The daily expenses of life can make it difficult to put aside extra money, but that doesn’t change the fact that bad luck can happen to anyone. And if you don’t have an emergency fund built up, bad luck could force you to dip into your savings for your retirement or your children’s education.
However, Americans only save 4.5 percent of their income, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s down from 5.6 percent in 2013. Business Insider recommends that everyone should have 3-6 months of expenses ready in their emergency fund, so it’s critical that you save accordingly.
If you find it difficult to save, here are 10 simple life changes that can help you grow your emergency fund.
Use direct deposit to stash a predefined amount of every paycheck into a savings account. Or choose a separate bank for your savings so you don’t even see it (this also includes keeping your debit card for that account out of sight).
According to the Consumer Energy Center, lowering your home temperature one degree in cold months can reduce your bill by 1-3 percent. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy found that programming your thermostat to lower the temperature 10-15 degrees when you’re at work can bump your savings to 5-15 percent.
While detergent packaging may brag about the number of loads it can clean, the measuring cup is often deceptive. According to the Wall Street Journal, 53 percent of people use too much detergent, namely because they fill the cup to the brim. Be sure to read the instructions closely so you know how much is actually needed.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, hard accelerating and braking can lower your MPG on the highway by up to 33 percent and in the city by 5 percent. Also, don’t weigh down your car with unnecessary stuff. The USDE also found that every extra 100 pounds increases your gas cost by about $.07 per gallon.
Warehouse clubs offer big discounts on staples with long shelf lives. By joining one of these clubs for $40-$50 per year, you could end up saving a lot. For instance, Consumer Reports found that dish soap can cost 29 percent less at these discount stores.
Letting the pros do the intricate work of pampering your nails can be a small – yet affordable – luxury. But, if you have the pros use a bottle of your polish, you can do your own touch-ups at home. That way, as soon as the first chip appears, you won’t have to pay for another costly appointment.
According to Energy Star, the average home has so many leaks around windows and doors that the cost adds up to the equivalent of leaving one window open every day of the year. DIY Network recommends checking for leaks once per year and fixing them with caulk or sealing strips from your local hardware store.
Even a few herbs in a windowsill can save a lot. While one pack of herbs can cost $3-$6 in the store, a living plant costs $2.50-$4.00 and can add flavor to dishes for months, according to Southern Living.
Many electronics go into standby mode when you turn them off, which still requires a small amount of energy. In fact, U.S. Department of Energy experts have found that 5-10 percent of your power bill might come from electronics on standby. Newly developed smart power strips simply cut the power off, which can help save you money. They look very similar to regular power strips and are sold at most hardware stores.
A research study conducted by Cornell University found that people who shopped for groceries when hungry spent 20 percent more than full shoppers. Side benefit: The full shoppers picked healthier food, too.
Short of winning the lottery, inheriting a fortune, or finding an unknown Van Gogh, it takes a concerted effort to build up an emergency fund. With small changes today, you can start putting away more to help prepare for the unexpected.