24 Creative Ways to Build Your Emergency Fund

A well-funded emergency fund is one of the most essential safety nets in your quest for financial freedom. Whether you want to retire early or seek financial security, an emergency fund is one of the most overlooked aspects of a person’s financial outlook. An emergency fund is precisely what it sounds like – A bank account you use only in case of an emergency. Today, we’re examining some creative ways to build your emergency fund so you’ll be prepared for anything.

1. Cash In Your Spare Change

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Spare change is everywhere, from winter coat pockets to car cupholders and everywhere in between. While still technically “money,” spare change doesn’t get much attention because people don’t know how to put it to good use. Fortunately, collecting loose change and using it to jumpstart your emergency fund is an economically friendly way to set yourself up for the future.

2. Get Competitive

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As someone who’s competitive with family and friends, I can attest that utilizing your competitive side is one of the most straightforward ways to build your emergency fund. Everything’s easier when you make a game out of it. Challenge your closest friends to see how much money you can add to your emergency fund in a set amount of time, and reward the victor. The desire to beat your loved ones in good, old-fashioned competition will do wonders for your emergency fund.

3. Set Up Recurring Transfers

Recurring transfers are all about “setting it and forgetting it.” It feels suspiciously like having a genuine passive revenue stream because it happens without you lifting a finger. Set up recurring transfers to your emergency fund every time you get paid or receive a large deposit to your primary checking account, and thank me later.

4. Have a Family Contest

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There’s serious money to be saved (and ultimately transferred into an emergency fund) if you have kids who like to be a part of what mom and dad are up to at all times. Many people admit that having a family contest on who can come up with the most creative (and cheapest) dinners is not only a crowd-pleaser but a great way to save much-needed cash. Prepare yourself for peanut butter and jelly grilled cheese sandwiches in the short term and financial freedom in the long term.

5. Use a “Tip-Yourself” App

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Numerous smartphone apps make it straightforward to start an emergency fund regardless of income level. I advise you to use an app that “rounds up” every purchase to the nearest whole dollar and places the difference in a separate account. This ingenious strategy will get you well on your way to financial success in no time, and you’ll barely notice the trickle of money being transferred.

6. Pay Yourself When You Do Chores

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I’m a perennially lazy person. For me, doing chores is hard enough, and the only thing that makes me do them is the neverending threat of my girlfriend noticing my laziness and yelling at me. Countless like-minded people admit they pay themselves when they do chores around the house and then deposit that money directly into their emergency funds. A few dollars here and there can make a significant difference.

7. Cut Out Streaming Services

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Over the past decade, streaming services for every television network, movie studio, and news station have popped up en masse. While the prices of these services were affordable a few years ago, price hikes have made them all borderline unaffordable in 2024. Imagine how much money you can contribute to an emergency fund if you cut a few of these services out of your life. I’ll bet you’d find a few $5/month services you’re subscribed to that you completely forgot about.

8. Have a Yard Sale

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Sometimes, the best way to raise money for an emergency fund is to roll up your sleeves, take stock of what you have around the house, and have an old-fashioned garage sale. Even in 2024, garage sales are everywhere, and it’s an unbeatable opportunity to turn things you never use (or even forgot you owned) into cold, hard cash. Remember, every little bit counts.

9. Sell Unwanted Goods Online

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Speaking of unwanted goods, if you want to avoid the garage sale route, take advantage of today’s many online marketplaces. Services like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and other platforms are invaluable resources for turning things you don’t want into money you need. There’s no shame in flipping old items for cash.

10. Go Treasure Hunting

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If you don’t have items of value lying around your house to sell to the unsuspecting masses, don’t panic. In that case, it may be time for some treasure hunting. Flip the script: Go to garage and estate sales, searching for items you know you can sell for a profit. The process is hard work, but in the end, your emergency fund will be adequately funded (and that’s all that matters).

11. Downgrade Your Smartphone

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Contrary to popular belief, nobody’s forcing you to meticulously upgrade your smartphone every year or two. Advancements in smartphone technology over the past few years have been lackluster, to say the least. One of the easiest ways to build your emergency fund is to downgrade your smartphone. Using websites like Swappa, you can trade your current phone for a previous-generation model, and then you can use the money you made in the best way possible.

12. Downsize Your Vehicle

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Your smartphone isn’t the only thing that you can afford to downgrade. Millions of Americans spend money they don’t have so they can drive new cars. Imagine how much money you’d have for an emergency fund if you downsized your current expensive vehicle into something more practical (and affordable). Ask yourself, “Is this specific car something I need?”

13. Cut Out Adult Beverages

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Are you ready for a shock? According to recent studies, the average American spends a jaw-dropping $583 per year on alcohol. Therefore, if you cut the adult beverages out of your life, you could contribute nearly $50 a month toward your emergency fund. For the record, I drink much more than $583 per year in alcohol, so something tells me the above-cited study might be underestimating actual consumption.

