Who has ever been in a desperate financial situation? Job loss, emergency, illness, special needs medical costs, student loans, becoming a single parent, drowning in debt...lots of variety when it comes to financial crisis.
Before this year, I had NO idea how bad our finances truly were. Back in January, our Home Depot credit card was $8,000 (I didn't know it was that much) and our monthly minimum amount due was $477. I found this out when I checked my bank app and thought there'd been a mistake, a few months ago, we owed $47 a month. Someone must've had a glitch!
Whelp. I don't recall the exact circumstance, probably some interest free xyz deal they had going on that caught up with us, but very long story short I had $42 to feed our family of 4 eating (I was breastfeeding the 5th member.) for the week. Which might be a reasonable amount for someone somewhere who is resourceful and disciplined, but that's not ya girl. I was absolutely lost. We are way too proud to ask for help especially when it was our own poor choices that got us here, so I got what I could with it from a food outlet store and ended up picking up some extra serving shifts as a waitress, thank goodness! So, no one went hungry, but I was used to spending about 4x that for a week's worth of groceries which is the point. Take your grocery budget and quarter it unexpectedly.
Right then in that moment I got angry! With our situation, not a person. Things had to change! I found an empty hard covered journal with sewn in pages and for 23 straight days, I made calls and lists, and anxiously awaited the mail to actually open it and assess the damage and take note. Every single day, I gave my husband a run down. I am ashamed to tell you that NEITHER of us actually knew the due dates of our bills. Except the mortgage and car. My face is burning, I'm so embarrassed to write this. We both had A LOT of shame and guilt surrounding our financial situation, so we just ignored it. We didn't talk about it, we didn't open things from debt collectors or answer calls. We lived completely outside our means.
I was in a few Dave Ramsey groups (which are pretty brutal and mean to be honest, I'd recommend joining to ONLY lurk to get an idea and use the search bar for previous posts. I'd advise against divulging much information unless you have incredibly thick skin) and got a lot of ideas there, but have also come up with my own ways to cut costs and save money.
Groceries My grocery budget can get out of control, and I've written ALL about reigning in that situation here with TONS of cost cutting ideas.
Shop sales with coupons if buying new
Stock up at garage sales in a nice neighborhood for growing kids and at the end of season clearance events for children's clothes, for the next year if they grow predictably.
Search for a children's only resale store and ask about rewards/points programs, or emails for when they will have their biggest markdowns and clearance events
Swap meets-if you have a couple girlfriends in your size, or with ages and genders of children it would work out to swap with, organize something!
Try the resale stores in nice neighborhoods if yours don't have decent used clothing
Create a capsule wardrobe for yourself and children so that you ALWAYS have something to wear and don't need to purchase so much
Are you able to turn off your cable and internet for the summer when no one needs it for school? Or do you live close enough to the library to just shut it off completely for an amount of time your family agrees to?
Do you live close enough to a neighbor with internet that you could split the bill and share the Wi-Fi password?
Weigh your options with devices like Roku which replace cable, but do require internet
Turn your water heater thermostat down
Put a brick or jar full of water in the tank of your toilet
Some practice "selective flushing"
Does your family NEED to shower every day? If you do, that's okay, but if it wouldn't bother you to cut back to every other day, that would save on water AND shower products
Wash clothes in cold water
Line dry clothes when possible
Reuse your towels a few times
We pay $87.00 a month for two smart phones with unlimited data, calls, etc. through Cricket Wireless and have excellent service signals. I’m not being paid or compensated for mentioning this company, we are just really happy with the customer service and price.
Could you trade in your very nice car for something older, but still reliable just less money?
Would it work out for you to be a one-car family for a season? We did this for a year and a half, but we wanted a vehicle to fit 3 car seats comfortably once our 3rd was born and for a way for me to get out of the house with my husband gone for a long time each day. Definitely recommend putting your sanity into the pro and con list here
Speaking of buying a vehicle for car seats, you should be able to google "car seats that fit 3 across in xyz make model" and come up with something.
Can you carpool to work some days?
Take an afternoon and check around for rates on your auto-insurance.
Do you have a trusty car-knowledgeable friend you could pay to do routine maintenance for less than a shop? If not, search for coupons if it's a well-known place.
Could you or your spouse learn to do basic maintenance by watching YouTube? My husband could probably learn surgery on YouTube he's so good at learning by watching!
Are you able to bike or walk anywhere instead of driving?
Sleep on it! If you see something you really want, take a day or two to really consider it.
Barter! Does your hair stylist need a date night babysitter for her 3 kids? See what you can figure out with those around you to trade services and items with
Use student services for things like massages and trims. If you don’t have dental insurance, dental hygiene and dental schools have days where you can go for free or low cost cleanings and work with their students, under supervision of their professors.
For date night or other needs, try swapping childcare with a friend who also has kids and needs time away from them.
