How to financially prepare for a storm, even if your emergency fund is low

Updated: Aug. 24, 2020 at 4:30 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Preparing for a disaster may be easier if you have lots of money, but what if you don’t?

There are ways to take care of your family’s necessities before a storm even if your funds are running low.

Jessica Sharon from the Pelican State Credit Union says you want to take care of your family’s immediate needs first, which are water, food, and shelter.

The financial outreach expert recommends you keep at least $1,000 in the bank to navigate an emergency. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a good goal for future savings. That may not be possible for all families though. That’s why an emergency credit card is an option too.

“Of course, we encourage individuals to have a credit card for emergencies, for emergencies, not just for frivolous spending,” Sharon said. “But in the event you have to, for instance, evacuate, you may need to book a hotel room on a credit card.”

She also says borrow what you need if you don’t have the money on hand to protect you and your family.

If you do have an emergency fund but aren’t really sure what is too much or too little to spend in a time like this, she says take stock in what you have for supplies and money in the bank.

“Obviously, if you’re going to buy a generator or something that’s going to cost more money, you also have to account for that,” said Sharon. “If you’re just buying necessity items, I think 10% is kind of a good rule, and again, scale that to how much your emergency fund is.”

Sharon says you should exhaust all free or low-cost services near you so you can stretch your available money. Check into shelters, food distribution, even local faith networks and churches.

If you can get some of your hurricane protection necessities from those resources, you can use your cash on other needs, like fuel. Sharon recommends Baton Rouge’s 211 line.

Also, as part of storm preparations, it’s helpful to have cash on hand. ATMs may not function properly due to outages after a storm.

Sharon doesn’t recommend you keep more than $100 in cash handy though in case of theft.

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