Ask My Readers | Do You Keep Emergency Cash on Hand?

Reader Q&AToday’s reader question comes from Rochel, who – in light of Hurricane Sandy earlier this year and the tornado last week in Oklahoma – she’s wondering about keeping emergency cash on hand.

Should we keep emergency cash on hand? How much is enough but not too much?  Is it really helpful or is it just doomsday paranoia? 

Can you help Rochel out?

We don’t keep emergency cash on hand – but then I’m terrible about keeping cash in general. I almost always use my debit card.

I’d love to hear what you think about whether cash is necessary for emergency preparedness? And if so, what’s the right amount?

Do you have a question about budgeting, couponing, menu planning or anything else? Please send me an email – I love hearing from my readers!


  1. Bethany Shondark Mandel says

    We’ve had a few times where we really, really wish we had cash on hand. During Hurricane Sandy when ATMs weren’t reliable, a few days ago when we needed cash for gypsy cabs for an unexpected trip to the ER (we had to borrow a $20 from a friend, we couldn’t go to the preferred hospital because we just didn’t have enough fare to get there)… We should’ve learned our lesson post-Sandy and didn’t, frustratingly. We should keep $100-200 in the house.

  2. Ellen Rosen says

    I usually have $100 in cash in a separate part of my wallet from my everyday cash for emergencies. I use my debit card for everyday stuff and have a small amount of cast ($20-40) for those stores that prefer cash for smaller transactions.

  3. Yes, I keep $200 cash on hand for emergency preparedness. I also encourage my husband to bring cash on work trips.

  4. We keep cash on hand before a known emergency, such as Sandy. I insisted to my husband that we take out a few hundred and were glad we did. We had to use cash for any gas we could find.

    I also keep $20 cash in each car. One time I got locked in a parking garage because they took cash only and would not let me out. I actually had to go and ask for money from a stranger.

  5. I also think it’s important to keep $100-$200 cash at home in small bills ($1, $5, $10). It comes in especially handy when there’s a big snowstorm and it’s too much for my husband to shovel alone. For us it’s worth it to hire someone and if there’s that much snow on the ground we are not driving to an ATM 🙂

  6. We live in earthquake country, so we do keep cash on hand. Probably not as much as we should.

  7. I do and this is why-as Bethany said above, you never know when you may need cash. During Sandy I felt pretty secure knowing there was cash in a drawer at home if I needed it.
    These days I do all my purchasing online or with a debit card and who uses cash now anyway, right? But occasionally business gets slow and the debit card is a little flat and I always have a few bucks to get me through a dry time. I’m talking maybe $100-200. Anymore and I feel crazy rich and start splurging on stuff. And now that the kids are out of the house $100 is enough to last a week or two or regular food shopping and random expenses.
    And then there’s my Mom’s voice in the back of my head telling me that every woman should have “a little something” put aside for emergencies. Smart lady!

  8. I think it’s very important to have some cash on hand, having lived through Hurrican Rita several years ago, it can take a while not only for electricty to be restored, but also banking in general. We keep some in a couple of places, one of which is in a sealed container hidden someplace outside the house. If the house is destroyed, we may not have access to the sock drawer, lol!

  9. As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, as well as a Sandy ‘victim’, keep as much as you can comfortably afford ; up to at least $1000.00 . I know it sounds like a lot, and it won’t make money for you, but if you ever need cash fast for a real emergency, it’s there. My area was almost three weeks without power during Sandy. Our cashless society became reliant on all- cash transactions, very quickly. I would not keep it all in one place. Keep at least $100.00 very accessible. Put the rest of your money in a safe place. Just don’t forget where you put it. 🙂

  10. We don’t have emergency cash, but live only on cash. Rarely use my debit/or credit cards. In a true emergency I’d have cash on hand, but would have to ‘pay it back’, since the cash is designated (groceries, dining out, dentist etc.). And there would be less available toward the end of. The month.

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