Joyce Obanda sells fish in her kibanda in Tassia. She stopped worrying about emergencies. She developed an emergency fund that will cover her 3-month expenses if worse comes to worst and she needs a huge sum to cover some expenses.
“I would say that an emergency fund is your debt-prevention fund,” Joyce tells Money254.
Assuming business goes bad or if her children get ill, aside from having her NHIF she knows that she can easily settle her bills without going for a loan. Taking loans to pay your bills will cost a lot in the long run.
“They are funds that are there for the events that are going to happen in your life whether expected or not,” says Joyce.
Joyce learnt the hard way by getting into a punitive Ksh50,000 debt trying to pay a hospital bill for her child.
“I took loans from these loan apps and my debts grew from there.”
She attributes her success to getting out of debt to saving and frugal living. She gives us these tips to get started fast.
The thought of saving a big enough amount to call an emergency fund may be daunting. But if you take a step back to think about it and do the math it is doable.
For example, if you need to save Ksh50,000 it comes back to saving at least Ksh500 every day for 100 days. However, wasting that much money in a day is possible without even realising it. You have to figure out how to cut back by tracking your spending.
“Tracking your spending helps a lot because it is very easy to spend cash without noticing it and we seldom notice the items that we spend our money on,” Joyce says.
It involves noting down what you purchase somewhere you will be able to revisit often. Doing this will make you think about how much you are spending and what you are spending it on.
“It also helps a lot to review your big-budget things like housing to see if you have been wasting money,” she notably remarks.
Some new families may choose to go for a two–bedroomed apartment in a lavish estate yet they do not really use the extra bedroom because their child is not grown enough yet to stay in a room all by themselves. There could be a better alternative.
If you find it too difficult to save, then there are other options you may go for. You could sell things you no longer find useful or find a second source of income.
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Determining your target emergency fund amount is basically pure math. It starts by knowing approximately how much money you need to cover your basic living expenses in a typical month.
“The information required to do the math is easily accessible from your records of tracked expenses. From there, you can determine the least amount you will need to have in your account,” says Joyce.
Often, when you are out of a job, it is not easy to estimate the length for which you will be unemployed after a job loss. The answer to this is different for everyone. Besides, it’s impossible to predict the future. But, it’s something you should attempt.
The rule of thumb is to save up enough money to cover three to six month’s worth of living expenses. You should congratulate yourself the moment you have saved up one month’s worth of living expenses - that in itself is a good cushion. But keep going until you meet your target of up to six months.
Where you put your money is a great factor to how soon or later you will attain your savings goal. Where you will put your emergency fund depends on the needs of the person. Vehicles to use are many, some may even give you interest on the amount you choose to save.
An ideal place to put funds is in an account that makes it a bit challenging to get the money to prevent easy access that may tempt you to use it, yet without too many restrictions to hinder you from taking care of an emergency in case it comes abruptly.
Some of the popular places to keep emergency savings are the money market fund, treasury bills, high-interest savings accounts with flexible withdrawals, a simple savings account connected to your current account or at a fixed deposit account without withdrawal penalties.
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Setting up periodic, automated contributions to your emergency savings account from your current account (the account where your salary or other income is normally deposited) will make it easier for you to save.
“It makes it much easier to save when you have not seen what you are saving in the first place,” Joyce says.
“If you are your own boss or maybe you get paid per day or per hour or whenever, you can set up the automatic direct debits from your checking to savings,” she says. “And doing that just helps you look at it as just another bill that you have to pay.”
In that case, you should set up automatic contributions to transfer Ksh500 each day from your checking account to your emergency savings fund, she explains. At the end of 100 days, you should have your Ksh50,000 in your emergency fund.
Read Also: What are the 3 Methods of Saving?
It is important that you don’t perceive your emergency savings as a way to make money, warns Joyce. When you choose to create this fund, you are creating it to serve one purpose: to pay for certain emergencies.
Joyce strongly recommends that you should draft a list of possible scenarios that you consider emergencies. For example, you should put car repairs on your list if you have a car, which you use to get to work and back.
If you have lived in a house for a very long time then you should put aside some money for house repairs as the sewage pipe might just burst open one day and you might not be prepared for that.
“It is up to you to decide the size of your fund, but one thing to remember is that the more things your fund needs to cover, the bigger it has to be,” Joyce says.
Aside from helping you save, an emergency immensely reduces stress.
Joyce’s emergency fund and learning to live frugally, has helped her accumulate enough to cover her expenses.
While you have already drafted a budget and applied it to your average monthly income, it is important that you set aside any extra income that was unplanned. Saving this income for your emergency fund will help you move faster towards achieving your goal.
“Aside from selling fish in the evenings, I get some more income providing cleaning services to people’s homes and put the income I get from it in my emergency fund,” says Joyce.
Building an emergency fund to help you get through tough financial times is important.What kind of life would you have if you lost your job tomorrow? It’d be pretty stressful, wouldn’t it? The shock alone would be difficult to handle.
Now add the additional stress of trying to get another job that pays just as well. Worse yet, think about all of the bills you have to pay every month.
Water, electricity, house rent or mortgage, food and so on. How will you cover these?
Do not let life burden you with too much stress. Make it easy for you by setting up an emergency fund.