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Economy Finances Security

The Importance of a Financial Buffer

The United States government shut down the other day. Regardless of your personal beliefs on the issue, one thing that we can all agree on is that the pay suspension for many Federal workers is causing many families to suffer. So many people the world over live from paycheck to paycheck; even a delay in the receipt of their income can be devastating.

The fear of financial insolvency has colored the choices I’ve made for decades. It’s one of the primary reasons that I favored low-wage, “disposable” jobs in industries such as fast food as a single mom. I selected those positions because I knew that if I lost one job that I would be able to secure another position within a matter of days.

It is much better to have financial security than it is to have a higher paycheck.

As I grew older and wiser I realized that job security wasn’t enough. It’s obviously not enough for the Federal workers currently suffering the political fallout from the current situation in Washington and it’s not enough for anyone with a family depending upon them. Things happen. A kid can become ill, forcing a parent to stay home and provide care, a car can break down making it impossible to go to work, a refrigerator can die, or the heat in your home can fail in the dead of winter. You can even become ill or injured, forcing you to take time off of work in order to heal.

This is why I began the practice of keeping a financial buffer.

My current buffer would provide three month’s of comfortable living in the event of an unforeseen disaster; five months in a pinch. Even with my determination to invest every penny I can I’ve still managed to continue increasing the amount of money I keep stashed in my emergency fund.

Everyone needs to keep a financial buffer. With our current political situation, this buffer would have allowed these families to continue providing for their families for the duration of the Government Shutdown with minimal disruption. It wouldn’t be fun, but it would be a helluva lot better than facing homelessness or food insecurity.

I don’t care how little money you make; if you don’t have a buffer of safety stashed away in a bank account or a lockbox at home you are taking a foolish, downright stupid chance with your financial security. Shit happens. When it does, your paycheck is usually the first thing you lose. Unless you want to live in a cave like Daniel Suelo you need to keep a stash of cash just to survive.

It’s not fair but that’s just how it is.

So suck it up Buttercup and face reality. It is not the world’s job to support you. Most people won’t even care if you lose your paycheck, they’ll just offer platitudes and go on with their day. It’s up to you to support yourself and your family; to do that you need to keep some cash on hand in the event that the unthinkable happens.

You can start out by saving your spare change. Instead of tossing your pennies on the ground, put those suckers in a jar at home. Roll them occasionally and stick them into a bank account you won’t touch, or convert them to cash and stash it in a lockbox at home or a safety deposit box at the bank. Put it somewhere you won’t be tempted to touch it when you stumble upon a sale of your favorite whatsit.

Instead of blowing money on a tattoo or getting your hair professionally done or a fancy manicure, take that money and stash it away. What’s more important to you? Is it more important to keep up with the Jones’ or is it more important to keep a roof over your head and food in your belly?

I don’t know about you but I prefer to eat any day.

You can splurge on the extras once you know you’ve gotten a buffer built up and will be safe in the event you go to work one day and discover your job has closed. It is much better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your finances.

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Categories
Finances Security

A Pillow for your Bank Account

It’s happened to all of us. We spend more than we anticipate, a hacker steals our card info, even a mistake at the bank can lead to overdrafts. Just the other day a mistake at a local bank caused the accounts of several personal friends to appear overdrawn due to an accidental double-posting of charges.

Keeping a financial cushion in your checking account can help immensely. It can not only help prevent overdraft fees (without paying for another service), it can give you needed funds while you sort out the issue.

I keep a minimum of $500 in my checking account for this purpose. I never allow my balance to go below this amount. That way, if I ever do make a mistake while budgeting I know that I won’t have to pay outrageous overdraft fees. I call this my pillow since it cushions me if I fall.

It isn’t always easy to build up a financial cushion, especially when you don’t make a lot of money. I limit how much I spend each month so that I have a little left over to add to my padding. In time I plan to build my cushion to $1,000, the amount I kept in reserve for years but since times were lean a few years back I am still working towards that goal.

It may sound insane to some of you. You may be thinking “How can I save $500? I can barely pay my bills as it is!” but I promise you that it is possible. You may not be able to eat out as much or splurge on those little extras but you can do this. If I can build up $500 while earning minimum wage at a part-time job then you can do it no matter what your story may be.

More importantly, you should. My local bank charges almost $40 in overdraft fees per charge; a single mistake can cost you hundreds of dollars in fees if you use your bank card routinely.

I learned this lesson the hard way. Several years ago an attorney I hired cashed their check a week earlier than agreed. While there was enough in the account to cover it my balance was wiped out. I ended up owing over $250 in overdraft fees alone, on top of my other charges (which my bank thankfully paid). It took a while to climb out of that hole.

Ever since then I have insisted upon keeping a pillow of cash in my checking account on top of my regular savings. I refuse to be that stupid ever again.

How much of a cushion do you keep in your bank account? Please share your stories in the comments below.