When your budget won't let you give gifts to everyone in the world—which is always, by the way—who should you give...
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Few things help you relax as much as having a big pile of cash in your emergency fund. You breathe a little easier when you save $1,000 (Baby Step 1) and a lot easier when you have three to six months of expenses in place (Baby Step 3).
Let’s go after that relaxed feeling, shall we? Here are four ways you can quickly build up your rainy day fund.
1. Sell something.
You probably saw this coming. If you take a couple of hours to look around the house, you’ll be amazed at how many items (old kids’ toys, exercise equipment, dusty power tools, etc.) you could convert to cash. That’s much better than offering to pay your mechanic for a new alternator with an old treadmill that hasn’t run since Carl Lewis did.
2. Find one-time income opportunities.
There are lots of chances to do some quick work and earn bucks inside and outside your home. You can answer online surveys, care for pets while their owners are on vacation, participate in focus groups, and more. You restock your emergency fund, and soft-drink companies learn which color they should use for their new labels. Win win!
3. Get a second job.
None of us likes the thought of pulling extra hours when we’re already tired, much less being away from our families for that much longer. But even four weeks of an extra job can make a huge difference when Murphy comes calling. At that point, you’ll be relieved that you worked extra, rather than being relieved you didn’t.
4. Make cuts in your budget.
Look at your budget and do a bunch of little cuts that you won’t notice individually but add up significantly. Turn the thermostat down a degree or two, clip some coupons, and cancel unnecessary services or memberships. The results could raise some eyebrows.
Once you finish your full emergency fund of three to six months of expenses, you can relax some. Yes, there is more work to do with saving for retirement and college (and paying off the house), but finishing Baby Step 3 is truly a money milestone. Have gazelle intensity now, and you can have your time back later.
And when you have it back, you can keep it.
Sometimes the trouble isn’t creating your emergency fund, but trying to keep it in place. But how do you know when it’s time to use the emergency fund? Here are three questions to ask yourself before using your emergency fund.
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