Budget Savings

4 Easy Realistic Ways to Start an Emergency Fund

October 24, 2015
If you need quick, easy, realistic ways to build your emergency fund, here are 4 ideas to help you get started saving today!
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If you’ve found yourself here reading this, that means you’ve been scouring the web for advice on starting an emergency fund that doesn’t involve shaving your head, bleeding into a tube, or roller skating around your neighborhood in your birthday suit.

I understand because I was once in your shoes.  You can’t even grasp the idea of how much you need to save in your emergency fund, yet alone, how to actually come up with the money when the budget already seems so tight.

Fret not my friends.  You’ve come to the right place, because for once, you’re not going to read about the weirdest ways to come up with emergency funds.  You’re going to get a few realistic tips that will have you sitting on at least $1,000 in no time.

I began saving for an emergency fund with an initial goal of $1,000.  Once I met that goal, I decided to increase my goal to $3,500.  I believe $3,500 is a great stopping point for our family situation and would allow us to concentrate on feverishly paying down off our debt until we’re in a place to save up 6 to 12 months for emergencies.


If you need quick, easy, realistic ways to build your emergency fund, here are 4 ideas to help you get started saving today!


Here are the simple ways I went from $0 to over $2,000 in a year’s timeframe:


1. Use your tax refund.

If you’re okay with loaning money to Uncle Sam every year, might as well make good use of the bit he decides to give back to you every tax season.  This is the EASIEST way to drop a nice little sum into your emergency fund!

You don’t need a television.  You don’t need to buy a new wardrobe.  Your refrigerator may be an ugly eyesore, but if it still keeps your food fresh, you don’t have to buy another one (I’m totally talking about myself and my ugly fridge).

Unless there is an urgent need (water heater explosion, etc), put that money into your emergency fund.  We did this in 2013 and it’s been our emergency fund ever since!


2. Limit the frequency of grocery shopping trips for several months.

This is something new I’m trying, but I believe it will help me get to the $3,500 threshold in no time.

If you go grocery shopping every week, try extending it a few days out.  For example, if you went this past Monday, see how far you can stretch things until the following Wednesday.  I’ve discovered many times we still have fresh items and things in our pantry that we can use those few extra days.

Unless it’s a dire emergency like an infant running out of milk, eat EVERYTHING you brought your prior shopping trip before heading back to the grocery store.

Anything you save during each pay period of experimenting with this idea could be added to your emergency fund.

Also, boost your grocery savings using this free savings app called Ibotta. All you do is select the grocery store you’re shopping in, then you select rebates for things like bread, milk, and household items.

After your shopping trip is complete, you verify your purchases by submitting the receipt. Your cash back will be deposited within 1 to 2 business days. Sign up for Ibotta here and get a free $10 bonus for signing up!


Further Reading: Reader Question: How Can I Be More Frugal and Increase Savings?


3. Increase your income.

Now sorry guys, I know you’ve probably read this on every single personal finance blog out there, but this is one you can’t get around.  If you have free time on your hand, monetize it!

A couple of months working a part-time job will help you reach $1,000 in no time.  If you can work part-time for an extra 6 months, you’re really making headway.

If you’re like me and have kids at home, maybe getting a part-time job isn’t feasible.  Heck, we can’t even afford to pay daycare for our baby boy (working from home makes life a lot easier on this end), so I know paying for care just to work a part-time job is out of the question.

However, this hasn’t stopped me from pursuing side hustling.  If there is a website I can write for, I’ll do it.  If someone needs me to test their website?  I’ll do it.  Online hustling is very viable and doable for those of you who have kiddos at home. I have an extensive collection of articles about side hustling that you can check out here.


Join the FREE 5-Day E-course on How to Start a Blog. You’ll learn everything you need to know to get your own blog up and running, some tips and tricks that have helped me start earning an income, and more. Sign up for the How to Start a Blog E-Course today!

4. Take surveys to replace a budgeted expense.

Y’all, this one is my favorite.

I’ve been a survey taker for years!  I’ll cash in those points for gift cards and cash in a minute.  Many companies offer Amazon, Walgreens, and CVS gift cards.  I use this money to replace a small category that I would normally include in our budget, like toiletries.

I budget $40 per month for this expense.  I use any cash made taking surveys for these expenses.  Now that I have an extra $40 sitting in my account, I can put it towards my emergency fund savings.

