Dear Dave, I'm single and make $20,000 a year. Hopefully, this amount will increase to $30,000 next year thanks to a promotion I'm in line to receive. Do I really need $1,000 in my emergency fund or is $500 enough? I also have about $38,000 in debt right now, including student loans. I'm just wondering how to keep up with bills while trying to establish an emergency fund.
The best way to stay current on your bills and manage your money is by doing a written monthly budget. Give every dollar you make a name on paper before the month begins. That way, you're controlling your money instead of it controlling you.
For instance, if you know you'll get two paychecks during the month that are $750 each you plan how you'll spend each of those checks before you get them. Take care of necessities first - food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and utilities. After you've taken care of that, make sure you're current on your debts then put every remaining penny you can squeeze out into your emergency fund. Make sure you keep all spending to necessities only!
You're at a point where you really should have an emergency fund of $1,000. It will be a little tough, but that will be your first big goal. And do all this with a sense of urgency - like in a couple of months.
Remember Murphy's Law, and how anything that CAN go wrong WILL go wrong? If you keep living without a plan and no emergency fund, Murphy will hunt you down and move into your spare bedroom!