33 ways to start saving for an emergency fund

Have you ever wanted to start saving to improve your personal financial position? Have you been looking for a way to start your emergency fund, but don't have any money to start?

Like all aspects of habit creation, making a start and gaining the initial momentum is the hardest aspect to starting a savings account. The first $1,000 is the hardest, but it gets easier with every saving deposited. Starting with ten dollars today puts you that little bit closer to developing a strong financial base capable of supporting you in future times of need.

Here is a list of 33 ways to find the money to begin saving for building your emergency fund. You don't necessarily have to implement all of these, and some may contradict each other slightly. However, just implementing a few of these steps should get you started on your emergency fund:

  1. Don't order the suggested upsize on a meal, or the combo suggestive sell: With the average person buying take away 3 times a week. Savings: up to $7.50 a week or $390 a year.
  2. Buy a smaller pre-paid phone credit charge: Rather than buying $50 dollars of pre-paid credit a month (or being on a plan), opt for a $30 or $40 dollar pre-paid card. Find out what alternative ways you can contact your friends for less (I.e.: facebook, IM, etc.). Savings: $10-20 a month.
  3. Take a drink with you: I always see the suggestions to brown bag lunch to work and rarely do it myself. I do however take a bottle of water from home rather than buying a drink when I can. This saves me a lot over a year (as I buy a lot of bottled water), but we will assume one bottle a day five days a week for most people. Savings: $10-$15 per week.
  4. Negotiate a discount on your banking fees: Australian students can waive their monthly fees by showing a student ID at their bank. For others this may take a bit of work. Ramit Sethi from iwillteachyoutoberich.com discusses strategies for doing this over at his blog. Savings: $5 per month.
  5. Ask for a discount: This is something I forget to do, but it does work some of the time. I once saved $30 on a $160 laptop bag because I asked for a discount. Savings: $10 per month.
  6. Sell your old items: I have a friend who recently bought a new car (his old one is still off the road and needs some work). I suggested he sells this car and pockets the cash. You might have smaller items around your house you could sell, or give away to charity. Savings: $0+.
  7. Setup an automatic transfer from your pay: This is how savings became known as paying yourself first. You are paying money to another account which you own (like any other bill). I personally put $50 a fortnight across ($100 per month) automatically, then more manually. It is up to you how much you put in automatically, and ultimately depends on your discipline.
  8. Buy smaller bottles of soft drink around the house: I have seen countless 2 litre bottles of Coke go flat before they are completely consumed. Buy smaller bottles instead, which won't go flat, are consumed for a cheaper price. Savings: $12 a month.
  9. Exercise daily: Even a small walk around the office block at lunchtime can make a difference. Improving your ability to exercise will result in decreased health expenses, such as doctors appointments, unpaid sick days, pills and other medication and loss of productive work completed: Savings: $15 a month.
  10. Eliminate or control a vice: I quit smoking and reduced my alcohol consumption. I still have a great time with my friends without a hangover the next morning, which allows me to get up and go to work. If you can't give up a vice, consider cutting back or other purchase options. My friends are creative and tend to buy cigarettes by the carton (rather than by the packet) which saves them about $20 a week. They also buy bigger bottles of alcohol rather than pre-mixed cans. Savings: $30 a week or $120 a month.
  11. Buy petrol in bulk: Why pay ridiculous prices depending on the day of the week? Buy petrol on the cheapest day in your area and fill the tank up. If you don't have the money, begin by filling up as much as you can. Over time, you can pocket the difference (which can be more than 10c per litre.). Savings: $25 per month.
  12. Reduce your car insurance expenses: Some insurance companies will offer you a discount if you undertake a defensive driving course. Also, consider changing to a lower insurance option. Savings: $30-60 first year, increasing each year.
  13. Become a micropreneur: You don't even have to start a micro business to do this one. A friend of mine recently bought a computer for $200 from his mum's work. Six were available. Looking back he said he could have bought all six and sold five for $100 profit each. Could you do something like this? Savings: $2,500 per year.
  14. Negotiate some expenses to be paid by work: I did this last week. I wanted to head over to Tasmania to see my relatives, and had to head over there to help with an event also. As a result, I managed to arrange my transport to and from Tasmania (based on the days I stayed there) at my employer's expense. A win-win situation for all parties. Savings: $150 per trip.
