It may sound silly to those who are used to a steady income, but anyone who has recently experienced a job loss, lived “close to the edge” for any length of time, or had a sudden bill pop out of nowhere can attest to the importance of an emergency fund. Yet how many of us really keep an emergency fund? It’s a good habit to get into, for a number of reasons.

An emergency fund is simply a small amount of savings; for some, this could mean three months’ savings built up, while others in the process of building that much, and still others have six to twelve months’ savings secure in the bank. It’s used to pay for emergency bills like car repairs, sudden problems with pets’ or other household members’ health, and so on. If you lose your job or are laid off due to the economy or other unexpected reasons, it will pay for your expenses until you can find another job. It shouldn’t be relied upon day-to-day, but true to its name, only for emergencies.

You need to build up an emergency fund before things get bad, if at all possible. This means that while you’re living easy and foresee no risk of losing your job, and have extra money, you should be looking into saving it up. It’s a slow process that will take some time, so start early in anticipation of emergencies in a few months’ or years’ time that you can’t possibly foresee now.

The reasons why you need an emergency fund should be clear already. If they aren’t, consider your last major, unexpected expense. This could be a car repair, health bill, or something else large and pressing. What would happen if you didn’t have the money on hand to pay the bill? Would you have to get a payday loan? Sell precious possessions? Take it out on your credit card and create a mountain of debt? This is the motivation you need to build an emergency fund – to stop any of these terrible scenarios from playing out in your own life.

Anyone with regular bills or who anticipates receiving them in the future should start to build an emergency fund. Even if you’re still living at home with your parents, this is the best time to start – while you don’t have regular bills and have more money to put aside! It’s also a good habit to get into for the future.

To start building one, consider how much money you would need to pay for three to six months’ worth of expenses (the exact amount should vary depending on your area, the ease with which you can get more money, and so on). Don’t factor in things you want like movies, etc – only bills like utilities, rent, and so on.

Then, put aside a certain amount each month towards it. This could be fixed, like a few hundred per month, or a percentage of every paycheck. You can set up online banking so that every payday, a certain amount gets transferred to a high-interest online savings account where you won’t be tempted to see or spend it until the worst comes true.

Emergency funds are a crucial part of adult money management that many don’t learn about. Stop yourself from getting into a life-changing, heart-stopping situation by starting to build an emergency fund now.