Getting by in an era of unforeseen challenges and a constantly shifting economy is not always easy. But when you feel like you are struggling financially, there are certain steps you can take to give yourself enough breathing room to come up with a solution.
You may feel as though you are always behind on payments, or that no matter how hard you work, it simply is not enough to keep your head above water. Rather than pick up a credit card and try to stretch it for everything it’s worth, it may be time to examine your situation and use all available options that can help to get you back on your feet.
Assessing Your Situation
If you are running into a monthly problem, then it is important to take any possible immediate steps that you can while searching for a better job or a way to supplement your existing income.
It is also important that you examine your budget closely and take any action that you can right away to cut back on any expenses that are higher than necessary. Overspending simply is not an option while you are in a tough financial situation. This means that eating out and the monthly gym membership are no longer options.
If you are struggling to keep to a budget, reducing spending is an absolute priority. Record each purchase you make, and focus only on what you absolutely need to get by. If going back to school or taking on additional training is available, this may provide the opportunity you need to help get the position required to move beyond your current situation.
Setting a Bare-Bones Budget
When life presents you with a financial emergency, you need a game-plan to help you set firm spending boundaries and give yourself the best chance to make ends meet. A bare-bones budget consists purely of the things you need and absolutely zero luxury items, or “wants.”
Setting in place spending priorities can help you build an emergency fund and pay off debt, allowing you to be more secure and self-sufficient in your month-to-month finances. Your bare-bones budget should focus on what well-known financial guru Dave Ramsey calls “the four walls”: food, utilities, shelter and transportation.
When you are struggling to make ends meet, it becomes more important than ever to stick to a budget and focus on the expenses that matter the most. These include housing and utilities costs, essential groceries, gas for transportation and the few items you may need to sustain your job or financial well-being (like work clothing or a phone).
Don’t get rid of everything, however. Canceling your home or auto insurance or your health care plan could present financial problems that set you back even further. Instead, look for a more affordable rate or plan. Switching could be a good way to save money and keep the lights on or food on the table.
Reaching Out For Help
If you are tired of struggling financially and find it almost impossible to make ends meet, it could be time to search through available government or local charitable organization programs to find the ones that can help your needs and situation.
Several government and charity programs can assist you with living costs, rent, medical prescriptions, school meals and more. If you are out of work or on a low income, you could apply for government programs like Section 8 housing assistance, Medicaid health care, food stamps or unemployment compensation.
It also pays to see if there are any local food banks or charities nearby that you can make use of as you work on getting back on your feet and returning to a self-sufficient way of life. Many of these outreach programs and charities offer helpful resources such as food, toiletries or grooming products that can help you save precious dollars on trips to the grocery store.
What to Avoid Spending Money On
There are many common expenses you may have grown accustomed to before placing yourself on a bare-bones budget. You must avoid these kinds of costs until you can return to a more comfortable and manageable month-to-month living situation. These expenses include entertainment costs such as cable or satellite television, vacations, non-essential clothing or all-inclusive cell phone plans.
If you like to engage in hobbies or activities that require additional spending, try to replace these with free activities that won’t put you behind on your bills. Always look out for coupons or discounts that can work in your favor when it comes to buying groceries, food and other essential items.
Here is a step-by-step process that you can follow if you find it hard to make ends meet and get back to a healthy state of finances:
Step 1: List All of Your Expenses
This will give you a necessary list of all your monthly costs, so you can be more aware of where your money is going and what actions need to be taken. Identify different categories of costs, from necessary to non-essential.
Step 2: Eliminate All Non-Essential Expenses
Go over your list to see where changes can be made and what areas may save you the most amount of monthly income. It may also pay to start looking for cheaper phone plans or insurance rates that can give you an added boost.
Sep 3: Reevaluate and Assess Your Priorities
After eliminating whatever expenses you can and finding areas where you may be able to save, take one more look through your monthly expense categories. Determine what should be the very first things to put money toward each month and where to go after that.
Step 4: Tally All Remaining Expenses
After you have categorized your highest priority items, add together all that remains to give you an estimate of what more you can expect after your top priority expenses have been covered.
With a robust plan, a thorough understanding of where to go next and a commitment to tighten your spending belt until your hard times are over, you can make sure that you are able to make ends meet. From there, you can reorient your finances in a way that will allow you to stay afloat.