The Emergency Cash Stash

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We were going over the budget not too long ago and trying to find yet more ways to cut back on expenses. At the same time, we decided to take inventory of our accounts.

The last “account” we checked on was the Emergency Cash Stash kept in the house for emergencies. I’ve always recommended keeping a some cash in the house in case the ATMs suddenly become unavailable due to any of the following reasons:

  • power outage
  • your checking account gets hacked and is disabled
  • your debit card gets lost or stolen and the bank is closed
  • natural disaster such as hurricane, tornado, earthquake etc.
  • banks declare a “bank holiday”

Regardless of the situation, a cash stash is an essential part of any emergency plan.

Imagine my surprise when I checked what was in the cash stash and found $47.00.
This was well below what we had originally agreed upon to keep around for emergencies.  See Can a Bank Glitch Ruin Your Weekend).  I recalled we “borrowed” from the fund when a few emergencies came up and needed quick cash to pay for unforeseen expenses.  I had intended to replace it, but life gets in the way of your good intentions sometimes.  They were all good reasons, but the point was, I had forgotten to go back and replace what was taken out.   We’d be kicking ourselves if some emergency happened and discovered we were low on cash!

Here is the plan to quickly replenish it:

  • Cutting the budgeted grocery expense in half for the coming week. We’ll be using up what’s in the pantry even if it means eating cereal for dinner (which I actually don’t mind) (+$50)
  • Found a few items to sell on E-bay and listing those items today Expected: (+$40)
  • Called the home improvement store to see if they would accept an item that did not work out for return even if it was opened. Was pleasantly surprised when I was told they’d accept it with the original receipt. (+$32)
  • Mailing in a rebate form that I almost thought was too small to bother with ($3)

We are working on the plan now, and hopefully the fund will be back to pre-depleted levels soon.

If you have built up your cash fund, what other tips were successful for you?

 

For more preparedness tips, read my book:

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20 thoughts on “The Emergency Cash Stash

  1. We have both cash and silver in small quantities spread out over three bugout bags (two at home and one in the car). We also keep an emergency cash and silver supply in the safe. I only add about $5-10 a paycheck. But it is on a “don’t touch except for life and death emergencies” basis. Even then, one would have to gather it up from the four different sources and then also go sell the silver. It is not a lot of money, but would work in a pinch as long as we’re not in a protracted crisis.

    They say have six months of savings for the possibility of being unemployed. We don’t and may never (the budget is in a crunch). But we have a few barter items as well as barter skillsets/tools (welding, carpentry, etc.).

    • Hi Zoomer, The rule of thumb of 6 months worth of savings is good to aspire to, unfortunately, we are pretty far from that as well. All we can do is start somewhere and just keep growing it. Silver being spread out among bug out bags is a great idea! thanks!

      • We’ve also started (recently) saving back any amount of money we saved from using coupons. We’ve found it is like getting 20-30% or better off our food bill (triple coupons?) and have begun using it in the emergency cash stash. We’ll see how that works.

        • Zoomer, great idea, I really need to use coupons more often. Let us know how that works out!

  2. One of the better ways to build up an emergency fund is to go beyond eating from the pantry. Just plan on eating “cheap” two days a week for the next few months. Easy ways to eat cheap? How about chicken noodle soup made from canned chicken broth (purchase by the case when it is on sale for 50 cents a can), canned chicken (great source of protein and reasonably priced at Costco) and a bag or two of noodles (again, purchased by the dozen when on sale for less than a dollar a pound). Add some homemade bread (less than a dollar a loaf) and you could easily feed four for less than $9.

    I too like cereal for dinner. I like oatmeal, raisins and bananas.

    — Gaye

    • Hi Gaye, Great idea-planning on eating cheap a couple of days of the week- that I will use these next few months. Will make the homemade bread, and now that the weather is cooler, some soup. Thanks!

  3. Every payday, I set aside funds into two categories before anything else gets paid. One category is the Savings account. The other money I set aside every pay day is physical cash. No matter how little it is, depending on bills, unexpected expenses, etc., I ALWAYS put aside as much as I can. Sometimes it may only be $5 into each account, but, it ALWAYS gets done no matter what. Sometimes I’m able to put aside a lot more than $10 every two weeks.

    Then I look at my budget and see what I have left over on the day before payday, and the remaining funds get split into savings and cash savings.

    I have surprised myself in that it adds up pretty quick. It is the consistency of slowly adding to the various stashes. Over time, it just adds up.

    • Mr. Read, Couldn’t agree more–consistency is the key to increasing the the savings fund – that’s great you have both savings set aside along with physical cash. Thanks for the comment!

