6 Creative Ways to Build an Emergency Fund

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About 70 percent of all recent college graduates have student loan debt, while nearly 30 percent of Americans admit they have zero emergency savings of any kind. If you find yourself in both camps, trying to figure out how to save money and pay off debt at the same time can feel like a vicious circle.

Yet, ideally, you should have at least $1,000 set aside for a financial emergency; some experts recommend up to eight months’ worth of expenses. That’s a tough number to reach with student loans debt looming over your head.

So what if you’ve scrimped, saved, and budgeted – but still aren’t seeing results? It might be time to get creative.

How to build an emergency fund with these offbeat ideas

They may seem unorthodox, but try some of these tips to start saving up your emergency fund without missing a single student loan payment:

1. Have a “Bill Haggle Day”

We all have to pay the bills – but did you know you don’t necessarily have to pay as much as you are right now?

Don’t be afraid to contact your insurance providers, reach out to other creditors, and call your cable company to ask for lower rates or better deals. The worst they can say is “no,” but you’ll never know their answer for sure if you don’t ask.

Use a good driving record to score a $20/month reduction on your auto insurance. Or look up competing cable providers’ fees and take that to your current carrier. The same goes for your credit cards; if they don’t match the rate, tell them you’re jumping ship.

Add up these savings for some much-needed dollars to your emergency fund.

2. Pawn off your stuff

In the age of Craigslist and eBay, it’s easy to forget about good ole pawn shops. But they’re still a simple way to get cash fast by selling your old stuff.

Raid your closet, drawers, basement, or garage and get rid of what you don’t need. It could be clothes, or old furniture, computer equipment, or anything hanging around.

While you might not be able to get a spot on Pawn Stars, check with a few local pawn shops to see if you can get a fair price on your goods. Don’t relinquish anything of sentimental value you might regret.

Another suggestion is to browse flea markets and thrift stores for vintage objects of value, buy them, and resell them at a higher price. Remember to bring your phone along with you to spot price differences before you buy and resell. It’s another way to earn some extra dough for your emergency fund.

(Scavenging for scrap metal at your local junkyard or dumpster diving for treasure are at your own risk.)

3. Quit your bad habits

Too many cigarettes, eating out with friends, Starbucks lattes, or more junk food than what’s healthy – the first reason you should be giving up those vices of yours is for the sake of your well-being. Then again, it could also save you a bunch of bucks for that emergency fund (or your student loan payments, whichever you prefer).

According to Daily Finance, one pack of cigarettes a day can cost you $511 a year. Eating at McDonald’s twice a week can run you up $860 annually. A weekly beer run may rack you up $234 per year. And let’s not forget that daily $1 lottery ticket purchase is $365 by Dec. 31.

Start cutting back or give up some of these habits, if you can. Your savings will benefit and so will your health.

4. Become a human guinea pig

Schools, hospitals, and clinics are always looking for volunteers to participate in clinical tests, drug trials, and other research projects. Some will pay you as an incentive to participate.

The National Institute of Health, for one, offers more than 300 studies for healthy volunteers. You might check online to see if there are any similar opportunities.

If getting poked or prodded isn’t your thing, you might check into participating in a psychological, focus, or survey group – in-person or online – where you can get paid to log your opinion on everything from product testing to polling. Just make sure to read the rules and fine print before you sign up and be certain that the organization is legitimate.

5. Rent out your car

You don’t need to become an Uber driver to raise some extra cash. Also consider renting your car out for money.

Sites such as Turo.com are like the Airbnb of cars. List your car, respond to renters’ requests, and lend your car for the amount of time you set. If you don’t need your car for extended periods of time, renting it out this way can contribute to your emergency fund earnings. According to Turo.com, a $14,000 car rented out for 10 days a month can net you $3,466 per year. There’s also a $100 signing bonus.

6. Sell your body parts

Those student loans may cost you an arm and a leg, but don’t worry, you won’t need to go as far as putting your limbs on the market for cash. However, you can receive money in exchange for blood, plasma, hair, sperm, breast milk, eggs, and yes … even poop.

You can earn about $20 to $50 per blood or plasma donation; you’re legally allowed to donate up to twice a week. In some cases, you might be paid a bit more on your second return visit of the week, so you could stand to earn some regular side cash if you’re not squeamish. For hair, many websites solicit long, healthy hair in exchange for cash.

And yes, believe it or not, a company called OpenBiome will pay you $40 per feces sample, $50 if you donate five days a week. The screening process can cost up to $5,000, however, and you have to be super healthy to participate.

Some of the best ways to keep on top of student loan debt without dipping into your vital emergency funds is to keep a tight budget, track your spending, and keep your savings in a high-interest deposit account.

Combine these with some of the above more creative tips and your student loan payments won’t become the emergency that your emergency savings need to rescue.

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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student Loan RefinanceFixed rates from 3.999% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.480% APR to 7.524% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.480% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.17% (2.72%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.50%-8.69% (3.50% – 8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Average savings based on 18,113 actual customers who refinanced their federal and private student loans through our Education Refinance Loan between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The calculation is derived by averaging the monthly savings of Education Refinance Loan customers whose payments decreased after refinancing, which is calculated by taking the monthly student loan payments prior to refinancing minus the monthly student loan payments after refinancing. The borrower’s savings might vary based on the interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of the loans they are seeking to refinance. The borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if their monthly payments are lower.
2.57% – 5.87%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.80% – 6.38%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 7.52%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 7.99%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.57% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.72% – 8.17%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.