A rainy day fund is designed to help you pay for unexpected bills beyond your normal living expenses.
The unexpected can and often does happen, and for many of us, it can be costly. In fact, 60% of Americans don’t have enough in their savings to cover a surprise $1000 expense, and nearly four in 10 would need to incur some type of debt just to cover the cost, according to a new survey by Bankrate.com.
Having funds set aside for unexpected expenses can keep these little financial storms from disrupting your monthly budget and derailing your short- and long-term financial goals.
Here’s what you need to know about rainy day funds, from how to start one to how much you need to put in it.
What is a Rainy Day Fund?
A rainy day fund is a pre-set amount of savings set aside to cover extra, one-off expenses that may crop up throughout the year like a car or home repair.
They are called “rainy day” funds because, just as you need to have a backup plan to accommodate bad weather, you’ll also want to have a backup to accommodate sudden extra expenses.
Just like a thunderstorm, a broken dishwasher can occur out of the blue. Being prepared for little financial upsets can keep them from becoming major stressors and disrupting your financial life and/or causing you to go into debt to cover the costs.
Rainy Day Funds Vs. Emergency Funds
An emergency fund is a larger back-up fund typically containing three- to six months worth of living expenses. An emergency fund is designed to be used for more extreme financial disruptions, such as a job loss, major medical bill, or need a new roof.
A rainy day fund is generally a significantly smaller amount of savings meant to cover expenses that have a good possibility of coming up–you’re just not sure when. These could also be expenses that always come up once or twice a year, such as annual maintenance of your home heating and air conditioning systems.
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Why Can’t I Use My Emergency Fund?
Technically, an emergency fund could be used to cover smaller, short-term expenses.
However, using an emergency fund to cover these expenses can chip away at your ability to cover the larger, truly unexpected expenses that could occur down the line.
Should a major emergency occur, not having those funds fully and immediately available could lead to severe financial stress.
You might need to resort to using credit cards, a personal loan, or a payday loan. Due to the high-interest rates on these types of loans, you would end up paying much more in the long run.
Or, you might have to withdraw from your retirement or college fund, which could hurt your long-term financial health.
How Much Money Should I Put in My Rainy Day Fund?
One ballpark figure for a rainy day fund is to have at least $1000 saved since that can be a reasonable amount to help cover unexpected costs.
How much you’ll want to set aside in your fund, however, is highly individual and will depend on your financial situation and potential upcoming expenses.
One way to figure out a target amount for your rainy day fund is to create a list of considering the highest amount you can expect to pay for an unexpected bill. Here are some possible “rainy day” expenses that could come up.
For example, if your health care deductible is $1,500, you’ll want to keep at least that much in your rainy day fund. Car repair prices range, but common fixes on the brakes or alternator cost between $400 and $700. Just in case two rainy days happen close together, it’s a good idea to increase your savings goal.
If you’d like guidance for your unique situation, consider reaching out to a financial advisor. They can look at your current finances and help you create an excellent savings plan. They can also help decide how much money to put in a rainy day or emergency fund.
To come up with a target amount, you may want to .., analyzing spending and anticipated bills outside of monthly expenses can help.
One way to figure out a target amount for your rainy day fund is to create a list of anticipated larger expenses–these are purchases, costs, and bills that arise only a few times a year, but aren’t always tied to an exact date. They can include:
• Home gutter cleanings
• Car maintenance
• School shopping
• Annual subscriptions
• Emergency Childcare
• Emergency room visits
• Parking tickets
• Tax bills
• Broken windows
• Plane tickets
• Appliance replacement
You may want to review this list, as well as look at large one-off expenses that came up last year, to come up with a ballpark figure for your rainy day fund.
How Do I Save for a Rainy Day Fund
The process of building up your rainy day fund is similar to saving money for any goal or major purchase. There are several different strategies to choose from, and you may want to combine a few.
Cutting back on nonessential spending. You may want to take a look at your monthly spending over the past few months and see if there are any simple places you can cut back, such as cooking a few more meals at home each week, getting rid of a streaming service you rarely watch or spending less on clothing each month. The funds you free up can get funneled into your rainy day savings account.
Bringing in some extra income. Picking up a side hustle (like dog walking, babysitting, or food delivery), selling things you no longer use online or doing some freelance work can help you build your rainy day savings fund.
Take advantage of windfalls. A sudden influx of cash, such as a bonus, cash gift, or tax refund, can be a great–and quick–way to build your rainy day fund.
Keeping the change. Putting all your leftover change in a jar and watching it add up is an old-fashioned, but still effective way to save. When the jar is full you can deposit the money in the bank to give your rainy-day fund a bump.
Setting up automated transfers. Establishing an automatic transfer from your checking into your rainy day savings account on a set day each month (perhaps after your paycheck gets deposited) can be one of the most effective ways to grow this fund. Even if the amount is small, it will add up quickly because the transfer will happen every month no matter what.
Recommended: Benefits of Automating Your Finances
Where Should I Keep My Rainy Day Fund?
You’ll want to keep your rainy day fund in an account that is separate from your spending (so you don’t accidentally spend it) but is still easily accessible.
Good options include a high-interest savings account, money market account, online savings account, or checking and savings account. These accounts typically offer higher interest than a standard savings account but allow you to access your money when you need it.
Setting up a separate “rainy day” savings account can help you manage those annoying extra expenses that can crop up throughout the year that might otherwise throw you off balance.
As you use your rainy day fund to cover pop-up expenses, it’s a good idea to fill it back up, so you’ll have financial back-up the next time you need it.
One easy way to create—and build–a rainy day fund is to open a checking and savings account, such as SoFi Checking and Savings.
With SoFi Checking and Savings’s special “vaults” features, you can separate your savings from your spending–and even set up a separate “rainy day fund” vault–while earning competitive interest on all of your money.
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