This is the Number 1 Reason for Personal Bankruptcy (And How to Avoid It)

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Just imagine. It’s one of those rare Saturday afternoons where you get to relax and watch your kid’s little league game.

But, after his first hit, he tries for second and as he slides — late — you see his leg buckle and hear him scream.

It’s a broken leg. Even though you have insurance, you don’t have a lot to spare, so you opted for a high-deductible plan. Now, you’ll need to pay that entire $3,000 deductible for this one injury.

Medical bills are one of the biggest financial issues for people in the U.S. The number one reason for personal bankruptcy? Yep, you guessed it.

It’s medical bills.

Medical bills have the ability to crush an entire family’s finances. Keep in mind that the cause of the medical bills, a severe injury or illness, can also put a halt on your income. With no money coming in and bills piling up fast, it’s a double-edged sword.

All you need to do is fire up a crowdfunding account and let friends and strangers help you out, right? Don’t count on it.

However, your medical bills don’t have to be astronomical to throw your budget out of whack. The key is creating sufficient emergency funds before the medical bills start pouring in.

First, breathe. You can do this. Even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, there are little ways you can help yourself create the cushion you need to avoid disaster.

Here are a few tips to help you pay down those astronomical medical bills — by being ready before they strike.

1. Understand Your Current Debt

First thing’s first. To make sure you’re financially prepared for an emergency, you need to know to whom you owe money and how much. For a simple snapshot of this, sign up for a free Credit Sesame account.

Not only will Credit Sesame let you see your Transunion credit score, which is a great thing to know, you can also see a free debt analysis. This gives you an overview of your debt and breaks it down into your total debt, monthly payment, and debt-to-income ratio.

Handy info, right?

Next, click on the “view details” tab below your debt analysis. Here’s where you really learn what’s what. This screen breaks your debt down into categories, such as student loan, credit cards and other debt categories. Now you can really see how much you owe and where.

The info you learn from Credit Sesame can really help you see where your bills are heaviest and help you prioritize your plan of attack.

2. Consider Consolidating Your Current Debt

Now that you’ve seen what you’re up against, have you taken a gander at those interest rates?

If you have several credit cards floating a balance out there, or even just one with a large balance, it may be well worth your while to look into a personal loan to consolidate those debts.

This could substantially lower payments you’re already making on your debt and help you save more money each month toward your emergency-savings goal.

If you’re being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%, it might be worth seeing if you can consolidate and refinance your debt.

A good resource is consumer-financial-technology platform Fiona, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.

Fiona searches top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in three steps. Fiona’s platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

Taming outrageous interest on your current debt is the first step toward saving money for unforeseen future debts.

3. Start a Side Hustle

You know your debts. You’ve consolidated them into one payment, or at least fewer payments with much lower interest. Feels good, right?

Now, if you really want to start gaining ground, it’s time to add a little something to your income. Do you know your city inside and out?

Try driving with Lyft.

Demand for ridesharing has been growing like crazy, and it shows no signs of slowing down. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or after.

We talked to Paul Pruce, who’s been driving full-time with Lyft for over a year. He earns $750 a week as a driver.

Best of all, he does it on his own time. You can work days, nights or weekends — it’s up to you!

Since it’s simple to switch between apps, many Lyft drivers also sign up as a driver partner with Uber.

As an Uber contractor, you’re responsible for setting your schedule and motivating yourself to work — no one is keeping tabs on you. Your earnings will be calculated by adding a base fare, plus time and distance traveled after your pickup, and Uber charges a service fee (20-35% depending on your city). It can be a great way to start earning a little extra to stash for an emergency.

If you want to give it a try, there are a few things to keep in mind. You must be at least 21 years old, have three years of driving experience, have an in-state driver’s license, a clean driving record and be able to pass a criminal background check.

4. Automate Your Savings

Sometimes the easiest way to save money is to not think about it at all.

Enter Qapital (pronounced “capital”). Qapital is an app that moves money from any account you choose into a savings account in small, pre-designated increments. It helped one Penny Hoarder writer save $700 in just five months.

When you trigger certain “rules,” such as meeting your daily step goal or making a purchase from a particular retailer, Qapital moves a designated amount of money from your selected account into a savings account.

First, download the app and sign up. You can either use Facebook or set up an account with your email address. Either way, you have to be at least 18 years old.

Next, link your checking account, which Qapital will verify before you can begin saving. This can take up to three days, and you must have $100 in your account to qualify.

To prevent overdrafting, Qapital only transfers money when you have at least $100 in your account; once you hit that threshold, it automatically stops all withdrawals.

Then, connect any other accounts you want to monitor, like PayPal, bank-affiliated or American Express credit cards or prepaid cards.

When you make a purchase with one of these accounts that triggers one of your rules, the app will pull money from your checking account and move it to your FDIC-insured Qapital account through Wells Fargo.

It’s simple savings without even thinking about it.

Remember, the goal is to establish an emergency fund that can save you and your family if and when the unexpected occurs.

Medical bills happen. That’s just life. Being prepared for them before they ever happen is winning at life. You can do it.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.