Your roof springs a leak in the middle of a rainstorm. Your 16-year-old new driver gets in a fender bender. You accidentally tip your coffee mug onto your laptop. Bad things happen, and sometimes they can be pricey. Having an emergency fund can make all the difference between managing the unexpected with ease – or digging into debt.
If you think your budget can't stretch to saving for that rainy day, these seven tips can help you find the funds by trimming expenses, while hardly even noticing.
Assess your spending. Record every penny you spend for at least two weeks to better understand where your money goes. You may find some surprises and opportunities to revamp your spending habits.
Cook it yourself. Skipping dinner out twice a month at $25 a meal could mean a yearly savings of $600. Brown-bagging your leftovers for lunch instead of eating out at $10 a meal could potentially save you another $240.
Be your own barista. Whether it's a cup of coffee or a bottle of purified water, it always costs more to buy it at a restaurant or cafe. A daily $4 expresso drink adds up to more than $1,400 per year! Instead, buy a coffee maker and reusable water bottle - and save significantly over the long run.
Get the best deals. Clip coupons and scan your store's weekly flyer before grocery shopping. Check online for retailer coupon codes. Investigate price-matching programs for big-ticket items; they often offer 10 percent below the lowest advertised price.
Try used. Books, clothes, bikes, furniture, appliances, electronics - you can find a used version of nearly everything, usually at major discounts over buying new. Check online sites, such as Craigslist or eBay, and second-hand stores.
Curb the impulse. Research shows that most people regret nearly 80 percent of their nonessential purchases within a year - and that can add up to a lot of wasted cash. So don't give in to impulse buys. Create a shopping list and stick with it.
Clean house. If it doesn't fit, you don't use it or you just don't want it anymore, sell it! Hold a garage sale, or post items on the same websites where you're searching for used items to purchase.
Quick tip: The three-month goal
A general rule of thumb for rainy day funds is to save enough to cover three months of living expenses. Divide that figure by the number of months you want to spend accumulating it. The result is how much you'll need to save each month.
Rainy day goal: $3,000
Timeline: 1 year
Monthly savings: $250
Put your savings to work
Once you have funds to set aside, consider ways to make that money work even harder for you. You might start with an interest-bearing savings account, then move up to a money market fund. Your Westfield Bank representative can talk with you about the right solutions for your needs.