What to do if there isn’t enough money?

What to do if there isn’t enough money?

During my first year of college, I had two majors, and taking an extra job on top was virtually impossible. My college town had about 40000 students and most seniors had trusted the rare jobs available, so when I arrived unprepared in September, I knew I had to rely only on my scholarship for that year’s income.

It was a grand total of $400, with $150 for campus accommodation, including bills, and the tuition was free, fortunately. Leaving me with $250 per month to buy books, eat, dress and the occasional night out. I was lucky to meet other very resourceful students and we didn’t feel deprived, but what if an emergency had struck? What if there is simply not enough money to make ends meet?

I am a very proud person, too much in fact, and asking my parents for help would have been a last resort. Before you end up pawning your stuff or getting a payday loan, there are a few actions you can take.

Can you make more money?

Easier said than done, I admit, but are you sure you have explored all the possibilities? You could

  • Pick up extra shifts at work

  • Babysit your neighbors

  • Find freelance work or Taskrabbit assignments

  • Sell some stuff you don’t use on Ebay or Craigslist

  • Market your talent, playing music in the streets or selling your crafts on Etsy

  • Fix computers or appliances for people around you

  • Sell your old phones for money
  • Sell your blood

Can you negotiate your bills?

I wrote a post about that recently, most utilities and credit card companies will agree to postpone your payments on the short term, leaving more money for food and bare necessities.

Can you get free stuff?

As I said before, I am the last one to ask for help, but there are non profits that give free meals, free or heavily discounted groceries, even a free shelter for the night. On websites like freecycle you can ask people to donate items they have no use for, and get clothes, household items, even furniture, slashing your budget some more.

With a little help from a social worker, you could even get free healthcare access or a pro bono lawyer to help you see through your creditors obligations.

Can you do without?

Go over your monthly expenses. In such a desperate situation, you don’t need a gym membership, a cable subscription or any other luxuries. Cancel those services until you are back on your feet.

If your money emergency is that an appliance broke, try to live without for a few months. Jason lived without a washing machine for months and did just fine.

Can you DIY?

Your car broke down and the mechanic quoted you an arm and a leg. Go online, watch some tutorials, get the parts yourself and try to fix it. The same applies for broken things around the house.

Can you reduce?

If your mortgage is killing you slowly, can you refinance, or move to a cheaper, smaller location? Edward lives in a mobile home while he pays off debt, and has much more room in his budget than with a bigger mortgage.

Can you charge it?

Credit is never a good option but you could charge food on your credit card and pay it next month if you know your money problems are temporary. Or resort to a short term loan. Remember those come with heavy interest, and if you are sure to be able to reimburse, asking a friend or family member can be easier and cheaper.

Being in a situation where there isn’t enough money is very hard and challenging. But you can find options to avoid getting deeper into debt.

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A 30 something French girl embarking on a journey towards Financial Independence. I blog about money, travel, simple and deliberate living, freedom and choices. You can find me on Twitter, Google+, or Reach Financial Independence's Facebook Page

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  1. Good post Pauline. Great ideas on how to pick up some extra cash. I feel similarly about asking family or friends for money…it can lead to a possibly difficult situation.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Taking The Plunge is Not Just For Polar Bears – Part 1My Profile

  2. Pauline, I think you and I think alike. I think the biggest thing is to increase your income! Sometimes it is simply not possible, such as a student who is already taking a full load of classes and working two part-time jobs, but overall trying to create some sort of additional income stream (even if it is yet another job) can really help balance the books.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..When There Is Not Enough Money – $100 GiveawayMy Profile

    • It is almost always possible, you just have to be aware that you can market your skills, and most people won’t. They will fix neighbor’s computer for free, or watch their kids once a week. I understand it is tricky to ask for money in return, but at least trade for something you need.

  3. Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom says:

    Nice Job Pauline. You’ve offered no shortage of options for how to bootstrap it when you don’t have the cash. With these ideas in your back pocket you’ll never have to work in an office again :)
    Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom recently posted..When the cash runs out before the month doesMy Profile

  4. Thanks for mentioning me. One of the things I started doing when I moved to Colorado and had no income was start donating plasma. I get paid $200/month to sit on reclining seat and watch tv with a needle in my arm.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..When there isn’t enough money at the end of the monthMy Profile

    • Nice money! my blood type is sought after for plasma but I never found the time to go donate. And in France it is illegal to receive money for it, so cookies and TV is not a great incentive.

  5. Veronica @ Pelican on Money says:

    I’ve had the “privilege” of testing many of the above tips and ideas :) The best one by far is to make more money, but cutting back in places where there’s room is a great way to de-clutter life and take a fresh look at what’s really necessary to live a happy life.
    Veronica @ Pelican on Money recently posted..Powerful Lessons Learned in Starting an Online Store (Part 1)My Profile

  6. maria@moneyprinciple says:

    Good article, Pauline. I have been through times of need (particularly here in the UK) but have always managed to earn more. Generally throughout my life I have rarely had a problem earning – my problem was keeping some of the money I earned.
    maria@moneyprinciple recently posted..My financial goals: end of playMy Profile

    • It is hard but there has to be a point where you think spending the extra money is not worth the extra work involved to pay for those things. Or need to track expenses to see where money goes and why you spend so much.