  15. Use Public Transport: I use a lot in fuel when I drive around, but public transport is much cheaper. I can also use the time to write posts for this blog or to do some study or work, which means I get more done, increasing my income. Savings: $1,500 per year.
  16. Set Goals: Having ambition is healthy. Obsession is not. Instead of worrying about results and outcomes, set goals and objectives to complete tasks so you no longer worry. Savings: time and stress (which can be allocated to earning more).
  17. Cancel your gym membership: If you rarely go to the gym, an alternative may be to do gym at home. Cancel your membership and buy the basic equipment (some dumbbells and a bench press) if you really need to. You can use the equipment whenever you feel like it, and it can be sold when you don't want to use them anymore to recover some of the costs. Savings: $30 a month.
  18. Buy during the sales: I just bought two brand new jumpers from Target two weeks ago at $5 each (both reduced from $40) because the new season clothing was coming. Savings: $100 a year.
  19. Buy quality clothing: When possible I try to follow the motto 'pay twice as much, buy half as many' for clothing and related. Sometimes I will buy clothes when I can save (see above) but I generally buy clothes for quality rather than cost. This allows me to keep my wardrobe longer, as the fashion takes longer to go out of season on higher cost items and also the items last longer. Savings: $300 a year.
  20. Buy movie tickets in bulk: I go to the movies a lot and really enjoy seeing a flick with a few mates. Buying tickets in bulk can save you a few dollars per ticket, adding up over the year. Savings: $3 per month.
  21. Enjoy places without cost: When you have a day off, go to a park, the local market or the beach instead of going to the mall and spending. Take a cricket set, a football or some food to have a picnic and make a day out of it.
  22. Network: Meet new people and overall have fun. It might not save you money, but you will have new opportunities, experiences and gain new friendships, while also conquering the ability to step outside of your comfort zone.
  23. Buy second hand games: Although I don't play games anymore, this used to be a huge expense for me. Of all the second hand games I have purchased, I have never had one with problems. Savings: $15 per month.
  24. Have a movie night: Get friends around to your place rather than going out. Save money on company, drinks and travel. Savings: $30 per week.
  25. Invite people over for dinner: Same as above but for dinner. Savings: $15 per week.
  26. Hold yourself accountable: There are many ways you can do this. Start a blog and post your results, track spending on paper or on the computer, begin to set budgets and put them on your fridge. Once you have monitored for a time, eliminate wasted and unnecessary expenses: Savings: $10 per week.
  27. Review your loans: Some people have loans that have HUGE interest rates. Many of my friends with unsteady employment have car loans (between $10k-20k) with 20-30% interest per annum. This is ridiculous. See if there are other options to change across to where you will pay a lower interest fee. Savings: $1,500 a year.
  28. Car pool: A lot of people do this already. I have had feedback from people I have mentioned this to before along the lines of 'My friends don't live near me, they live closer to the destination than I do.' Simple solution. You are the driver. Accept it, and charge them petrol money, door fee and soft drink purchases to make up for it. Savings: $30 per week.
  29. Buy a voucher book: Active people will easily recover their money for the cost and more. Savings: $50 a year (minimum).
  30. Buy online: Not just items on eBay. Music, movies, office equipment, clothing and more can be purchased online cheaper than in a retail store. You can apparently order Domino's Pizza while playing World of Warcraft if you don't want to stop playing games to purchase online. Savings: Unknown
  31. Haggle for extras: This is especially true when buying a computer. Some companies don't make much money on the computer itself, so there is little room to budge on price. Extras sold with the computer however might be more flexible of price. This applies to a number of different purchases however (ie: cars, suits, etc.). Savings: $100 a year.
  32. Make it competitive: I like to compete, and have a few friends that compete with me. We all started with nothing in savings and are competing to see has more savings and more businesses up and running. Currently we about equal with results. Competing may give you the motivation you need to achieve goals you would otherwise not make a sacrifice to accomplish.
  33. Accept their offer: If someone offers to buy you something, swallow your pride. If they genuinely want to pay they are offering to save you money. Be humble and accept it (then let your savings reap the benefits).

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