29% of Americans Have Tapped Emergency Savings During the Pandemic. Here's How to Replenish if You Did the Same

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Did you raid your savings since the start of the crisis? If so, you're in good company.

Key points

  • A recent survey reveals that many Americans incurred extra costs during the pandemic that forced them to withdraw from their savings.
  • If you're eager to replace your withdrawals, you can do so by reworking your budget, getting a second job, and saving any extra money that comes your way.

The pandemic caused a world of financial upheaval for many people. Not only did millions lose their jobs, but many workers were forced to drop out of the labor force due to health concerns or a lack of childcare. It's not surprising, then, to learn that 29% of Americans were forced to tap their emergency funds during the pandemic, according to a new survey from Discover Personal Loans.

Now to be clear, the purpose of having an emergency fund is to cover unplanned expenses or deal with unplanned financial circumstances, like job loss. But if you had to raid your savings account during the pandemic, you may, at this point, be eager to replace the money you had to take out. Here are a few steps you can take to make replenishing your emergency savings easier.

1. Revisit your budget

Following a budget is a great way to monitor your spending and stay on track for meeting savings goals. But if you're looking to replenish your emergency fund, it may be time to revisit your budget and make changes that allow you to eke out more savings.

Take a look at your different expenses and identify those that can be classified as non-essential -- things like cable TV, streaming services, and other types of entertainment. Then, prioritize those and choose a few bills to cut back on. That could mean keeping one streaming service but canceling another, or only ordering takeout once a week instead of twice.

If you're already spending no money on non-essentials, there may not be much tweaking to do to your budget. In that case, your best bet may be to get creative with your existing bills. That could mean negotiating a better rate with your cellphone provider or getting a roommate to split your rent with.

2. Boost your income with a side hustle

If you don't have many expenses in your budget to cut back on, then you may need to get a second job to replenish your emergency fund. The good news, though, is there are many different side hustle opportunities available in today's gig economy. And if you're able to put in some time, you could boost your earnings in a meaningful way.

Take a look at your schedule and figure out how many hours you can afford to dedicate to a side gig. From there, explore different options based on your income goals and constraints.

If you need flexibility with your side hustle, you may want to focus on jobs you can do from home, like data entry or telemarketing. And if you're able to leave the house but need to set your own hours, you can sign up to drive for a ride-hailing service.

3. Bank any bonus cash you receive

You may come into extra money from time to time. This year, most Americans were given a stimulus check back in March, and while another one isn't likely to happen anytime soon, you never know what windfall might come your way. You may end up with a larger tax refund than expected, or get a generous bonus at work.

Either way, if you're eager to replenish your emergency fund, take that extra money and stick it right into the bank. You may be tempted to spend some of it, but if you bank it, you might meet your goal much sooner.

If you took money from savings to get through the pandemic, that's nothing to feel ashamed of or bad about. If anything, you should pat yourself on the back for having built up some savings to tap in the first place. Still, you may be anxious to replenish your cash reserves, and these moves could be your ticket to doing so sooner.

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