How to Build an Emergency Fund By the End of Summer

Everyone needs an emergency fund to cover life's what-ifs. Without one, a sudden home repair, job loss, or health crisis could leave you facing debt and desperation.

It's often touted that a solid emergency fund should have at least six months' worth of daily living expenses in it — but the truth is that goal amount is relative to each individual's circumstances. If you have a mortgage and kids, you'll need a lot more in your emergency fund than, say, a 20-something entry-level professional who shares a rental with roommates.

If you don't yet have this safety fund, don't worry. You can build up the bucks in just 90 days.

Open a new savings account at a different bank

The problem with having your savings account attached to your checking account is that it's too easy to transfer money over when the latter runs low. This makes it hard to grow an emergency fund substantially. To avoid this temptation, open a new savings account at a bank different from the one where all your other accounts live (preferably while there's a promotion going on, like $XX free dollars when you open the account), so you can't easily access that money. Out of sight, out of mind works with very little effort in this case. (See also: 5-Minute Finance: Start an Emergency Fund)

Put away the plastic and cut out nonnecessities

One of the biggest deterrents to making progress on savings goals is having plastic in your pocket at all times. Nip the temptation in the bud by removing all credit cards from your wallet (except for maybe an emergency card — which should be used for emergencies only!), hiding them someplace secure in the house, and living on a cash-only budget for the summer months while you build your emergency fund.

While you're at it, cut the extra fat from your budget, including subscription services, excessive drinking and dining out, paid activities, and expensive travel. You can still do plenty of fun things in moderation, but you also should be looking for savings and discounts whenever you're indulging. This is an everyday habit I practice, and it'll start to come naturally to you as well once you see how much money you can save with very little effort. (See also: Are You Spending Too Much on "Normal" Expenses?)

Side hustle your way to big money

I'm a single, nearly-divorced guy with no dependents other than my dog. I own a media consulting business, which serves as my primary income, but I also work four separate side hustles regularly (plus a couple mini ones) because I want more for my life than to "just get by."

To make extra money for my emergency fund, I open my home up to vacationers via Airbnb, shop and deliver customers' grocery through Instacart, pick up and drop off passengers with Uber and Lyft, and sit people's pets with the help of Combined, the income I earn from these gigs — which fit perfectly into my schedule — averages out to about $60,000 annually, about half of which I make during the summer months due to travelers and vacationers. By itself, that's a decent full salary for anyone to live off, but if you manage your time and money well enough, it can exist solely as your savings. (See also: 9 Summer Side Gigs for Grown-Ups)

Search your insurance policies for savings

Whenever I'm searching for extra savings, one of the first places I look is my monthly bills. Maybe there's an error I missed, or maybe there's a way I can manipulate the service I'm paying for in a way that will keep more cash in my pocket. Like my insurance policies, for instance.

Dan Green of personal finance site Growella suggests examining these policies for deductibles, specifically your auto and renters' policies.

"If you have $1,000 saved, raise your deductibles to $1,000," he advises. "This will get you an immediate discount on your bills, which you can use to boost your savings."

Set aside any cash you receive

I often receive cash tips during my Instacart shifts and sometimes on Uber and Lyft runs, and every dollar of that goes into an envelope at the end of the day. In fact, since January I've saved over $600 in cash tips alone. But I also stash away any other cash I receive; like for my birthday or holidays; lottery winnings; store refunds; yard sales; friends paying me back; and competition winnings, like the end-of-year payout from my bowling league. It adds up pretty quickly if you're consistently sending all cash you receive to your emergency fund.

Set up an automatic monthly transfer

Building an emergency fund in just 90 days is a tall order, but you'll make bounds toward that goal by setting up automatic weekly or biweekly transfers — essentially a direct deposit from you to you — scheduled for the days you get paid.

"If you start with $25, that's $100 per month, or $300 by the end of the summer," says certified financial planner Tony Drake, CEO and founder of Drake & Associates in Waukesha, Wisconsin, but I recommend going bigger than that if you can reasonably afford it — maybe $50 a week — to hit the ground running on June 1.

Earmark your seasonal job paycheck for your emergency fund

If you're taking on a seasonal job for "extra" money, send most of it (at least 75 percent) to your emergency fund. Have fun with the rest; it is summer, after all.

Shop in-season foods while eating lighter and less

My grocery bills drop dramatically in the summer because I eat less — hot weather suppresses my appetite — but I also try to stick to the cheapest and healthiest in-season foods at the supermarket. I also take advantage of free food opportunities, like happy hours that offer free snacks; parties and get-togethers at friends' houses; art gallery receptions and other free food-available events; and my local garden, which offers free produce to residents. Whatever you would have spent that day by swapping in these alternatives, send that amount to your emergency fund. (See also: 5 Offseason Foods That Are Destroying Your Grocery Budget)

Turn saving into a competition with someone you know

I'm nothing if not competitive, and I'm always up for a challenge. If that sounds like you, raise the stakes by inviting someone to participate in a savings race with you. First one to $X, 000 wins.

Renegotiate your cellphone, cable, and internet contracts

I call my providers once a year to see if there are any new discounts or promotions for which I qualify. I generally have luck across the board since cell, cable, and internet plans are in constant flux. Most recently I took advantage of the partnership Uber has with AT&T, and I'm currently saving 22 percent off my monthly bill. Whatever you manage to shave off can go directly into your growing emergency fund.

Gather your junk and sell it

Spend a Saturday going through your house to identify anything you don't need anymore. Plan a yard sale or use online resources like Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Craigslist, and LetGo to get rid of what you don't need for extra money toward your fund. I do this at least twice a year and I routinely make a few hundred dollars on unwanted furniture, old electronics, and more. I've also started selling my used, good-condition clothing on, which has so far netted me $483. (See also: 12 Garage Sale Items That Sell Like Hotcakes)

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