Having an emergency fund helps ease the financial stress and anxiety of unexpected costs, such as a sudden car or home repair.
According to CNBC, only 40% of American families have the money to cover a $1000 emergency. Therefore, leaving most families to take on debt in the event of an emergency.
And having money saved for unforeseen expenses is more important than ever in today’s economy.
So, today we’ll discuss 30 ways to quickly build your $1000 starter emergency fund (plus get your free emergency fund printable).
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- 1 Why this $1000 saving challenge works?
- 2 Why do you need an emergency fund?
- 3 How much should I have in an emergency fund?
- 4 What is considered an emergency?
- 5 Where do I keep my emergency fund?
- 6 30 days worth of tips to build your emergency fund
- 6.1 Budget
- 6.2 Make your coffee at home
- 6.3 Meal plan
- 6.4 Track your spending
- 6.5 Cook at home
- 6.6 Negotiate and lower your bills
- 6.7 Cancel your gym membership
- 6.8 Save on gas
- 6.9 No spend challenge
- 6.10 Cut the cable
- 6.11 Sell your clothes, shoes, and accessories
- 6.12 Get paid for surveys
- 6.13 Sell your plasma
- 7 30 DAY EMERGENCY FUND CHALLENGE
- 7.1 Borrow from the library
- 7.2 Ask for discounts
- 7.3 Use a coupon or coupon code
- 7.4 Cashback apps
- 7.5 Start a side hustle
- 7.6 Babysitting Co-op
- 7.7 Neighborhood swap
- 7.8 Date nights at home
- 7.9 Ditch convenience items
- 7.10 Pick up an extra shift
- 7.11 Sell old VHS, CDs, and DVDs
- 7.12 Get paid to exercise
- 7.13 Sell gift cards
- 7.14 Cancel subscriptions
- 7.15 Sell old electronics
- 7.16 Sell a digital product
- 7.17 Sell back old textbooks
- 8 Conclusion
Why this $1000 saving challenge works?
This challenge includes 30 days of actionable tasks you can take to make or save money to put toward your $1000 starter emergency fund.
These 30 tips for saving and making money are reasonable ways everyday people can grow their savings account.
We actually used most of these methods to build our emergency fund and pay off debt. These suggestions are quick, actionable things you can do every day to build your emergency savings.
Why do you need an emergency fund?
Having a savings account set aside for unexpected costs will keep you out of debt. Having money saved to pay for unforeseen things like:
- home repairs
- appliance replacement
- medical bills
- emergency travel
- car repairs
An emergency fund is used only for emergencies, not for the things you forgot to save for.
How much should I have in an emergency fund?
Most financial advisors suggest having 3-6 months’ worth of expenses saved in an emergency fund.
But, Dave Ramsey suggests starting with a $1000 savings fund (especially if you are paying off debt). Even having a small $1000 savings can prevent you from going into debt.
Therefore, this challenge focuses on saving a starter emergency fund of $1000. Chipping away at your emergency fund goals by $10 increments helps you stay motivated and reach your emergency fund goal.
It’s like the old saying goes, “how do you eat an elephant?…one bite at a time!”
What is considered an emergency?
An emergency is an unexpected and urgent situation, for example:
- a car accident
- your HVAC stops working
- unexpected job loss
- a plumbing emergency
Make sure you set limits for using your emergency fund. Emergencies can’t wait. So ask yourself, before you use it, can this wait?
Where do I keep my emergency fund?
A savings account should be looked at as insurance, not an investment.
Therefore, an emergency fund should be put into an account that can be accessed quickly in the event you need it.
Most financial advisors recommend a high yield savings or money market account.
30 days worth of tips to build your emergency fund
The most important thing you should be doing to save money is creating a monthly budget. A budget allows you to see how much money is coming in and going out.
To create a budget, you need to
- Add up your income.
- Add up your monthly expenses.
- Subtract your expenses from your income.
Designate a certain amount to go toward your emergency fund if you have money left. If you don’t have any money left, look over your expenses and see what budget cuts you can make.
Make your coffee at home
Skip your morning cup of Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. Instead, buy a brand of coffee and creamer you love and brew your own cup of coffee at home.
You could even splurge on a coffee maker that makes fancy coffee drinks, so you’re less tempted to buy them. Pinterest has a ton of coffee drink recipes that are much less than your $5-$6 cups of coffee every day.
