Less than a decade after the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression, frighteningly few Americans have even $1,000 available to cover an emergency expense. In fact, according to Bankrate.com nearly a third of us have no emergency fund at all, and another twenty percent don’t have much. Only a tick over twenty percent of us say they have enough in the bank to cover three months’ worth of expenses. Interestingly, that lack of emergency svaings cuts across generational and even economic lines. Your neighbors boasting six-figure incomes are doing only slightly better when it comes to putting aside cash for emergencies.
Everyone I’ve ever talked to who doesn’t have an emergency fund agrees that they need one. The guilt of that admission is plainly visible on their face, and it’s usually quickly followed by a parade of excuses about why they haven’t gotten the money together. The majority plead poverty, but in one-on-one discussions it’s clear they make enough money; the biggest culprit is overspending. What follows are five relatively painless ways to cut spending that will allow you to save $1,000 a year. In just twelve months, you can have $3,000 to $5,000 in emergency money.
Bag Your Lunch
Eating out is a big financial killer. Going out to lunch with your coworkers doesn’t feel like eating out, but the costs are staggering. Spending just $10 a day, which doesn’t get you much lunch, comes to at least $200 a month or $2,400 a year. Most people spend even more. For some of you going out to lunch is necessary to stay on the right side of office politics. That’s fine, but cut it down to two days a week and put the difference in savings. At the end of the year you’ll have more money and probably weigh less as a bonus.
Fintech is a short way of saying Financial Technology and there are apps that help automate savings. Back in the day I would round the amounts in my checkbook up to the nearest $5. After a few months of doing that I had hundreds of dollars extra in my checking account. Not many people still write checks, but those who do inevitably end up in front of me in the checkout line at Costco. For those of you living in the modern world there are apps like Acorns that link to your debit card and do the rounding and investing for you. It’s painless and mostly invisible.
Cancel Your Gym Membership
When the weather is nice you work out outdoors anyway and a quick search of Letgo found a wide assortment of used folding treadmills for under $200 for rainy days. Barbells are cheap, as is an incline bench. That will save you $300 a year on the low end and more at the expensive clubs. And since your garage or workout room is much handier, you might actually work out more.
Cut the Cable Cord
Internet and Netflix should run less than $60 a month, compared to the average cable bill which is $99 a month. Just that change and you’re more than halfway to your emergency fund in just twelve short months. Since many of us have cable bills that run even higher than average, that puts you in the $1,000 a year ballpark.
The average family wastes between $1,300 and $2,500 a year on spoiled food. Confusion of expiration dates and poor planning end up costing people big at the grocery store. Meal planning and efficient use of your freezer space alone can put you over the top on your emergency fund in just a few months. Websites like SuperCook let you enter the ingredients you have in the refrigerator and then suggests recipes based on what you have on hand.
Most of these are fairly painless ways to save a $1,000 in just a year. Try more than one and, by the end of twelve months, you’ll have a pretty healthy emergency fund—and eliminate a source of anxiety from your life. Priceless…