There is nothing that can derail your financial progress faster than an emergency. You think you’re doing okay, making headway towards your goals, and boom! The refrigerator stops working, your car breaks down, or your child falls off her bike and needs four stiches in her chin and suddenly you are right back in crisis mode.
If you’ve read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover or taken the Financial Peace University course, you already know that the very FIRST step in regaining control of your money and avoiding yet another financial crisis is to establish an immediate emergency fund of $1000.
While that number may feel daunting at first, the truth is that there are plenty of ways to build an emergency fund quickly. The key to success is being willing to accept the idea that getting your finances in order might not be fun or easy, but it will be worth the effort. Plus, the great thing about all of these ideas is that they will not only help you build your emergency fund, but they can also help you kickstart your debt snowball and get you well on your way to becoming debt-free!
Here are 10 super smart ideas to get you started:
Chances are that if you have found yourself in a financial crisis, you have probably bought more than a few things you either didn’t need or couldn’t afford along the way. It is time to start cutting your losses by selling anything and everything you can. Don’t hang on to things because you are afraid you won’t get what you paid—you won’t. The money is already gone, but at least you will be making progress towards a solution. Check out this post for great tips on how to sell your stuff on eBay, Craigslist, Facebook or at a garage sale (and for knowing which one to use!) And, if by some chance you still haven’t opened the item, see if you can return it to the store you bought it from! (You never know!)
“We sold out whole bedroom set for $900 and have been sleeping with the mattress on the floor for almost a year. Last week a friend came over to visit and saw that we had no bedroom furniture and the next day she GAVE us her whole set and bought herself a new one. God is always doing amazing things in my life like this!” ~Jade Hodge
“I returned my Christmas present from my husband. It was a Cricut Die Cutting machine that I thought I wanted desperately. Guess what? I wanted an emergency fund and to be out of debt WAY more.” ~Andrea Vaughn
2. Get a Second Job
It doesn’t have to be your dream job, and if you are struggling to make ends meet, here is the brutal truth: There is no job you are “too good” for. Go work at McDonalds or deliver pizza or wait tables or clean houses or stock grocery shelves at night. Check out the classified section of the newspaper or look on Craigslist—Jobs may be hard to come by sometimes, but I promise there are always jobs for people who are willing to work hard and do anything.
“I went back to work and used every single penny or every single paycheck (this is not at exaggeration) for a full year to put towards my bills. I also had two HUGE yard sales and made about $1500. At the end of that year, all by myself I had paid off approx $22,000 in debt.” ~Kris Stevens-Starks
“I started dog sitting. I sometimes make more money dog sitting than I do at my “real” job!” ~Deb Foster
“I started cleaning houses on the weekend and took the money from that and invested in items to embroider and sell…kind of started a little business all with the goal of paying off debt!” ~Daisy Work
“Delivered Yellowbooks to pick up extra cash. Easy and got exercise while doing it without a gym membership!” ~Shawna Squibb
3. Work from Home
If going out and getting a job outside the home isn’t an option, consider finding a way to work from home instead. Do you stay home with your kids? Why not offer babysitting or after-school care for a few of their friends whose parents need childcare? Are you good with computers? How about becoming a Virtual Assistant? Do you sew? Why not offer a tailoring service or perhaps sell your own items on Etsy.com? Are you able to spot a diamond in the rough? You could salvage & spruce up old furniture then resell it on Craigslist. Still not sure what to do? These five ideas for making money online are a great place to start.
“We cleaned out some big ticket “toys” (motorcycle, jeep, etc) to clear a line of debt and put a chunk in savings. My husband used the profit to buy a table saw that he now earns money with doing side projects. All side project earnings go straight to paying off debt. We’re free of a car loan, 3 student loans and 2 credit cards in the last 6 months. Thank the Lord!!” ~ Sarah Burmeister
“As a graduate student, I bought designer gowns at the Salvation Army and resold them at trendy consignment shops. Financed my education for two years.”~Mary Walker
If the thought of starting your own home business is too overwhelming, why not instead start by cutting your everyday expenses? Just a few simple tweaks to the way you shop for food can result in drastic savings at the checkout line. Start by buying only what is on sale, then stockpile items when they are at their lowest price. Eat less meat (and save on the meat you do buy), plan your meals using a budget-friendly service such as eMeals, which lets you plan your menu based on what is on sale at your grocery store that week (use LWSL15OFF to save 15% on your plan), or find even more dramatic savings by learning to use coupons.
