How Much To Save Every Week, Every Month, Every Year for Your Emergency Fund

Emergency savings memo and stack of money.
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As a general rule, you should have three to six months’ worth of living expenses set aside in an emergency fund in case something comes up like a surprise medical bill or sudden layoff. But, according to a recent GOBankingRates survey of over 1,000 American adults, nearly 51% of people do not have an emergency fund at all.

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Not having an emergency fund can leave you unprepared for the unexpected. It also can add unnecessary stress to you and your family. After all, unpaid bills often lead to late fees, extra interest charges or even damaged credit.

Fortunately, it’s never too late to start setting aside some money for your emergency fund. But if you’ve never done it before, you might not know how much is enough.

If you’re ready to start saving up, here’s a guide to how much you should save every week, month and year for your emergency fund.

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Also see more tips on how to start an emergency fund.

How Much Should You Save for Your Emergency Fund?

It’s generally a good idea to have enough money set aside to cover three to six months of living expenses. That way, you’ll be able to handle it if something unforeseen happens.

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The average American consumer spends roughly $61,334 a year — or roughly $5,111 a month — on all expenses. This includes food, housing, transportation, healthcare, entertainment, retirement savings and more. Most likely, your spending habits are tailored to your earnings, priorities and the cost of living in your area.

To figure out exactly how much money you should have in your emergency fund, start by adding up your average fixed and variable monthly expenses:

  • Fixed expenses: These are things that do not typically change over time. Common fixed costs include rent or mortgage payments, utilities, internet, essential groceries, subscription services, child support and loan payments.
  • Variable expenses: These are things that change from month to month. Common variable costs include entertainment or recreation, dining out, clothing and credit card minimums.
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Review your bank and credit card statements from the past few months to see where your money goes each month. This will give you a point of reference for how your spending in future months might look.

Say, for example, you spend a total of $5,111 in a given month. Three months of living expenses would be $15,333. But if you want a more robust emergency fund, you’ll need six months’ worth of money set aside — or $30,666.

Saving up this much money might seem overwhelming — after all, only 9% of survey respondents have more than $10,000 set aside for emergencies. And about 40% of people have less than $10,000.

But it’s doable if you take it in steps. Building an emergency fund takes time, so the best thing you can do is start with small, manageable weekly, monthly and yearly contributions.

How Much to Save Every Week, Month and Year

While the goal is to set aside six months of expenses, everyone has to start somewhere. How much money you should set aside depends on two main things:

  • Your budget or cash flow (your total earnings and expenses each month)
  • Your financial goals for saving up for your emergency fund
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Review your cash flow to determine how much you need to save for your emergency fund. For example, if you spend $4,000 a month, you’ll need to set aside $24,000 for a total of six months’ expenses.

Now that you know how much you need, it’s time to figure out your weekly, monthly and yearly savings goals.

  • Weekly savings amount: You can figure out your weekly savings goal by dividing the amount you want to save by the number of weeks you have to save it. Say you want to have a fully robust emergency fund — $24,000 — in three years, or 156 weeks. Simply divide $24,000 by 156 and you’ll get a weekly savings goal of $154.
  • Monthly savings amount: To determine your monthly savings amount, take your savings goal of $24,000 and divide it by the number of months you have. If you want to maximize your emergency fund in two years’ time, or 24 months, you’ll need to save $1,000 a month.
  • Yearly savings amount: Divide your end goal of $24,000 by the number of years you have to set aside that amount. If you have two years to accomplish this goal, you’ll need to set aside $12,000 a year. If you have four years, you’ll need to save $6,000 a year.

You may want to set aside a certain percentage of your income each week, month and year for your emergency fund. For example, the 80/20 budgeting rule suggests putting 20% of your income into savings, investments or an emergency fund. Do what works for you, and don’t be afraid to adjust the amount if you need to.

How To Stay on Track

Saving up money — no matter how large or small — can be tricky. It’s easy for savings goals to fall of track, but this could be problematic if you need cash for emergencies.

Of those surveyed, around 26% of people would use their emergency fund for unplanned expenses. Approximately 25% said they would go into debt if something came up.

Having an emergency fund can contribute to good financial health, while keeping you afloat in times of financial hardship. It also can give you the flexibility and freedom to handle unexpected expenses without having to worry about how you’re going to pay for them.

If you’re having trouble staying on track, or if you just want to know how to accomplish your long-term savings goals, here’s what you can do:

  • Set a tangible goal. Start by setting aside a small amount each week or month until you have enough money to cover an entire month of living expenses. After you’ve achieved that goal, you can start saving up for two months and so on.
  • Start small. Create small, manageable goals for yourself. This could be setting aside $10 or $20 every week or paycheck. Even if they’re small, these amounts add up over time.
  • Cut back on unnecessary expenses. Check your budget to see whether you can cut back on spending anywhere. This might mean canceling a subscription service you rarely use or dining out one less night a week. For example, Netflix costs $19.99 a month for a premium subscription. That’s nearly $240 a year — money that could go into your emergency fund.
  • Create a budget. Having a personal budget can help keep you accountable for your spending and savings, as well as keep you on track with your emergency fund.
  • Set up automatic deposits into your bank account. Many banks and apps have automatic savings features. You can set the amount based on a percentage of your paycheck or based on a specific goal you have. For example, you could set it up where $50 a week — $200 a month — moves from your checking account to a separate account. In one year, you’d have $2,400.
  • Increase contributions over time. If your income improves or your expenses decrease, you could increase your weekly, monthly or yearly contributions. Even a small increase can get you back on track or help you achieve your goals faster.
  • Use a high-yield account. By setting up your emergency fund in a high-yield bank account, you can take advantage of interest. This is essentially free money that gets added to your account based on your balance. For example, a SoFi savings account comes with up to 3.75% APY. Say you deposit $200 into your account once a month. After a year, you’ll have about $2,648.
  • Get a side gig. If you take on a side gig, you can put that extra money straight into your emergency fund.
  • Use unexpected income. If you get a work bonus or tax refund, put it directly into your emergency fund.
  • Keep contributing. Once you’ve set aside six months’ worth of expenses, keep going. The more you have, the more prepared you’ll be in case something happens. Plus, if you end up using some of that money for an emergency, you’ll be able to make it back in no time.

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About the Author

Angela Mae is a personal finance writer specializing in consumer loans, debt management, investing, retirement planning, and financial literacy. She comes from a journalistic background and pulls from hands-on experience and deep-dive research to breathe life into her stories. Her goal is to help others achieve financial stability and independence. When not writing, she can be found traveling, honing her yoga skills, hiking, or exploring new means of healthy, sustainable living.
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