Having an emergency fund is critical to successfully sticking to a budget. When used only for emergencies, the fund will go a long way to keeping you from needing to use debt to see your way through unexpected financial situations.
I also believe in being prepared to sustain yourself and your family in the event of economic trouble, disasters, etc. I’m not a guy who thinks the world will end next week. I do think however, that it’s our duty in a society that values individualism and freedom to be prepared and not be a burden on others if we can help it.
In my mind, this is the fundamental principle behind saving and having an emergency fund. To supplement your emergency fund, one idea is to start to stock up on things you would need in the event that you or your spouse lost their income through layoff or disability. I’m not advocating this as a replacement for disability insurance. Insurance is an important part of the budgeting process when you are able, but I think every little bit you can save will help.
Stocking up on household items you will use anyway is a relatively easy way to save for an emergency. I’m also not recommending you stock up on things to the point where you need to take over the garage with your stock. Things go bad and become hard to manage when you do that not to mention that it can be expensive. Couponing can help but that’s another topic. Here are a few categories of things we like to stock up on:
Personal hygiene is important for health and also if you lose your job and need to find another one! We stock a couple extra of these types of items to allow our family to not have to purchase anything in this category for at least a month or longer if needed. This is dependent on the item of course. Items we stock are toothpaste, floss, soap, shampoo, extra tooth brushes, hair product, women’s personal items, and even toilet paper although that can be bulky and hard to find an out of the way spot to store it.
First aid items tend to not be used as often so it doesn’t take long to get a stock of items. We purchase extra band aids, pain medications, a month extra of allergy meds (over the counter), iodine, triple antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide, and rubbing alcohol.
Cleaning items are important too but maybe not something you would normally stock up on. We are pretty light on this item but we do have extra dish washing detergent and cloths washing soap. That’s pretty much it for that category.
This is a category that can be expensive and also hard to find room to store. My approach has been to buy a couple extra items when we go to the store for things that last a long time and also that we would use up as a normal part of living.
You could buy freeze dried or dehydrated food but in my opinion these are expensive. If you have the extra money and want to do it, go for it. We do have some but we also use it for camping trips so I could justify having a little bit around.
Items we buy typically are canned goods and dried pastas and grains. Our family uses canned ham, chicken and tuna for many dishes so keeping a stock of those items is easy to do and in an emergency, a stockpile of protein.
We also purchase canned vegetables, soups, powdered milk, flour, rice, dried beans, peanut butter, pastas and grits.
Grits are great to use to stretch how far a few eggs go.
As an experiment, I bought a can of crystalized (freeze dried) and a can of powdered eggs (dehydrated). If you can afford it and want to store eggs, crystalized are the way to go. They taste much better than powdered.
Frozen food is another thing you can stock but unless you have a big freezer, it can be tough. We do stock frozen meat (mostly beef, chicken and fish) but that’s about it.
The last part of this is rotating stock. If you don’t do this or keep an eye on it, you’ll end up with out of date product and it will end up costing more than it’s worth. I’ve found it to be pretty easy, you just have to do it when you bring home your groceries.
It doesn’t take long to develop a food stock that could last you for 3 months. It doesn’t take too much room for that amount either. If you have a family of four and have three month’s worth of food, that would significantly reduce the amount you need to have as income if someone in your family loses their job.
You can also use it to help others who may be in need. If a friend, neighbor or extended family member falls upon hard times, you just may be the person who can really make a difference to them.