“I started monthly meal planning, so no wasted trips to the store, which saves a lot of money!“~Reader Leah Donn Scott
“We save money by using coupons and combine them with sites like Ibotta and Checkout 51 that pay you cash for buying items you already buy like milk,cereal, eggs and bread. We also do a lot of meal planning freezer meals and take lunches to work.” ~Becky Tester
5. Save on Utilities
Spending too much on things like electricity, water, phone, or even cable is practically like pouring money down the drain. Another great way to “earn” money from home is to start paying close attention to the money you are spending right in your own home without even thinking about it. A little vigilance can go a long way! Check out this post for 12 smart ways to save on utilities!
“I ditched cable and got a roku box. Small savings month to month help a lot!” ~Reader Sarah Eckert
“We called providers for every single bill we have (credit card, utility, phone, satellite, car, insurance, mortgage) and threatened to terminate our account unless they lowered the bill. Worked for every one, even the mortgage company! The key is you have to mean it, and have a number in mind that you want to pay. Don’t give up!!“~Carter Robinson
“We live by candlelight every other week put the money we save on electricity into savings.“~Chris Schmeltzer
6. Stop Eating Out
Believe me, I get it! When life gets hectic sometimes eating out just seems like the path of least resistance. After all, fast food is quick and easy and relatively cheap, right? Wrong! All those quick & easy fast food meals still add up to a lot more than you would pay to just eat at home, and just a couple of family dinners at a nice sit-down restaurant or a daily run to Starbucks could pay for a whole month’s worth of food and coffee at home. Why not try scheduling a freezer cooking day to stock up on ready-made meals? Or, if you’ve really got a craving, check out these great copycat recipes for restaurant flavor right at home!
“We very rarely eat out, cut back on meat dinners and eat beans, lentils, etc instead. I’m a single mom with no child support or alimony and I’m still able to pay down and pay off my debts!” ~Karen Muri
“I Gave up my Redbull and Starbucks addictions–it gave me an extra 300 a month.” ~Jennifer Bryan
7. Get Free Stuff
It is actually pretty amazing to find out how much stuff you can get for free or close to free once you really start looking. Check out sites like Freecycle.org or the free section on Craigslist.org, or just drive around an upscale neighborhood on trash day to find things you need, or even to repurpose and resell. Bartering with friends and neighbors for goods and services is also a great way to get the things you need for free, while taking advantage of online freebies and samples can help keep expenses down as well.
“I scrounge around Goodwill frequently and rehab stuff to sell on Craigslist. Found a huge Pottery Barn rug at Goodwill once. Had a few stains but otherwise ok. Looked it up online, retail price was $250. Cleaned it, then sold on Craigslist for $80, and put that toward debt.“~Angie Doster
“I stopped buying beauty and cleaning products, and turned to my pantry for all of those needs!!! It’s amazing how a little vinegar, baking soda, honey and lemon can transform into all that you really need!!! It adds up to hundreds in savings, and I squirrel the money away into my savings“~Bonnie Pierce
“I picked up perfectly good toys in someone’s trash and sold them online in less than an hour” ~Cindy Gillis-Williams
If you haven’t already, sign up for Swagbucks, then check out this post to see all the ways you can earn free Swag Bucks doing the things you already do anyway, such as searching the web or watching TV. Signing up is super easy. Just fill out the form here. Be sure to click the link that says “I have a sign-up code,” then enter the code LWSL (case sensitive!) to be rewarded with an extra 70 Swagbucks at sign up! These Swag Bucks can then be traded in for rewards or gift cards that you can use for the things you do need, like gas, food, or even travel.
9. Skip This Year’s Vacation
Here’s another hard dose of reality: If you don’t have any money in your savings account, you can’t afford to go on vacation. Period. Cancel any and all plans to travel, because the truth is that between the gas, the lodging, and the food, (not to mention the unforeseen expenses that always come up), even the most frugal vacations still cost more than staying home. Try planning a Staycation instead, or better yet, spend your week planning for & hosting a family garage sale to earn some extra cash!
“We cancelled a vacation so our savings would not be touched.“~Rachel Carrier-Stone
10. Go on a Spending Freeze with Like-Minded Friends
Years of living in a “spend” mode can sometimes make it hard to stop, even when you know you should. Even so, if you are committed to building that emergency fund then you need to resist the temptation any way you can. The LWSL 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero Challenge has some fun ideas to help you make it through an entire month of no spending, and a great way to ensure success is to team up with others who are taking on the same challenge in order to hold each other accountable. You can join thousands of current and past participants in our LWSL Everyday Community Forum for great discussions, creative money-saving ideas, and a ton of moral support.
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What are some things you’ve done to build your emergency fund or pay off debt?
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