In today’s digital world, many people rely on credit cards, debit cards and electronic payments while keeping very little cash on hand. This can be a convenient and secure way to handle spending during normal times, but being caught without enough cash during an emergency can spell trouble. Here’s what you need to know about keeping a supply of emergency cash.
Why to keep cash at home
Electronic payments are so ubiquitous and reliable that it’s easy to forget that they can fail. Natural disasters, power or internet outages, cyber-attacks or other disruptive events may make it difficult or impossible to use electronic payments or access banks and ATMs for hours, days or longer. And even when these systems aren’t disrupted, those who can pay in cash may be given preference when it comes to purchasing supplies, repairs or other necessities after a disaster.
How much cash to keep
The amount of cash you should keep at home will depend on the size of your living expenses, the risks to your property and your own personal preference. Many experts recommend keeping two weeks’ worth of expenses in cash as a baseline. If you plan to use cash to cover major emergency expenses, such as home repairs after a storm, you may wish to keep more on hand.
How to protect your cash
Ideally, your cash should be kept where it won’t be destroyed in a fire, washed away in a flood or easily discovered by thieves. Placing your bills in plastic bags within a well-hidden, fire-resistant safe is usually the best strategy. Dividing your cash among multiple storage locations can provide greater security, but make sure your stash isn’t hidden so well that it risks getting misplaced or forgotten.
Emergency cash vs. emergency fund
It’s important to understand that emergency cash is not the same as an emergency fund. Most experts recommend maintaining an emergency fund of at least 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses and keeping the funds in a bank account for security and to earn interest. Your emergency fund is meant to help cover larger and longer-term financial emergencies such as major home damage, loss of job or medical bills.
With luck, you’ll never experience a situation where you need to use your emergency cash, but if you do, you’ll be very glad that you were prepared.