Last summer I decided that it was time we had a proper emergency fund.
We had a garden variety savings account, but that’s not really the same thing.
We had other assets we could have tapped if we needed to – retirement savings, college savings, credit card lines of credit, life insurance cash value. Again, none of them the same thing.
So I took a small savings account we had with about $2200 in it, called it an emergency fund, and started adding to it.
Over the next year I made some healthy deposits to our emergency fund in the form of a tax refund and some insurance reimbursements.
I added some more modest deposits from credit card cash back checks and Craigslist furniture sales.
And I threw in some downright unimpressive deposits, like the $24 rebate on our dog’s Heartguard medicine.
Together, those amounts grew our emergency fund from $2232 to $11,871.
I’m kind of in love with our emergency fund. I’m still adding to the total (most experts recommend you have anywhere from 3-8 months of living expenses set aside exclusively for emergencies) but I love looking at the progress we’ve made.
If I were talking to myself from a year ago, here is what I would have said to do:
Open a separate savings account and call it an emergency fund.
Emergency money needs to be readily accessible but not too accessible. You don’t want it tied up in CDs or retirement accounts that would be hard to get to or would cost you a penalty to access. But neither do you want it combined with your everyday money – like your checking account – where it could be easily spent on very non-emergency things.
One of our online savings accounts at Capital One 360 works perfectly for our emergency fund. And since Capital One 360 lets you name your savings accounts (you can see how that looks here), calling this account an Emergency Fund reminds me what this money is for.
That’s a little thing, and it’s purely psychological, but it works.
We have another savings account that is attached to our checking account and, in looking at that account register, I see withdrawals for things like my son’s senior trip, patio construction, IRA contributions, and a furniture purchase.
That’s okay; that’s what savings accounts are for. But it’s really easy to pull money out of that account. Having a separate account that lives at another bank and is called an emergency fund says that that money is OFF LIMITS.
Make frequent deposits.
I make several deposits a month into our emergency fund and I make them as soon as any extra money become available. Doing this keeps the emergency fund in the front of my mind and reminds me that increasing it is a goal.
No deposit is too small.
It’s tempting to ignore small amounts (it’s only $25), but when I added up the deposits of $100 or less I made to our emergency fund over the last year (there were 16 of them), they came to over $1000. That’s money worth paying attention to.
So that’s what’s brought us this far. Here’s what’s on my emergency fund to-do list:
I have yet to automate our emergency savings, but I have done it with our college fund so I’ve seen how effective it can be. One way to automate your emergency fund is to have a portion of your paycheck direct deposited there. Another is to schedule a recurring transfer from your checking account to your emergency fund each week or month (tying it to your payday works well).
There’s a debate that persists in the personal finance world about the right order in which to pay off debts. Generally speaking, there are two main schools of thought: Pay off debts off in the order of interest rate (highest to lowest) because it makes the most mathematical sense; you’ll pay the least amount of interest […]
Thank you to everyone who took the time to take my two question survey this week. Do you like seeing the results when you take a survey? I know I do, so I wanted to share these with you. (You can click on any of the charts below to make them bigger.) Blog Topics I was […]
The following is a guest post. Today’s low interest rates make opening a savings account about as appealing as stashing your cash under a mattress. However, you need to have money set aside for major emergencies, such as job loss, health emergencies or other unforeseen crises. So how big should your emergency fund be? Popular […]
The following is a post by Sam Peters. Dang! The old lawn mower is really on its last legs. Whatever it is, it is likely terminal. It’s missing a muffler, anyway. Now, like an old dog that has begun to snap at the postman and look at the cats with real hunger in its eyes, […]
I’m popping in to ask if you’d take a minute to take the two question survey below. I’d be most grateful! Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool. Receive future posts by email Email Address
I’m a big believer in little amounts of money. Two years ago, in July of 2012, I wrote about the $318 in proceeds from my garage sale and what I was doing with them. I didn’t realize it at the time but that was the first of what would become regular found money update posts. Since […]
Happy Thursday and Happy (almost) 4th of July to my US readers. I wanted to pop in to say hi and – for some of you – this may be the first time you have heard from me in a while. That’s because I’ve switched email subscription services, and that shouldn’t interest you at all unless you […]
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As you have guessed, I like numbers. I like tracking them, crunching them, organizing them, you name it. But this experience has taught me that money is about much more than numbers. It's about the kind of life you want to live.
So I hope that the things we talk about at The Family CEO will help you make the most of your money, but mostly I hope that they'll help you create a life that you love.
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