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    These 14 Saving Tips Just Might Breathe New Life Into Your Emergency Fund

    It won't happen overnight, but you've got this.

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    The purpose of an emergency fund is to help you manage disasters, and this past year was chock-full of them. So if your savings are gone, 1) You are not alone.

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    And 2) Building back your savings is possible. You can do it without compromising your lifestyle or squeezing the life out of your checking account.

    It can be rough starting over and hard to know where to begin. So here are a few ways to beef up your savings for whatever 2021 has in store.

    FYI, experts recommend having an emergency fund that can cover three to six months of your expenses so that when life throws you curveballs, you can pay for surprise bills without going into debt. And if that sounds like a lot of money (because it is), for now just focus on reaching a smaller savings goal that's achievable for you, and you can reassess when you get there.

    1. Choose a savings account that will help you win.

    ESPN / Via tenor.com

    When it comes to building your emergency fund, you need support, especially from your savings account. A lot of online banks offer higher interest rates on savings accounts than brick and mortar banks do — which means your savings can grow faster there.

    And some of these banks have pretty cool features that help you save even more. For example, at Ally, you can automate your savings using their Booster feature, which lets you schedule regular transfers from checking to savings. This makes saving way less painful because it pulls money directly from your checking account to your savings, so you won't even miss it.

    “Hide the money from yourself,” said financial expert Barney Hussey-Yeo, CEO of the budgeting app Cleo. “Just automatically move it or physically place it somewhere else. It’s the best way to protect your paycheck from someone who likes to spend it.”

    2. Try a savings challenge.

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    Turn saving into a test of your penny-pinching strength. Keeping money in your bank account doesn't have to suck, especially if you turn it into a sort of ~game~. For example, take the weather-Wednesday challenge, where each Wednesday you put the dollar amount equal to your city's high temperature into your savings. Or give the viral 100-envelopes challenge a go. For more ideas, check out these creative money-saving challenges.

    3. Actually make a budget so that you can keep better track of your money.

    4. Shrink your subscriptions.

    Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Pictures / Via giphy.com

    Are you really a Netflix person, or does your heart belong to Disney+? At the start of the pandemic, purchasing every streaming service on the block seemed like a good idea, especially with all your favorite shows being put on pause. Now that you’ve tried them all, pick your favorites and cancel the rest.

    Do the same with other services like Apple Music and Spotify. Have a heart-to-heart (with yourself) and determine which subscription has more to offer based on your interests. Your wallet will thank you.

    Bonus tip: If you need help cutting down on your subscriptions, check out the Trim app. It’s a personal finance assistant that helps you get rid of unnecessary or unwanted subscriptions. Trim also notifies you if you spend a lot of money in an application and can help you negotiate your bills.

    5. Save any extra cash that comes your way.

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    Luckily, we are in the season of stimmies and tax returns, so instead of adding them to your checking, dump them into your savings. Fight the urge to make a big-ticket purchase, and pretend that the extra money doesn’t exist.

    “With the tax season in session, instead of frivolously spending your tax refund on the unnecessary, you can put the money aside in your savings account as a cushion for emergencies,” says Ebony Howard, a certified public accountant. “The funds can also be used to start a business idea and bring in more money to add to your savings growth."

    6. Renegotiate your debt.

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    Concerts, indoor dining, and even the NBA shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic; bills and debt stayed.

    But as you dust 2020 off your boots, you can take steps to leave crushing debt payments behind as well, freeing up more money for your emergency fund. If you're paying down your credit card or attempting to tackle your student loans, try calling your lender to see if you can negotiate your payback terms. You might be able to set up a repayment plan that works better for you and your budget. When you get back to a point in your life where you can pay more, if you choose to do so, you can renegotiate again.

    7. Ditch your phone contract for a cheaper plan.

    different mint mobile plans available ranging from $15 to $30/month
    Mint Mobile

    You need your cell (obviously), but sometimes your phone bill may make you want to switch to a carrier pigeon. To cut costs when it comes to your phone service, it may be time to switch out your original plan. Consider cheaper prepaid phone plans like Mint, which starts at $15 a month, or Verizon Prepaid, which starts at $35 a month. Check out other cheap phone plans that can help you cut down on this monthly expense.

