Living on a Budget

There are many great articles and plans on how to spend money wisely and reasons for doing so.  Unfortunately, some of us either love to live for today or love someone else who does.  This creates an endless cycle of a person having no money, no matter what, before the next paycheck comes around.  So, for those of us who seem to never have enough money, here are some ideas on how to get by when the money runs out.  I am just going to cover a few in detail here.  Stand by for more to come!  Today, I will focus on the times when you are about to go to the movies with your loved one, and check your bank account just to make sure you have the $50+ it costs—just to make sure you have enough—and there is a big fat, red, negative number sitting there where there should be at least a three digit black number.

At this point, you don’t want to break the news to your date that you can’t have a date.  So don’t!  Whatever you do, don’t save the bad news for the last possible moment.  Be honest.  Tell him or her that you have no money, and therefore can’t go on the movie date.  If he or she loves you, it will probably be a laughing matter.  If not, you’ll probably end up alone sometime soon anyway.  So just spill the beans.  Work together to come up with something equally fun to do.  Who knows, if you have separate bank accounts, then perhaps the other person has some cash you don’t know about.  Then it will be like it never happened really.  You have the night off.  You have the one you love.  Anything else is just icing on the cake!  Do something you normally wouldn’t do.  Take advantage of this opportunity to have fun doing something you otherwise would not do.  You could have a romantic night in, with a movie and whatever food is in the cabinet or fridge.  Maybe drive out to a rural area and look at the stars, talk about whatever pops into your head.  Perhaps now you have extra time in which you could cook up that oh so tasty meal you don’t ever seem to have the time to make anymore.  It could be that you’re dead tired anyway.  In that case, just get a good night’s sleep in!  You’re pretty much guaranteed to be in a good mood the next day.  You’ll wake up feeling like a million bucks!

Sometimes, you see these things coming.  You know you have no cash for the upcoming weekend.  So, pick up a few local, free papers, check the internet, and watch some public service announcements.  Some retail stores and malls will even hold events that can be entertaining or informative and do not require any entrance fees.  Get these ahead of time, and you can have a good time, in spite of the fact that your money’s all spent.

There are also plenty of free things to do that don’t require too much planning.  Take the opportunity to clean the house and do chores, sit back and ponder life, see some movies you haven’t watched in a long time, call up some friends and family you haven’t spoken to in a while, spend more time with the family or animals (I know, some of you consider your animals family).  Slowing down periodically can be good for a person!

Now, I will address the dreaded topic of what to do when you have no money, but a lot of bills coming due.  You have to start the damage control as soon as you know there is a problem.  First, make sure you know ALL of your bills that are automatically paid.  Cancel the auto pay first and foremost.  Try to make sure you don’t let any bills go 90 days or more past due, as this can affect your credit report for a long time to come.  If any services risk being disconnected, ask yourself if you really need them.  Perhaps you should just live without for a few months or cancel it altogether.  After you cancel, companies don’t tend to care quite as much about when they are paid, as long as you pay them regularly.  Some do, but cancelling will definitely make it less stressful.  The rest can pretty much wait until payday.  There is also a good side to bills.  Ask yourself if anyone has overcharged you for something.  Have you paid anything off and received a check that is currently sitting at the bottom of your “important mail” pile?  Have you been regularly overcharged for a service and just haven’t yet called up the company?  The credit they give you may just cancel out this month’s payment.  Also, check your bank account activity.  Perhaps there was some confusion about paying a bill online or over the phone, and you were charged an NSF fee.  Often, these can be reversed if you just call up the bank.  Unfortunately, the more times you do this, the less likely they are to stick you with the fee no matter what.  But they won’t charge you extra for trying.  If your bank will not do this, then perhaps you need to think about switching to a bank that will.  They are definitely out there.  Don’t just try to ignore this paperwork.  The bad stuff will catch up to you sooner rather than later, and the good stuff could get you a lot of cash or credit!

Then there is the obvious question of “how can I grab some legal, quick cash?”  Well, the obvious answer is that you could have a garage sale.  There’s probably tons of stuff you have for absolutely no reason anyway.  Don’t be frugal on the preparations though!  Make sure you go to the bank and get at least $20-$40 in $1 bills and coins.  You will lose sales or be forced to lower your prices otherwise.  Also, make sure you have a sign big enough for people to read in your yard at least.  Spend the extra cash for a large, appealing sign.  Spend the extra cash and time to get some big, colored markers.  Write and draw on the sign… whatever you think will draw people to your yard sale.  My wife and I once offered free soda with a purchase!  We ended up making over $150 that day, but we only handed out maybe 6 sodas.  Also, make sure that either someone else has a sign pointing to your road or you have a sign pointing to your road.  If you can coordinate with at least 1 neighbor, you will also get more business.  Shoppers are more likely to actually stop if there is a larger selection.  If they stop, it is pretty likely they will buy something.  An extra 30-60 minutes prep time and an extra $10 investment will get you a lot of extra money!

So there you have it.  Sure, you should have saved your money.  As it turns out, you didn’t.  Sure, your wife shouldn’t have bought that kitchen appliance off the TV without asking if you had the money.  But she did.  And now, you’re broke.  But, it is ok.  Not all things require money.  Not all money problems require money to solve.  And you’re not always quite as broke as you think you are.  Sure, you want to plan for expenses and save money for when you need it.  However, sometimes, you just have to make do with you have.  That is often enough.