I use a wheelchair-accessible van to get to work, and my mom is the driver. One day after dropping me off, my mom was in an accident with a man who had a medical issue. Thankfully, everyone walked away fine, but my van was seriously damaged.
After confirming that everyone was OK, the next thing that went through my mind was how was I going to get home. You can’t just find a handicap van anywhere. Everything worked out fine and I got home, but it was $700 to rent a van for the week.
Thankfully, my parents were able to help out, and I’m able to work from home if necessary. Still, you don’t realize how important transportation is until you don’t have it. We still had to rent a van to go places for special occasions. The whole experience wasn’t cheap.
Not everyone needs a wheelchair van, but situations come up all the time where people need to tap into their emergency fund. How much should you be saving? It’s different for everyone, but there are some things you can take into account when determining that number.
Determining Your Expenses
When trying to measure how much savings you should have for emergencies, it can be helpful to think in terms of months. If this was all you had to live on for a period of time, how long would it last? In order to do that, you need to figure out how much you spend every month.
You have certain expenses that stay the same every month. These include your mortgage or rent, cable bill, car payment, etc. These are the easiest to factor in when it comes to doing your budget. You should also include how much you spend on food, since that’s not likely to change much on a monthly basis.
Aside from fixed expenses, you have bills that have the potential to vary quite a bit. These include utilities and your credit card bill. You might have more expenses right now during the holiday season than during the rest of the year, but it’s a good idea to average it out. You can use an app like Mint to track your spending.
How Many Incomes?
A two-income family may not have to save as much as a family relying on a single wage earner. Two-income families have a little safety net in case one person loses a job. If you’re a one-income family, make sure you’ve got some extra months of savings in case it takes a while to find a job or recover from an injury.
If you have children, remember not only to take into account their basic needs, but also their activities after school and with friends. Maybe even put a little extra aside for the holidays so you can get some gifts for the kids even if times get tough. Life changes are often hardest on children because they don’t necessarily understand what’s going on. It’s important to keep as much normalcy as you can.
One way people try to save money is to take a lower insurance premium in exchange for a higher deductible. The problem is if you have a claim for health, car or homeowners insurance, you’ll have to ensure that you have enough in your savings to cover the deductible.
The good news is that not all of your savings has to come from your savings account because it’s probably not earning much interest. You do want your assets to be something you can easily access if necessary. Stocks and mutual funds can make up a portion of your rainy day fund.
When you have an unplanned event like a job loss or a major medical expense that forces you to dip into your emergency funds, it helps to stretch your savings by figuring out where you can cut back.
Take a good look at your expenses and determine what you need and what you can get by without. Chances are you can probably do without cable TV if push comes to shove. Get cheaper haircuts. Clip coupons so you’re not leaving money on the table. Also, there are plenty of awesome coupon sites like Gift Card Granny where you can get discounts.
What are your savings strategies? Share them with us in the comments.
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