This post may contain affiliate links.
In November 2016, my father passed away. It wasn’t unexpected as his health was rapidly deteriorating earlier that year, but the last months of his life came with a financial burden my family and I weren’t prepared for. On top of some medical bills and palliative care costs, we had to come up with money for the funeral.
What really sucks, I realized, is that sometimes when you are truly in need of money, money becomes harder to find. The many people that I had hoped to help me during those times of need turned me down, and because I was on maternity leave from freelance writing ( I was 8 months pregnant at that time), it was difficult for me to come up even with $500 to pay a medical bill.
The most painful part of all is that because I didn’t have funds for a trip that would cost me at least $2000 in plane tickets and I couldn’t board a plane as I was almost due to deliver my baby, I couldn’t go home. So, I was left with no choice but to watch my father’s funeral through a video call from the other side of the world. I was full of remorse, and I still am, that I couldn’t be there by his side during the last days of his life, and that I could not afford the best medical services to lessen his suffering while he was still alive. Only because I didn’t prepare for such a situation.
Luckily, a good and loving relative let us borrow her transferable life insurance to cover most of the funeral costs. Without it, I honestly wouldn’t know where to go. My husband had already helped me with some of the costs and I couldn’t put all my family burden on him. Then, I didn’t have a credit score or credit history, so using a credit card was not an option for me.
I am telling you this because there are valuable lessons I’ve learned from this experience. And that I am hoping that you will learn something from it without having to go through such hardships.
Lesson # 1: Having an Emergency Fund is a must.
Emergencies can happen anytime. A storm could blow your roof off after you’ve depleted your savings for a lavish wedding. Your car could break down on the day you got fired. And there are even worse scenarios, such as death of a family.
An emergency fund is your financial cushion that you can access anytime in case something goes wrong so you don’t have to scramble for funds like I did, and you can survive during financial calamities.
While there are a number of financing solutions you can turn to for quick financial relief, your emergency fund should be your first line of defense. This is true for several reasons. For one, you can use these funds without the added cost of interest. Second, you can use it any way and any time you want without the hassles of paperwork or having to find a co-signer or risk a valuable property on a loan.
Lesson #2: Having a good credit score can be a life saver, too.
I am the type of person who abhors and is scared of having debts. I don’t want to lose sleep over a payment due date or the thought of compounding interest, thus I never bothered to build my credit score.
However, I learned from my experience with my father’s passing that having a good credit score, or having a credit card for that matter, could also be a life saver. And while borrowing usually comes with a cost, there are also ways to lower or totally avoid the fees. So, I made it one of my goals for this year to finally build my credit score.
Lesson #3: You can’t count on anyone else but YOURSELF during a personal emergency.
You don’t have anybody else responsible for your own emergency but yourself. We can’t expect our friends (even relatives) to save us from our life problems, because they do have their own as well. So, have your own safety net in the form of an emergency fund to save yourself when untoward situations happen.
Saving for an Emergency Fund
There is no right or wrong way to saving for an emergency fund. But it is recommended that you save 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses. If you have debts, having at least $1000 emergency fund is a good start. No matter how much your savings goal is, below are effective steps to saving money for the rainy days.
Step 1: Set a budget for it.
The budget is one of the very important tools you’ll ever have in managing your money. Without a budget, it’s easy to spend your income indiscriminately. With that said, it’s also easy to not save. It is best to consider saving as another form of expense. Think of it as a debt (to yourself) and you need to make it a priority each time you have money.
Step 2: Pay yourself first.
The concept of paying yourself first is simple: you simply allocate a portion of your paycheck towards your own personal savings before anything else. Therefore, you need to pay yourself 1%, 5%, 10% or whatever savings rate you see fit before you pay the government, your insurance company and even your luxuries. With the saving already carefully stashed, you can then allocate the rest of your income towards your other expenses.
Step 3: Automate it.
In the world of advanced technology, you can basically put most financial transactions on autopilot. When paying yourself first, take advantage of automation. It will be easier to pay yourself first if the money’s gone and already tucked away before you even see it. This also helps eliminate the temptation of touching that amount and spending it elsewhere. Out of sight, out of mind.
I personally recommend saving your emergency fund in a Discover Savings account because it has high APY. If you are fortunate enough to not have to deal with an emergency in a year, your savings will earn a 1.40% APY.
Step 4: Cut down on expenses/ find ways to save money.
Most people do not realize they have enough spare cash for an emergency fund. Keep in mind that it is not how much money you make, it’s how much you spend that determines your financial future. This is why it is important to cut costs and put it in your emergency fund instead.
Since starting this financial journey, I’ve learned so many amazing ways to save money, including using of cashback apps/websites. Most of these websites give you a welcome bonus of $10 for just joining. Click on this article 100+ Smart Ways to Save Money as a Stay-at-Home Mom for my ultimate guide to saving money groceries, utility, shopping, self-care and more.
If you don’t have an emergency fund, don’t make saving for it harder than it should be. You don’t have to have a big income to be able to save money. Just start somewhere and do baby steps at a time. The little savings you make by making simple lifestyle changes will easily add up and eventually grow into a valuable amount that can save your life in the future.
Do you have an emergency fund? If not, what are some obstacles keeping you from starting one?