Whenever I’ve run up a high credit card balance, it’s always started with an unplanned expense and no money in my emergency savings account.
One time, my dog got sick. I had to charge an $800 vet bill on my credit card. Then I had to travel for a funeral, charging another $500. My furnace stopped working that winter, so an additional $300 went on my card. Yet having only $1,000 in emergency savings would have covered all three of these crises if they were spaced out enough to allow me to replenish the account.
About 10 years ago, I finally got scrappy enough to squirrel away $1,000 as fast as I could. The balance has dwindled at times, but I always build it back up. Saving $1,000 fast isn’t easy but it’s not all that terrible, either — especially when you can pay cash the next time you need a new battery for your car or a plumber to snake a clogged drain.
Here are my tips for saving at least $1,000 in two months or less…
1. Sell stuff
Maybe you can sell a lamp on Craigslist for $25, an ottoman for $50, and a futon for $75. What about asking $100 for that bike you never ride? Maybe sell that extra bed or the exercise equipment you never use. If your items don’t sell immediately, keep posting. I’ve posted things two or three times before they sold. Someone will buy what you’re selling if it’s reasonably priced.
Potential cash: $100 to $1,000.
2. Get a part-time job
A second job is one of the best ways to save an extra $1,000. All you have to do is work a couple of shifts a week doing something you enjoy for a couple of months. For example, I love books. One holiday season, I worked at Barnes & Noble for extra cash. Even if you only make $10 an hour, working 15 hours per week for two months, you’ll earn close to $1,000 after taxes. Keep the part-time job even longer, and you can double your emergency savings.
Potential cash: $600 to $2,000.
3. Go on a brief spending fast
What’s worse? Suffering for years over credit card debt or sacrificing for a few weeks or a month while brewing your own coffee, eating all your meals at home, and buying only what you absolutely need? Take the money you’d have spent at the coffee shop or going out to eat and deposit it in a savings account before your spending fast so you’re less likely to raid your savings.
Potential cash: $75 to $300.
4. Get paid to open a bank account
Did you know that some banks will pay you a bonus to open an account? Many require you to carry a large balance, but that’s not always the case. For example, BMO Harris offers checking accounts that each pay a $200 bonus for opening an account, at least one requiring only a $25 minimum deposit and no minimum balance. These kinds of bonus offers come and go but they’re definitely out there. Be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully, watching for minimum deposit and balance requirements as well as any fees.
Potential cash: $50 to $300.
5. Get a side hustle
My favorite side hustle is pet sitting. It’s an easy job and a fun way to earn money. You can earn $150 to $300 per job, depending on the length of someone’s vacation. You can also earn cash by mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, cleaning gutters, weeding a garden, painting a room, anything that people don’t want to do themselves. Also, check Craigslist daily for more gigs such as focus groups, mock juries, and weekend event gigs. Here’s a step-by-step guide.
Potential cash: Sporadic income of $75 to $500.
Now that you’ve got some ideas on how to build your emergency savings, figure out a plan and get started. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the cash piles up. Then next time you have an unexpected car repair, you can pay with cash, drive away from your bank smiling and build your emergency savings back up just as quickly as you did the first time.
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