Let’s rewind to summer ’16. I had just graduated from university. I hadn’t secured full-time employment and I had no health insurance. Just after my birthday my tooth decided it was the appropriate time to act up. If you’ve ever had a toothache you will know that the pain is excruciating and NO over-the-counter pain medication will help you. The fact that I knew very well I couldn’t afford to go to the dentist probably added to the pain. It was Day 3 or 4 in bed, when a good friend took me to see a dentist. I was so afraid of the hefty bill that I let it get worse. My only option at the time was to remove the tooth that was hurting because it was far cheaper than a root canal treatment. There I was losing teeth all because of the way my bank account was set up! Now let’s fast forward to earlier this year. I had to take care of some bills regarding immigration (becoming a Canadian resident/citizen is not cheap ya’ll). I was running on a deadline and therefore couldn’t wait too long to raise the money I needed, so I had to borrow some money to pay off the bills on time.

The common problem here is I had no emergency funds that can cover unexpected and unplanned expenses. Most debt payoff strategies require you to kickoff by putting aside some money for emergencies but when I started paying off my debt I decided to skip this step and went right into paying it off.  

Summer of 2018 is coming to an end and the truth is I’m yet to start that emergency fund! *gasps*  I’m so tired of not accounting for unexpected expenses and digging myself into a deeper financial mess. It’s irresponsible and down right a mistake. It’s been all fun and games until an actual emergency comes up and I have to pile on more debt on my credit card  or borrow money in order to cover the surprise costs ! So I’m dedicating the rest of the year to starting to build my emergency fund and here are the steps I’m taking to do it:

Determine what an emergency is

An important part of building emergency funds is deciding what constitutes as a LEGIT emergency, sis. Running out of cash to get my hair done is NOT. A missed opportunity for an online sale at FashionNova is NOT and one more drink on a night out is certainly NOT. An emergency for me would be anything from loss of a job to medical bills to unplanned travel expenses for example.

Decide how much to put aside

While the experts suggest 3 to 6 months of expenses for an emergency fund, you should look at your current expenses and income and see what you can put aside realistically. Starting small is always an option and when you’re more financially stable you can aim to save up to 6 months worth of expenses. For now 1 months worth of expenses is my target.  

Think of SMART ways to stack your coins

Now that I know what my emergency fund is for and how much I would like to save for it I need to establish where the money is coming from. In order to reach your financial goals you need to be specific! For example, write down your goal, “I want to save $1,000 by December 31, 2018 by allocating $125 bi-weekly to my emergency fund.”  Look at your budget again and make some adjustments and set it up so that your emergency funds come out of your paycheck automatically. Any extra income during this time should go towards the fund. Every penny counts!

Accountability

We recently ran a poll on Twitter asking people if they have an emergency fund or not.  69 % of those who responded say they’re currently working on building one, 25 % said they already have one and 6 % answered ‘nah’.  In my experience accountability is the difference between success and failure. It’s one thing so say you’re going to do something and another to actually put in the work! 

Do you want to build or rebuild your emergency fund? I need an accountability partner(s)! The more the merrier.  Hit me up on Twitter or email me za@debtfreeblackgirl.com and let me know how much you want to save for emergencies, when you want to do it by and how you are going to do it.

P.S Once you’ve saved up enough for emergencies consider these two things: You don’t want to pull from these funds unless it’s a legit emergency and when you do have to remember to replace the money as soon as you can!

Written by Zandile Chiwanza

Zandile is a hard working, resourceful, fine & frugal girl living in Toronto. Editor by day, Zandile like to write about her financial health journey when she is not busy being the grammar police!

You can find @Zaknows on Twitter, Pinterest and Medium.