Do you have an emergency fund? If the answer is no, you’re not alone. Although it’s usually recommended that people have enough emergency funds on hand to cover several month’s worth of income, a 2014 Money Pulse poll conducted by Bankrate found that just 38 percent of those surveyed would be able to tap into savings in the event of an unexpected financial situation. So what can you do if something comes up and you need to cover an expense but don’t have any savings set aside?
Sell Things You Don’t Need
One option to raise emergency funds when you don’t have any money set aside is to sell items you no longer need or use. These items can range from big ticket things, such as your vehicle, to clothing you no longer wear. In some cases, selling an item might make the most financial sense. If your car cost more to own and operate than it is worth, it makes sense to sell it for scrap and to use public transit until you are able to save for another vehicle. To make sure you get the best deal for anything you sell, make sure you understand what it’s worth before listing it. You don’t want to overprice your items and have no one buy them, but you also don’t want to under price them, either.
Use a Low Interest Credit Card
Another way to cover unexpected costs without any savings is to put the amount on a credit card, preferably one with a low interest rate, and then to create a plan to pay off that card as soon as you can, to avoid paying more than you need to and to avoid burying yourself in debt. Even if you don’t plan on using a credit card in your daily life, having an open account can be a good idea, so that you have it at the ready in times of financial distress.
Tap Into Your Home’s Equity
A third way to cover unexpected expenses is to borrow against a home equity line of credit. You’ll need to own your home and to have built up a fair amount of equity in it for this option to work for you. It’s also worth noting that borrowing against your home can be risky, as you are putting your house up as collateral. It’s usually a good idea to only tap into your home equity if you are confident you’ll be able to pay it back and if you have no other options.
Cut Spending in Other Areas
Once you’ve figured out a way to cover an emergency expense, the next step is to find a way to pay yourself back or to start setting aside money for an emergency fund. If you have a budget, take a look at it to find places where you can reduce spending. Use that money to either pay off any debt from the emergency or to start building up your savings. If you are establishing an emergency fund, it’s OK to start small when it comes to goals. For example, aim to put aside at least $1,000. Once you’ve reached that goal, aim for three months worth of income. When you’ve saved three months, aim for six months.
You can’t plan for all the surprises life might throw at you. But, what you can plan for is a way to pay them off when the time comes. You might not have an emergency fund now, but in a few month’s or year’s time, you might have plenty set aside.
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