Laker Cents: Keep Your Head Above Water With an Emergency Savings Account

Think about the last time an unexpected emergency expense came up for you: the loss of a job, a trip to emergency room, a dead vehicle on the middle of a highway, a broken furnace, or unexpected urgent travel. Were you prepared for this expense? Did you panic? According to a 2016 GOBankingRates survey, 35 percent of all adults in the U.S. have only several hundred dollars in their savings accounts and 34 percent have zero.

No one likes to consider emergency expenses. It’s easy to say “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it” when it relates to hypothetical situations that haven’t even happened yet. Unexpected expenses will pop up throughout life, though – it’s unavoidable! From something like an unexpected vet bill to a major home repair, all the way to a child needing sudden money for an extra curricular – they’ll happen. This might not be the easiest piece of information to digest and think about, but there is a way to positively spin it. The important message? The more prepared you are for these emergencies, the less of an “emergency” they’ll be.

There are multiple opinions of how many months expenses should be saved in an emergency fund, but a standard goal is to have 3-6 months of expense funds stashed away for future emergency use. Is this always a realistic starting goal? For most Americans, absolutely not. Saving half a year’s worth of expense money could be a long process, so start small where you can. If you’ve got no emergency fund, then something is always better than nothing.

First, consider all your expenses and determine your ideal saving amount. This will be so much easier if you have a working budget that lays out all your monthly expenses. Make a list of what living costs you each month, including insurance, car payments, food, utilities, and gas. This projected budget will give you a baseline for what your monthly regular expenses are – then you can project outwards to see what amount could get you through multiple months.

Next, determine where you’re going to save your money. Don’t combine emergency savings with your normal savings account. Create a new account with the intent for it to only be for emergencies. This separation and purpose creates a psychological barrier that will hopefully help prevent you from cashing in on it unless it truly is an emergency.

Finally, make the move and start saving. Make a conscious effort to set aside any realistic amount for you weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Even try setting up a direct deposit from your paycheck into that account so an amount gets deposited automatically. If you treat your emergency fund expense like a bill, you will continuously contribute to it.

To make a real commitment to building an emergency savings, you may have to make small sacrifices in other areas of your life. That daily cup of coffee from Starbucks or Coke from the vending machine might have to go. Instead of eating out twice a week, maybe its only once. It’s never easy to build a savings, but the payoff is worth it.

You’ll be glad you built that savings the next time you get an unexpected expense that comes out of the blue. Better yet, you’ll be able to deal with the matter promptly, move on, and get back to life as you know it (while rebuilding your emergency savings!).

Want to start an emergency savings account? We could have the perfect spot for it.