I remember it like it was yesterday.
After the recession hit and some bad real estate investments sapped our emergency fund, my wife Holly and I had to start rebuilding our finances from scratch. That meant coming up with some cash, fast.
I sold my beloved golf clubs at a garage sale. That hurt . . . a lot! I also took some part-time jobs: delivering phone books, driving semitrucks during the summer, and doing interior painting until midnight before waking up and going to work the next day. Yes, it’s all true.
It was a rough time for our family, but God sustained us and blessed our effort. We’re on the other side now, and we’ve actually grown closer as a couple because of the experience. Praise Jesus.
Maybe you’re there now. Maybe the New Year has you ready to make a change. If you are, I promise it’s possible to claw your way out of whatever financial mess you’re in! Like Holly and I did, the first step to taking control of your money is quickly establishing a starter emergency fund of $1,000 (or $500 if you make less than $20,000 a year).
I know. When you’re just beginning, the very first Baby Step can feel more like a giant leap. But it’s an important leap! That $1,000 will allow you to rely on cash when minor emergencies pop up rather than going further into debt by borrowing more money.
The Bible encourages this sort of behavior. Proverbs 21:20 says, “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has” (NIV).
So take your wisdom from Proverbs. Establish your starter emergency fund now, when the year is fresh and new, and you’re feeling energized and hopeful. Here are three small but powerful steps you can take today—and ones I used myself—to do just that.
1. Get a second job.
A short-term, part-time job never killed anybody. Sure, you may be working 12-hour days seven days a week, but it’s only temporary. You’ll survive! Besides just bringing home more cash, the extra effort also generates a healthy sense of accomplishment that propels you toward your goals faster.
2. Have a garage sale.
I’m going to take a wild guess and say you have some junk lying around you don’t need or use anymore. Get rid of it all by selling it at a garage sale or through online classifieds. Bonus: Eliminating all that clutter from your life will be freeing all on its own. (Unless they’re your beloved golf clubs. Man, getting rid of them still kills me.)
3. Cut expenses.
Little changes can make a big difference. Consider canceling subscriptions, adjusting your thermostat, and eliminating activities that require lots of gas money. Maybe you can even sacrifice some luxuries like your weekly car washes or lawn service. You might be able to do some of these yourself or hire a neighborhood kid to do the work for less than you were paying the pro.
A $1,000 starter emergency fund isn’t out of reach for anyone. It may take some hard work to fund it quickly, but you’ll be amazed how much better you sleep at night when you know that you’re prepared for those curveballs life is bound to throw your way.