Over this past year of pandemic and recession, too many of us learned that our emergency fund — if we had one — fell woefully short when needed. Others found their retirement nest eggs shrinking. But the lesson is the same from either issue. "It's important that this realization be accompanied by a resolve to dig in and correct the problem," says Gerry Hafer, a certified Social Security adviser at the senior-supporting AMAC Foundation. "The most productive way to do this is to build a plan and establish a budget designed to bring cash outflow in line with inflow, but allowing for at least a portion of available cash to be set aside. Even if it's only a few dollars." Read on for suggestions on how to tweak your finances and create your own cushion, aiming for as little pain as possible.