How to build an emergency fund in a year

Putting away a big chunk of cash to cover an emergency can feel daunting. Break it down, though, and you’ll see that small, concrete steps over a year can add up to serious savings.


Set a weekly or monthly goal

Make your initial goal attainable so that you won’t give up.

Goal: $25 a week or $100 a month


Identify ways to cut back

Consider clipping coupons and bringing your lunch to work. Shop around to save for auto and home insurance: On average, people save up to 32% just by comparing car insurance prices.

You could save: $40 a month using coupons

Shop around

You could save: $300 yearly on auto insurance


Make savings easy

Set up automatic transfers from your checking to savings account so you won’t even have to think about it.


Stash your refund

If you’re getting a tax refund, put as much of it as you can toward your fund.

You could save: The average 2015 tax refund was $2,893. If you put away half, that’s more than $1,400!


Plot your progress

Are unexpected expenses like gifts or takeout derailing your plan? Find ways to adjust, perhaps by preparing extra food and freezing it instead of grabbing takeout.


Trim your entertainment budget

Look for free outdoor concerts, plays and movies, and move the money you would have spent to your savings account.


You could save: $32

cost of 4 movie tickets vs. a free movie in the park


Stretch yourself to save more

Challenge yourself by upping your weekly savings goal. If you don’t miss $25 per week, can you make do with $50 less per week, just for this month?

You could save: Another $100


Hit the local yard sale circuit

You could score gently used goods for a fraction of the retail price. Or hold your own sale.

You could save: A garage sale could bring in as much as $500–$600.

For sale

Yard sale


Learn to love your library

Libraries are great for free activities for both children and adults, not to mention books and movies.

You could save: $24 if you check out 4 movies instead of renting online


Take a bite out of grocery bills

For at least one week, instead of buying groceries, try to eat the food in your pantry, fridge and freezer. Get creative about combining leftovers in new ways.

You could save: $125 if you shave a week’s grocery bill in half


Budget now to cut holiday spending

Can you host family instead of traveling to them? Create a family Secret Santa instead of buying individual gifts for everyone?

You could save: The average American spends more than $800 on holiday gifts. Cut that in half and you could save $400.


Bank your bonus

If you receive a year-end cash bonus, use it for an extra boost.

You could save: $100–$1,000

Year end

You could save: $3,000–$4,000.

Everyone’s life is different. Take a look at your spending to come up with creative ways to stash away cash each month.