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Building a Solid Emergency Fund and Creating Financial Readiness

As a member of the military, you know to be prepared for anything. That’s why building and maintaining an emergency fund is key to financial readiness. That fund allows you to focus on the mission, knowing that you and your family can handle life's curveballs.

How Much to Save

A good general recommendation is three to six months of living expenses, but don’t worry if your first milestone is less. Sit down with your family to develop a financial plan to put away anywhere between $500 and $1,000 to start.

  • Start with $25 per week, which will get you to $500 in about four months.
  • Set up a payroll deduction directly to your savings account.
  • Increase the amount in your emergency fund once you've met your initial goal.

Find ways to save

Even if you have a tight budget, you can find small amounts to save. Try the following ideas for trimming your expenses:

  • Reduce your interest rate — Contact your credit card company and ask for a reduction. Let them know that you'll be shopping around for a new credit card company if they won't cut your rate.
  • Compare insurance rates — Research prices on auto and homeowners insurance premiums, and look into using just one company for all your policies.
  • Lower your grocery bill — Make a weekly meal plan and grocery list for smart shopping and use store ads and coupons when you can.
  • Make small adjustments — If you've been dining out twice a week, going to the movies regularly or stopping by your favorite coffee shop daily, try cutting back. Go out to eat just once a week and watch the savings add up.
  • Review your bills — Take a good look at where you're spending your money and cancel any memberships or subscriptions that you really don't need.
  • Save your refund — Instead of spending your tax refund this year, consider putting it into your emergency fund for an immediate savings boost.
  • Sell your extras — Take inventory of your belongings and sell extras and unwanted items online or at a garage sale.
  • Collect change — Empty your pockets into a container daily. Cash it in monthly to add to your emergency fund. Apply the same concept to dollar bills for faster savings.

Using your fund

Once you've established an emergency fund, make a list of times when you would feel comfortable using it. Some people have difficulty recognizing that it's time to dip into their emergency savings and instead pull out their credit cards, which leads to debt. Once you've used money from your fund, set a goal to replenish it through weekly savings so that you can cover the next emergency. Take comfort in knowing that you can provide for your family even in a time of crisis.

Learn more about financial readiness by visiting your installation's Personal Financial Management Program or call Military OneSource 800-342-9647 for free financial counseling. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options. A financial counselor can confidentially review your situation and recommend how you can take advantage of Department of Defense resources.