Exhausted Your Emergency Fund or Don’t Have One to Begin With? Here’s What You Should Be Doing

emergency fund

Joanne Poh



No matter what you choose to do with your money—invest in your future by buying tons of Toto and 4D, grow your shoe collection or support your army of cats, one very important element you can’t afford to neglect is your emergency fund.

At the moment, investing may be something you do “when you grow up” and you might have a YOLO attitude towards money-saving. But maintaining an emergency fund is the very least you can do, because it’s the one thing that can save you from falling into debt or finding yourself out on the streets if something unfortunate should happen. If you don’t have an emergency fund or recently exhausted it, here’s how to rebuild it—fast.


Channel your current savings into your emergency fund

If you have a budget or actually bother to save money each month, you can potentially rebuild your emergency fund quite quickly simply by channeling your current savings into your emergency fund until it’s nice and healthy again.

For instance, you might have various savings funds, one for vacations, one for your kids’ university education, one for consultations with your feng shui master and one for the Ferrari you hope to buy someday.

Until your emergency fund gets rebuilt, you’ll want to channel all these amounts into that instead. If you’re actually saving quite a substantial amount, you’re in luck, since you won’t even have to change your lifestyle or make any immediately palpable sacrifices.

It’ll simply be a matter of redirecting your savings into a different pot. However, if you save only, say, 5% of your income each month and you need an emergency fund worth 6 months of your monthly expenses, it’s going to take way too long to rebuild your emergency fund, in which case you may have to take other measures like the following.


Get a short term part-time job

If it’s going to take you 10 years to rebuild your emergency fund, that’s a long time you’re going to have to remain accident free, pray your air con doesn’t break down and hope you remain in great health. An emergency fund is there to tide you through unexpected events, not some life-long goal that you’ll achieve someday when we discover unicorns exist.

Basically, if you can’t increase your savings, you need to boost your earnings—fast. So you’ll be looking for relatively high paying part-time or temporary jobs you can do in addition to your day job on a short-term basis. Obviously, going back to school to get another qualification or spending even more money on a real estate agent’s licence probably aren’t the best ways to achieve this. Depending on your abilities, here are a couple of options:

  • Become a private tutor – In the second half of the year, you get a lot of students who are graduating in December and are desperate for a quick grade boost. Tuition takes up minimal time so long as the kid doesn’t live on the other end of the island, and is relatively low-commitment, considering some stints can last just a few months until the exams.
  • Become an events promoter – There are roadshows just about every weekend, and temp promoters are constantly needed. The pay tends to be around $7 to $9 an hour, and you can sign up for weekend stints. Do this every weekend for a month and you can save about $1,000 or so.
  • Bartending or beer promotion – If your day job doesn’t require you to get up too early in the morning, you might be able to throw in a couple of hours of work at a bar. While F&B in general pays poorly in Singapore, bars and clubs tend to pay a bit better than restaurants and most of the shifts will be late at night, when you’re hopefully free from the shackles of your regular job. Thanks to the manpower shortage these jobs shouldn’t be too hard to get.


Reduce spending


If you’re earning a healthy salary but somehow just can’t seem to save because of high discretionary spending rather than having to pay down debt or recurring bills, you can actually rebuild your emergency fund fairly fast, if you can discipline yourself to do so, that is.

Examine your monthly spending and figure out how much of it is discretionary. For instance, your phone and utility bills, your transportation costs to and from work and basic daily meals aren’t really negotiable unless you want to find yourself jobless or dead from starvation.

On the other hand, those wild nights out, the clothes you buy to  be featured in your #OOTD photos on Instagram and your collection of samurai swords are firmly in the discretionary spending camp, and can be cut out for the sake of your emergency fund.

I would recommend going completely cold turkey for a few months and then finally letting yourself go again after you’ve rebuilt your emergency fund, rather than dragging out this torturous period over a longer stretch of time.

At the start of the month, subtract your necessary expenses from your salary. Leaving a small buffer, transfer the rest directly into the account that holds your emergency fund. The more you can save in a short space of time, the faster you can return to your old lifestyle.

Have you ever exhausted your emergency fund? Tell us what happened in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.