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Set a goal

An emergency fund of any size is helpful. If you find your budget stretched each month, even the smallest amount you can set aside is worthwhile.

Setting a target for how much you want to save gives you a tangible goal to build to. Start by considering what unexpected expenses you might have. If you own a car, consider repair costs. If you have a pet, think about what your vet bills might be.

Many banks offer easy-to-use online calculators that allow you to set a savings goal and visualize different paths to get there. This will help you figure out how much you need to set aside on a monthly basis, making it easier to reach that goal.

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Automate payments and savings

The easiest way to take the stress out of saving is to not think about it.

Setting up automatic recurring transfers can ensure you’re putting aside a predetermined amount of money on a regular basis toward bill payments and savings. If possible, schedule transfers to occur on payday so you can be confident the funds are available.

If you don’t have consistent cash flow, consider setting a lower monthly contribution. You can always raise or lower the amount that is saved.

Find the right account

You want your emergency fund to be easy to access in case you need it. At the same time, you want to ensure your savings are separate from your day-to-day funds so you don’t spend them inadvertently.

A high-yield savings account can help you grow your money at a better interest rate than a traditional account.

You could also look into putting your emergency savings in a certificate of deposit (CD). Many banks and credit unions offer CDs, which offer high interest rates over a specific period of time.

Be aware that CDs typically have penalties or fees associated with withdrawing your money early. This can encourage you to leave the money alone, but you might have to take an extra financial hit if you need cash in case of an emergency.

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Manage your expenses

Budgeting is essential when you’re building up an emergency fund. You need to know how much income you have and where your expenses lie so you can create realistic expectations.

Take a close look at where your money goes on a monthly basis. Factor in everything like regular bills you pay to how much you spend on things like eating out and entertainment.

If you’re spending a lot on “optional” expenses — things like take-out meals or concert tickets — consider dialing back.

Shaving your expenses doesn’t need to be difficult. You might be able to save money on your phone or internet bills, for instance, by adjusting your plan to more accurately reflect your usage.

Find out if you have any unwanted service subscriptions that are set up for automatic renewal. You don’t want to be caught paying for something you forgot about.

Use one-time savings opportunities

The tax deadline is past, and hopefully you’re lucky enough to be getting a refund. The IRS reports that the average tax refund so far this year is $2,933. While this amount is down from 2022, it's still a nice sum of money to be putting in your pocket.

Instead of spending this money on something fun, think about using that money to pay off debt or put it into savings. Having that extra cushion can potentially go a long way.

Throughout the year, if you receive cash as a gift on a holiday or birthday, instead of spending the whole amount, you can set aside a portion to build up your emergency fund.

Using these one-time opportunities is especially helpful if you have an inconsistent income. This extra infusion of cash can help build up your savings faster than you might be able to otherwise. Remember, every little bit you set aside can help in the event of the unexpected.


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About the Author

James Battiston

James Battiston

Staff Reporter

James Battiston has been writing personal finance articles for various websites for the past four years. He has a background in film and TV production, and can often be found consuming far too much coffee.

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The content provided on Moneywise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.