Money Savings

20+ Ways to Find Cash For Your Emergency Fund

August 22, 2016
Are you wondering how you can find cash to build up an emergency fund? Look no further! Here are 20+ ways to find cash for your emergency savings. Read on for info!
This post may contain affiliate links. See disclosure policy here.


We all know how important it is to have an emergency fund. If your car needs a major repair or your computer goes out, having an emergency fund can help cover those expenses without having them interrupt your life. If you don’t currently have an emergency fund, $1,000 is a good number to aim for. Once you’ve saved that, aim to save 3 to 6 months of living expenses in your emergency fund.

Now that you know how important an emergency fund is and how much you should have in it, do you know how to get there? Lots of us could use help actually building an emergency fund. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here are 20+ ways to find cash for your emergency fund. You could save money, make money, or even better – do both!


Find Money For Your Emergency Fund By Simply Saving

1. Save any change in a jar

For those of you who use cash for daily purchases, this trick will come in handy. Whenever you break a dollar, save the change. Put the change in a jar dedicated to emergency fund savings. If you use cash often, you’ll find that the money adds up quickly!

2. Never spend a $5 bill

This tip also works well for people who use cash a lot for purchases. Whenever you have a $5 bill, save it. It’s small enough that you won’t miss it yet large enough to add up quickly for your emergency fund savings.

3. Utilize return policies

How many times have you bought something only to be dissatisfied with it? Most stores will give you a refund if you return the item with a receipt. Don’t let your money go to waste. Return policies are there to be used.

4. Shop at thrift stores first

Need a new dress for work? Want some new shirts for the summer? Consider stopping by your local thrift stores before going to a department store. Thrift stores are known for having little treasures every now and then. You never know when you’ll find the perfect item there (and for a fraction of the price)!

5. Go out for lunch instead of dinner

Did you know that restaurants often serve similar items for lunch and dinner? The only difference is that you pay a premium for dining at dinnertime. Next time you go out to eat, opt for lunch instead of dinner to save a few bucks.

6. Avoid smoking and alcohol

Smoking and drinking alcohol are two things that can eat up your budget quickly. Do your health and wallet a favor and avoid smoking and alcohol.

7. Drink only water

Free water is everywhere nowadays! At restaurants, offices, etc., you can often get water for free. Why go to the store and pay for juice or soda when you can quench your thirst for nothing? If the thought of drinking tap water makes you queasy, invest in a water filter and bottle your own water.

8. Prepare meals at home

Not only is take-out less healthy than meals prepared at home, it’s more expensive. For the price of a $10 take-out meal, you could probably buy groceries to feed you for a couple of days. Get in the habit of preparing meals at home if you want to save money on food.

9. Bring lunch to work

Along the lines of preparing meals at home, bringing lunch to work is another money saver. Simply use some of those meals you prepare at home and pack them for lunch. You could even use your leftovers from dinner as lunch for the next day.

10. Eliminate wants

This tip is a bit more philosophical than the others but totally worth considering. When you know the difference between material wants and needs, you’ll be in a better place to say “no” to purchases that don’t fit your financial goals.


For more ways to save money, check out 12 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Making More Money and  Shop Online Using Ebates and Get Free Cash Back


Find More Money For Your Emergency Fund by Making Money

11. Sell unwanted items

Unwanted items lying around your home are basically money waiting to be made. All you have to do is list them on eBay or Craigslist and sell them to someone who wants the items!

12. Host a yard sale

Do you have even more items that you want to get rid of? Consider hosting a yard sale to attract neighbors looking for a deal. It’s a two-for-one! You make some money while your neighbors get items at discounted prices.

13. Babysit

Do you know any parents who could need a helping hand with young children? Offer to babysit for a competitive hourly rate.

14. Pet sit

People tend to look for someone to watch after their pets when they go on long vacations. You could be one of those pet sitters! Just get the word out there that you’re available.

15. Start a freelancing side gig

There aren’t many people who don’t have a talent they could use to make money on the side. Whether it’s writing, graphic design, or photography – find your talent and set up a freelancing side gig!

16. Get a part-time job

If you are convinced that freelancing isn’t for you, then you can always get a traditional part-time job such as working as a cashier or bank teller.

