There are three things you can do to “find” more money when your budget is super tight: sell something, work more — as in take on extra hours at work, get a second job, or go out find an odd job or five — or cut back your lifestyle.
This isn’t crazy magic. Use your skills. Sew up some tote bags and open an Etsy store. Offer to clean Grandma’s house. Mow someone’s yard. Put a temporary ban on eating out (it’s not forever!) Work weekends. Find something!
Sometimes people think, “But I have nothing to sell! I don’t have anything in my house worth anything.” Everyone has something. A DVD set you don’t watch anymore. An extra television. A broken computer you can sell for parts. An old toy from your childhood. You never know. When I was building up my first car fund a few years ago, I sold a bunch of plastic Sailor Moon wands and collectibles that cost between $9 and $25 originally for $75 to $200 a piece. Trust me, you have something.
But if it’s not anything you’re willing to part with, create something to sell. Make something. Sell some clothes or unused furniture to a consignment shop. Or buy something on a good deal, fix it up, and resell it. You can even offer to sell something for a friend or family member for a commission. This is something else I’ve done, though it did happen completely by accident.
The beauty of the debt snowball is that it causes you to focus. When you’re laser focused, sometimes you get intense. You start looking around at all the “stuff” you have, and you start to realize that you really don’t need all of it. You start to realize there are a lot of things you can live without. Like maybe you really can only eat out once a week or even less for a while. Maybe you really can wait until you actually need something new to go clothes shopping.
Take cable, for example. It was a dream of mine for so long to have this suped-up cable package that when I could finally afford it, I went nuts! But all those years of not having cable, I found all kinds of other ways to entertain myself with that kind of media. YouTube. Netflix. TV on DVD — I have a lot of those. I woke up one day and realized I hadn’t watched actual television in almost a month!
Why was I paying for 200 channels when I was only watching five?
So a few months ago, I cut down my cable package to the most basic package available and added HBO and Showtime, since I actually watch them. I’m saving myself $70 dollars a month. Or $840 a year! What?!
Not to mention, I’m saving myself a lot of time because I don’t have a bunch of random shows that I don’t really care about piling up on my DVR.
I have heard that some people even went as far as cancelling their cell phone plans! I think that’s a little extreme, but my cell phone is also my only phone, and I didn’t get a smartphone until I afford it. That was exciting!
But it’s important to keep it mind that any sacrifices you make are temporary. Staycations instead of out of town vacations are temporary. Forgoing fancy date nights are temporary. Waiting to upgrade your living room is temporary. The sacrifices are well worth it when you’re finally debt free and get to do whatever you want with your money.
If you find that, like Jane, the hole is so big that you truly can’t make any traction, that’s when it’s time to make some hard decisions on who’s going to be below the red line and not get paid some months. Always, ALWAYS take care of yourself first: food, shelter, transportation, utilities, and necessary clothing (things like shoes because your other ones got chewed up by the neighbor’s dog). But remember, there is always a way out. 🙂