As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, having an emergency savings fund is important for handling unexpected expenses. From job loss to reduced income to other unplanned issues, it is important to save up a few months’ worth of expenses to weather financial storms.
Building a strong emergency savings fund takes more than slipping a few dollars under your mattress now and again. Here are four tips for a smarter emergency savings fund.
1. Adjust your budget
To find room in your budget for emergency savings, you may need to change your existing budget. Review your current spending habits and make some adjustments to reduce costs in other areas and divert funds to your savings account. You can hunt for deals on groceries and cancel unused or little-used memberships, such as gym memberships for example.
Try not to halt contributions toward financial goals such as saving for retirement or paying off debt. While you might need to reduce your budget allocations for these priorities temporarily, don’t eliminate them if you can avoid it.
2. Automatic bank transfers
Remembering to manually transfer money into your savings account on a regular basis can be challenging. Instead, you can schedule automatic transfers to come out of your paycheck or checking account that go directly into your savings. Many banks allow you to set these transfers up online in your account.
Of course, this is a bad idea if you don’t have predictable income or you want to maintain strict control of your cash flow.
3. Use unexpected income to pad your account
When you receive unexpected extra income, such as monetary gifts or tax refund checks, you can add some of that cash to your emergency savings fund. Putting away chunks of unexpected income into your account will add up over time.
4. Open a high-yield savings account
The savings account offered at your bank or credit union likely offers minimal interest rates that yield low returns. High-yield savings accounts, which feature much better interest rates, can be set up in minutes with many online banks and grow your savings much faster.
A key disadvantage of high-yield savings accounts is that online banks don’t offer the same services, and you typically can’t withdraw cash from a bank or ATM. In fact, it could take a matter of days to access your funds. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep a cushion of money in a traditional savings account for quick access, then keep the rest in a high-yield account to take advantage of the higher interest.
If you’re still experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic, starting an emergency savings fund now might not be the best focus. If you are looking for financial assistance due to job loss or other hardships caused by COVID-19, check out our list of financial resources.