If, for any reason, your income stops, your emergency fund should be able to carry you for at least 6-8 months.
Courtesy of Bankrate, below is a list of very good tips to build and maintain an emergency fund.
1. Start saving something today. It doesn’t have to be a large sum. Even on a tight budget, a small amount adds up over time. Depending on the size of your family, skipping a meal out each week could result in a savings deposit of $160 per month.
2. Treat saving as a bill. Consider having the amount transferred automatically from your checking account or paycheck. Pay your account every month or every two weeks.
3. Open a Christmas savings club. You may be able to set up an automatic deposit to come directly from your paycheck. You don’t think about spending the money you never see. When holidays arrive, you’ll have the funds to enjoy.
4. Get an envelope, cookie jar, coffee can or whatever you like and set aside the same amount every week. The trick: Don’t count it, don’t spend it!
5. Empty your pockets — or your purse — at the end of the night. Put all the change into a jar. Not only will you feel lighter, but your spare change adds up a lot faster than you think.
6. When you leave the house in the morning, don’t carry anything smaller than a $5 bill. When you get change, don’t spend the singles. At the end of the day, put any dollar bills in your jar.
7. You go to lunch and tip the waitress 15 percent to 20 percent (ten if you’re a cheapskate). Put an equal amount aside for yourself, and your “tips” will add up quickly.
8. Get “cash back” from your debit card at the checkout counter by rounding up to an even amount. Slip the small amount — $1, $2, $5 — into your savings jar. You’ll forget about a buck here and there.
9. Just paid off a big debt such as a car loan or child’s tuition? Keep making the payments — this time to yourself.
10. If you recently switched phone companies or discovered a flat-rate plan that’s saving you money every month, put that cash aside in your savings jar.
11. Electric or water bill lighter than you expected this month? Save the difference.
12. Use those shopping membership cards that print your “savings” at the bottom of your receipt to help you save. Give the savings back to yourself by slipping that money in your savings jar.
13. Getting a tax refund next year? Either put the check directly in your savings account or cash it and stash it.
14. If you have the discipline to use a credit card and pay off the bill every month, use one that promises a cash reward and bank the money.
15. Give up cigarettes — or even cut your habit by half — and put that money in the savings drawer. If you drop a pack-a-day habit by half, you could easily bank well over $100 in a couple of months.
16. Put a jar on top of the washer and put in a quarter — or two — every time you throw a load in the washer or dryer. Get your finances in order while you clean.
17. When you return your movies on time, pay yourself the late fee. If you rent a movie or two every week, you’ll be surprised how quickly that $1.50 to $4 can add up.
18. Trying to lose weight this season? Each time you go without dessert — or that mid-afternoon candy bar break — put the cost of your forgone goody into your savings jar.
19. Pop a quarter in a jar by the phone every time you dial a long-distance number. Bonus money: Shop your calling plan and find a better deal. Put the savings into the phone jar each month, too.
20. Try investing your savings in a certificate of deposit or an interest-bearing money market and watch it grow!
21. Buy U.S. savings bonds. Bonds yield more interest than the money earns in the jar.
22. Involve the whole family in saving. Plan a treat for everyone when you reach the savings goal. Make it something everyone will look forward to, but inexpensive, such as a day at the zoo, museum or beach.