“Ha, my savings? That’s cute. I’ve got rent, student loan bills, credit cards to pay off and not to mention five weddings to attend this season alone.”
If only that statement were hyperbole but, alas, so many people feel completely incapable of stashing aside even a little bit of cash for a hypothetical future. It’s a completely rational feeling, especially when bills seem to be attacking your bank account from all angles. Besides, who wants to think about that slim possibility that a tire is going to blow out on the car or the dog eats a sock and needs emergency surgery or that steady job suddenly gets downsized, right?
Unfortunately, it’s exactly this precarious situation of being unable to save that can leave you in the worst position: even deeper in debt.
This is why it’s imperative that even those carrying debt (no matter what kind) work towards a buffer in a savings account, with the ultimate goal of setting aside six months worth of living expenses.
And yes, it is possible.
How to start saving (hint: consider automating)
Saving can be a two-pronged approach that hinges on the notion to pay yourself first!
Step 1: Crunch those numbers and really determine how much you can stash away each paycheck. This number might feel pitiful at first (let’s say $2) and might require you to nix something you once found essential, like cable or eating lunch out each day, in order to free up some cash.
Step 2: Automate your savings so it’s removed from your paycheck before it hits your bank account. This eliminates the temptation to spend all month and then look at your bank account with that “aww-shucks-I-don’t-have-any-money-leftover-to-save” thought.
Where to save
Want your money to work for you and treat you with a little r.e.s.p.e.c.t? Then show those greenbacks some respect back!
Don’t leave your emergency fund sitting into a low-interest savings account; instead, stash it away in an account earning at least 1.00 percent in interest. This can easily be found by using an Internet-only bank.
Be sure to check the fine print to see if you’ll get slapped with any monthly maintenance fees when your account drops below a certain amount or is inactive for a period of time. And make sure the bank is FDIC insured.
One of the easiest ways to be sure your emergency fund grows untouched is to have it accumulating at a bank that’s different from where you keep your checking account. That way you won’t see your savings account when you log in to see how much money you have in checking. This also removes the temptation to skim a little off the top so you can snag those Beyoncé tickets or buy that home brewery kit.
More than cash should be part of your emergency fund strategy
Once you’ve checked off the process of automating your savings and storing it away, examine the rest of your emergency fund strategy.
Are you solely protecting yourself and your loved ones with the cash in your bank account?
Then it’s probably time to upgrade your financial disaster preparedness kit with some insurance products to mitigate your risk.
Auto insurance is a given, because it’s required by law. If you’re driving without coverage, it not only could leave you in a financial pickle, but a legal one as well. Don’t risk a suspended license or vehicle registration.
Homeowners insurance isn’t decreed by law, but it’s probably mandated by your mortgage provider. Even if you have the magical powers to save up enough to purchase a house outright in cash, get homeowners insurance. Unless that magic pot of gold you used to buy the house outright refills each time a tree crashes through your roof or a pipe bursts and floods your home or covers personal liability if someone hurts himself on your property.
If you’re an urban dweller that ditched the car life and couldn’t imagine being able to afford a home, don’t think you’re off the hook just yet. Renters insurance is not only affordable, but helps cover the world of pain you’d be in should some sticky-fingered criminals raid your apartment or if your home is temporarily unlivable and your landlord isn’t being particularly helpful about covering your short-term living needs.
You can avoid becoming a victim of circumstance and spiraling down into a debt hole by taking simple steps early on to protect yourself. I’m willing to bet you my whole emergency fund that at some point Murphy’s Law will kick in and you’ll be grateful for a stash of cash to tap into. Or, at the very least, feel #blessed that you can walk away from an uncomfortable situation because you have a healthy savings account to back you up.