Create a weekly or monthly meal plan. Creating a meal plan makes you more likely to stick to it and cook at home.
Create meals with what you have on hand, and then shop for what you need to fill in the gaps.
Find ways to save on groceries, like:
- Stocking up on essentials when they’re on sale.
- Buying bottom shelf or store brand items.
- Stretch your meat by making casseroles, pasta, or soup.
Track your spending
Tracking your spending is imperative to staying on budget.
Therefore, get in the habit of tracking your spending as soon as you spend it. Not only will this keep you on budget, but it will naturally make you more intentional with your spending, thus saving you more money.
If you’re having a problem with spending in a particular category, try using cash envelopes to help curb your overspending.
Cook at home
Eating out is so expensive, especially when you have a family. Save money by cooking and eating at home.
Save the eating out for special occasions and celebrations. Instead, plan delicious family-friendly meals that are easy to cook.
Planning easy meals will ensure you’re more likely to continue to cook at home.
Negotiate and lower your bills
Find ways to save on your utilities. Save money by cutting down water and electric costs.
- Wash laundry in cold water.
- Set your air and heat a couple of degrees cooler or warmer to save on electricity.
- Use your washer, dry, and dishwasher at off-times to save more electricity.
- Sign up for an even monthly plan, so your utility bills are the same costs every month, making it easier to budget for.
Furthermore, call your cable, phone, and internet companies and see if you can negotiate a lower monthly price. Most companies reward loyalty and will agree to lower the cost for a length of time.
You can also call your credit card companies and try to negotiate a lower interest rate, saving you even more money.
Cancel your gym membership
Unless you’re a gym rat, you could save money by canceling your gym membership.
Instead, try workouts on youtube, a free workout app like Fiton, or a paid subscription like Openfit (which is still cheaper than the gym).
Save on gas
Gas can be a huge monthly expense. So, there are a couple of ways to save on your gas usage.
- Carpool to work, school, or extracurricular activities.
- Have your kids ride the bus instead of dropping & picking them up.
- Use a money-saving app like the Getupside app to save on gas.
- Use public transportation.
- Find activities near your home and limit the amount of driving you do on your time off.
No spend challenge
No spend days will help you identify bad spending habits and help you spend more intentionally. Try to have no spend days, weekends, or even the whole month to save more money.
To do a no-spend challenge, you need to:
- Set some goals for your no-spend time, such as a dollar amount you want to save or how much debt you want to pay off.
- Set rules for your no-spend challenge, such as what you can spend money on (mortgage, bills, gas, grocery) and what you cannot spend on (eating out and non-essential shopping).
- Make a plan for how you’ll get through your no-spend challenge.
- Start your no-spend challenge and keep track of how much you’re saving!
Cut the cable
You can save a significant amount of money every month by canceling your cable.
Instead, subscribe to free cable services like:
- Tubi TV
- Peacock TV (free version)
- IMBD TV
Or subscribe to a couple paid services like:
- Sling TV
- Discovery +
Sell your clothes, shoes, and accessories
Selling your clothes online can be a great way to make some quick cash, especially if you have a closet full of clothes, shoes, and accessories to sell.
You could have a yard sale to get rid of everything to make a quick buck. But, you will get the most money by listing your items on places like eBay, Poshmark, or Mercari.
Get paid for surveys
If you have some free time, taking paid surveys can help you add to your monthly income.
The individual surveys don’t pay much, but they are super easy and add up quickly. Some surveys sites to try are:
Sell your plasma
Selling your plasma can be a pretty lucrative income opportunity, especially as a first-timer. Depending on the donation center, you can make up to $800-$900 as a new donation.
So, if you have a plasma donation center near you, check out their first-time donation deals.
Borrow from the library
Did you know you can borrow more than just physical books from the library?
All libraries now have ebooks and audible books to read through their library apps. So, there is no need to subscribe to subscription apps like Audible and Amazon Kindle.
They also lend out video games, movies, board games, Chromebooks, and more.
Not to mention, they also offer great reading programs for kids. My local library has a summer reading program that gives rewards each week, like skating passes and trips to the local water park.
So, make sure to pop in and see what things your local library has to offer.
Ask for discounts
Make sure to ask for a discount when you’re shopping. Most places nowadays offer military, first responder, and teacher discounts. So, it can’t hurt to ask!
