How to Build an Emergency Fund when You’re Broke

emergency savings

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An emergency fund is essential to financial stability. It’s the one cushion that can help avert a financial crisis, which sometimes, is inevitable. And while I know starting off this post with the bad news first (I had to wake you up somehow, haha) it’s a necessary evil we must all face.

Even if you’re debt free right now (which is awesome, by the way!) an unexpected bill can come your way and throw you completely off track. Having an emergency fund pushes that pesky risk right out the window.

Not only does your emergency fund eliminate the need to panic, it literally saves you from going into debt…again.

Let’s think about it.

emergency fund

How many friends and family do you know that have been forced to put something unexpected on a credit card?

Mom or dad get sick in another state? Flight gets booked on the credit card.

Lost your job and don’t have enough for food? Charge the grocery bill to the credit card.

Last minute vacation with friends? Wait……nope…..that one doesn’t count. Darn that reality monster that says vacation isn’t an emergency!

Back to what I was saying, 21% of people say their credit card balance is more than their bank account balance according to These are the people that tend to use their debt for emergencies.

I’m here to tell you there is an easier way. It may not be the most fun, but saving for an emergency fund will be your saving (pun intended) grace. Let’s get out of the cycle of debt and start planning out our lives, the good and the bad.

Let’s adult….the right way.  

Your emergency fund is the one fund that is strictly used for emergency expenses.

Oh and if my point above didn’t hit home, let me say, last minute bargain deals and crazy sales are NOT unexpected expenses.

Just wanted to clear that up for ya, because if you’re like me, at one point, you’re emotions toward that crazy sale may play mind tricks on you. I got you, my friend.

emergency fund

We’re talking about expenses like last-minute travel because a family member gets sick, a car accident, emergency surgery, job loss.

Of course, there are more on that list, because, let’s face it….life happens to all of us. And when it happens, we should be prepared so it doesn’t drown us.  

And you should have an emergency fund for that.

But, if you don’t have enough money to cover emergencies on a regular basis, how in the world are you supposed to have an emergency fund that covers the often high cost of an unexpected expense?

Here are some tips that can help you kick start your emergency fund savings.

emergency savings

Tip 1- Save a small amount per week

If this sounds simple and challenging at the same time, it’s because it is.

But, if you start making it a weekly habit instead of a monthly expense, you’ll start saving without thinking about it

Even saving $5-$10 per week will add up to hundreds at the end of the year.

So, for the price of a fast food value meal, you can have your emergency fund started.

The idea here is that you’re saving over a long period of time. There is no rush to get your emergency fund to a certain dollar amount right now. You just need to get into the habit of putting away money on a regular basis. Later, you can increase the amount based on your income and comfort level.

Tip 2- Keep the change

This can help more than you know. Keeping all your single dollar bills and loose change in a jar or container and depositing every month will have your emergency fund growing in no time.

Again, the amounts won’t be huge, but they’ll make a difference in the long run. So, instead of telling the cashier to keep the change….you keep it and let it help you fund your financial cushion.

Tip 3- Hands off the emergency money

In order to build an emergency fund, you must learn not to actually use it, unless absolutely necessary. It is only for actual emergencies, so save the money and forget it’s there. You’ll thank yourself when you really need to tap into that money if and when something drastic comes up.

You may be reading this, not sure how much you should actually save. A common rule says to save 3-6 months of living expenses.

To make it even easier, you can use the free calculator below and it will tell you in seconds.

Tip 4- Have a separate savings account

When you don’t make a lot of money or most of your money goes to debt, having 2 separate savings accounts is quite the challenge. I get it.

But, no one is putting a minimum on how much you save in each.

Just like the emergency fund, you can save small amounts of money per week in your regular savings account.

Having a savings accounts is super important and a great way to avoid using your emergency money.


Because if you do find a great sale or your family wants to go on a mini vacation, you’ll be able to fully fund it and your emergency fund will remain just that.

Having that separation of the different pots of money means that your brain will recognize that your emergency fund isn’t just a regular savings, because you’ll actually have one of those, haha.

I’ve had readers mention that they have an emergency fund that they can’t stop dipping into. Chances are that they are not saving money in a different fund, which makes it difficult not to spend that money.

Let’s be honest, it is hard seeing you have available money in your account and keep it for a rainy day. It’s more fun to spend it, right?

That’s why having a savings account for those fun expenses is key to keeping your emergency money intact so you’re prepared for anything.

I want to know…have you started an emergency fund? Let me know in the comments!

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4 Responses

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