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starter emergency fund

Your Starter Emergency Fund

In this article I am going to explain the meaning of a starter emergency fund. I will also share how much I recommend you save in your starter emergency fund, and I will give ideas for how you can fund your starter emergency fund.

By creating a starter emergency fund,  you will be helping your family to stand on wonderfully firm financial footing!


Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily refer to this article on building your starter emergency fund later!


What Is a Starter Emergency Fund?

A starter emergency fund, or a baby emergency fund, is savings that you put in a separate savings account and that you don’t use for anything else besides a true emergency.

Of course people define emergency differently, but I consider an emergency something that is essential for you to get by. So if your car breaks and you have to have your car to get to work, that is an emergency. However, if you have a car and it breaks but your spouse also has a car and you can get to work for a few months by riding your bike and in the meantime save up the money to fix the car, then that is not an emergency.

The difference between a starter emergency fund and a full emergency fund is that you build up a starter emergency fund very quickly, and you save less money in your starter emergency fund than in your full emergency fund. Read the next section to learn how much I recommend you save in your starter emergency fund.

Learn how to build a fully funded emergency fund here.



    How Much Should You Have in a Starter Emergency Fund?

    I recommend that you save somewhere between $1,000 and one month’s worth of expenses in your starter emergency fund. Note that I mention one month’s worth of expenses—not one month’s worth of income. If your expenses currently exceed your income, then work on reversing that trend. 🙂

    But the starter emergency fund should be based on your monthly expenses, not your monthly income, and it should cover up to one month’s worth of expenses.

    If you feel comfortable with a $1,000 starter emergency fund, then go with that amount because you can save that up more quickly and because $1,000 will cover most financial setbacks you will have.

    Find awesome ideas for how to fund your starter emergency fund in the next section!

    How Can You Build Your Starter Emergency Fund as Quickly as Possible?

    Treat funding your starter emergency fund like an emergency! 🙂 That way, when you have a financial setback or emergency, you’ll have accomplished this goal quickly so that you’ll be prepared.

    There are two main ways you can build your starter emergency fund, and I recommend that you use both of them. 🙂

    The first is to work to reduce your expenses. Consider canceling your cable or satellite service, cancel subscriptions and memberships, save money eating out and slash your grocery spending, and do a spending freeze (no spend challenge) for a period of time.

    Here are some additional things you can do to reduce your expenses to save up your starter emergency fund as quickly as possible:

    • Lower your ongoing expenses. Turn up (or off) the air conditioner (to 78 or higher, for the most savings), lower the furnace (to 62 or below, for the most savings), and lower your cell phone bill,
    • Replace expensive hobbies with free or cheap ones. Tell the kids you’re on a mission to save money and that you might not be doing some of your regular activities as often for a while. Find tons of ideas here for free and cheap ways to have fun with your family.
    • Sell stuff around the house. Do you have electronics, appliances, toys, furnishings, or other items you’re no longer using or don’t need? Sell them on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or your local classifieds.
    • Cut other discretionary expenses. In addition to cutting your cable or satellite bill and eating out less, consider these options to save up your starter emergency fund (and then your full emergency fund) as quickly as possible: stay out of the movie theater, reduce or eliminate other paid-for entertainment for a time, cut back on your fun or spending money, cut your clothing budget, reduce your spending on your pet, reduce your Christmas spending and other gift giving, and cancel (or adapt) this year’s vacation plans.
    • Look into selling your car. If you really want to save money fast, look into selling your car (or cars) and replacing it with a less expensive car. This could fund not only your starter emergency fund but your full emergency fund, as well. And by selling a car with hefty payments, you could reduce your overall debt and to free up room in your monthly budget.
      Or if you don’t owe much (or anything) on your vehicle but can go from two cars down to one by selling one of them, then that’s another great option to help you save money fast. We’ve been a one-car family for most of our marriage, and it’s helped us to save a lot of money over the years in not only the purchase cost but in gas, maintenance, insurance, registration, and so on.
      Find more ideas for how to slash your transportation costs here. And learn how to never have a car payment again here.
    • Do what you can to reduce your housing expenses. Here are some ideas:
      • Find a cheaper place to rent. If you’re renting, shop around to see if you can find a less expensive place. You might check different neighborhoods or a nearby town.
      • Get a roommate. Find a roommate or housemate. Or two. Or more. 🙂
      • Rent out a room in your home to vacationers. Consider renting out a spare room or two in your home on Airbnb or Booking.com. Sign up here on Airbnb and get up to $55 to go toward your first stay!
      • And also find additional ways to save on your utility bills (<< more than 30 ideas in this article!).
      • For more than 30 ideas on how to cut your housing expenses, read this article.

    For more information on how to reduce your spending, see this article.

    The other way to quickly build your starter emergency fund is to make extra money.

    You could do overtime at work or get a second part-time job, or take on extra clients or work if you own your own business. You could start a side hustle such as starting a money-making blog. (Learn some of the best ways that bloggers can make incredible incomes, from $1,000 a month to $10,000+ a month!) You could rent out rooms in your home on Airbnb, as I mention above, or you could get a side gig driving for Lyft or Uber. You could sell stuff around your house that you don’t need.

