The last few months have not been kind to my family. As Dave Ramsey says, “Murphy came to visit.” Within the last few months, I have had several medical tests run, my computer broke so I had to buy a new one, my husband’s pay was docked $750 for two months in a row because his employer didn’t take out enough taxes, and my husband had to pay $1,700 out of pocket for a conference for work and we are waiting for reimbursement.
Because we were trying to pay off as much as possible as quickly as possible on our debt, we had very little in emergency savings (only about $1,000). All of our unexpected expenses cost much more than that, so we not only used most of our emergency fund, we also added to our credit card debt.
Because we had paid down our credit card debt for 10 straight months, having to add to it for the last two months was difficult. Even though we didn’t come close to erasing all of our progress from the last year of gazelle intensity, we definitely knew we were moving in the wrong direction.
Righting Our Situation: A Flash Savings Challenge
My natural urge, now that everything has settled down, was to once again try to throw as much on debt as possible. While it might have made me feel better in the short term, I realize that the next time Murphy comes to visit (and I know he’ll be back some time), we would end up in the same situation.
Instead, my husband and I decided to focus on growing our emergency fund, and quickly, before hitting the debt hard again.
Paying the minimum on our debt for the next few months so we can grow our emergency fund is almost as difficult as watching our credit card balance increase the last two months, but we both know a healthy emergency fund is necessary. Since I am self-employed and bring in 1/3 to 1/2 of our income and work can sometimes be sporadic, we decided not to follow Dave Ramsey’s advice of a $1,000 emergency fund (because clearly that was not enough last time); instead we are aiming for $5,000.
To get started, we challenged ourselves to have $3,000 in our emergency fund by December 9th. We started with $611 in the emergency fund, so that meant we had to come up with $2,389 in 4 weeks.
How We Are Earning $2,389 Extra in 4 Weeks
We are only one week into the challenge, but here is what we have earned so far:
- Sold my 8 year old breast pump: $60 (Yes, it has been sitting in the basement for 7 years. Why didn’t I sell sooner?!)
- Sold 2 window guards to protect kids from falling: $40
- Listed my kids outgrown clothes on eBay: $124 so far, but the auctions won’t end for 2 more days, so I imagine it will be more
- 3 unexpected jobs I got as a freelancer: $64.67
- Turned in our change in a jar: $62.67
- Returned unopened vitamins I didn’t need: $32
- Redeemed 10,000 Swagbucks for PayPal cash: $100
Our total so far, one week in is $483.34
Over the next few weeks, we intend to do more things to raise the additional money:
- Put my husband’s reimbursement check in savings
- Cash out reward points from our credit card and use them as a credit card payment. Put the same amount in our savings since we won’t have to pay that money on the credit card
- Put more stuff on Craigslist and eBay (We have kids’ clothes, toys, and equipment to list as well as some of my husband’s tools he hasn’t used for years.)
Why a Flash Savings Challenge Is Working for Us
I have known that I have a lot of stuff to sell around the house, but I just never got to it. Now, because we have set a short goal of just 4 weeks and also an ambitious goal of over $2,300 to raise, I am motivated. Yes, listing all of this stuff is time consuming, but it is nice to get some money in the emergency fund to make us feel more secure, and I also like getting rid of our “stuff”.
If you have extra stuff around the house, especially toys and holiday clothes, now is the perfect time to sell it and make some cash.
Have you had a flash savings challenge like this? What were your results?
img credit:Images_of_Money, on Flickr
Melissa is a writer and virtual assistant. She earned her Master’s from Southern Illinois University, and her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working, you can find her homeschooling her kids, reading a good book, or cooking. She resides in New York, where she loves the natural beauty of the area.