The Importance of an Emergency Fund

The Importance of an Emergency Fund

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!


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 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.

5 Ways to Recover From a Financial Setback

5 Ways to Recover From a Financial Setback

Since I shared some of the tools that I used to accelerate my debt pay off with you, it seems like I have had one financial setback after another.  Why can’t I put a filter on my finances to make them look better than they are? Is there an app for that? *asking for a friend*. I’m doing almost everything right. I budget, I think twice even three times before spending money and it’s still not enough!

The reality is things happen… that’s life so here are some steps that I took to get through a particularly rough financial patch.

1. Admit temporary defeat

One of the top six reasons you’re not sticking to your budget is “you’re not being realistic,” wrote Kristin Sutton in a blog post, 7 Mistakes You’re Making When Paying Your Debt Down.   

At the beginning of June, I had to make a smaller payment than I usually do towards my biggest and most pressing debt. I had been on such a roll that it really hurt to not be able to make the full payment that one time, but it would have made the rest of the month unbearable if I had not acknowledged I couldn’t do it. I’m putting emphasis on temporary because I will not let this minor setback overshadow the progress I’ve made so far. Keep it 100 with yourself. Denying you’re in financial trouble will only make it worse.

2. Work harder (not smarter)

Yes, you read that right. Sometimes I have to put the motivational tweets aside – I’m quite the preacher on Twitter – and DO something.  This can look different for you depending on your situation. Maybe you could work overtime, you could seek an extra client that month as a freelancer or maybe even sell a few things you don’t need. For me it simply means the short-term grind is putting in extra hours at my part-time job.

3. Small sacrifices

Spending smarter comes in handy. I made a go-to struggle grocery list, disabled my Uber account and I skipped a few concerts too. Did I die????? No! On a serious note, these small luxuries are just some examples of things that I do usually budget for but are not fixed costs. During this rough time, I had to scrap all of these things and focus on the things I absolutely needed. These slight adjustments will provide some financial relief.

4. Mind over matter

I have been practicing being grateful for what I CAN do versus what I can’t do. When I focus on all the things I can’t afford I feel overwhelmed and that’s when I fail at step 1 to 3.  I wrote in my journal at the beginning of the month, “I paid my bills this month on time and in full.” That’s something not everyone can do and certainly something I used to struggle to do not so long ago. I started to see things switch up for the good when I exercised some gratitude.

5. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed

It’s okay to reach out and ask for help. Clearly frustrated one night, I asked my tweeps if they knew of any side hustles that were fairly easy to get in my area. I got three fruitful replies and at least one of those replies has directly led to more income! Your favourite money therapist offered me a paid opportunity I could not turn down. I am now on the Debt Free Black Girl team and lovin’ it.  Let the church say AMEN!

What are some of the things you do to help you get back on financial track?

Written by Zandile Chiwanza

Zandile is a hard working, resourceful, fine & frugal Zimbabwean living in Toronto, Canada. Proofreader by day, Zandile like to write about music, lifestyle and now personal finance when she is not busy being the grammar police!

You can find @Zaknows on TwitterPinterest and Medium.


How I Paid Off $5,000 in 3 Months

How I Paid Off $5,000 in 3 Months

“When I first started getting serious about paying down my debts, I had to really think about why it was important for me to get out of debt as soon as possible,” said Kristin Sutton, founder of this platform Debt Free Black Girl in a recent newsletter.  

Good question. Why is being debt free important to me? Well frankly, I am tired of dealing with the emotional consequences that come with debt such as stress, anxiety, shame, depression, low self esteem just to name a few. Since I started this journey I have had to constantly remind myself why I am doing this in the first place. It has helped tremendously to keep me focused and remind myself of my purpose and changed my outlook on my finances.

Here’s what I did to accelerate my debt payoff in no particular order:


The Journey That Led Me to Start DFBG

The Journey That Led Me to Start DFBG

It was the summer of 2003; I was 17 years old and was gearing up to attend school at North Carolina A&T (Aggie Pride). As soon as I stepped onto campus, they had a table set up for students to sign up for credit cards. Bruh! I was like a kid in a candy store as I approached the table and signed my name on the dotted line. I just had to get my hands on one of those cards! Mistake #1.

I knew nothing about how credit cards REALLY worked, and how much trouble they would ultimately get me into. So picture me, a young naive ‘carefree black girl’ with a credit card. A CREDIT CARD! I would just ball out with no remorse; frequent shopping trips to the local mall and going out to eat and footing the bill for all of my friends was the norm. I must have thought I was Diddy or something. Like who does that? Just being RECKLESS! Not realizing that I actually had to pay all of that money back plus extra (just kidding), I was living the good life as a poor little rich girl (I was spoiled SMH).


How I Got It Together And Started Gathering My Coins

How I Got It Together And Started Gathering My Coins

Broke. Poor. Overdrawn. Late Payments.

These are just a few words that I chose to leave behind in 2017.  My financial vocabulary got a new year’s makeover along with other resolutions that I plan to execute in 2018. But how did I get even get here?

My relationship with money only really began at 20. Before then, I lived at home in Zimbabwe where my parents took care of me. I wasn’t spoiled, I knew the value of money and I appreciated the hard work my parents put in to afford me a comfortable lifestyle and an even better upbringing, but nothing could have prepared me for my years in university in Canada and the real struggle it was for me to finish my degree because of financial hardship.


3 Emotional Consequences of Being in Debt

3 Emotional Consequences of Being in Debt

Photo Cred: She Lives Deliberately

As a mental health therapist, I’m truly committed to ensuring that the people I encounter and work with take care of themselves mentally and emotionally. Money is so strongly connected to our emotions. Most people don’t realize this and the first thing they think about is the amount of money they have in the bank.

Sometimes our feelings towards money are so strong that we start to hate money because we believe that it is the cause of all of our problems. Hate is a strong emotion.

The truth is that the problem isn’t money. The problem is how we approach money, how we think about money and how we handle money. People who constantly think negatively about money, tend to be plagued by money problems their whole life. This can cause a downward spiral emotionally.

One of the main issues that people face is being in debt. Being in debt can literally take a toll on you emotionally, if you’re not careful.