Published in: Banks | Dec. 23, 2019

6 Easy Ways to Fill Up Your Emergency Fund

By:  Kailey Hagen

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Need an emergency fund ASAP? These tips can help.

You probably know an emergency fund is a vital tool to ensure your continued financial security -- and if you don't know that, you should. Your emergency fund is the money you can fall back on if you lose a job, have a medical emergency, or need to file a home or auto insurance claim. Without one, these situations might force you to take on debt. 

Your emergency fund should contain at least three months' worth of living expenses and as much as six months' worth if you want to be really safe. But that easily adds up to thousands of dollars. And while it may seem like a challenge to save that much, it might be easier than you think if you employ one or more of the following techniques.

A man walking several dogs on leashes down the street.

Image source: Getty Images

1. Year-end bonus

We're closing in on the new year and that means companies will soon be handing out year-end bonuses. This could be between several hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on how much you make and how your company structures its bonuses. That's a decent start on an emergency fund right there. Plus, you aren't used to having that kind of money to spend every month, so you won't miss it if you put it into your emergency fund.

2. Tax refund

You'll probably get a tax refund, which could also be a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. But that's still a couple of months away. You won't be able to file your taxes until your employer mails you your W-2 (or your 1099 if you're self-employed). Legally, they must have this to you by the end of January 2020. If you want your refund quickly, file your taxes as soon as you receive your paperwork. This also helps reduce your risk of tax identity theft.

3. Extra income from a raise

You can get a pay raise at any time, but January is a popular month because most companies have a new budget to work with for the new year. You might be tempted to buy yourself something nice to celebrate your raise, and you can do so, but a smarter way to use that money might be to put all of your extra income toward your emergency fund, at least at first. Do this for a couple of months until you've built it up and then you can start spending more of this extra money.

4. Selling things you don't need

Almost everyone has a few things lying around their home that they don't use anymore. It might be old clothing, an old cell phone, or some antiques you no longer have the space for. They can be a great source of additional income if you're willing to part with them. Do some research online to figure out what a fair price would be and then post on an online marketplace or share through social media. Put the cash you earn straight into your emergency fund.

5. Side hustle income

Starting a side hustle is an alternative to the suggestions above if you don't have any items you can sell and you don't see a raise in your future. There are plenty of side hustle opportunities today, including driving for a ridesharing company, walking dogs, running a blog, or helping someone create a new website for their business. Think about what you're good at and choose a business that aligns with those skills. Just remember, you don't get to keep all your side hustle income, as you'll need to set some aside some for taxes. Use this worksheet to estimate the taxes you'll owe.

6. Set a monthly savings goal

Those with a little extra cash each month may find it easiest to budget a certain portion of their leftover money toward their emergency fund. It's up to you to decide how much you can afford to set aside monthly, but the more you contribute, the less time it will take to build your emergency fund. You can use this strategy in combination with some of the strategies above to help you build your emergency savings more quickly.

These are just a few ideas on how to build an emergency fund quickly if you don't already have one. Stash all this money in a savings account so you'll have easy access to it when an emergency inevitably arises.

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