3 Tips to Build Your Emergency Fund When You’re Broke


It’s not easy, but you can do it! here are 3 tips to build your emergency fund – even when you’re broke.

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This last year and change has been hard on all of us.

But you know what’s true even more than ever now? Money doesn’t care how hard life is. 

Our finances don’t get better if we don’t intentionally improve them, and that’s even more true in a crisis where there’s a very real possibility of civil unrest leading to financial instability.

I’ve talked a lot before about being completely broke, and working hard to get out of that hole, and build a life. In fact, today, I’m even committed to living off of last month’s money. But I’ll admit that throughout the past few months I haven’t been without a few panicky moments when I looked at my bank accounts.

And you know a big lesson I’ve learned? The importance of an emergency fund.

Two weeks ago, I had an unexpected emergency dentist visit, which of course led to more dentist visits that, you guessed it, weren’t covered by any insurance.

It gets expensive fast, and boy was I glad for that emergency fund!

If you’ve never had an emergency fund, let me tell you, it brings a lot of peace of mind.

You may be thinking “why not charge an emergency on your credit card if you need to? That’s what it’s for, after all.” but with that comes the possibility of declined cards, and the reality of paying off what you owe with exorbitant interest.

Having cash in hand means no interest – extra money leaving your pocket – and a guarantee that you can make the payment when you need to. This is a huge part of how to budget when you’re self-employed too. 

So whether you’ve never had an emergency fund, of like so many of us, you’ve depleted yours recently, here are three tips to get started building it back up.

Image shows two hands holding a fan of money with text that reads "3 Tips to Build Your Emergency Fund Even When You're Broke"

3 Tips to build your emergency Fund When You’re Broke

  • Start with your small change. Any dime, dollar, five dollar bill you have, put it in a jar marked “emergency fund, to be deposited into the actual account later. These little bits add up, and once you’ve committed to putting them away instead of spending them, you might be surprised at just how little they affect your day-to-day living.
  • Next, Commit a weekly sum. Would you be devastated by losing $20 a week of your spending money? How about $30? $40? Before you think you don’t have that much to spare, get serious with yourself. Ask yourself what you’d have to cut back if you didn’t have it. A restaurant meal? Convenience food? Nail salon? Could you look for shoes at Goodwill instead of Target? How about doing some extreme frugal living and hanging your clothes out on a line to save electricity. And then problem solve how you can get by without whatever that thing is – using your crockpot instead of takeout, doing your own nails (or giving them a break), etc.
  • Declutter your stuff with Facebook Marketplace. Or whatever secondhand website works best for you, there are simple ways to turn your junk into cash. Most of us slowly accumulate stuff, and some of that stuff we eventually stop using. So now is a great time to go through it and find the things you can make a few bucks from.

These three tips may not seem like a magic solution to you – and they’re not! But do you see a theme?

It’s problem solving. It’s your brain getting rid of the “I can’t, I don’t have enough money” mentality and instead saying “how can I make this work?”. That’s really going to the be the biggest key in building back up your emergency fund.

Learn to stop focusing on the unfairness of life, and how other people, or entire generations have had it better, and start looking for ways to problem solve. 

Look, I know it’s not easy. I know it can be discouraging to work so hard, but only make progress at a snail’s pace – if that. But Keep going. Because you will succeed. The momentum will build. And you will get there. 

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