14. Stop Eating Out

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If you’ve ever searched online for ways to save money, you’ll encounter this advice repeatedly: Stop eating out so much. Unsurprisingly, this tip applies to building an emergency fund. I know a fantastic home chef is lying dormant inside you. Start impressing your friends and family with excellent home-cooked meals, then use the money you saved to put toward your emergency fund.

15. Get Your Recycling On

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Collecting recyclables is a great way to make a few extra dollars and help the recycling cause simultaneously. Gathering empty glass bottles and aluminum cans can earn a surprising amount of money for any enterprising person who wants to take the initiative. As one of the most overlooked methods of making money, you can’t discount any method that grows your emergency fund.

16. Make an ATM Run

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Sometimes, funding an emergency fund is more about discipline than creativity. Many people suggest going to your nearest ATM, withdrawing $20 (or whatever amount you’re comfortable with), and immediately depositing it into an emergency fund. The process of physically withdrawing and depositing cash makes everything seem more definitive, which helps because the process is all about maintaining a different state of mind than you’re used to.

17. Utilize Every Physical Dollar Bill

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Leave no dollar bill behind. If you stumble upon, find, or possess physical dollar bills (regardless of denomination), deposit those bad boys into your emergency fund immediately. Sure, it sounds mundane, but eventually, you’ll become irrationally excited whenever you spot a dollar bill because you know it’s all leading up to a generously funded emergency account.

18. Skip One Vacation

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Hear me out before steam starts coming out of your ears for even thinking of not going on your yearly vacation. A week’s vacation cost could mean the difference between successfully navigating an emergency and falling into total financial despair. Thousands of dollars go a long way, no matter how you look at it. Sacrificing one singular vacation for the greater good is one of the best decisions you can make.

19. Donate Plasma

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Donating blood is so 2023. In 2024, all the cool kids are donating plasma instead. Okay, that may be a bit of hyperbole. However, plasma donations are still an exceedingly overlooked method of generating cash that can be applied to an emergency fund. If you’re healthy, you can donate plasma multiple times per year with no long-term detrimental effects to your body. Why not, right?

20. Stash Your Credit Card Rewards

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Credit card rewards are incredibly valuable, no matter how you redeem them. However, when pumping up your emergency fund, only one strategy comes to mind: Stash them and use them all at once. Being rewarded for everyday spending, only to hoard those rewards for one shining moment when you unload them into your emergency fund, is a beautiful moment in financial success.

21. Take Advantage of Paid-off Bills

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Too many people approach paid-off bills as “out of sight, out of mind.” In reality, one of the best ways to adequately fund an emergency fund is to keep “paying” bills already paid off by transferring that amount to your emergency fund. Paying off a bill is like obtaining a new income source, so don’t squander it.

22. Work Out at Home

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Gym memberships are some of the most underutilized recurring monthly subscriptions out there. If you don’t take advantage of your membership, it’s time to cut ties and move on. The money you save by canceling a gym membership can immediately be added to an emergency fund, and you can make up for a lack of physical gym by working out at home. Fortunately, there are plenty of free YouTube workout videos floating around.

23. Ask for a Raise or Promotion

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If you’ve been feeling underpaid lately, you should ask your boss for a long-overdue raise. Asking for a promotion or bonus is one of the most straightforward ways to generate money you can eventually transfer to your emergency fund, so don’t overlook it. Keep one thing in mind, however: Don’t change how you live. Keep your day-to-day routine the same without adding new expenses to ensure your emergency fund gets a healthy cash boost.

24. Get a Side Hustle

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In 2024, it seems there are more money-making opportunities for the average person than ever before. Side hustles are all the rage; you’re leaving money on the table if you’re not taking advantage of them. The possibilities are endless. If you have writing, design, management, or even lawn-mowing skills, you can earn another source of income that can be applied to an emergency fund. You owe it to yourself to make it happen.

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Living from paycheck to paycheck puts one in a dangerous financial bind. It’s more prevalent than you can imagine. According to a survey by CNBC, more than half of all Americans (58%) live paycheck to paycheck. When money is tight, it’s crucial to pinpoint and cut out wasteful expenditures that eat away at your hard-earned savings.

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Making minor adjustments to your spending behavior can lead to substantial savings in the long run. However, it’s crucial to identify which habits genuinely contribute to these savings and which do not. One user inquired about the most effective money-saving practice, prompting the compilation of a list featuring the top 17 choices. These habits have proven to be instrumental in helping individuals accumulate significant savings over time.

17 Sneaky Money-Saving Hacks You Can’t Afford to Miss

Author: Chris Phelan

Title: Journalist

Bio:

Chris Phelan is an American culture writer, frequently dabbling in the travel, finance, and entertainment fields. He currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina where he is constantly amazed at the number of black bears wandering down his street on any given day. 

His work can be seen on Wealth of Geeks, NBC, Bravo, USA Network, Yahoo, and countless other online publications.