    8. Look for ways to reduce your food costs.

    Ibotta / Via home.ibotta.com, Gado Images / Getty Images

    Since we're in a “panoramic” (shoutout to Gunna), ordering in or stocking up on all your favorite snacks can be tempting, but it can also cause you to spend way more on food than you planned. One way you can try to save on groceries is by taking advantage of coupons or grocery store reward programs. Maybe it's time to finally sign up for that discount the grocery clerk is always reminding you about — it could pay off in the long run. Or you could try downloading an app like Ibotta, which gives you cash back for in-store or online purchases (check out our review of Ibotta here).

    Cooking at home and meal prepping is another great way to keep your wallet in shape. Buy your basics in bulk, like rice, oatmeal, and cereal, to keep your kitchen stocked up for less. And keep an eye on how much food you throw away. According to Waste360, Americans throw out $53.81 worth of spoiled food a week. To get the most out of all the food you’ve bought, try some food storage hacks to make your groceries last as long as possible.

    And for a bit of inspo, see how one writer ate for a week on a $25 grocery budget.

    9. Sell the stuff you no longer use.

    a rocking chair sold for $50 on facebook market place
    Facebook / BuzzFeed / Via Facebook: marketplace

    Marie Kondo your space and make money off the items and clothes you no longer use. There are tons of online selling platforms out there, like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Poshmark, and eBay, that you can use to host your very own online yard sale.

    While it can be time-consuming, it's definitely worth it to take really nice photos of your items so people actually want to buy them. And remember to write an accurate description and be up-front about any issues in order to help reduce returns. Don't worry that a few people might not be interested in your stuff because it's used or slightly damaged — it's always better to be transparent so buyers know what they're getting.

    Oh, and one more tip: To keep your shipping costs low, reuse old envelopes, boxes, and bubble wrap to package up and send out items.

    10. Give your income a boost by picking up a side gig.

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    There are essentially two ways to increase your savings: You can either spend less money or make more of it. In addition to earning you some extra cash, a side hustle doing something you love can actually be a lot of fun. (And let’s face it: Some of us have way more free time on our hands than we care to admit.) Why not try to turn that hobby you picked up during quarantine into a stream of income?

    If you're not sure where to start, “Write 10 things you like doing,” Hussey-Yeo suggests. “Can you get someone to pay you for it? If not, try another 10. You are more creative and capable than you think.”

    PS: Here are some side hustles that people say are pretty profitable.

    11. Or, if you're in a position to do so, try asking for a raise.

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    If you’ve been killing it at your job, you might consider talking to your boss about getting a raise. I know this is a terrifying conversation to have, but you never know until you ask. If your boss says yes, you can start adding to your savings without stretching your pockets too thin. But if your anxiety’s kicking in just thinking about having this conversation, here are several tips to request a raise like a pro.

    12. Unsubscribe from marketing emails that tempt you to spend.

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    Not today, Satan! Marketing emails from your favorite store know just what to say to pull you in. It’s hard to tell them "No!" when they offer you a 30% discount code or show you a sneak peek of their spring collection. Remove the temptation completely by unsubscribing from promotional emails. I know It’s hard to say goodbye, but you can do this.

    13. Take advantage of credit card perks, like rewards points and cash back features.

    someone holding two credit cards
    Jasmin Suknanan / BuzzFeed

    When used responsibly, a credit card can actually be a handy money-saving tool. For example, if you get a card with no annual fee and a free cash back feature, all the money you earn back can be put toward your emergency fund. Let's say you get a card that gives you 5% cash back and you spend $500 a month. You’ll get $25 back! It might not seem like a lot, but getting a return on your spending is like getting a discount on life. And hey, something is better than nothing, right?

    Just remember, credit cards can be a double-edged sword when they aren't used responsibly. So to steer clear of debt, treat your credit card like a debt card. Only spend what you can repay at the end of the month, and pay off your balance in full, on time. You should also try to use no more than 30% of your available credit. And if you're already working on paying off a credit card, it might be best to focus on eliminating that balance before you start trying to earn any cash rewards or points.

    14. Know that it's okay to start small. Saving any amount is better than nothing!

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    When it comes to rebuilding your emergency fund, it’s never too early to start saving. If you begin now (and even if you start small), you'll have a cushion for unexpected expenses even if you don't meet the full cost. Some savings are better than none and can keep you from dipping into other accounts (or debt) to cover the expense.

    “Everybody’s seen the statistic that 4 out of 10 Americans can’t afford a $400 expense,” Hussey-Yeo says. “It’s tragic. But we’re seeing people in that situation make a ton of progress by saving small and often. Even $5 a week adds up.”

    For more money-making and savings tips, check out our other personal finance posts.

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