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Why do you need an emergency savings fund? Five words: You could lose your job. Six more words: You might not find another one.

With the job market on shaky ground, having an emergency fund could be the only thing standing between you and a mountain of debt should you find yourself suddenly unemployed. And even if your job is on terra firma, you never know when an unexpected expense like a medical bill or pricey home repair could send you reeling. Build up your rainy day fund now, because the monsoon could be just over the horizon.

So, how much do you need? Most experts advise building an emergency savings fund large enough to cover three to six months of your expenses. In this down market, it’s best to aim for six months. To calculate how much emergency cash you’ll need, add up all your monthly living expenses and multiply that by the number of months you want to cover. You should also include cash for emergency expenses and insurance deductibles. Odds are this is a pretty hefty amount, but you don’t have to have all that money right off the bat. It can take a few years to build a proper emergency fund, so give yourself a little time.

Don’t think you can afford to save? Then how could you afford an emergency when one occurs? If you make saving a priority, you’ll be surprised. Take a look at where every dollar of your money goes throughout a month. (Tip: If you only use your debit card, even for small expenses, you’ll be able to easily track what you spend on your bank statement.) Look for frivolous expenses you can cut back on like premium coffee every day or eating out. A good budget trim could net you a couple hundred dollars a month.

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Divert money directly from your paycheck into your emergency fund. If the money never hits your checking account, you won’t have it there to spend. The best place to park an emergency fund is in a savings account or a money market account. You won’t earn a lot of interest, but you’ll have easy access and won’t have to worry about your principal. Your emergency fund isn’t supposed to make you rich; it’s supposed to keep you from being poor.

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