  7. Good post Pauline! We managed to sell some stuff earlier this year on eBay and even after all of their high fees, we still had an extra $600.
    Tackling Our Debt recently posted..How to Manage Your Money So That You’ll Always Have EnoughMy Profile

  8. Sell your blood is a bit of a different idea! Perhaps males could resort to other bodily fluids… personally I would never do it, but it is an option!
    Savvy Scot recently posted..Avoiding Stereotypes at ChristmasMy Profile

    • I would donate eggs not for the money but because infertility is a subject I care a great deal about. But I understand having a lots of little Scotties knocking at your door in 10 years, or wondering if your daughter is dating one of them can be a concern.

  9. I have a situation that makes me sound like a complete moron. I could probably drum up business, computer support, on the side, and I have a couple of clients BUT I hate doing it. Here I am sitting in financial hell, but hate to work on the side. BUT (again) I am not young and I am not healthy and just getting myself to my main job takes a lot out of me. By the time the weekend gets around, I AM EXHAUSTED.
    I feel like a schmuck but I need to take care of me physically even though I am falling apart financially.
    So I have to go with JUST DON”T SPEND! Or be a schmuck or both! 😉
    DebtGirl recently posted..Perfect PancakesMy Profile

    • Your health is more valuable than the extra buck, obviously. But you could try to find something you enjoy doing and get paid for it. Take a group of older people hiking or exercising in the mountains, bake and cater for your friends’ parties… Whatever it is, there are plenty of ways to make extra income with your hobbies.

      • Whatever extra I can pull in will have to be under the table because from this point forward all income is reported and would make my payment go up and so it is kind of hard.
        I think just not spending is like earning! 😉
        DebtGirl recently posted..Perfect PancakesMy Profile

        • Would the increased payments reduce the term of the 60 months? If so it would be worth it, if you end up repaying more than what was agreed, then not so attractive.

          • No, they just take the money and say thanks and you keep paying as scheduled. I asked if I was super diligent and saved money, could I pay out early. The answer is a resounding NO! ;-(
            DebtGirl recently posted..Perfect PancakesMy Profile

          • The system can be weird sometime! But I guess it makes sense since they usually slash the repaid amount of the debt, that if you can afford to pay more, you should. Every case is different, but if I borrow $40K, the next month after one payment I file and have to repay $20K, I should repay any extra I can on top of that. If I borrow those same $40K, pay $20K interest over the course of 2 years and my $40K debt is slashed to $20K, at least my creditors are breaking even and I would be annoyed if repaying more.And they can only do one system for everyone..

          • Exactly Pauline and that makes perfect sense. I did the math, they have made the borrowed amount back and then some, but not getting complete payback with all the interest they could have gotten and earned (it is why they are in business afterall).
            I understand completely.
            DebtGirl recently posted..Perfect PancakesMy Profile

  10. I had many friends who sold blood in college and then went out drinking… not the smartest combination, but hey college kids do dumb things.

    PS. I think this new commenting system works for me at work!

  11. Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy says:

    One bizarre possibility: I could loan out my ta-ta’s. Apparently selling booby milk over the interwebs and on Facebook is all the rage now with some lactating mommies. Hah!!

    • Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy says:

      (And no, I would never. Aside from sanitation or disease concerns in that type of market, selling breast milk, as opposed to donating it to a legitimate milk bank for ICU newborns and infants in need, is just a tad too strange even for me. Facebook?! I mean, c’mon!)

      • I read an article about Hollywood stars wanting to preserve their implants breasts and selecting super expensive mothers to breast feed instead of them. It looked well organized and refrigerated, but FB? People also sell kidneys on Craigslist, I don’t think I would go that far either.

  12. I agree that lots of people have become so used to luxuries that they view them as necessities. There are usually tons of things you can cut before you go into debt.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Paycheck to Paycheck is No Way to Live/$100 GiveawayMy Profile

  13. Hey Pauline, great post. I learned about budgeting the hard way in during my college days!
    But there definitely are times and situations when a shortfall just can’t be helped. I actually helped cofound Activehours.com to help folks who really need a hand, especially when cashflow and pay day don’t add up. And actually happy to say we’re completely free to use!

  14. When we moved into our new place we sold a bunch of stuff on craigslist. We made about $500 for stuff we were going to get rid of anyway. I was shocked. It was a little work to do all the photos and postings, but 500 bucks is 500 bucks more then I had at the beginning of the week.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..5 Reasons Women Deserve to Make Less Than MenMy Profile

    • Of course, that’s great! It amazes me too how there is always someone looking to give your stuff a second life. The thing is sometimes you have to work a little to find that person.

  15. Hi Pauline,
    You are right, if money is scarce, find ways to make more money and practice frugality. Do away with unnecessary expenses. These will certainly help your goal of saving some money.

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