8 Ways to Build Your Emergency Fund When you Have no Extra Money

Recently our church started a campus wide Financial Peace University campaign. They are working to get as many people plugged into Dave Ramsey’s teachings as possible. We have lived by Dave Ramsey’s principles for years. We saw him teach live at Fort Hood, TX when we were stationed there about 11 years ago. He taught Financial Freedom concepts to a huge stadium full of soldiers, for free. I have read his books and listened to his radio show on and off ever since. We have always had an emergency fund since then. We have had to dip into it for car repairs, emergency trips, unplanned expenses and more things than I can remember. I am glad that we have always had one in place.

I decided to take the Financial Peace University Class, at church, last fall. It was supposed to be a, “kick in the pants” so to speak to remember where we came from and what we were trying to do. After years of saving, being smart, etc… sometimes, you get a little fatigued. It helped. One area I had not thought about in a while was insurances… We went through all of our policies and reviewed our coverages. I cannot remember the last time we actually did that. It is good to go through all of those items and check what you need to add or take off.

One interesting part about the class was seeing some kids who were just staring off. They were trying to start the baby steps. It was overwhelming for them to think of where to start with the emergency fund. Which, I completely understand. If someone had told my 21 year old self to try to save $1,000 I would have thought they were crazy. At that time in my life, I was seriously… barely… getting.. by… It would have been so hard for me to save $100. Let alone $1000. So, I wanted to write this article of what to say to my 21 year old self, or the kids in my class… of how and where to start. I have nooo illusions that it is easy. Especially if you are barely making it. But, we all have to start somewhere. And that emergency fund has saved us from hardship many, many times. So here a few of my ideas.

#1 Save your Tax Return

When you are barely getting by, it is hard not to build up debt and then use the tax return to pay it off. Sometimes, nearly impossible. BUT, if you can try, try, try to save that tax return, or at least some of it, you will be so much better off. Get it into your saving account and DON’T TOUCH IT! I know it is so hard! I try to think of it as a contest against the advertising world. You know they are ramping up to get us to spend our money in March and April. They want us to spend every single penny we get plus the ones we don’t! I will not give in!

Possible Savings- $250- $2000?

#2 Try to Work in At Least One Cheap Meal per Week

I am not talking about hamburgers instead of steak, think cheaper… I am talking about Dave Ramsey’s Beans and Rice. Actually my kids enjoy beans and rice with some cheese on top. Maybe a mac and cheese and hot dog night. Maybe tuna sandwich and a can of soup night. Make a soup out of leftover stuff.. carrots, celery, chicken broth and whatever meat pieces you have.. Thow it all in the crock pot. And after this save the money you would have spent. Squirrel it away and leave it alone. Now I know this is not healthy long term. I am not talking about every day eating hot dogs. But replace a meal a week with an ultra cheap meal and bank the rest.

Possible Savings for the month- $20

#3 Walk More

When my kids were at the elementary school by the house, I figured out how much it was to drive them back and forth. It was about $.25 each way. It was not that far. But we could walk. And we did.. a lot. I would challenge myself to remember that is $.50 a day and $2.50 a week. As a stay at home mom, this was worth my time and I was able to get more exercise, as well.

Possible Savings for the Month- $10.00 and this was for me living not that far away

#4 Coin Jar

There have been many times I have wanted to save for something that was not in the budget. This is where my coin jar came in. I remember one year, I put a jar on the counter and wrote on a paper, “Spring Break Money”. We would put all of our coins in there. Even the grandparents and the kidsput coins in there. With this money, I was able to take the kids to an overnight to a larger city and a fun museum that we usually don’t get to go to. Everyone was part of the process. Also, the kids were able to see how a little does add up.

Possible Savings for the Month- $20

#5 Keep the Gas Guzzler Vehicle At Home

This may work for some people. Most of us have 2 vehicles. For a month, try to see if you can keep the gas guzzler vehicle at home. Maybe it is not as pretty. Oh well, neither is a credit card bill. Or, if both people work, trade the vehicles around so that the one who drives the least keeps the gas guzzler with them. Bank on the savings.

Possible Savings for the Month- $30?

