Life is constantly reminding us of how important it is to have some money set aside for the unexpected. Just recently at my house, our emergency fund has been used to cover expenses associated with my oldest daughter's attempt to drive her car without oil and a squirrel infestation in our house.
Unfortunately, most Americans don't have this cash set aside. A Bankrate.com survey showed 28% of people have absolutely nothing in savings.
Ordinarily, I recommend this fund be the equivalent of three to six months of living expenses. But that won't happen overnight. Remember, whatever you can scrape together could provide much-needed breathing room in your budget should the unexpected arise.
Below, I mapped out some eye-opening ideas on how my family could scrape together more than $1,000 in 30 days. Hopefully, my budget-cutting ideas will inspire you to create your own cash cushion.
I normally eat out for lunch three times a week. Typically, my meal runs about $10. If I take my frozen dinner to work, I cut costs by about $6 per day. My wife is already doing this religiously. Savings = $72
Water is Good
Despite repeated efforts to quell this bad habit, I still typically drink three, 44-ounce cups of diet soda each and every day. Switch to water, and I'll be banking bucks. Savings = $135
This is embarrassing. I've written and spoken countless times about how much money folks could save by eating more meals at home. With our family of four, if we could cut our dinners out from three times a week to one, we'd really be cooking. Even fast food runs add up quick! Savings = $200
Get in the Shower, Sammy
We've got two dogs, including Sammy, the world's best border collie. About every other month, we take them to the groomer. Clean them at home, and we'd free up enough to pay for their food. Savings = $60
Put the Kids to Work
A couple of times a month, we bring our cars to the car wash. Draft our two teenagers to do the work for free, and we'd save some cash. Not to mention: They'd be learning to maintain the cars that may eventually be theirs. Savings = $40
Bail on the Chiefs
I've kept satellite TV for years so I could watch the Kansas City Chiefs, my hometown team. Scrapping that for streaming video and local TV could save us big-time dollars. But this could be the year the Chiefs do some good, so... Savings = $120
Launch My Daughter
We've been slowly working on this project, but we're currently bankrolling our oldest daughter's car payment and insurance ... she's 23. Savings = $350
We were talking about the array of volleyball, wrestling and church camps coming up this summer. Wow! We probably won't mess with this, but the savings would be substantial if we did. Savings = $150
Bam! With some significant belt-tightening, we could save more than $1,100 in a month. Frankly, I was a bit (OK, a lot) surprised when I got to the end of this list. Sure, we'd be spending more time in the kitchen and on our to-do list, but the payoff would be real.
To add to our savings, we routinely ask for military discounts (don't be shy; they can be significant), and we could consider saving money by dropping our gym membership (my wrestling son can run more and sauna less to lose that weight).
Your spending habits may be a lot different from ours, but everyone can come up with their own ways to save money. Here are just a few more ideas:
- Make a weekly menu, and shop for groceries with a list and coupons.
- Buy in bulk.
- Use generic products.
- Avoid paying ATM fees. Add up the cash you need, and withdraw it at one time.
- Pay off your credit cards each month to avoid interest charges.
- Pay with cash. It's easier to spend less when you use real money.
- Check out movies and books at the library.
- Find a carpool buddy to save on gas.
- Change your clothes, not your thermostat.
Where can you cut back? Start building your fallback fund today.