5 Ways to Build an Emergency Fund in 5 Months

Getting back to where you left off after your grand plan is derailed is essential in recovery. After coming full circle with my emergency fund — saving it, then using it — it’s time to implement the steps necessary to regrow my savings account so that my debt snowball can once again be set into motion.

When discussing the first step in his Seven Baby Steps program, Dave Ramsey assures savers that the timeline needed to secure a security savings blanket varies for everyone. Some can achieve this goal in a matter of months, while others will require a year or more to cross this step off the list.

After reassessing my budget for good measure, I’ve decided to go strong in my second savings endeavor.

Building an Emergency Fund in Five Months

The goal of Ramsey’s first baby step is to save $1,000 for a rainy day, which is definitely a challenge to contend with in itself. However, I’ve resolved to make October my deadline to save one grand, which is a five-month time frame.

I knew that with the holiday season on its way, I had to get a bulk of my emergency fund completed or risk dragging out this goal for too long. Additionally, I didn’t want to roll this baby step into the New Year either, which makes December a favorable middle-ground.

Starting this month, I will set up a fixed, monthly direct deposit of $200 into my savings account to get the momentum going.

Get Aggressive: How to Save for an Emergency Fund The Second Time Around

Unfortunately for me, I don’t have an extra $200 just lying around waiting to be used in a productive way. I have to make strict adjustments to the way I manage my spending and income to get through this step as quickly as possible.

If you’re in the same savings dilemma as I am, here are a few proven ways to aggressively develop your $1,000 emergency fund.

1. Eat the Same Meals

best way to save money

The first item that’s typically cut from a budget when savings are an issue is dining out. Brown-bagging it at lunch is not a novel idea when it comes to saving money, but eating almost identical meals every work day can also help you save money.

For the last three weeks, I’ve had basically the same breakfast and lunch at work. Breakfast consists of a hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit, while lunch has comprised brown rice, chicken breast and steamed vegetables. I simply cook a week’s worth of rice and chicken breast on Sunday night and pack my lunch throughout the week.

Doing so has reduced my expectation to eat anything else during my work week and, therefore, leaves me with no reason to spend money on the hunt for a meal. Routine meals like this leave little room to buy a burger when I’m feeling too lazy to pack lunch the night before.

2. Drop Old Spending Habits

While developing new habits, the best way to save money is to put an end to old spending habits. Even seemingly harmless habits, like visiting the grocery store every Saturday, can leave a hitch in a budget by making spending seem natural.

This is exactly what I realized a couple weeks ago. Every weekend, I’d take a trip to my local grocer to stock up on food for the week. More often than not, I wasn’t lacking for food in my refrigerator — I was just so used to this habit that I found myself browsing the aisle looking for something to buy, rather than really needing it.

3. Isolate Your Emergency Savings Fund

Where you store your emergency fund is just as important as how you grow it. Keeping your savings in a near inaccessible account can deter you from buckling and withdrawing funds prematurely.

“I believe that the emergency savings account cannot be at your ‘home-base’ banking institution,” said Chris Sands, a Private CFO in Atlanta. “I tell my clients that if you have a checking and a savings account at one bank, it is likely that your savings account is not truly treated as savings, and you have dipped into it from time-to-time and made transfers between your checking and savings.”

Sands advocates for online banks, which keep funds at bay since you can’t visit a physical location.

“It should not come with a debit card, you should not be able to access it at an ATM,” Sands said. “You still have full access to your money, it just usually takes about three business days to transfer it from that online bank account into your main checking account.”

4. Get Another Job

building an emergency fund

Utilizing your existing skills as a means of extra income is another helpful way to get to your emergency fund goal faster. Taking on a new part-time job is not an ideal way to reach $1,000 in savings for most people, but it gets you to where you need to be.

Catherine Alford of Budget Blonde used her writing ability and WordPress knowledge to build a $2,000 emergency cushion in just three months.

“I work a full time job, but I was trying hard to completely pay off my credit cards,” Alford said. “I used my salary for my monthly bills and paying off credit card debt, and I started writing blog posts for websites on the side to build up my emergency fund. … This allowed me not only to build up a $2,000 emergency fund, but I’ve also started to save up for a vacation too!”

5. The Exponential Approach

If all these aggressive emergency fund savings tactics have you terrified to jump in, there are still other ways to build savings in less time. Cristin Jordan of Jacksonville, Fla., said that the lack of an emergency fund is what keeps her up at night.

“Being a mom and a wife, I know how critical [an emergency fund] is … I came across this savings plan where you save a dollar every week, each week adding a dollar. So week one — $1. Week two — $2. Week three — $3. It comes to about $1,100 by the end of the year. I’ve told everybody about it because it’s such a great idea,” Jordan said.

With 52 weeks in a year, those who abide by Jordan’s exponential savings plan can actually save up to $1,378 in one year. The best part about it is that even at the highest savings month (the last four weeks of the year) you’d only need to save $202 to accomplish this goal.

Whether you’re willing to put your time and effort on the line to get an extra paycheck each month, or you’d rather follow Jordan’s launchpad approach to saving money, building an emergency fund starts with making a significant change now.

Follow me on Twitter @Go_Jenn

Photo credit: Kristina Zuidema