If you’re just scraping by financially, it doesn’t take a lot for a money crisis to go down. According to research by Elevate’s Center for the New Middle Class, among non-prime Americans (aka those who have below a 700 credit score and little or no savings), a whopping 69 percent couldn’t cover an urgent $500 emergency. What’s also scary is that the non-prime set can only survive for four months in the case they experience a job loss, long-term illness, or during an economic downturn.
And according to EARN, a nonprofit that helps working families save, a shortfall of cash in a given month is anywhere from $250 to $500. As you can see, having an extra $500 in your emergency fund could really come in handy when you’re in a pinch, and saving that much is totally doable.
Here are 6 ways to boost your emergency fund by $500:
Nix Recurring Expenses
Getting rid of subscriptions or reducing the payments on your recurring bills add up quickly. These are considered easy wins because once you cancel that subscription or negotiate for a lower rate, you can net big savings over time. These can be anything from apps that have a monthly fee, magazine subscriptions you no longer read or getting rid of a gym membership.
To figure out what recurring expenses you can nix, check your credit card statements or transactions via a money management platform. Try switching to a cheaper provider or negotiating for a lower rate on your bills, utilities, and insurance—cell phone, internet, or cable, to name a few.
Saving $50 a month on your bills and subscriptions adds up to $600 a year. A lot of the time there are promotions or better deals that you just don’t know about. Give the service provider a call, and see what kind of savings they can offer you.
Slash a Major Expense
The top three expenses are housing, transportation, and housing. While we may try to cut down on the small stuff, such as coffee, latte breaks or lunch, that savings takes longer to add up, points out Kristen Berman, principal and co-founder of Common Cents Lab.
“Take a step back and evaluate if your rent is as low as it could be,” says Berman. “Or, if you don’t really need your car anymore—Lyft and Uber could replace. If you’re a Mint user, sort your expenses by the amount, and see what big expense you could cut out in the next two months.”
This summer I was forced to relocate out of my apartment of eight years. And living in Los Angeles, which is considered the most unaffordable rental market in the U.S., I decided to make the trade-off of paying just a little more for a smaller space (I know, paying more for less seems backward, but that’s the reality of housing in L.A.). In turn, I didn’t have to pay double for my rent, which I had initially anticipated.
Review Insurance Policies
Sometimes it may be harder to pinpoint expenses you can do without. For instance, if you’re a homeowner, and you no longer need private mortgage insurance, get rid of it, suggests Nancy Piccione, founder of Clarus Money Coaching. Or if you took on a car loan, and purchased gap insurance or loan/lease payoff insurance, take it off your policy once the car’s paid off.
This requires going through your policies and making sure it’s the right fit for your current needs, and whether you actually need some of those add-ons. Be sure to spend some time cost-comparing different insurers for the best deal.
Sell Your Car to a Salvage Yard
Earlier this year my partner’s junky cargo van suffered a catastrophic failure and died while he was en route to New Mexico. The silver lining? He sold the car to a salvage yard and they offered him $500 for it. The ironic part was that he got it when it had 150,000 miles, and bartered for it. While you could donate your car to charity, selling it to a nearby salvage yard such as Pick a Part or Pick-n-Pull could help boost your e-fund.
Save “Extra” Paychecks
If you get paid every Friday or biweekly, guess what? There are usually two months each year where you get three paychecks. Socking away a portion of just one portion will add a nice $500 to your savings.
For freelancers, commit to saving cash when you’re having an awesome month workwise. Because we self-employed folks have to budget on inconsistent income, it’s particularly important to squirrel away funds for a rainy day.
Cut Out Your Money Carbs
When dieting, people tend to pick a few food groups and have a rule that they will not indulge, explains Berman. You may love potato chips, fine cheeses or burgers, but it’s really just hurting your health. It’s super hard at first, but over time it becomes easier.
“For spending, ask yourself what is your equivalent of ‘carbs’ “, says Berman. Then create a rule: for one month, drastically cut out a category or type of spending. For instance, let’s say you fall under the “latte” addict stereotype. Or you spend way too much on shoes you only wear once, or are push-happy when it comes to buying apps, and neglect to use them.
This also allows you to easily make excuses to your friends, explains Berman. You can let your pals know that you’re not eating out on weekends, drinking at bars, or stepping foot into the mall because you’re enforcing a no-spend rule that month. My friend Kelly did a series of 30-day challenges. And by letting everyone know what she was up to, people not only respected her monthly challenge, but they supported her efforts.
“This is going to be incredibly tough, but it will quickly help you build up a savings cushion,” says Berman. “Plus, you’ll likely learn something about your spending habits.”
While it may take some work and discipline, rolling up your sleeves and finding ways to sock away $500 to bolster or kickstart your emergency fund could make a major difference.