17. Mystery shop

Mystery shopping is a fun way to make money because you get paid to do things like go out to eat or purchase cool items. Sign up for a few different agencies so that you always have opportunities. This post details a lot of free things you can score using mystery shopping, like free reading glasses and hotel stays so don’t sleep on it.

18. Flip items from thrift stores

Earlier I mentioned thrift shopping as a way to save money. It can also be a way to make money too! Simply buy low and sell high to make a profit.

19. House sit

Some people don’t like to leave their houses unattended when they go on extended trips. This is where you come in and make some money! All you have to do is stay at the house while the person is away and make sure everything is secure.

20. Use cash back grocery apps

Cash back grocery apps like Ibotta are basically giving you free money for things you would already purchase. Don’t pass that up!

21. Tutor

If you are really knowledgeable about a subject or have a specialized degree, considering tutoring students. Tutors are known for making high hourly rates.


For further reading on making more money, check out How To Make More Money



22. Use auto-deductions

The easiest way to save money is to stash it somewhere else before you even think about it.  The best strategy would be to open an online bank account and set up auto-deductions from your paycheck and have it put into this online (not easily accessible) account. Start with a small amount and keep increasing it as your budget allows. Or use a simple tool like Digit that will do it for you.

Learn more about Digit here!


23. Refinance high-interest loans

If you have a high-interest mortgage or auto rate and your credit is in decent shape, you could possibly reduce your overall payment and interest rate through refinancing your loan. We recently did this and we’re saving an additional $90 a month on our mortgage.

24. Ditch Cable

You can do this temporarily to help build up your emergency fund in no time!  Swap out your cable box for an Amazon Firestick and a digital antenna – then watch your entertainment costs decrease dramatically. Sign up for Hulu or Amazon Prime and watch television at your convenience.  Try Amazon Prime 30-Days During a Free Trial.



There you have it. 20+ ways to find cash for your emergency fund by saving money and making money. If you pick just a few items from this list, I’m sure you’ll be on your way to building that emergency fund in no time.


Which of these tips have you tried in the past? Which sound most interesting to you?



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Latoya Scott
CFEI/Social Entrepreneur
Latoya Scott is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and personal finance writer with a mission to help millennials learn how to stop living paycheck to paycheck so they can become financially carefree.

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  • Kemkem August 22, 2016 at 10:50 am

    I have definitely tried a bunch of these tips. My favorite was cooking at home. When the hubby and l decided to quit working regular jobs and travel, we hunkered down for years doing a lot of these. It paid off in the end, so to us it was worth the sacrifices.

  • Ashli @ The Million Dollar Mama August 22, 2016 at 11:20 am

    An emergency fund is so important to have – I honestly believe that before anything else (saving, investing etc) people should have an emergency fund set up. I really like the “never spend a $5 bill” idea. Online surveys can also be a good, easy way to make a bit of extra cash.
    Ashli @ The Million Dollar Mama recently posted…The Momtrepreneur Interview Series featuring Melissa Fryer (and a *GIVEAWAY!)My Profile

    • Latoya Scott August 22, 2016 at 8:26 pm

      Yes, taking surveys will definitely help you get started. It’s better than inaction!

  • Eva August 22, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    These are great tips – doable to! I’ll have to run through the list and see where I can save.
    Eva recently posted…4 Back to School Parenting Hacks for the Busy FamilyMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott August 22, 2016 at 8:26 pm

      Let me know how it goes!

  • Chonce August 22, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    These are all great ideas and I’ve tried a few of them in order to save. I shop at thrift stores when I need to, avoid dining out often, and bring my lunch to work and those efforts usually allows me to round up enough extra money to save each month.
    Chonce recently posted…Crucial Steps to Take Before Taking a Leap of Faith and Quitting Your JobMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott August 22, 2016 at 8:27 pm

      It’s amazing how much you can save by not eating out. It’s so expensive these days.

  • Stacie August 22, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    I like the idea of saving your change and saving the $5 bill. It’s a perfect way to to save and it adds up quickly.

  • Apathy Ends August 22, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Love the drinking water tip! I always give my coworkers crap when they buy drinks with their meals over lunch. it costs money, isn’t doing your health any favors and WE HAVE FREE POP/LACROIX AT WORK. So funny.

    • Latoya Scott August 22, 2016 at 8:28 pm

      Wow, that’s crazy! I would definitely take free over paying!

