By now you may already know that a lot of Americans — most, even — can’t even afford a $500 emergency. To prevent yourself from being one of those casualties, here are five ways to jump-start your emergency fund savings.
1. Write out a budget. If you don’t have a monthly budget in writing, you may not even realize how many areas you could be saving money in and how. Take an hour out of a lazy Sunday and sit down with your partner if you have one and do the work.
2. Cut down your food spending. No more takeout! Find the food going unused in your home and actually eat it before you go shopping again. When you do, clip coupons. Buy store-brand items. Make a shopping list and stick to it. Not sure what to do with a bunch of random ingredients? Invest in a slow cooker. It’ll eventually pay for itself!
3. Go on an eBay binge — a selling binge. Chances are you have a ton of dresses and shoes you never wear, a bunch of bags you never use, and weird knick-knacks and gadgets that are still in the box. Make a buck or two off of them! Alternatively, re-gift them or donate them to tax-deductible charities.
4. Discern needs from wants and make cuts. Do you need a gym membership if you have free weights, a couple fitness DVDs, and a neighborhood you can run in? Can you touch up your roots at home? Do you need Hulu, cable, and Netflix?
5. Make money off of your talents. Can you lift huge boxes? Make a couple bucks helping people move. Artistic? Sell some work on Etsy. Looking for a teaching job? Offer private tutoring in the meantime. Want to babysit? Hand out flyers with candy on Halloween. Are you a makeup wizard? Offer your services to friends for weddings and events (they’ll refer you to others!) You have options, you just have to use them!
6. Take the money to the bank. Once you have extra cash, keep it in an account designated specifically for your emergency fund … and do not touch it!