Extreme Solutions for the Financially Strapped

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Desperate times require desperate measures. And sometimes life events bring a sense of desperation where finances are concerned. Maybe you or your spouse had to miss work for an extended period of time, or your car required major repair, or you were a victim of identity theft, or… any number of other scenarios can take families who live payday to payday to the brink of financial ruin. During those times we must find ways to quickly earn more money and eliminate expenses in an effort to simply survive.

Here are some financial tactics that may help you during these times of financial stress. Not all are viable for everyone or every situation, but maybe one of more will help you if you find yourself in dire financial straits and need immediate relief.

• Go into survival mode. Immediately stop all unnecessary spending. That means no movies, no eating out, no new clothes, books or toys. Save your money for what you have to have to live on.

• Simplify your eating habits. Buy cheaper foods and items on sale. Eat more beans, rice, ramen noodles, pasta, homemade biscuits, and meatless meals. Eliminate desserts. Snack on homemade (not microwave) popcorn. Shop at the day-old bread store. Eliminate convenience foods. Drink water instead of soda. Use what’s in the pantry and freezer before you buy more. There are many ways to cut your food bill dramatically. Use every money saving strategy you can find to keep your family fed.

• Visit your local food pantry. Most cities have at least one food pantry that will provide a few groceries once a week or more, free of charge. Typically, the items given include cereal, dry beans or peas, canned goods or bread. You won’t get enough to feed your family, but you will receive some supplemental help. And if there is more than one pantry in your area, visit every one of them. They are designed for just such an emergency so take advantage of them when you need to.

• Apply for food stamps and public assistance. You may or may not qualify, but it’s worth taking the time to interview and fill out an application. Many hardworking taxpayers feel they could never “take charity,” but if your children are hungry or you’re on the verge of homelessness, remember that’s exactly why you do pay your taxes… so the government can provide help for families just like yours who are in need.

• Cut out extraneous services such as cable TV, DSL (use the library), added calling features on your phone. Drop all voluntary memberships such as Stamps.com, exercise centers, music and book clubs.

• Cancel your cell phone if you can do so without a cancellation fee. If not, use it as little as possible so that you never go over on your minutes. Stop downloading music and ringtones you have to pay for.

• Eliminate paper. Use cloth napkins instead of paper, regular plates instead of paper plates, cleaning rags instead of paper towels, cloth handkerchiefs instead of tissues.

• Have a yard sale. Find anything and everything you don’t need and sell it. Look at every single thing in your home, and unless it has true sentimental value, or you know you could never get a price to warrant the sale, consider selling it. Now isn’t the time to show an attachment for “things.”

• If at all possible, pay your bills on time and keep your checking account balanced. Adding financing charges, late fees and insufficient fund or overdraft payments to an already over-extended budget can cause tremendous amounts of emotional and financial stress.

• Have an extra vehicle? Sell it. Make do with one car, ride a bicycle, use public transportation, or hitch a ride with a co-worker.

• Collect aluminum cans and sell them for cash. The price varies, and you certainly won’t get rich, but you could make enough to pay a small bill or buy a few groceries.

• Stop smoking. Cigarettes are a luxury you can’t afford, not to mention a health hazard. The ability to quit depends a lot on your mindset. Visit your local health department or library for free information to help you kick the habit.

• As long as you don’t have to pay added child care, which could eliminate any potential income you might earn, get a second job. While jobs are hard to come by, fast food restaurants are still hiring, as are pizza places and convenience stores. It may not be what you want to do, but there are times you do what you have to.

• If you can’t find a regular job, offer your services for pay. Consider babysitting, lawn care, baking, pet walking, writing, decorating, home repair, tutoring, giving music lessons, etc. Anything you can do capably is a potential moneymaker, so don’t overlook possible talents.

• Sell some things on eBay, etsy, Craigslist, or another online website. Your market reach is much wider than trying to sell locally, and many of these services are completely free.

• You may also be able to sell certain items locally such as books to a used book store, clothing to a consignment shop, or furniture to a used furniture store. You typically won’t earn as much selling locally as you would online, and you may not get your money immediately as in the case of consignment shops, but the potential is there.

• While it’s not recommended by financial experts, you can always get a title loan, or a cash advance from a local check cashing business. This isn’t something you want to do on a regular basis, but often the first such loan is free, or very cheap, and it might be enough to get you by until your next pay check.

• Pawn your jewelry, or sell some gold. The gold market is hot right now and there are any number of jewelry stores and pawn shops paying decent prices for gold items and jewelry. Deal locally, if possible, and be sure of what you’re selling. Also shop around to find a dealer you feel you can trust before you give them your items.

• Sell your antiques and collectibles. Look around your home for vintage pieces such as glassware, coins, stamps, toys, or other collectibles and call an antique dealer to see if they’re worth anything.

• Rent out a room in your house. This is especially viable if you have a basement bedroom or a room with a separate entrance. But you can easily rent any room if you live in a college town or other populated area. Use caution, of course, and ask for references before allowing someone you don’t know to move into your home.

While these ideas are not all-inclusive, and they may not bring you money today, they are pretty strong measues to help you earn and save money when you find yourself in a financial bind and need results fast.

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