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Ten Ways to Build Your Emergency Fund Faster

 

Ten Ways to Build Your Emergency Fund Faster

By: Brightpeak Financial

We’ve established why an emergency fund is so important and how much you need to save. Next, let’s unpack how to build your fund. In four words you need to: Spend less. Earn more.

Here are ten ways to start beefing up your emergency fund, fast:

  1.  Track it

Why is tracking your money so important? Only 1 in 3 Americans creates and implements a monthly budget according to a Gallup survey and, yet, the average household carries $132,529 in total debt. None of us want to take orders from our money or debt. We want financial strength and independence. All successful financial journeys start with a budget – consider it a map. A budget helps you spend money you have and avoid spending money you don’t have. Call Christian Credit Counselors at 800-557-1985 or visit www.christiancreditcounselors.org for help creating a budget.

Once your plan is written down, track it using free budget planners like Mint or Mvelopes. 

  1.  Don’t shop when you can swap

To cut back on shopping, try trading things you already own. Here are 4 swapping options:

  • Thred up. Check out sites like ThredUp to save on hand-me-downs you and your kids will actually like.
  • SwapaDVD. Do you have stacks of DVDs you never watch? Trade them on SwapaDVD. For a small trading fee, you can restock your shelves with fresh flicks. (If you prefer to read, check out PaperbackSwap for books.)
  • Swap Parties. A trend in the world of the frugal is to throw a Swap Party. Choose a theme like clothing, kitchenware, or baby items and ask your friends to bring along similar items to trade.
  • Bartering Services. Handy with a camera? Great at fixing things? A grammar whiz? These are all services you can offer instead of paying full price. In a recent survey conducted on Facebook, 80% of participants said they intend to or already have bartered a good or service to save money. Trading is alive and well — just remember the tax implications if you do begin bartering. Learn more here. 
  1. Automate your savings

Ask your bank or credit union to transfer funds automatically from checking to savings every month. Or, automatically deposit a little from of your paycheck. What you don’t see, you may never miss. Don’t have a savings account? Consider a high-interest or high-yield online savings account to grow your rainy-day fund faster. 

  1. Save or adjust your tax refund

According to CNN Money, the average tax return was $2,893 in 2015. While that might seem like an early Christmas present, remember you’re loaning out your money to the government, interest-free, for a year when you could have it much sooner.

The two best ways to build your emergency fund using your tax refund are as follows:

  • Review your W-4 tax form to adjust how much money is withheld. This will enable you to place more of it directly into your emergency savings account throughout the year.
  • Commit to saving most or all of what you do receive toward emergencies. 
  1. Slice and dice your food budget

It’s easy to overspend on food. With just a few simple adjustments, though, you can save thousands.

In a study by The Wall Street Journal, people spend an average of $16.13 on delivery pizza. If they swapped the weekly delivery on pizza night for something like DiGiorno ($6.69 on average), they’d save $9.44 every week and $490.88 each year. Or take it one step further and make your own pizza. Not only is it much cheaper, but you can substitute unique and healthier ingredients, and create a fun event for your whole family.

Kristen at The Frugal Girl put this idea to the test and discovered that it only cost her $1.87 to make one cheese pizza at home! Adding your own toppings will fluctuate your total, but even if you added half a bag of pepperonis to each pizza (est. $3.49 per 6 oz. bag), you’d save $657.28 every year by not ordering delivery.

Some other ways to save money on food are:

  • Meal planning. Try some of these $5 meal ideas to save money at home this week
  • Packing lunches
  • Skipping Starbucks and implementing a bring-your-own-mug policy 
  1. De-stress for less

Instead of heading to the spa, try some basic yoga, stretching or meditation techniques at home. Do you really need that gym membership when you can run, hike, and bike outside? Remember, these sacrifices are temporary. The goal is an emergency fund that provides greater peace of mind for you and your family.

  1. Avoid markups

It’s alright to budget a little fun while you save for your emergency fund, but try to find the frugal alternative, especially when there are major price markups.

For example, before you head to the movie theater, consider the money you’ll pay in overpriced drinks and popcorn. Imagine what you’d save with a movie night at home — complete with a free DVD rental from the library, air-popped popcorn, and a couple sodas from the fridge.

Check out these other products with giant markups. 

  1. Sell your stuff

One of the fastest ways to save that first $1,000 for emergencies is to have a sale. Here are several great options to try.

