5 Easy Ways to Sneak More Money Into Your Emergency Fund

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on Feb. 12, 2021

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A piggy bank with hundred-dollar bills sticking out the top.

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Need a healthier emergency fund? Here's how to build one without stress.

We all need money in a savings account for a rainy day. You never know when you might lose your job, get stuck with a home repair, or walk out to your driveway and find that your car won't start.

Without an emergency fund, you could get caught up in serious debt and wreck your finances for years. A better bet is to have three to six months' worth of living expenses stashed away in the bank for the unexpected. And here are a few easy ways to boost your cash reserves -- all without depriving yourself of too much.

1. Maximize your forced pandemic savings

A lot of people have changed their lifestyles during the pandemic. Maybe you're not currently commuting to work, or you've replaced movie theater and restaurant outings with quiet nights at home to stay safe. All of that forced savings could serve as a prime opportunity to pad your emergency fund. Of course, once the pandemic ends, you may need or want to start spending on those expenses again -- and that's okay. The key is to take advantage of forced savings while that's the situation you've been dealt.

2. Cut back on one expense that can be replaced with a cheaper alternative

If you cancel your cell phone plan, you may not have a way to communicate with others. But if you cancel your gym membership, you can still get exercise. Take a look at your budget and see if there's one expense you can replace with a free or low-cost alternative. For example, you may be able to cancel a cable plan that costs $80 a month and sign up for a $15 monthly streaming service instead. And going back to that cell phone example, you probably can't do without a phone completely, but you may be able to sign up for a cheaper plan.

3. Bank your stimulus check

Lawmakers are working to send a third stimulus check to the public. If that comes through, that's an easy way to boost your savings -- provided you don't need the money for essentials like food and medications.

4. Don't spend your tax refund

Most people who file a tax return wind up getting a refund. If you normally get money back from the IRS, sticking it in the bank is a simple way to add to your savings without having to cut back on something else.

5. Save your raise

Did you get a raise this year? If so, you may have been spending that extra money on treats or entertainment. Well, it's time to stop that practice if your emergency fund needs work. The good news is that at this point, you're probably not used to that raise, which means you should be able to live without spending it. Don't take on extra expenses in the near term. Instead, put that paycheck boost into savings until you're happier with the amount of rainy day cash you have.

Emergency savings are essential. Without that money, you could really wind up in a world of debt when life throws unpleasant surprises your way. The good news is that funding your emergency savings may not be as difficult as you'd expect. And once you've managed to get to a level of savings you're happy with, the peace of mind you'll enjoy will be worth any sacrifice you dealt with along the way.

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