  • Kayvona August 22, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    I had been putting aside change and $1 bills but then I had an “emergency” lol I feel like finding a side gig is something I’ve really been wanting to do lately though!

    • Latoya Scott August 22, 2016 at 10:55 pm

      All that matters is that you were saving something. At least you had the money on hand which is better than not having it at all:)

  • Ty August 22, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    These are some great tips. I think that it’s important for everyone to have an emergency fund and if they don’t have one already, these are terrific tips to help them get started.

  • Sarah @ Couple of Sense August 22, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    I also like the tip of not spending $5 bills. In Canada we have $1 and$2 coins as well and I would try not to spend those either. Regardless of how you do it having cash in an emergency fund is super important! A line of credit just doesn’t cut it.
    Sarah @ Couple of Sense recently posted…A Penny Saved So They SayMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott August 22, 2016 at 10:56 pm

      Yeah, they can keep that line of credit, lol.

  • Preschool2teen August 22, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    I love Ibotta. I do tutor, lol. With my husband being in the Navy, I left my career in Logistics and started tutoring children from Navy families.
    Preschool2teen recently posted…Night Night, Farm by Amy Parker Free GiveawayMy Profile

  • Tia @ FinanciallyFitandFab August 23, 2016 at 12:17 am

    Great tips! I love all of the bonus tips as I have done them before. I am most proud of ditching cable, though. After having cable my entire life, it feels good to not pay that bill monthly!
    Tia @ FinanciallyFitandFab recently posted…10 Costs of Homeownership (that you haven’t considered)My Profile

  • Misha @ Money She Wrote August 23, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    I love all of these ideas. I’m starting to realize all the potential sales I could get from just looking through my things at home. And we switched from cable to a Firestick and antenna and refuse to go back. I can’t agree with you more. Thanks for sharing these creative tips with us!

    • Latoya Scott August 23, 2016 at 3:48 pm

      Isn’t the Firestick the best! I can’t imagine going back either. Eventually cable will be obsolete (or atleast I have my fingers crossed, lol)

  • Mimi Green August 23, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Some of these I can’t live without like cable. I also do a lot of the things you mentioned, this makes me feel better about myself. lol

    I bring lunch and breakfast to work. I’m pretty religious about doing so. Working in the city you can easily spend $40 a day on eating out.
    Mimi Green recently posted…What I Learned from Traveling AloneMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott August 23, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      Yes, it’s so easy to overspend while eating out.

  • KenyaRae August 23, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    These re great! We’ve done a number of these but definitely some others worth exploring.
    KenyaRae recently posted…4 Benefits of Coparenting to a Child Split Between HomesMy Profile

  • Tata August 23, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    This is a great article and every single thing on list is pracital. I do need to start auto deductions though, thanks for giving me that reminder.

    • Latoya Scott August 24, 2016 at 12:14 am

      You’re very welcome!

  • Christine @Moms 'N Charge® August 24, 2016 at 12:34 am

    These are not only great, but definitely practical. #10 is a challenge for me but I’m getting better at saying no to things just cause I can have them.
    Christine @Moms ‘N Charge® recently posted…Latched & Hooked: Best Crochet Hair For Easy Natural HairstylesMy Profile

  • Kirstin Fuller August 24, 2016 at 12:34 am

    All great ideas! I stopped eating lunch out everyday at work and on the weekends with family and friends. All those lunches and dinners add up. I’m going to give the mystery shopping a try!
    Kirstin Fuller recently posted…Pack This: Wellness Travel Kit!My Profile

    • Latoya Scott August 24, 2016 at 10:23 am

      Let me know how it goes!

  • VeePeeJay (Vashti) August 24, 2016 at 1:51 am

    This is an amazing list. We do a lot of the things on this list. We haven’t had cable in 10 years lol.

    • Latoya Scott August 24, 2016 at 10:23 am

      Yes, it’s been about 5 years with us!

  • Mr. S August 25, 2016 at 11:59 am

    You are doing an exceptional job with your blog. It is practical, entertaining and timely as many of us suffer from debt from credit cards to student loans. As I read this post, it reminded me of a post where I wrote about 3 Steps to clear credit card debt and I advise people to chose 1 thing they can live without so they can save money and reduce their debt.

    Your post does an excellent job of highlighting a lot of sacrifices that people can make such as consuming free tap water or dining out for lunch to avoid the premium associated with eating out for dinner in restaurants. Well done!

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