As the events of the past few days have shown us, life can be extremely unpredictable. This inevitably affects our finances as life seems to spiral at times. This is a prime example of the importance of an emergency fund. An emergency fund is a financial safety net that is used to cover unplanned expenses so that they don’t throw off your budget.

But an emergency fund is just that, money saved for an emergency. It isn’t intended to be used for irregular expenses or impulse purchases. It’s important to think of these funds as a separate stash of money for use only when a true emergency arises.

A good rule of thumb is to set aside enough money to cover 3-6 months of expenses. Of course, you can never have too much money set aside, but this is a great place to start for your initial emergency fund. Saving for a full 3-6 months of expenses can seem extremely daunting, but having a goal is a great place to start.

To figure out how much you should set aside, you need to calculate your required monthly expenses, and then multiply it by the number of months you wish to save for. This amount need not include discretionary spending, only the expenses you are required to pay each month. Then find out how many months you plan to save and divide your required emergency fund by that number to figure out the amount you have to put away each month. If this is too much, adjust the monthly payment to see how many months you would need to save for to reach your goal.

Anything is better than nothing, and small savings does add up over time. Even $30/week will eventually get you a nice little stash, something you could easily add to over time. This amount could be kept in your primary bank account, but is better kept in a separate savings account to make sure it isn’t accidentally spent. Make sure it’s accessible for when you actually need it.

It isn’t always easy to sacrifice the money and time to build this fund, but there is no better way to protect yourself from the unexpected.