  • Garage Sale. Here are 20 tips on how to boost your income with a garage sale. They range from having a multi-family sale, using a “free” box, and selling concessions on the side.
  • Online Sites. Most people are aware of Craigslist and eBay for selling their vehicles or furniture, but another growing resource is Facebook. Search for garage sale groups in your city using Facebook’s search bar.
  • Amazon. Get started listing your products to sell on one of the world’s most popular retailers.
  • Bookscouter. Do you have old textbooks that are worth some cash? Price them on Bookscouter and see what they’d fetch. 
  1. Launch a side hustle

Whether you want to add more money to your emergency fund, save for retirement or simply want more spending money, coming up with extra cash can be tricky. If your budget is already pretty tight, here are a few ways to make a little money on the side.

  • Rent a room. Your vacant guest room could be a moneymaker. Websites like Airbnb and VRBO can help you rent out your extra space to vacationers and travelers looking for a place to stay.
  • Get paid to drive. If you have some extra time and a reliable vehicle, get paid to be your own taxi service through companies like Uber and Lyft, or deliver food through DoorDash and BiteSquad.
  • Make money online. Companies like UserTesting and UsabilityHub pay you for offering thoughtful reviews of websites. Upwork is a marketplace for freelancers of all types, and has payments methods that guarantee you get the money you deserve when the work is done. Mechanical Turk is a website run by Amazon where you get paid for performing quick, simple tasks online. Granted, it’s only a few cents per task, but with some practice, you could make a nice chunk of change. You could also become an Etsy seller or teach an online course via Udemy or YouTube.
  • Do chores or home repairs. People with too little time and a little extra money will pay you through TaskRabbit for your help with chores like cleaning, grocery shopping or home repairs. Also spread the word among family, friends and neighbors.
  • Pet sit or house sit. Reliable people to watch some of the things we cherish most are few and far between. Money-making opportunities await if this kind of work suits you. Check out websites like TrustedHousesitters, House Sitters America and Rover to get connected with people in need of dog-sitting and house-sitting resources.

Action step: Brainstorm your fields of interest, then begin researching a side hustle that fits your skill set. 

  1. Get on the same page with your spouse

Make sure you and your significant other are on the same page about the importance of saving for emergencies and how much you both want to contribute. If you’re having trouble sticking to a budget or feeling guilty about your purchases, try checking out the allowance system for couples.

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3 Surprising Steps to Getting Out of Debt

 

3 Surprising Steps to Getting Out of Debt

By: Crown Financial Ministries

Dear Chuck,

Credit cards are killing me, and it feels like getting a handle on money is some kind of 12-step program. Where do I begin?

Feeling Overwhelmed.

 

Dear Overwhelmed,

Well, I have some good news and bad news. The good news is that it’s not the credit cards that are killing you. The bad news is that it’s the lack of savings!

It may surprise you to learn that the first thing you need to do to break the cycle of credit card debt isn’t to cut them up or make a payment plan (more on that later) but to begin saving money. The problem so many people face is that when life happens (the car needs new brakes or the water heater goes out), they don’t have the resources to keep everything moving forward, use a credit card to pay for the expenses, and end up overwhelmed by the debt.

The Bible is very direct in instructing us to keep some things in reserve. Proverbs 21:20 says, “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.”

So to avoid a 12-step program, I am giving you just 3 simple steps. They will require discipline, but will reward you with renewed peace and freedom!

 

Step One: SAVE!

Commit to put away your credit cards and save $1,000 as fast as possible. You may be surprised that those two things will put you in the minority! In 2015, a survey found that about 6 in 10 people had saved less than $1,000 but a year later, the number had risen to almost 7 in 10. What is really tragic is that a third of Americans had nothing saved at all. Credit card debt is the natural result of problems brought about by the lack of savings! I’ve written before about “Budget Hacks” that can make a difference in freeing up some cash, and here is a new one to consider. Want to find wiggle room in your budget for savings? Cut the cable. Leichtman Research Group reported that 83 percent of Americans are still paying for cable television, an average of $123 per month. Turn off the TV and put that money in the bank!

In Proverbs 30, the wise King Solomon points to the “wise” and “small” ant for inspiration, saying in verse 25, “Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer.” If bugs can save, you can too!

For the fastest way to pay off debt, use the Debt Snowball Method. Crown has a great calculator that does the work for you. The principle behind the Debt Snowball Method is to organize your debts from smallest to largest. Starting with the smallest debt, pay it off as quickly as possible. Then take what you were making in payments on that debt and put it all towards the next smallest debt, and so on. This method saves you both time and interest, so start using it today!

If you have more complicated or overwhelming debt, get in touch with Christian Credit Counselors. They are our trusted partners and can help you put together a plan to get out of debt, starting with a free debt analysis.

 

Step Two: BUDGET!

As you are saving, build a functional budget. Crown has some wonderful free tools and guidelines that can assist you in getting a handle on where your money goes each month. The quickest way to reduce the stress of overspending is to only spend money on purpose; meaning you know where every dollar will be spent before the month begins and you have built in financial margin.

 

Step Three: START GIVING!

