Guest post from Crystal of Serving Joyfully
A couple of summers ago, our hot water heater went out. I made a quick online transfer so we could pay $400 cash for the new water heater and delivery — and we had the new one that same day.
It was nice to have that money set aside in our emergency fund… but it wouldn’t always have been that easy. We are a single-income family with a very tight budget. At one time in our marriage, an unexpected expense of $400+ would have been a disaster.
We weren’t horribly irresponsible, but we did use a line of credit as our “emergency plan.” So, how did we finally give ourselves that emergency cushion?
We Made It A Priority!
At some point, the light bulb finally went on for us and we saw that we should save up something instead of relying on a line of credit. Admittedly, this wasn’t easy. Like I said, we live paycheck-to-paycheck on a very tight budget.
But, since we made it a priority, we could save a bit here and a bit there until it eventually seemed to add up.
There are hundreds of ways to save money here, or earn money there. But if you aren’t committed to it, you won’t make them work.
“If you want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
There are plenty of excuses for not saving up that money — you won’t even have to look for them. But, if you’re committed, there are also plenty of ways to reach the goal.
When tax time comes, our refund goes to pay down debt or beef up our emergency fund instead of spending it on something like a big screen TV or a family vacation. Is this fun? Not so much. But, because of these boring choices, when expenses come up, we’re now in a better position to handle them instead of worrying about them.
That peace of mind is worth way more than a big screen TV.
If you’re struggling to set up your emergency fund, here are two tips that helped us.
1. Define “Emergency”
Don’t waste your hard work on “emergencies” like forgetting to thaw out meat for dinner or overspending. If your emergency fund becomes that kind of cushion, it will be far too easy to keep taking out without replenishing. (Ask me how I know!).
Your emergency might look different than mine, and that’s okay as long as you are consistent. We don’t have a lot of wiggle room in our budget, so our emergency fund only covers unexpected expenses that are non-negotiable.
2. Expect Setbacks
When you’re first starting out, be prepared for some discouragement. For a long time, it felt like every time we got started on our emergency fund, we would have some sort of setback.
If we saved up $75, we’d have a $100 problem with the air conditioner. If we got up to $500, we’d have a $400 car repair.
It can be discouraging, but just remember, those problems would happen with or without your emergency fund to cover them.
Since we are Christians, I have learned to look at those things as just another way that God provides our daily bread. He doesn’t promise that we’ll know where the provision is coming from forever, but He makes a way right now, and for us that sometimes looks like saving up just enough money to cover the next disaster.
What creative ideas or tips do you have for funding your emergency fund on a tight budget?
Crystal Brothers blogs at Serving Joyfully where she shares about her debt-free journey, frugal living, marriage, and the adventures of homeschooling her two rambunctious boys. She is the author of Intentional Marriage: A 31-Day Devotional to love your husband well.