My husband took Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey several years before we ever got married. And ten years into our relationship, he sent me to learn the basics of budgeting and escaping debt while he watched our four kids. Since meeting we had accumulated more houses, moved across the country, finished more than one undergrad and masters degree, and had…well…a few kids.
When I started the class, debt felt enormous and even the simple $1,000 emergency fund felt unattainable. But even with a minimalist household and a large family, we were able to knock out baby step #1 in just a few weeks with baby step #2 of paying off debt a faster goal than we imagined!
Easy ways to supplement a family emergency fund
No matter where you are in your financial journey, having a solid emergency fund is the first step you should focus on. An emergency fund can prevent you from being thrown off course when an unexpected expense pops up, which means you can stay on track while also enjoying some peace of mind in the process.
If you are concerned because your emergency fund isn’t where it should be, there are things you can do to give it a boost fast.
Have a massive yard sale.
If you are sitting on a bunch of household clutter, you are really sitting on cash.
It’s important to really evaluate even your furniture. For instance, in looking around I realized the glider we had rarely got used and I only kept it because we had kids.
Now is the time to get rid of those items that no longer serve a purpose in the moment or would be way too expensive to replace in the next 2 years. Hold a large yard sale to move these items quickly for cash. Not only will you have more space and be free from clutter, but you can make an easy $100-500+ in the process.
Try selling your excess or your clutter online.
There are so many online outlets that allow you to sell your items quickly and easily. Try parent groups on FB, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or eBay. You can sell everything from clothing to toys to household supplies. If an all day long garage sale isn’t your thing, selling online may be the way to go.
You can even sell things like excess plant seedlings you’ve grown or things that you make. Be creative. I make our family elderberry syrup each month in the winter and sell my excess to supplement our debt reduction and emergency fund.
Make cuts to your grocery budget.
Take the time to look over your grocery budget and see where cuts can be made. Try swapping water for soda, buy meat on sale only, and stick to in-season produce. Just these small swaps can knock an easy $20 a week off your grocery budget, which you can then put into your emergency fund instead.
One of our best resources is going to the grocery store on a Monday or Tuesday during the day and getting all of the food that has discount stickers on it and freezing what we won’t use immediately.
Cut the cable cord or cancel streaming.
I know, know. Everyone is raving about all of the amazing streaming services. But they add up. So evaluate what you will use the most and you can even switch between them from month to month if needed. Or even split it with family or neighbor.
So if you have cable, try streaming. With so many streaming options out there, you can still get the channels and shows you want without a hefty cable bill. If you have streaming, see where you can make even a small change. Either way, place the difference into your savings.
Go on a spending fast.
Start small and grow your fasts incrementally to be longer and longer. The bwst, in my opinion, is to spend 30 days on a strict spending fast. This means unless it is a necessity, you don’t buy it. And 28 days typically builds a new habit. This is a quick and easy way to start funneling money into your emergency fund, instead of watching it trickle away on daily coffee or drive through lunches.
Pick up a side hustle.
Side hustles are all the rage these days and people try to get control of their finances and bring in extra cash. Consider housecleaning, tutoring, babysitting, ride sharing, or crafting for extra cash. Even if you bring in just an extra $50 a week, that is $200 a month you can add to your emergency fund.
Everything from driving and delivering for Amazon or pizza deliveries to doing virtual assistant work using skills you already have can bring in significant amounts of money in a season of growing your emergency fund or paying down debt. Plus, many of those options also allow for flexible time commitments or working off hours so you can still enjoy your kids!
Save that change.
It is amazing how fast those little coins can add up. When you receive change, save it don’t spend it. Start collecting change with each transaction and cash it all in at the end of the week or month. You can also use budgeting apps like Acorn, which will automatically round up your debit purchases and place the difference in a savings account for you.
We live in a state with bottle refunds where basically you get 5 cents back per eligible bottle or can. To bring our kids in on this process, they collect bottles and cans from neighbors willing to save them and we redeem them for cash at the store. We get at least $3 every time!
Be careful with windfalls.
It is exciting to get a windfall of cash via a work bonus or gift, but be mindful what you do with it. While your first instinct may be to treat yourself, think of how much further the money will go if you put it into your emergency fund!
Look over your auto-pay bills.
We found a $5/month subscription we didn’t know we had. We also discovered that one of our bills had unexpectedly gone up when we weren’t looking. The assessment can easily mean at least few dollars here and there to reallocate towards a family emergency fund or paying off debt.
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!