Determine how much you need
Start building your emergency fund with a specific goal in mind. While your savings goal will depend on your income and expenses, a general rule of thumb is to save enough to cover four to seven months' worth of expenses.
"Everyone has wants, needs and desires when it comes to spending money," says Pete D'Arruda, financial radio show host, author and president of Capital Financial Advisory Group in Cary, N.C. "Make sure you have seven months' worth of emergency income available for the needs."
Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations for Freedom Debt Relief, says to focus on having enough to cover expenses when setting your savings goal, not on replacing your entire income.
"Remember, in an emergency, we don't fund vacations, fancy new clothes, dining out or other luxuries," he says.
While you may aim higher eventually, Smith recommends making small goals at first, such as saving $1,000 and working your way up to a reserve to cover several months' worth of expenses.