Speaking of date night, search Groupon for deals, and google free/cheap date ideas. If all else fails, my life mentor tells me “drop the kids off with someone and have take out and sex!” 😂😂😂
Scratch and dent sections for appliances!!! I had no clue this was even a thing about a year ago. Stores usually have imperfect looking appliances that they will let go for cheaper. Call all of the appliance stores around and inquire, a big purchase is worth the extra work
Try a no spend month! This is where you budget for all of your expenses, and don’t spend any money outside of it. No take out, no spontaneous On Demand movie, no random new pizza cutter from Walmart because it was on and end cap, none of that!
Are you in a season of life or position where you can rent out a room or basement for a while to a college student in need of cheap rent? We have 3 tiny children so I would not be comfortable with this, but it’s an idea!
Google alternatives for EVERYTHING!!!! We had set aside $15,000 to renovate our kitchen and half bath and were days away from signing a contract for $23,000 of updates (so financing the other $8,000! No!) and I just couldn’t. I could not. So, Ryan is doing everything that he can YouTube such as re-laminating our counter tops and updating fixtures which look phenomenal by the way, and we are paying people for things we can’t do. All in, we are putting about $5,000 into the kitchen and half bath, and that’s a number I can live with. We almost spend $6,500 on counter tops because we have so much space. Ryan has redone ours for about $250!
If medical bills have you drowning, some hospitals have financial forgiveness programs that require taxes, pay stubs, and the like. It wouldn’t hurt to ask.
Put things off for one more day if it won’t hurt- mowing the grass, getting a hair cut, buying groceries, etc.
Library card holders sometimes get discounts and freebies, call your librarian and ask!
Learn how to do beauty things yourself like your nails, eyebrows, or hair color.
Weigh the options of cloth diapering. By the time we had all of the product we needed for washing, and paid the extra for all of the hot water and drying, we were saving around $10 a month to do cloth diapers, it wasn’t worth it to me so when I had three in diapers, I went with Aldi brand which are the absolute cheapest I’ve ever found anywhere. Figure it out for you though, it may be a good choice!
Search coupons for everything-air duct cleaning and window replacement services frequent our local paper!
Ask a close friend in your area with a similar family size, “Hey, I pay xyz for ______. Does this sound high to you?” This way you aren’t prying, but you might be paying three times as much for something and have no idea!
Get 6 months worth of bank statements printed out from your bank and highlight where your money has run off to. All of those fast food, gas station stops, $8 purchases from amazon prime, etc. ADD UP!!!!
Try to kick bad habits. Calculate what you spend in chew or cigarettes every day and then plug that number into how many cruises or lawn mowers or whatever it could buy. Perhaps some money motivation would help!
If tithing is important to you and you’re REALLY in a desperate situation financially, you CAN pray about tithing your time or services for a season until you’re on your feet again.
Take care of your things and tend to them right away so you don't have to replace them as quickly or have them get ruined. Especially your vehicle.
Getting minimal is not only good for your mental health, but it’s good for your pocket book too! Do you absolutely need to buy a whole new set of drinking glasses or could you get by with using the smaller mason jars?
Check www.freecycle.org for free things in your area that you may need! Freecycle is a play on the word recycle.
This last one is really drastic, but could you either downsize your home if it's way outside of your means of living OR stay with a family member for an agreed on amount of money or earning your keep? This may be harder if you've got children or don't have much family.
NOW I KNOW SOME OF THESE THINGS SOUND RESTRICTIVE AND NOT FUN. You have to remind yourself that it's just for a season and is not forever. You don't have to deprive yourself of every single enjoyment, but you DO have to change what your definition of enjoyment is in order to make a change. Small changes add up in big ways. You did not get into this situation overnight (or maybe you DID, life happens.) you're not going to get out of it overnight either. Regardless of whether or not you have a desperate situation because of your own fault or not, your lifestyle has to change. Almost every aspect, and it's drastic but it's worth it.
Earning Ideas: If what you've done to cut costs and save money everywhere you can and you're still falling short, you need to increase your income. Here are just a few ideas:
Babysit or open a daycare with licensing
Flip furniture by finding it free or cheap then sanding and painting
Teach classes for a $5-$10 donation fee on something you're passionate about
If you have a teaching degree, check out VIPKID for a side job that pays well
Bartend or wait tables on the weekends
Shovel or snow blow
Sell everything you do not need or use on Facebook Marketplace
Offer services for less if you can change oil/breaks
Rent out a room to a college student or your home through airbnb
Fill out surveys
I hope this list has helped inspire you in new ways and give you hope! We are at $18,000 of debt payoff this year on a humble income, and I am so grateful for what God has shown me about how we were stewarding our finances. If there's something you do to save money that you don't see on this list, please leave a comment below so my readers can implement it!