PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A Bankrate.com study released Tuesday shows that one in four Americans do not have an emergency savings account to pay for unexpected expenses such as car repairs, medical bills, or replacing income due to loss of job.
"I have an emergency savings account which I try really hard not to take money out of and I jsut stow away in case something bad happens," said Talia Eisenberg, who works as a graphic designer for an online banking service.
Certified financial planners recommend people have at least five months worth of fixed living expenses saved for the unexpected. The study found that only 31 percent of people have enough saved to last six months or more.
"It's really difficult to manage your money if you don't know what you have or where it's going," said Sarah Halpin, a financial advisor, and first vice president of investments with Wells Fargo in Portland. "It's all around ensuring that you're not financially vulnerable."
Halpin offered a number of tips:
1. Use a free personal finance app such as Mint or Spending Tracker to track your spending choices.
2. Open a separate no fee savings account and set up automatic savings transfers to start building cash reserve.
3. Save spare change.
4. Limit eating out -- it can save about $15 to $20 per week.
5. Check credit card statements for old or unused subscriptions/services
6. Check into discounts or less expensive alternatives for utility bills.
7. Only buy new things when replacing something old -- avoid impulse buys.
8. Involve friends and family in a savings challenge.
9. In dire times, dial back debt payments to the minimum.
10. Save any pay raises, bonuses, and tax refunds.
"Don't offload unexpected expenses onto credit cards because then you get charged interest when you already don't have the money to spend," said Halpin.