How Long Should It Take To Build An Emergency Fund?

By Zach Buchenau

Last Updated: February 4, 2021

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How long does it take to build an emergency fund? | Be The Budget

In personal finance, creating an emergency fund is one of the most important financial steps you can take. Not only does it provide you with stability and peace of mind, but it allows you to play offense in your financial life, instead of operating from a standpoint of fear and restriction. Though, like anything worth pursuing, building an emergency fund takes time. And that leads me to a very important question: how long should it take you to build an emergency fund?

In short, it should take you between 6 and 18 months to build an emergency fund. As a rule of thumb, you should expect to spend twice as many months saving, as your emergency fund will cover. So, for example, you should plan to spend 12 months building a six-month emergency fund.

Whereas, if your goal is to build an emergency fund that covers 3 months of your living expenses, you should expect to spend 6 months saving.

Now, like I said, this is just a general rule of thumb. For some people, it might take a little longer than that, while for others, it might take significantly less time. Since everyone’s financial situation is unique, it would be foolish for me to give you a specific timeline.

That said, since saving an emergency fund is so critically important to your long-term financial well-being, the faster you build one, the better off you’ll be. But let’s be honest, building an emergency fund isn’t the most exciting financial task to pursue. Therefore, like ripping off a Band-aid, the sooner you get it out of the way, the sooner you can start working toward your more exciting financial goals.

So, what can you do to speed up your emergency fund savings? Well, that’s exactly what I’m going to cover in the rest of this guide.

5 Simple Ways To Speed-Up Your Emergency Fund Savings

1. Keep Your Emergency Fund At A Different Bank

Of all the saving tips we ever recommend here at Be The Budget, this is, by far, one of our favorites. If you want to shorten the amount of time it takes you to save an emergency fund, then you should start by setting it up at a completely separate bank than you operate the rest of your financial life.

This will keep your emergency fund out of sight, and therefore, help to keep you from dipping into it, and undermining your efforts.

After all, there’s really no point in saving money if you’re just going to pull the money out and spend it.
If you’re looking for a good place to set up a savings account, we recommend an Axos High-Yield Savings account. With a great interest rate, no monthly maintenance fees, and no minimum monthly balance requirements, this savings account is a perfect fit for an emergency fund. Plus, you can open an account entirely online in about 15 minutes.

2. Get On a Written Budget

After setting up an emergency fund at a separate bank, the very next thing you should do is get on a written budget.

In fact, whether you are saving for an emergency fund or not, this is something you should do as soon as possible.

You see, budgeting allows you to control every area of your financial life. It helps you find expenses to cut (more on that next), manage your spending, see the long-term impact of your short-term decisions, and improve your overall financial situation.

In essence, it gives you complete control of your financial life. And the more control you have over your money, the quicker you will be able to save up an emergency fund.

How long to build an emergency fund? | Be The Budget

3. Cut Your Spending

Ok, now that you’ve set up a separate bank account, and a shiny new budget, if you really want to speed up your savings, you should cut your spending to the bone.

I’m talking about dining out, shopping, vacations, everything that you can possibly cut. It might seem a little extreme, but seriously, building an emergency fund is one of the most important things you can do. And the more spending you are willing to cut, the less time you will have to spend building it.

Think about it like this, for every dollar you spend that could otherwise go toward your emergency fund, you are putting your more exciting financial goals on hold a little while longer. So, my advice is to just go all-in and get it out of the way as fast as possible.

Once you have an emergency fund in place, and you no longer have to worry about making ends meet in the event of a ‘rainy day’, you will have much more financial freedom to do things that make you happy.

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4. Sell Your Stuff

Let’s be honest, we all probably have a few items sitting around gathering dust. Whether it’s an old winter coat in the hall closet, a bunch of camping gear that you haven’t used in the last 10 years, or some clothes that don’t fit anymore (I blame my wife’s wonderful cooking skills), one of the fastest ways to speed up your emergency fund savings is to sell your stuff.

Now, like cutting your expenses, you could go all-in on this as well. I have heard of people selling their furniture, selling everything from their storage unit, and even selling their car in order to get their emergency fund out of the way.

There’s just something so wonderful about having the financial security of an emergency fund. And one of the fastest ways to get there is to sell your stuff.

Honestly, at least in my experience, this can be pretty therapeutic.

5. Supplement Your Income With A Side Hustle

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, building an emergency fund can take between 6 and 18 months. But if you are the kind of person that doesn’t like to sit and wait that long to get the results you want (hint: I’m one of those people), then one of the best things you can do is start a side hustle.

And when I say side hustle, I’m talking about everything from starting a side business of your own, to getting a part-time job.

Now, to be honest, if saving an emergency fund is your main focus, then I would recommend getting a part-time job over starting a business of your own. For one, the income of a part-time job is usually more predictable. And two, it won’t take as long to start earning enough money to make a big difference in your savings.

That said, if you have goals for your financial life that extend beyond your emergency fund, and you want to scratch your entrepreneurial itch, then starting a side business might be perfect for you. Just make sure you start a business that doesn’t require much, if any, upfront capital to get going. Seriously, the goal is to save money for emergencies, not spend it on business startup costs.

One of the best ways to do this is by offering a service, rather than a product. Service-based side businesses like: social media management, freelance writing, tutoring, or teaching music lessons, don’t require you to spend any money to get started. You just have to put in some sweat equity, which won’t pull anything away from your emergency fund savings.

How long does it take to build an emergency fund? | Be The Budget


Saving an emergency fund is one of the most critical financial steps you can take. Though, like anything worth pursuing, it can take time to achieve. In fact, it can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months to build a quality emergency fund.

That said, if you want to speed things up a bit, all you need to do is:

  1. Keep your emergency fund at a separate bank
  2. Get on a written budget
  3. Cut your spending
  4. Sell your stuff
  5. Supplement your income with a side hustle

So, how long do you think it will take you to save for an emergency fund? Also, is there anything you plan to do to speed up that timeline?

Let us know in the comments.

Finally, if you found this article helpful, you should consider signing up to receive Be The Budget tips and recommendations in your inbox! Our #1 goal is to help our readers simplify their financial life, save, and earn more money. Seriously, our growing community of budgeters, savers, and side hustlers is freaking awesome, and we’d love for you to be a part of it!

Zach Buchenau

About The Author:

Zach Buchenau is a self-proclaimed personal finance nerd. When he isn't writing about budgeting, getting out of debt, making extra money, and living a frugal life, you can find him building furniture, fly fishing, or developing websites. He is the co-founder of BeTheBudget, and Chipotle's most loyal customer.

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