Building emergency savings is a top financial resolution for 2023, survey finds. Here’s how to get started

Personal Finance

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When it comes to financial resolutions for 2023, there’s one goal at the top of many people’s lists: building an emergency fund.

A recent survey from Personal Capital found that 31% of respondents want to increase their emergency savings, topping other goals like purchasing a car, with 15%; saving to buy a home, 9%; or hosting a wedding, 8%.

Having savings set aside for unexpected expenses such as medical bills or car repairs can help people avoid high-interest debt and also stick to long-term goals like retirement savings.

In fact, not having an emergency fund may be one of the biggest financial mistakes you can make, personal finance expert Suze Orman recently said.

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“The majority of Americans, in my opinion, barely have the money today to pay for their everyday expenses,” Orman said.

Surveys consistently show individuals would have a hard time coming up with the cash to cover unforeseen expenses of $1,000 or even $400.

If you’re looking to ramp up your emergency savings in 2023, these tips can help you get started.

1. Reduce your monthly bills

Chances are, big savings can be found by reassessing your day-to-day expenses, according to certified financial planner Ted Jenkin, CEO at Atlanta-based Oxygen Financial and a member of the CNBC FA Council.

Jenkin, who co-wrote a book called “The 21-Day Budget Cleanse,” recommends people take a detox-type approach to their household budgets.

Look at the 21 largest bills you have — if you have that many — and try to shop around or change them.

Take your bundled internet, phone and cable bill, for example. Ask your provider if there is an opportunity for a better package or rate. Also investigate the other options available through other companies.

“Most people really haven’t taken the time to see where they’re overspending and size up what the difference is,” Jenkin said.

2. Reassess your credit card habits

Prices were higher this holiday season, which prompted consumers who turned to credit cards to take on bigger amounts of debt, a LendingTree survey recently found.

That’s “troubling” now, as interest rates on those debts are poised to continue to climb, according to Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree.

By simply asking for a lower interest rate, you may be able to pare back how much it takes to pay down those debts, LendingTree has found.

It may also help to seek better rates elsewhere – either through a 0% interest balance transfer credit card or a personal loan.

Also take stock of any rewards you’ve accumulated to see how you can turn them into extra funds, Jenkin said.

Many people have unused perks that they have not tapped into, such as points to help whittle down your credit card bill.

“It’s found money,” Jenkin said.

3. Look for higher rates on your cash

As interest rates climb, that’s good news for the money you stand to earn on your cash.

Online savings accounts and certificates of deposit, or CDs, are providing the highest interest rates in more than a decade.

If your emergency fund has less than the three to six months’ expenses typically recommended by experts, having quick access to your cash should be your first priority, according to Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

In that case, online savings accounts may work best. Even socking away a small amount of cash per week can add up over time, McBride said.

4. Sell what you aren’t using

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If you haven’t used something in a year — aside from family heirlooms or holiday decorations — it’s time to sell it, Jenkin said.

If you haven’t worn a shirt in a year, for example, you can unload it on a website such as Poshmark. Electronics you’re not using can be sold on sites such as Decluttr or Facebook, Jenkin said.

“There’s many, many apps and websites to basically sell your stuff,” Jenkin said.

If you’re not ready to part with an item forever — such as an extra car, for example — you may want to consider renting it out instead on a website like Turo.

5. Pick up a side hustle

Generating more money doesn’t have to stop at selling your things; you can also sell your skills, Jenkin said.

Websites like Fiverr will let you list your services so you can generate extra money.

“If you have a hustle, skill or talent, try to earn that extra income to build up a cash reserve,” Jenkin said.

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