    Here is a list of simple and fun ways to increase your income:

    • Start a money-making blog. Like I mention above, starting a blog can be a great way to earn extra money! And I admit that I put this idea first because blogging is my very favorite way to earn extra money! The potential to earn a significant income is definitely one of the reasons that I started this blog. If you love helping people and enjoy writing, being a blogger might be a great fit for you! In addition to great income potential (check out these amazing income reports of bloggers who make $10,000 to $100,000 or more per month!), there are many other benefits of being a blogger, such as being able to be your own boss and work on your own schedule.
      I have been blogging part time for a little over a year, and it took about 10 months before I was making a significant part-time income. Since that time, I have been making between $1,500 and $2,000 a month, and I expect that to grow as I continue to learn more about blogging and the different ways to make money blogging.
      One of the best things about blogging as a business is that it is such an inexpensive business to start. All you need is a computer, an internet connection, and a site and hosting service. You can literally start a blog for less than $5 a month! Learn how to start a money-making blog for cheap.
    • Do freelance work or coaching/consulting. If you work in a field that lends itself to doing freelance work, take advantage of that opportunity to earn extra income to pay toward your debt! I have been doing freelance writing and editing since before I graduated from college with my English degree and editing minor, and doing freelance work has not only helped me gain experience in other areas besides what I do for my full-time job but has also at times (when I wanted to give the time to it) brought in significant additional income.
      If you are a word nerd like me, consider making some extra money as a professional proofreader. My friend Caitlyn Pyle has an awesome course where she teaches people not only how to proofread but how to set up their proofreading business and get clients. Check out her course Proofread Anywhere here.
    • Get a (second) job. If one spouse is available to get a second job in the evenings or on Saturday, for example, then this is another great potential way to earn additional income. And if you are a one-income family, or if one of you works only part-time, you might want to consider reentering the workforce or going full-time temporarily in order to get out of debt more quickly. Though raises and promotions are awesome because you’re earning more money without necessarily having to spend any more time, you’ll generally make a lot more money by working at another job. (And of course, if you and your spouse both get a raise and a second job, then you take advantage of both methods of increasing your income. Yay!)
    • Start a side hustle. If you would rather earn money without working another regular job, there are a lot of things you can do to earn a little extra income. Some ideas include starting your own small business where you turn a hobby into a money-maker, being a virtual assistant, or driving for Uber or Lyft. Learn how to start a side hustle and find out about many side hustles that you can explore.
    • Ask for a raise or promotion. In all honesty, most people can make substantially make more money from the options above than from seeking a raise or promotion from their full-time or part-time job, but it is still a good way to increase you income.
      If it’s been a couple of years or more since you received a significant raise and you’ve been an exceptional employee at work, catalog your contributions and your accomplishments, and schedule a meeting with your boss to request a raise or a promotion. Focus on ways that you’ve earned the company money or saved them money. If you learn that a raise or promotion isn’t going to happen right away, ask what specific steps you can take in the next year or two to make it a reality. Read this article for more information on how to seek a raise or promotion.
    • Earn passive income. Some options for earning passive income are to create a product you have someone sell, write a book, create a money-making podcast or vlog, develop an online course, or participate in affiliate marketing. Read this article to learn more ideas for earning passive income.
    • Use money-saving apps like Ibotta and Rakuten (formerly Ebates). With rebate services such as Ibotta and Rakuten, you can earn money by shopping for things and at places where you would shop anyway.
      Ibotta is my favorite FREE grocery money-saving app. 
      I’ve been a member of Ibotta for years, and they are a fun and easy way to save money whenever you shop! With the free Ibotta app, you earn cash back on purchases you make every day from your favorite grocery and other stores such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Dollar Tree, Sam’s Club, Amazon, and many, many more! With the easy-to-use Ibotta app you can get cash back when you shop not only for groceries but also for clothing, home improvement supplies, travel services, and more!I can even use Ibotta at several of our smaller, local grocery stores, which I love!

      Signing up takes just a minute, and then you can start to save money whenever and wherever you shop, at physical stores and online! Sign up for your free Ibotta account here!

      With Rakuten, on the other hand, you generally buy items through their website to save up to 40 percent on purchases. It is primarily an online service. Because of this, you can actually sign up for and use both apps to save on purchases!
      Sign up for a free Rakuten account here, and sign up for a free Ibotta account here. You can literally sign up for both in just seconds and let the savings start stacking up.

    • Sell stuff on eBay or Amazon. If you have a good eye for a bargain, you can buy items at thrift stores or garage sales and sell them for a profit on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, or your local online classifieds.
    • Sell your clothes to consignment shops. If you’re like most people, you probably have more clothes than you need. So use them to bring in some quick cash!
    • Have a yard sale or garage sale (or sales!). Declutter and make money, all at the same time!

    For more ideas, check out this article on increasing your income.


    If you don’t have a starter emergency fund, treat getting one like an emergency! 🙂 Try to have your starter emergency fund funded in a month or less if you can by making extra money and reducing your spending.

    And then after you have your starter emergency fund and have paid off your nonmortgage debt, work to build your fully funded emergency fund of three to six months’ worth of expenses.


    How much do you feel is a good amount for your starter emergency fund? What ideas do you have for funding your starter emergency fund? Leave a comment below and let me know—I would love to hear your ideas!


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