If you know how to play the drugstore game, you can get many of your toiletries for rock bottom prices and have money left over for gifts.

Is that another budget expense?

Yep, and there you go…this strategy can help ease the burden of several different expenses.

To learn more about the drugstore game, visit Money Saving Mom.  I learned everything I know about it from this website.

Also, a few of the survey sites that I use are Pinecone Research (pays $3 for every survey, except household surveys), Harris Poll Online,  Vindale Research, Opinion Outpost, and American Consumer Panel.  Also, don’t sleep on Swagbucks either.


There you have it!  I just dropped four realistic things you can do to help build up your emergency fund.  Now if you want to shave your head, bleed in a tube, or roller skate throughout the neighborhood naked, that’s up to you.  Do what you gotta do!

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, A Disease Called Debt*

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Latoya Scott
Latoya is a writer for hire who loves talking about budgets and money. Her mission includes paying off $79,000 in student loans and aspiring other millennials to hustle their way towards financial freedom. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, Rockstar Finance, and My Fab Finance.

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  • Reply Hayley @ Disease Called Debt October 25, 2015 at 9:27 am

    These are good tips, sometimes it’s hard just getting started or finding the time to make that extra money for your emergency fund, but it’s crucial to do so to get that financial safety net up and running!

    • Reply Latoya S October 26, 2015 at 12:40 am

      I agree, this one is a tough one. My main motivator is knowing that it will only get tougher if I don’t get my account funded to a level I’m comfortable with.

  • Reply Mel @ brokeGIRLrich October 25, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    You can make money rollerskating naked? …it never hurts to know your options. ;o)

    I love the idea of replacing expenses with side hustles. Another good one to cover a smaller budget line item, if you live in a big city, is mystery shopping.

    • Reply Latoya S October 26, 2015 at 12:41 am

      Ha! I’m sure someone would pay to see it, lol. Mystery shopping is another great option. Something I’m getting back in the hang of, so I will definitely follow up if it’s enough to help me meet my $3500 mark:)

  • Reply trenara December 21, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    Greatttt article. I am always working on increasing different avenues for finances and these are great thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Tiffani December 22, 2016 at 1:54 am

    Lawd knows I need this because I have been in and out of there a lot this year more than normal. I will have to try tip #4 out. I hear that can be pretty helpful.

  • Reply LaShon Renee December 22, 2016 at 2:44 am

    These are great tips. This week I’m working on not eating out. Since my work includes being in my car a lot it’s easy just to stop and buy something real quick.

    • Reply Latoya Scott December 22, 2016 at 10:37 pm

      Yeah, I can see where that would get tricky. Maybe try meal prepping?

  • Reply Danika December 22, 2016 at 4:45 am

    Times are truly hard and I’m looking for ways to maximize my funds. I’m bookmarking this blog. Thank you.

  • Reply Danika December 22, 2016 at 4:46 am

    Times are truly hard and I’m looking for ways to maximize my funds. I’m bookmarking this blog. Thank you.

  • Reply Tomiko December 22, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Grocery store is where I fall short. I’m trying to learn how to coupon but it’s a slow process. I spend on average 400 a week in the grocery store
    Tomiko recently posted…Stop Wasting Time and Make EggnogMy Profile

  • Reply Kim December 22, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    These are all great ideas. My issue is not taking a list to the grocery store and not shopping sales the way I should. If I did, this would make a great impact. Oh, and those fast food stops. I’ll try to do better in 2017.

    • Reply Latoya Scott December 22, 2016 at 10:36 pm

      Yes, when I don’t have a list, I straight up spend money like I got it to blow!

  • Reply Joanna December 22, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Never thought about taking surveys. I agree with saving the tax refund. Great tips as always
    Joanna recently posted…5 Tips For Visiting Temples in Thailand My Profile

  • Reply Ty December 22, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    These are great tips. I am going to try limiting my trips to the grocery store. I am there sometimes 3 times a week. This will help tremendously.
    Ty recently posted…20 Things To Do When You’re Single For The HolidaysMy Profile

    • Reply Latoya Scott December 22, 2016 at 10:35 pm

      Yeah that grocery store seems to be a pitfall for a lot of folks, including me.

  • Reply Joyce Brewer December 24, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    I get rebates on my grocery and drug store items with the iBotta app too. That helps save $10-$20 every month.
    Joyce Brewer recently posted…I Had Best and Worst of My Life at the Same Time #DriFitDiaries #ADMy Profile

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