Getting your finances ready for an emergency

Contractor pointing at ceiling of basement
A bit of planning can help protect you when the unexpected happens.

Keeping your finances on track can be stressful, even when life is running smoothly. An unexpected event—a major car repair bill, a broken furnace, or a period of unemployment—can be disastrous and send you to an expensive payday lender, slash your food or health spending, or cut into your ability to pay your rent or mortgage. This is why you need an emergency fund.

If your daily finances are already stretched thin, how do you build an emergency fund? It can be manageable if you start with a modest goal and focus on small payments. Saving even $10 a week will become more than $500 in a year, potentially enough to cover an unexpected car or furnace repair. And you can start to feel better, knowing you have a plan.

Here are some ideas for how to get started.

  • Set a goal for your emergency fund. We suggest calculating three months of expenses as a starting point using the Spend Analysis tool on The Hub. Don’t lose hope if you have to dip into your fund for an emergency before you get to your goal—that’s what it’s there for. You can start saving again.
  • Decide ahead of time what’s a real emergency. Car repairs? Yes, if you need your car for work or getting kids to school. Less so if public transportation is a viable option. Take a look at “Financial emergency? Here’s what you can do” for some possibilities.
  • Open a dedicated account for your fund. Start one that is accessible, such as a savings account, but won’t tempt you to spend like a checking account might. Talk with your Huntington banker about a lower-cost account that would work for you.
  • Arrange an automatic contribution. It can be small—everything counts. The Savings Goal Getter tool  on The Hub will help you schedule automatic contributions and track your progress. Once it’s funded, you can direct money toward your next goal.
  • Kickstart your fund by selling something you no longer need, whether it’s an old exercise machine or clothes that don’t fit anymore. Or, find a way to earn some extra money.
  • Set aside half of any windfall. Unexpected money is a treat, so if you get a tax refund or a birthday check, you’re going to want to reward yourself, which is great. Just make a commitment to put half of any surprise dollars into your emergency fund.

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Julie Compton, “How to Create an Emergency Fund in Just 90 Days,” NBC News September 21, 2017, https://www.nbcnews.com/better/business/how-create-emergency-fund-just-90-days-ncna803596

David Ramsey, “Four Quick Ways to Build Your Emergency Fund,” Dave Ramsey blog, https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/4-quick-ways-to-build-your-emergency-fund