• Over the years, I've found that the "pay yourself first" strategy is the best way to save for an emergency fund.
  • It eliminates the stress of having to painstakingly track my spending and budget.
  • I've used this method no matter how I budget or what my money situation looks like. It even helped me save $5,000 in one year after college.
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When I landed my first full-time job after college many moons ago, I moved into a place of my own in the City of Angels. Within the first year, I was able to squirrel away $5,000 in an emergency fund .

At the time, I was taking home $1,800 a month after taxes, and my rent was roughly $700. It was the first time in my life that I had to be entirely self-sufficient, and my greatest fear was breaking my lease and needing to move back into my mom's place.

To ensure I never had to do that, I worked hard to build my emergency fund using the "pay yourself first" savings method. Essentially, the strategy requires you to treat your savings as you do your living expenses your savings is a bill you must pay. It's a classic strategy that many money experts recommend .

Here's why I think paying yourself first is the best way to build your rainy-day fund .

It's simple

The "pay yourself first" method is easy. After I created a budget, all I had to do was create a separate savings account and tuck away some funds from each paycheck. As I had a steady paycheck at the time, I was able to set aside $400 a month after paying my living expenses.

To build my emergency fund without thinking about it, I automated a certain amount of money to my savings account every month. Any "extra" money, such as from side hustles and money gifted for special occasions, also went into that account.

It eliminates stressful decision-making

From keeping my place organized and tidy to streamlining grocery trips, I'm all for making things in my life as efficient and straightforward as possible. And I'm aware of decision fatigue, which is when you suffer from mental exhaustion from having too many options to choose from.

I don't want to stress over every financial decision, and I don't want to quibble over whether I can afford to spring for that pricey filet of wild-caught salmon or get those pairs of shoes on sale. By paying myself first, I can spend freely, without guilt or remorse, because I know my savings won't suffer. And I don't have to stress over moving money around in my budget.

It keeps me moving toward my goals

That first year I was living on my own, I was fortunate to maintain a steady paycheck and could rely on that money each month. That being said, after rent and my monthly bills were accounted for, I didn't have a lot of money left to cover groceries, going out, and household items.

By committing to paying myself first, I was able to make gradual progress. It's motivating to see that number in my savings account climb upward.

It works no matter your budgeting style

Over the years, my money nerdiness has compelled me to try several different budgets and make tweaks to my money flow. A spending plan is a living, breathing thing. And I've found that paying yourself first is a strategy I use to hit my savings goals, no matter what changes I make to managing my money. I've used the "pay yourself first" method to save for a down payment on a car , save for retirement, and stash cash toward splurge and vacation funds.

It's a flexible method

Along the same lines, it's a fool-proof method that works no matter your income situation. I've scaled back on how much I save regularly, depending on my financial circumstances. For instance, when I transitioned to freelancing full-time, I felt comfortable auto-saving a small amount each month. On the flip side, I was able to stash "extra" money during months when I made more than usual.

I think the "pay yourself first" strategy is a great way to save for an emergency fund. It removes the daily decision-making involved in your spending so that you can set money aside, it's an easy, hassle-free method to implement, and it works no matter how you choose to manage your money.

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