You know that an emergency fund plays an important part in your overall finances.
And, you don’t want to be part of this alarming statistic: 40% of Americans cannot cover a $400 emergency expense (according to the Federal Reserve).
Having emergency savings means that you’re prepared for the unexpected costs that life throws at you.
It means you don’t have to take on expensive debt that could derail your financial well-being.
Put yourself in the best position to face financial emergencies by establishing an emergency fund.
The first step:
Find out how much you need to save in an emergency fund.
How to Use the Emergency Fund Calculator
Just enter the amounts that you spend on the follow categories on a monthly basis:
- Other essential expenses
The result represents the ideal size of an emergency fund based on your essential monthly expenses.
This is the amount that you (and your family) need to save up to survive six (6) months without any income.
If you want a better idea of how to determine that amount in each of these spending categories, this is how you do it:
How much is your monthly rent or mortgage payment?
This number is easy to come up with — as it should be a fixed monthly amount.
You need to have a roof over your head whether you’re renting a space or carrying a mortgage.
If you’re single, you might be able to downsize at a moment’s notice. But, if you have a family to take care of, that may not be an option. Ultimately, you need shelter for the period of time when you’re unable to bring in any income.
For homeowners, don’t forget to include additional housing expenses such as insurance, property taxes, etc.
In addition to shelter, utilities fall into the category of bare necessities.
The electric and gas bills need to be paid for proper shelter.
Furthermore, you might need to consider mobile carrier service and broadband Internet as part of your essential utilities because you may use them for communication and work — especially if you’re looking for a job.
Do not include cable TV or any video-streaming subscriptions because they are not vital. In fact, you should cancel them if you’re struggling financially.
Monthly commuting expenses can take up a substantial part of your budget.
Whether you take public transportation or drive to work, be sure that you count the costs of a commuter pass or refueling the tank.
Look at these expenses in previous months to get an idea of what you’re paying for transportation.
Again, this ensures that you’re able to secure income to weather and outlast the financial emergency.
Find out how much you’d need to pay for food to survive.
You don’t have to calculate for those meals where you’re eating or ordering out. But, you can.
Otherwise, you should determine the average weekly cost for groceries if you’re going to be preparing and making all your meals at home.
The best way to calculate this number:
Review your checking account or credit card statements to see how much you’ve spent on food in the past 3 to 6 months. Use the monthly average.
If you also buy food and groceries with cash, keep a spending log for the next two (2) weeks to estimate your monthly food expenditures.
Depending on your unique circumstances, you may have other monthly expenses that cannot be ignored.
- Health insurance
- Pet expenses
- Student loans
- Other types of debt
Where to Put Your Emergency Savings
The point of an emergency fund is that you can withdraw your money during an urgent situation.
So, you want the funds to be easily accessible. Ideally, you can get your hands on that money within two (2) days.
The recommended place to put your emergency fund: an online savings account.
Here are factors to consider:
There may be instances when your financial emergency requires cash. For that reason, you might look for an online savings account that offers an ATM card.
More likely than not, you will be paying for financial emergencies immediately with a credit card, payment plan, or loan.
So, you simply need to transfer your savings into your checking account to pay off those balances.
Generally, fund transfers between bank accounts take three (3) business days or less.
Go with an online savings account with proper online and mobile banking access.
Fees and interest rates
Surely, you don’t want to have to pay a monthly cost for a savings account — regardless of whether you’re using it as an emergency fund or not.
Meanwhile, since your savings is going to be untouched for a long time (hopefully), why not have it earn a high interest rate?
Fortunately, online savings accounts are great on both fronts.
How to Build Your Emergency Fund
Once you’ve set up your savings account, it’s time to build up the balance.
The best approach is to set up automatic transfers — no matter how small. Over time, you’ll see the growth in the size of your emergency fund.
Additionally, whenever you feel that you can move more money over, do it.
The target amount for your emergency fund may not be achievable instantly.
Don’t worry. Start small.
A good goal to start with is $1,000. That should be more than enough to cover minor emergencies.
Then, work your way towards three months of living expenses (this amount should be equal to half of the result generated by the emergency fund calculator).
With a steady approach, you’ll finish building your emergency fund before you know it.