Taking out a loan to cover an unexpected expense or emergency can be a great way to get the cash you need so you can take care of the situation immediately. But the last thing you’ll want to do is to fall behind on payments for emergency loans. If you do, it could trigger interest and penalties that could cause you to spiral into unwanted debt. To avoid this from happening, here are four tips to help you keep up with your emergency loan payments:

1. Work them into your budget

The first thing you should do is to make the emergency loan payments part of your budget. A budget is a plan for how you’ll spend your income. By formally prioritizing the things you have to buy, you’ll be more likely to have the money you need to cover them.

If you aren’t budgeting already, then it’s not hard to get started. Begin by making a list of all the expenses you already have or are the most important to you. Add them up and make sure the total doesn’t exceed your income. If it does, then you’ll need to start trimming the fat from your spending habits.

2. Set up automatic payments

One of the easiest ways to ensure payments are on time is to take yourself out of the equation completely. This can be done by setting them up for autopay. Many lenders have some form of automatic payment available. Usually, all it takes is to connect your bank or credit card to the account and give pre-authorization for a monthly transaction. From there, make sure there are always funds available in your account to cover the payment. This will come back to practicing good budgeting.

3. Pay down the principal early

If you get any extra money, such as a raise at work or an income tax refund, then it may be a good idea to put it toward your emergency loan principal. Doing this can help to pay it off early and save you a lot of money on loan interest.

Additionally, paying off the principal early can also be used as leverage if you run into financial trouble later on. Lenders will be more willing to work with you by allowing you to skip a payment or potentially recasting your loan to create a new lower payment amount.

4. Build up your financial reserves

If you come into some extra money, another strategy to try is to create a small safety net. This cushion of cash can be set aside and used in emergencies in case money gets tight. It’s smart to hold safety reserves in a separate bank account from your regular checking or savings. That way, you won’t be tempted to use the funds for another financial purpose.

The bottom line

Don’t let the money you borrowed to cover an emergency pull you into debt. Make sure you pay your loan payments every time by using strategies like working them into your budget, setting your bills to auto-pay, paying down the principal, and building up your financial reserves.