There are weeks when you feel like you have it all together. The bills are paid, there’s money for an emergency, and there’s a way to make fun things happen. Then there are the other weeks. You know the ones. Those weeks are the ones where you aren’t sure how bills are going to get paid, when you wonder if you will ever break even, when it just doesn’t add up. I completely understand. I have had my fair share of those days. I wanted to share some tips for the days when the paycheck is not enough.
When the Paycheck is Not Enough
These aren’t a fix-all. Instead, these are the things we have done around here to tighten our belts and get through hard times.
I don’t ever want to hear that one of my amazing readers is going without food or shelter. If you are in a situation where you don’t have enough to eat this week or a safe place to live please call 211 immediately. That is the United Way national resource line. They will help you to find food or housing options in your area from their network of information.
Cut Back on Driving
With gas prices up and down like a yo-yo it can be hard to keep the tank filled. Instead of making lots of road trips consolidate your errands into one day. You could also opt for public transport or invite friends to hang at your house instead of going to theirs.
Break Down Bill Payments
Larger bills can get overwhelming. It doesn’t help when you are pinching pennies to get by. I use the bill pay through my bank. I will break my bills up into smaller portions and pay a bit on each pay day instead of paying it all at once. The bills still get paid but I am able to spread the money around a little better. If you are struggling with getting bills paid and still having enough to live on, this may be a way to handle it. I am not suggesting intentionally going overdue. Instead, I am suggesting paying it in smaller portions throughout the month instead of all at once.
A good example of this is my mortgage. It would be a big hit to us if I paid the mortgage all out of one check. Instead, I move each portion of the mortgage into a savings account and pay the full amount when it is due.
Don’t fear Outlet Grocery Stores and Discount Stores
There are some fantastic bread outlets and discount grocery stores out there. If you know how to shop you can get some great deals and make your food budget stretch a lot further by taking advantage of these. I buy all of my bread from a bakery outlet for a third of the normal price. Bread freezes well and it is easier for me to buy a lot at a discount than to pay full price when it is in stores.
Discount grocery stores are also an option. Make sure to look at expiration dates. Some of these stores will sell things at a deep discount that have a recent expiration date. There are many food items that are still good past their expiration dates. For instance, I bought my husband Starbucks coffee at our discount store for $3 a bag and it is still quite delicious. We threw it in the freezer and he uses it whenever he wants a glass.
When it comes to meat, talk to the butcher at your local grocery store. Some will severely discount meat on the sell by date. That means you will need to either cook or freeze that meat that day. It isn’t necessarily bad yet. It just needs to be used as soon as possible.
Go Meatless or Cut Back on Meat
Meat costs are rising and it can be hard to budget a meal around the current meat prices. You could have a meatless Monday where you eat one vegetarian meal in place of a meal with meat. There are inexpensive ways to get your protein in without eating meat. My friend over at Misery Loves Cookery has an Instant Pot Indian Dal Recipe you should check out for sure. I recommend hitting Pinterest and searching for vegetarian recipes. You will be surprised how much is out there.
You can also cut back on meat. For instance, if you are making taco meat do half the meat and replace the other half with beans. My family loves when I do this with black beans. It makes for a great flavor on the taco while cutting your costs a bit.
Call and Ask for Discounts/New Promotions
Are you with a cable company or a bill that runs promotions? Call and find out if they can roll you into a new promotion. I did this with my internet last month and saved 5% off my bill each month. It isn’t much in the grand scheme of things but it is money that we can use to handle other bills.
Shop around for car insurance as well. I never assume that the plan I was with last year is the best option for this year. Instead, I will call my insurance agent every year before renewal and ask her to compare. I know some suggest it is best to stay with the same company but sometimes finances dictate going where you can get quality coverage for less.
Cut the Cable
I know this is one of the harder choices to make but it can save you a great deal. With options like DVD.com (Netflix DVD rental service) Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime you really don’t have to miss out on much. If your tv can’t hook to the internet you can either go with DVD.com or purchase a fire stick so that you can stream these options to your tv.
Bartering is a great way to get what you need when you don’t have extra cash. You can check out this post on bartering I did for Money Saving Mom for more tips on bartering.
Say No but Spin It.
As a mom, I often want to be the one to say yes. Yes, I would love to get that book you adore. Yes, I would love to take you to every movie you’ve ever wanted to see. Yes. Yes. Yes. Thing is, you can’t always afford a yes. A no to one thing doesn’t mean you are being mean though. Instead, find a way to spin that no into something else they might enjoy. No, that’s not in the budget this week but lets hit the library. No, we can’t see that new movie but lets have a family movie night at home with popcorn. The biggest thing you bring to a season of struggle is your perspective. Bring a positive one and you may just get through this hard season with a smile or two.
I saved this for last because I think it is so important and often overlooked. You need a budget more than ever if you are having a week or month of struggle. Tell each dollar where to go and have a realistic view of your situation. Things may get better but this initial budget will help you to decide what gets paid and what things you need to skip this week.
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