Emergency funds help you cover costs when you experience an unexpected drop in income or surprise increases in expenses. For millions of Americans, an emergency has arrived with the coronavirus crisis and resulting job losses.
If you're one of the many Americans now relying on your emergency savings to cover your costs, you'll naturally want to make sure your money lasts as long as possible. To do that, follow these three suggestions:
1. Cut spending as much as possible
When you're relying on your emergency fund to cover everyday spending, stick to buying the bare necessities. That means paying your rent and utilities, covering other bills and buying inexpensive ingredients to make cheap meals at home.
While you'll likely still want to keep a streaming service so you have something to do while social distancing, you don't need to pay for multiple subscription services or buy a bunch of new books or movies. See if your local library offers digital books and stick to whatever is streaming for free.
And to keep grocery and household costs down, try to time your meals based on what's on sale and use coupons whenever you can.
2. Bulk up your emergency fund using your stimulus check or tax refund
Boosting your emergency fund is important to make the money last as long as possible. One way you can do that is by bulking it up with the money from your stimulus check.
If your income is under $75,000 as a single person or under $150,000 and you're married and file a joint tax return, you should get stimulus funds of $1,200 per person or $2,400 per couple. You'll also get an additional $500 per eligible child. This money will come via direct deposit if the IRS has your bank information on file, or you'll get a check by mail. If your income is higher, you'll see a reduction in the size of your check of $5 for each $100 over the limit. Add it to your emergency fund so you can use it on the essentials as needed.
3. Look for safe opportunities to earn side income
Most side jobs require you to leave the house, which could put you at risk. If you're comfortable and think you can do it safely, many food delivery services are currently hiring to help with increased demand. If you don't want to take the risk of working with the public, see what opportunities, if any, enable you to earn money from home. You could list unwanted items on online auction sites and have the postal service pick up the packages at your home, for example, or look for work-from-home side gigs.
Making your emergency fund last is worth the effort
Right now, it's unclear how long social distancing will last or when the American economy will recover from the impact of the coronavirus. With so much economic uncertainty, it's absolutely worth the effort to ensure your emergency fund lasts as long as possible.