Use a coupon or coupon code
Check to see if there are coupons or coupon codes you can use when shopping. I use sites and apps like:
- Store websites to clip digital coupons
- RetailMeNot for coupon codes
- Coupons.com for digital coupons to get cashback
- Honey web extension to automatically find coupon codes when shopping on my computer.
Doing a quick search to see if there are any coupons or coupons codes when shopping can save you money.
To save money online and instore when doing your grocery shopping or more, use apps like:
Cashback apps are great for getting money back on things you have to purchase anyway.
Start a side hustle
The quickest way to earn money toward your starter emergency fund is to start a side hustle.
- Get a part-time job
- Dog walk
- Handy services
- Car detail
- Drivefor Uber/Lyft
- Shop for Instacart
- Turn your hobby into a side hustle
Starting a babysitting co-op may be beneficial for families that spend a good amount of money on babysitters for date nights or other things.
Find a group of people you trust, family, friends, or people from your community, and take turns watching each other’s kids. This way, you don’t have to pay a sitter, and everyone saves money.
Kids are expensive, and it seems like it’s never-ending when it comes to buying them clothes, shoes, and toys.
So, organize a neighborhood swap. Swap toys, shoes, clothes, uniforms, or sports gear with neighbors and family to save on what you would typically need to buy.
Date nights at home
Date nights are super important but can be really expensive, from getting a babysitter to going out for dinner, drinks, and maybe a movie.
Get creative and find fun ways to do a date night at home after the kids go to bed.
- Cook a late dinner together.
- Have a video game night.
- Sit by the fire pit and have a drink and some much-needed conversation.
Ditch convenience items
Buying things for convenience comes with a hefty price tag. Convenience items like paper towels, presliced produce, baggies, and individual bags of snacks cost extra money because they make your life a tad bit easier.
So, take a couple extra steps and save some money.
- Buy towels you can wash and reuse instead of paper towels.
- Cut, slice, and dice your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
- Buy reusable baggies and containers to save on disposable.
- Buy bulk bags of snacks and portion them out yourself.
Pick up an extra shift
Overtime is another way to make quick money. So, pick up an extra shift a couple times this month to save money for your emergency fund.
Sell old VHS, CDs, and DVDs
People love to buy old VHS movies, CDs, and DVDs. So, bundle them up and list them on eBay, have a yard sale, or sell them on an app like Decluttr.
Get paid to exercise
Why not get paid to exercise or walk if it’s something you’re already doing. Use apps like:
- Healthy Wage
Not only will it motivate you to live a healthier lifestyle, but you get paid to do it!
Sell gift cards
If you hoard gift cards or have some lying around to places you don’t shop, why not sell them?
The best places to sell your gift cards are:
Even if you have used them, you can still sell them if there is money left on them.
Make sure you’re not wasting money and cancel all the subscriptions you’re not using.
If life is a bit too busy right now, Trim is a service that negotiates your bills and cancels your subscriptions for you for a small commission.
Sell old electronics
Nostalgia sells, and so do old electronics.
So, if you have any old phones, tablets, old or vintage games or systems lying around, make sure to list them on sites like:
- Facebook Marketplace
Sell a digital product
If you have an idea for a digital product, create one and sell it.
- You can create printables like coloring sheets, journal pages, or planner pages and sell them on Etsy or Shopify.
- You can create a course offering your expertise in a specific niche like budgeting, knitting, or how to get your kids to sleep through the night!
People love to buy things that will help them. So, if you have an idea…go for it!
Sell back old textbooks
Textbooks and supplemental reading material sell really well. So, make sure to check those old textbooks and other books to see if they hold any value. You may have money sitting on your bookshelves.
Check the value of your books and sell them back on sites like:
- Sellbackyourbook.com (check the offering price from several sites at once)
- Amazon (you can sell them back directly to Amazon or list them)
Also, the best time to sell back your books to get a higher price is right before a semester starts, so keep that in mind when selling them back.
An emergency fund prepares you for the unexpected that life throws your way and can ease the financial burden when crap hits the fan.
So, take this 30-day emergency fund challenge and save your starter $1000 emergency fund now (and don’t forget to grab your free emergency fund printable)!
What is your favorite tip for saving towards your emergency fund? Leave a comment below!