Seven steps to buildinga financial cushion:

Set a monthly savings goal. This will get you into the habit of saving regularly and will make the task less daunting. Contribute a small percentage from each paycheck, for example.

Keep the change. When you get $1 and $5 bills after breaking a $20, drop some in a jar at home. When the jar fills up, move it into a savings account.

Tidy up your checking account. If there’s money left at the end of a pay period, move it into your emergency fund.

Save your tax refund. The average refund is in the thousands, which can give a good boost to your emergency savings. When you file your taxes, consider having your refund directly deposited into your emergency account.

Cut back on costs. If you’re falling short on saving, see which parts of your monthly spending you can trim. Put the money in your emergency fund as you “save” it.

Get supplemental income. If you have the time and willpower, get a second job or sell unused items at home to accumulate more money for your fund.

Assess and adjust contributions. Check in after a few months to see how much you’re saving, and adjust if you need to put in more. This is especially important if you go through a major life event such as marriage or a major move.