Emergency savings aren’t for fun. When you don’t need it, you look at a nice sum in the bank that you could be using for something fun. When you do need it, you’re going through some sort of financial crisis and probably won’t be patting yourself on the back for being prepared.
As a college student you might not have a lot of spare money sitting around, but having some cash set aside is a lot more pleasant than having to ask the Bank of Mom & Dad for funds because you weren’t prepared. Even if you need to ask for some help, you can save a lot of pride if you let them know you’re able to contribute toward whatever emergency you have.
So how much money should a student save for emergencies? There’s no answer to cover everyone other than “it depends”. The best advice is to anticipate what types of emergencies you may need it for. Things like blowing the transmission in your car, unplanned travel to be with a friend, embarrassing personal health situations, or minor legal issues (like tickets) can all be things that you might feel weird asking your parents to help cover. Even asking for help with reasonable things like food and rent can be uncomfortable if they know that you blew the money you were supposed to use.
A good goal is to save around $500 somewhere where you can’t spend it easily, but can access it when you absolutely need it. That might not cover everything, but it’s a good start on most minor situations you will find yourself in.
How do you get that $500 saved up? Here are three ideas:
- If you work, funnel a little bit off each paycheck or from your tips to slowly build it up. Just be sure to keep the money safe from yourself so you don’t use it for impulse purchases. If you treat your emergency fund like a bill and pay yourself first, you won’t miss the money.
- When your disbursement comes from extra scholarship, grant, and loan money, take out the $500 then and set it aside.
- Save up those mini-windfalls you might get from birthdays, tax returns, and holidays.
It might seem like $500 is a lot to save. But it will feel like even more when you have to pay it in a pinch and don’t have it. Whatever your goal is, set it and get after it. Consider making a pledge to save with America Saves Week as extra motivation to get started.
Emergency savings are for emergencies!