Ever since I was little, I've put any spare change I have into my savings jar, but only last summer did I finally get around to opening a proper savings account. After considering it for a while, I decided to designate it as an emergency fund—and over this past school year, it's proven to be one of the best decisions I've made.
Like so many of my peers, I live on a pretty tight budget, and there have been a handful of times this past year where this budget was stretched thin or simply did not account for certain expenses. That's where the emergency fund comes in.
How I Used My Emergency Fund
For me, it was my computer. Early into the start of last semester, I had an old beast of a laptop that broke down after several years' use. Because of my coursework, I had to replace it right away—with money I didn't have yet. Luckily, I was able to draw a bit from my emergency fund, which really helped me out.
Possible Uses for Your Emergency Fund
"Emergency" in this case is really more of a catch-all term for any financial gaps you may encounter, or any unexpected expenses that might crop up. For one, it's not uncommon for your spending to be a little lopsided, depending on where you are in the semester.
Naturally, with tuition and textbooks, expenses at the start of the semester tend to be higher compared to the middle or end.
In Between Student Loans
These gaps may also crop up depending on when your student loans go through, or when you receive a paycheque or money from a student line of credit. An emergency fund can help lessen the impact of these overages.
An emergency fund can help fill the gaps when you're dependent on your student loans and the timing of receiving them isn't quite matching up with your expenditures. It's also possible that you receive your student loan all at once and have to budget an entire semester around it. That's where an emergency fund can come in and save the day if you run out of money before the end of the semester.
Since it's impossible to have a contingency plan for every possible setback, there's always the possibility of sudden expenses outside of your budget. In some cases, there might be an actual emergency. For example, a family crisis that requires a trip home.
It may also be something less serious that popped up at an inopportune time. Maybe it's a parking ticket, or maybe you dropped a course later in the semester and need summer tuition to make up the credit.
Finding Opportunities to Save
While living on a tight budget, it isn't always easy to find money to save. Summer jobs are a good place to start, and many university students work throughout the school year—whether continually or sporadically—so there's an opportunity to put some money aside from each paycheque.
Also, if you find yourself coming up under budget one month, you can add to your emergency fund that way. Finally, I find loose change is another great way to save, even if it's a little old school. It can be a hassle to exchange a bag full of nickels for bills, but if you end up needing your emergency fund at some point during your time at university or even after, it's more than worth it.
If you're a student, you may be receiving money from loans or work in an inconsistent way and can't rely on a steady income. By saving when you get a little extra, you can ease the pain when things get tight.
Written by Hazel Pankratz. This article originally appeared on Tangerine’s site: Forward Thinking.