One of the benefits of giving to the Lord and His work on earth is that we are reminded as we write those checks that our resources come from God our Father who loves us and that we will be held accountable for how we use our resources. In counseling couples throughout the years, I’ve seen that a failure to tithe comes sometimes from the attitude that “it’s MY money” or “I can’t afford to tithe.” We should remember the words of King Solomon in 1 Chronicles 29:14 where he humbly presents the tithes and gifts of his people to build a temple, saying: “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”

As we learn that the purpose of our resources is not just to satisfy our own desires but also to honor the Lord, it becomes easier to save because we don’t hold onto our possessions so tightly. Psalm 24:1 observes, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

 

So there are your 3 steps! Save, Budget, and Give. It will take some effort, but you will rid yourself of that feeling of being overwhelmed month after month.

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How (and How Much Money) to Save in Your Emergency Fund

How (and How Much Money) to Save in Your Emergency Fund

By: Brightpeak Financial

Do you ever feel like you’re one mishap away from serious financial trouble? Or perhaps you’re not the type to worry — even when you should. Either way, most people aren’t prepared. In a recent poll by BankRate, only 38% of respondents said they could handle a $1,000 emergency room visit or $500 car repair. A “rainy day” fund is critical for you and your family, and throughout this guide, we’ll provide tools and knowledge to help you prepare for the unexpected.

Why everyone needs an emergency fund

According to the Federal Reserve, 48% of people can’t cover a $400 emergency without selling something or borrowing money. An emergency fund will not only cover your financial needs, but also your emotional needs. The last thing you want during the stress of an emergency is to also feel panic, worry, regret or shame.

This is why you need a strong defensive strategy to:

  • Maintain your financial independence
  • Keep you from going farther into debt
  • Protect your family from financial troubles

If you’re among those using a credit card as an emergency fund, consider this: The average variable rate on credit cards in America, according to BankRate, is 16.28%. Going deeper into debt isn’t a real plan, and the interest only makes the situation worse. Imagine, instead, that you have $1,000 in the bank standing between you and calamity at all times. That would cover something like a leak in the radiator, a broken washing machine or emergency traveling. It would see you through without going farther into debt — just remember to restock those funds as quickly as possible.

Now that you’ve got the visual of a $1,000 savings buffer, what kind of peace of mind would that provide when smoke starts billowing out of your car? That’s the power of an emergency savings account. It’s your first line of defense from marital strife over money, stress and anxiety about bills, and even bankruptcy. 

Action step: Start researching savings accounts today that you can dedicate as your emergency savings account. Our best tip is to open an account outside of your normal banking/checking account, so you won’t be tempted to spend the balance. Set up automatic deposits into your emergency savings account and you won’t even notice that you’re saving!

How big does your emergency fund need to be?

After appointing a savings account that’s solely for emergencies, it’s time to break down your goals and face them one at a time.

Short-Term Emergencies

Your first goal is to cover unexpected expenses with a short-term emergency fund.

We recommend that most people start with at least $1,000. This would adequately uphold their financial stability from a smaller emergency, like an unexpected medical bill, but that varies from person to person. In a higher-risk situation (expecting a baby, significantly in debt, etc.), you need to save more.

Once you determine the amount you need, stick to it. That way, when emergencies do strike down the road, you’ll know exactly how much is required to replenish the fund.

Long-Term Emergencies

A long-term goal for emergencies is to save at least 3 months of living expenses. If you’re in a higher-risk scenario, like starting a new business or expecting a child, save at least 6 months.

Pro Tip: No matter what goal you establish, set a deadline for it. There is a reason runners put on a burst of speed when they see the finish line. A deadline is a powerful incentive to finish strong.

How to calculate your living expenses

Living expenses vary from person to person, but getting a ballpark estimate will help you understand how much money you need to save. To calculate your living expenses, try this:

Calculate your monthly expenses. Take a look at your spending and make a list of all your monthly expenses. This includes things like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, medical bills, groceries, transportation, savings, debt repayments, etc. Then, use this basic equation for determining how much to work up to in your emergency fund:

1 month of essentials x 3 = Fully-funded emergency fund

Action step: Use BankRate’s free Emergency Savings Calculator to calculate how quickly you can stockpile your emergency fund.

How to invest your emergency fund

What should you do once your short-term emergency fund is at $1,000?

  • Protect it from frivolous spending
  • Build up your long-term emergency fund
  • Pay off debt

Contact Christian Credit Counselors at 800-557-1985 for help with paying off your debt through our debt consolidation plan!

Get started saving!

You can protect yourself and your family from considerable turbulence and stress if you start an emergency fund today. The action steps and tips offered in this guide are here to help you build a defense system, achieve financial freedom, and enjoy greater peace of mind.

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