Personal finance experts tell us everyone needs an emergency fund; a little stash of cash you can tap for unexpected car repairs, a lost or stolen smartphone, or any other little emergency life throws in your path.
But stowing away that stash can be easier said than done. From Lars Peterson, editor of consumer finance blog Wise Bread, here are 11 tips to help you begin:
- Keep a spending book – track every dollar you spend for a month. Take a close look at the numbers. Where can you eliminate spending and put the savings away?
- Eliminate budget busters – Can you step down to a cheaper cable package? Drink fewer Starbucks lattes? Use coupons when you shop for groceries and put the dollars you saved away.
- Renegotiate what you can – Call your service providers and credit card issuers and ask for a cheaper rate. If you don’t get it, shop around.
- Bank the savings – That’s the key. Once you’ve nipped away at your costs, you need to bank the savings.
- Sell your old stuff – eBay, Craigslist, even garage sales. Sell the stuff you no longer need and stow the proceeds in your emergency fund.
- Sell other people’s old stuff – Thrift stores and garage sales offer lots of good, used stuff at prices so low you may be able to resell it on Craigslist or eBay. Be alert to great buys on used household goods, jewelry and more.
- Get a side job – Can you wait tables? Work retail? Take freelance gigs from Fiverr or TaskRabbit? Working an extra few hours a week can build your fund up fast.
- Check your withholding – While it's nice to get a check from the IRS every spring, it's nicer to have the money now, going into your emergency fund every month. Use the IRS withholding calculator and adjust accordingly.
- Offer to walk dogs or babysit for friends or neighbors – Stash the fees into your emergency fund.
- Rent out your extra room – Make your place available on Airbnb for short-term housemates, or rent a room to a boarder, who may also help out with utilities.
- Sign up for focus groups – Marketers and pollsters are so interested in what you think that they'll pay for your opinion. Visit a site like FindFocusGroups.com, and earn $50 to $150 for speaking your mind.