  4. I might also encourage readers to have only one place to stash their cash. I recently found a few hundred dollars I had stashed in a place I forgot about! Not that I’m compaining, only I wouldn’t have been able to use it if I really needed to.

    • Good idea millenniumfly, keep it in one place, so you don’t lose track of it– doesnt do you any good if you forget where it is in an emergency.

  5. My main problem is that all of my stash is in $20 increments. My problem is I’m always running out of $1s. Various increments are a very good thing. Good luck getting change in an emergency. But I do have the stash in the go bag & in a hidden place in my home.

    but speaking of the go bag, I had a good reason for it this weekend. I went on a trip with the folks & realized in my haste to pack for the hotel I never packed my glasses (as I was wearing my contacts at the time). I was in for sore red eyes every morning & no TV at night (lest I risk falling asleep & the contacts glueing to my eye) until I remembered my go bag back in my trunk. They were an old prescription & OLDER frames but I survived! Just took an hour for my eyes to adjust to the older lenses but was surprised to find I didn’t get a headache from squinting for distance.

    But I’ve now also added those throw away “sunglasses” inserts you get from the eye doctor’s office when you get drops in your eyes in the bag as my sunglasses are for when I’m wearing contacts & are not prescription. They’re ugly & not polarized, but the inserts will give me UV protection if I’m ever stuck without my contacts again.

    • I have mostly $20s, but now trying to break them into $1 and $5. Good thing you had your old prescription glasses in your bag. I keep those old prescription glasses around just for emergencies. earing contacts too long is just miserable. Also started keeping a repair kit for eyeglasses, tiny screw driver, and a couple of tiny screws-this has come in handy a few times.

    • Yes, space can always be found, usually in a non-obvious spot, depending on the apartment

  6. As a prepper, I love to surround myself with positive people, including the ones that I only listen to especially on radio and podcasts. ( I love Mr. Mayne for that reason, and nice work on the podcast!) One guy that I really like listening to is Dave Ramsey, the financial guy. Well, of the the things he teaches is to have a minimum $1,000 dollar emergency fund, even before you start paying your debt off. The $1k fund is step 1 of his 7 Baby Steps to Financial Freedom. Step 2 is starting the debt snowball.

    I honestly think that getting and staying out of debt should be an important part of prepping. And no, I am not just saying about having a good FICO score. To me getting out of debt tells me what kind of person you are, a person that meets their obligations and promises. To me a person, in my opinion, that meets their obligations is honest and willing to take responsibility for themselves no matter how tough things get. I have a hell of a lot of respect for that.

    • Hi ravenwolf31, Thanks so much, I am glad you caught the podcast with Mr. Mayne. It was really great being invited to his show, and I enjoyed discussing preparedness with him. I agree with you, getting out of debt and stay out entirely is an important part of being prepared. I like Dave Ramsey’s method of debt freedom as well. Appreciate the comment!

  7. One good way of “generating” the emergency cash stash is diverting all $1 bills to the stash. Every evening, empty the $1’s from your wallet/purse/pocket and add them to the stash. I bundle them in $25 lumps (a small binder clip is wonderful for this). Once you have 5 bundles, trade ‘em up for a bundle of $5 bills.

    Rinse/repeat.

    Another thing I do is stash a sawbuck in an interior pocket of most of my jackets as well as in my tankbag.

    • Hi BikerDad, Those $1 bills can add up quickly! Great suggestions–thanks for the comment!

  8. I like Survivalwoman’s tip on eating cheap. For me, it’s not even a way to scrounge extra cash but a lifestyle. I have been brown-bagging lunch to work for a year now; I’ve certainly bought lunch several times (and breakfast too) but gone are the days I’d spend $7 or more on food each day. Now at the most it’s $3, and when I do spend money, it’s $1 to $2. Over time the savings add up, to the extent that even if one’s savings, cash flow, and monthly budget are in good standing, one will FEEL the “pinch” when splurging on a lunch or dinner out (although, at times, these are deserved.).

    As for an actual physical cash stash… those of you who drive, do you keep a small bundle (and of course, extremely well-hidden) of folded cash somewhere? I’ve decided to do this for my own vehicle as part of winter/emergency preparations. If there’s ever an emergency which requires me to evacuate by car and I haven’t the time to go to the ATM (or if the banks are off-grid, or if my bug-out gear for whatever reason doesn’t include emergency cash), this would come in handy. And even if it’s a very “minor” emergency – battery dying or a flat out in the middle of nowhere… it never hurts to have extra cash handy for when needs arise.

    • Hi Armed and Prepping, Great idea, keeping some emergency cash in the car. You never know when you’ll need it. I keep a lot of change in the car, for tolls and such, but need to restore the cash that was recently used up. Thanks!

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