#6 Try Some Mystery Shopping

Ok, so let’s assume you need all your day job money to stay afloat. Maybe you can sneak in a mystery shop or two per week. I use a great company called Market Force. They always have jobs in my area. One of them is going to a restaurant, evaluating the food and service and reporting on it. It is easy as long as I remember to do it! Mark your calendar. I usually get $7-10 per shop and also reimbursed for the food. Save your receipt! There are other legitimate sites out there. Do your research. But this one has paid me regularly.

Possible Savings for the Month- 2 jobs a week at $8.00= $64.00

Related Article: How I Made $222.65 With The Field Agent App in 2018

#7 Use a Cash Back App, or 2, or 3

If you are not using a cash back app you are seriously missing out! I wish they had these years ago. Every.. thing.. you.. buy, you should get some cash back on. Groceries, make up, eating out.. Put all the apps you can on your phone. Seriously, this is a gold mine folks! Here are my top cash back sites and how they work:

  • Ibotta: Ibotta is probably my favorite site. There are so many opportunities for cash back. There is cash back for food, crafts (Joann’s!!), Ebay stuff, really any category you can think of. Just download the app and you will see! You could easily get $10-$20 back a month this way. Use my referral code at sign up: ekebnhr. At this time it says you will get a $20 welcome bonus. I believe you have to scan a receipt to activate this bonus.
  • Fetch Rewards: Fetch is similar to Ibotta. Not as many rewards however, you can scan every single grocery receipt for cash back. It is a little but it adds up. The app will also find products you purchased with their partner companies and give you money back for those. Use my code GW1VN at sign up right now and you will get 2,000 points. Rewards start at 3,000 points. You must scan your first receipt to get this reward.
  • Coin Out: This is a newer one for me. But again, it allows you to scan every single grocery, gas station, and restaurant receipt. Sometimes you get a penny back. Sometimes, $.10 you never know. I try to scan all my receipts with this app. If you want to try this app use my link here!

Related Articles:

How to Use Fetch Rewards to Get Cash Back on Every Grocery Purchase

That Time I used Ibotta and Other Apps to Pay for My Cinco De Mayo Dinner and a Bunch of Other Stuff…

Possible Savings: $30?

#8 Try To Cut 1 Thing

My next tip is where things might get uncomfortable. For this tip, you will need to cut one thing. Maybe it is trash service, for example. At my employment there is a large dumpster. They do not care if employees put trash in there. What if you could cut trash service for a few months? Mine is $27 a month. It would be inconvenient and somewhat gross to have to put my trash in my car and take it over there. But it would save. And it wouldn’t be forever. Do you have something similar? Here are some areas you could consider:

  • Cable
  • Internet- extra services, could you downgrade, get a slower speed, etc..
  • Subscriptions: Netflix, Hulu, Magazines, Apps that you pay for, newspapers, Amazon Prime, Pandora, Apple Music, etc…

Possible Savings: At Least $27?

Total Savings- $451 and Up!!

So, those are my 8 tips, for now. What do you think? Have you tried any of these? Is there something new that you would try? Maybe pick one and work on it this week! Let me know if you do, I would love to hear!

Happy Savings!


If you liked this post, please consider subscribing! Link is at the top, right corner of the blog!

Other Articles You May Enjoy

8 Freebies Today! 2/25/19

11 Free Kindle Books Today! 2/9/19

How I Made $265.98 In January from Websites, Apps, Selling Crafts, Amazon, and More!

Freebies Today! 2/4/19

11 Free Kindle Books Today! 1/26/19

How I Made $176.33 in October from Websites, Apps, Selling Crafts, and More!

How to Get Free Books from Tyndale- My Reader Rewards Club

How to Make $25.00 a Month On Earning Station

How I Made $222.65 With The Field Agent App in 2018

Amazon Books


  1. Great suggestions! We just saved $173 a month cutting the cable cord! We switched to an HD antenna and you tube tv and still have super fast internet. We put it off for 2 years because we thought we would miss it. It’s been three months and we don’t miss it at all!

    • Yes! I am glad you were able to save! Cable
      is getting more and more expensive!!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.