back. That could mean making one major change, like downsizing your living space, or making a series of smaller changes, like cooking more meals at home instead of constantly ordering takeout or opting for a less expensive cable package. The key is to make sure you're doing enough to build some sizable cash reserves.
At the same time, you should strongly consider a side hustle if you're starting out with little to no money in the bank. The beauty of that second gig is that your earnings won't already be earmarked for other expenses, so you should be able to bank all of the cash you take in. Even if you only manage to squeeze in a few hours of side work each week, it'll add up over the course of a year.
The last thing you want is to end the holiday season in debt. And while overspending on gifts is a good way to get there, not planning for home repairs could land you in the same boat. While it may be too late to build savings for the holiday season we're now in the midst of, you have roughly a year to establish an emergency fund by late 2019. Go that route, and with any luck, the following holiday season will be far less stressful than our current one.