How to build emergency savings no matter what - KPTV - FOX 12

How to build emergency savings no matter what

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By Andrew Housser

As the year opens, if you are like about one-third of people, you are making a financial resolution. Maybe you are planning to pay down debt, live within a budget or save for an emergency. The good news in this is that surveys have found that people are more likely to stick to a financial resolution than to a resolution about exercise or diet.

With that encouraging fact in mind, you can resolve to make this the year that you make serious progress toward the recommended goal of having an emergency fund that could cover six to nine months of living expenses. If that sounds overwhelming, read on for nine suggestions of ways to uncover extra money to put toward your emergency savings goal.

1. Eat at home.
In 2015, for the first time, Americans spent more on dining out than on groceries. The quickest way to slash your food budget is to eat at home. As an added bonus, home-cooked foods are generally lower in fat, sugar and salt than many restaurant meals. Taking homemade lunches (a great way to use leftovers) and bringing your own coffee or tea can keep more dollars in your wallet. Cutting out two $12 meals out a week could save up to $1,250 per person, per year.

2. Limit alcohol consumption.
If you drink, do not overlook its effect on your budget. When you dine out, try switching from alcoholic beverages to soft drinks or water, and save $6 per beverage or more – enough to add up to $624 per year if you dine out twice a week.

3. Save with smartphone apps.
Let your smartphone help pay for itself with savings apps. Grocery and discount store apps now include coupons and sale listings. Shoppers can get cash back from apps such as Ibotta and Shopkick. Some people find chasing deals becomes a fun game, too. Use these rebates to earn $100 or more per year.

4. Set aside a little something.
Even if you feel like you cannot save, perhaps you can save $10 a week. That would add up to $520 in a year. If you get a raise, or pay off a bill, try to raise the amount. If you can set aside $25 a week, you will have saved more than $1,000 during the year.

5. Bank your windfalls.
A tax refund, holiday bonus or paid-off bill can make you feel wealthy. However, instead of spending that money, use it to grow your emergency fund. A $1,000 tax refund, for instance, would bolster savings significantly.

6. Sell unwanted items.
Clean out your closets, basement and garage, and sell good-condition items that you no longer need. Sell bigger-ticket items like sporting equipment, electronics and furniture via sites such as NextDoor, Craigslist or eBay. Take good clothes to consignment shops. Host a community yard sale with neighbors. The average garage sale can net $300 to $500.

7. Adjust tax withholding.
You may be able to boost your take-home pay by adjusting your tax withholding. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator to check whether it makes sense to adjust your federal income tax withholding allowances. Have the difference in pay automatically transferred to an online savings account.

8. Trim some monthly expenses.
Review your budget to find more areas for saving. Look at cable and phone bills carefully to see if there are services you are not using, or if you can find a better deal. Take a good look unused gym memberships, or music or movie subscriptions. Eliminating $20 in expenses per month would save $240 per year.

9. Evaluate your insurance.
Review your current policies to make sure you are getting any discounts for which you are eligible, such as for safe driving, home security systems and joint policies. Check your car insurance deductible. Depending on your car’s age and value, it could be time to raise the deductible. Compare rates online, or contact a broker. Add any cost difference to your monthly savings.

Saving the minimum amounts above would total more than $4,000 in a year. That is a very healthy start to an emergency fund. Whether you can take action on each of these steps, or only a few, it is worthwhile to take action to meet your resolution to save more money in 2016, and build a better financial tomorrow.

Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of Bills.com, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.
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