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At the heart of a strong financial plan is an emergency fund. First, it‘s important to stay on track with your goals, whether they involve budgeting, debt-management, saving for retirement or college planning. So when unexpected situations arise, having an emergency fund (or lack thereof) can make or break your budget, the very mechanism that helps you reach your financial goals.

However, it may be difficult to establish an emergency fund, even if it is only $500 for starters, if your income is limited or you are saddled with debt. Here is a list of ways to quickly get you started:

Pay Yourself First

This is a classic practice in the world of personal finance and allows you to get your cut before routine expenses eat up all of your earnings. When payday rolls around, set aside a specified sum of money that you can afford to go without before you begin taking care of other obligations. The easiest way to do this is to deduct an item from your list of variable expenses, such as dining out and gym memberships. Instead, prepare food at home and soak up everything the great outdoors has to offer.

Have a Yard Sale

This is the perfect opportunity to get rid of items that are lying around collecting dust. Not only will you make a few dollars, but you will also free up space around the house. If you do not live in an area that is ideal for having a yard sale, try selling goods at the local flea market as booth rentals are usually available at a very affordable rate. Websites such as Craigslist, eBay and Amazon are also good if you prefer to sell items online.

Get a Side Gig

Although it may be tough to balance with your current employment, picking up a side job to boost your emergency fund may be worth the extra effort. Even if it’s for a month and only pays $10 per hour at 10 hours per week, that amounts to an extra $400 that you did not have before.

Become a Freelancer

Is there a service you already provide to others that can be converted into a money-making opportunity? Go ahead and try your hand at freelance work. Whether you are a writer, graphic designer or pet-sitter, it is quite possible to generate a substantial amount of income to add to your emergency fund.

Keep-the-Change

Each time you use cash to complete a transaction, drop the change into a jar. If you can use cash often in lieu of debit and credit cards, you will be surprised at how much money accumulates by the end of the month.

To keep the momentum going when working to establish an emergency fund, create milestones for your savings goals, plus incentives to help you reach them.

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