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10 ways to jumpstart your emergency fund this month

If you read my post about the importance of an emergency fund, you might have felt inspired to start one.

But you might also be feeling like getting several month’s worth of expenses in your account is impossible when you’re just scraping by as it is.


10 ways to jumpstart your emergency fund

So, I’d advise you to just focus on getting started.   Work toward your first hundred, then your second hundred, and keep going after that!

To get you started, here are a few ways you could find some extra money to put into your fund this month.

(Most of these ideas are not sustainable over the long term. But you can do anything for a little while, and trust me, the joy of having an emergency fund is worth a little short-term pain.)

1. Eat from your freezer/pantry for a week or a month.

(depending on how big your freezer and pantry are!)

fg freezer
Make a list of the food you have and plan your meals with that list in hand.

Feel free to buy extra ingredients as needed (this way your meals will be way more palatable!), but try to mainly focus on the food you already have.

2. Sell your stuff.

Most people have unwanted items in their houses that could be valuable to someone else.   Look around to see what you could sell on eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook marketplace.

The listings are pretty quick to set up, especially if you have a smartphone with a camera, so give it try and see if you can offload some of your stuff.

3. Go on an eating-out fast for a month.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: eating out is crazy expensive compared to eating at home.

So if you want to pad your emergency fund, get your food from the grocery store instead of a restaurant.   See if you can go cold turkey for a month, and then put the extra savings in your emergency fund.

4. Look at your “fixed” expenses and see what can go.

Take a fresh look at the bills that come up every month and see if you can trim any of those.

Could you

  • cut cable, or simplify the package you pay for?
  • switch your cell phone service to Ting?
  • switch your home phone to Ooma?
  • shop around for car insurance rates?

Question it all!

And when you reduce or eliminate a bill, funnel that monthly money into your emergency fund.

5. This month, borrow, barter, or rent instead of buying.

When a need comes up this month, stop before you go out and buy something.   Could you borrow it instead?   Barter with a friend?   Rent it instead of buying it?

Could you ask for it on Freecycle, or in your friend group?   Putting the word out is surprisingly effective!

6. Buy only second-hand for a month.

Things like food and gas excluded, obviously!

goodwill dishes

Some serving dishes I got from Goodwill. Love these!

Use craigslist, consignment stores, eBay, ThredUp, NextDoor, and so on.   There are tons of second-hand options out there.

7. Offer your skills for pay.

Can you babysit? Copy-edit? Do yard work? Clean/organize/declutter?

craft desk decluttering

If you have a skill that someone will pay for, see if you can get yourself a few hours of side work this month, and then put that money into your emergency fund.

Or, if you work an hourly job, take any overtime that comes your way this month.

8. Drive as little as possible for a month.

Calculate how much you normally pay for gas, then spend this month driving as little as you can.

(Batch errands, stay home, carpool, walk!)

view out the car window in a neighborhood


At the end of the month, figure out how much you saved on gas, and send it on over to your emergency fund.

9. Have a free-only entertainment month.

Find free concerts, check out movies from the library (or borrow from a friend), play board games with friends, play video games you already own, visit free parks in your area, cook a meal with a friend…whatever it is you like to do, find a free version of it this month.

And put the savings in your fund!

10. Keep a change jar.

Throw all your extra change in there and deposit the money in your fund at the end of the month.

(Clean in between your couch cushions/under the couch for bonus coins!)

Incidentally, I know it’s not the beginning of the month right now.

But today is as good a day as any to start working on your emergency fund.   Start now and make your month go from May 21st-June 21st.

Your emergency fund won’t care if your month of focused saving includes two pages on your calendar. 😉

Go jumpstart your emergency fund now!

If you’ve given your emergency fund a jumpstart before, I’d love to hear how you did it.

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Katy in Africa

Monday 8th of May 2023

Thanks for these great ideas! I love this kind of post!


Monday 8th of May 2023

Of all the things that bring me joy, I think my emegency fund is not even on the list. Ha.


Monday 8th of May 2023

I have a question for Kristen and everyone, how do you post on ebay and avoid fees? The few times I have tried I seem to have lost money after the fees...or if no one buys the item. Especially if they are lower dollar items. Thanks!


Monday 8th of May 2023

@Jackie, You can't avoid fees at any auction site. (Brick and mortar auctions, at which I often buy, now often have 30% buyers' and sellers' premiums, sigh.)


Monday 8th of May 2023

I pretty much never do auctions; I always list my stuff as Buy It Now and I just leave it up until it sells. And I only list stuff that I am reasonably sure will sell; I check the completed listings for something before I list my own, so I can see what something ACTUALLY sells for.


Monday 8th of May 2023

I have a side of beef coming in July...3 months early. I am going to use a couple of your ideas to help get the rest of the money together.


Sunday 7th of May 2023

Some more ideas:

1. Make laundry detergent. It uses washing soda, borax, and powdered soap.

2. If you can be responsible with a credit card: pick a fee-free card that gives cash back, funnel all your charges through it, pay it off every month, and use the cash back for your Emergency Fund. Not for everyone, of course.

3. If credit cards aren't for you, negotiate a discount for cash.

4. Call your internet/etc provider to negotiate a lower rate.

5. If you do need to buy something, remember to ask for discounts. Even places that don't offer discounts, will sometimes give them to first responders anyway.

6. If there's something expensive you need to buy, consider working at that place to get an employee discount.

7. When buying produce, ask for "seconds" (food that looks damaged but isn't) or, if at a farmer's market, buy toward the end of the day and negotiate a discount.

8. Be patient, even $5/month will add up.

Heidi Louise

Sunday 7th of May 2023

And, as Kristen stressed, Move the Money to the Emergency Account Right Away!

If you just save a bit on groceries and don't do anything with the savings, it will just get absorbed into the regular budget. If you only make a transfer at the end of the month, you'll have lost some of the savings if other expenses came up.

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