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Simple Ways to Boost Your Emergency Fund

What's an emergency fund? It's extra money you put aside to keep life moving smoothly whatever happens to jump in your path.

Emergency money can be set aside to help with unexpected job loss, car problems, medical issues or any number of other big-ticket items. Sometimes something completely unexpected like a pet surgery (yes, it can happen!) can knock out your discretionary funds. Instead of racking up debt that you may have trouble paying back, establishing an emergency fund can help to prevent your emergency situation from becoming a full-blown financial crisis as well.

Here are a few tips that may help you generate the money needed to get your emergency fund started:

Plan ahead. Many times we end up spending money because we neglect to plan. Pack snacks for the road before you and your family head out the door. Taking a couple of minutes to pack up some healthy snacks could save you quite a bit if the alternative is purchasing a fast food meal for each family member. Plus, by bringing your own food, you'll be in control of what you and your family are eating and will be able to take better care of both your physical and financial health.

In that same vein, don't go to the grocery store without a list and a plan. Your grocery store has many choices available and if you shop with your eyes or your stomach rather than your brain and your carefully composed list, you may end up spending a lot more as you wander through the aisles. Stay in control of your shopping, and keep your eyes open for good deals on things you need (not just want), and you'll probably end up saving. And, don't forget to use your Freedom Check Card when you shop – that end-of-the-year check could make a great addition to your emergency fund.

Brown bag it. Packing a lunch may seem like a very small and simple task. However, for many of us, it's easier to grab something from the vending machine or go out with friends than to throw a frozen dinner and some fruit into a paper bag before leaving home. However, the average lunch out costs somewhere between $5 and $10. If you skipped just one a week, you could possibly save more than $1000 in the course of a year! That's money that can be diverted to your emergency fund and can make a big contribution to your "financial backup plan."

Budget. This tip may seem like a no-brainer but many people don't take the time to figure out what they can afford before heading to the cash register. Planning a budget will help you to feel more comfortable with your costs, as well as help you to figure out what you can spend on each product, service or bill. Try the Debt in Focus tool to get a clear picture of your financial situation and to get guidance for creating your personal financial plan.

Stash it. Stashing your cash doesn't mean hiding it under a pillow or burying it in the backyard. You can build your emergency fund the easy way, simply by making quick and easy transfers from your checking to your savings account each month. With just a few simple steps in NetBranch Online, you can make transfers between your account as soon as you get paid. You'll barely notice that you're saving, but the money will be there when you need it.

Now that we've covered how to save for your emergency fund, you may be wondering, "How much should I save?" A good rule of thumb is three to six months of living expenses. So, start small and grow your money – happy saving!