Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tough month? A few ways to make ends meet.

I am scatter-brained and already bored with video games. I'll get back to them, I promise. Now, here are a few ways to find extra money if you've had unexpected expenses that will put a temporary strain on your accounts:

1. Stop contributing to retirement accounts. This should be something of a last resort and assumes you have been contributing. If there has been a legitimate emergency, though, this is a better alternative than both payday loans and borrowing from your 401k -- especially if you are able to make it up by contributing a little extra in a couple months.

2. Evaluate your cell phone plan. Many carriers will let you make changes to your plan at any time, not just when the contract is up. Consider whether you can switch to a less expensive plan for a couple months. Keep in mind if you just passed your billing date, you may get billed for the old plan for one more month.

3. Watch your utilities. If it's your bills that are scaring you, keep the lights, computers, TV, and other electronics and appliances off as much as possible. Take shorter showers, don't water the lawn, and try to lower your utility bills.

4. Clean house. Dig up old stuff that no one uses anymore, and either toss them on ebay or rush to put together a garage sale.

5. Use what you have. Try hard to make meals from the food you have sitting around, do not go out to restaurants or movies, and delay as many routine purchases as possible. In addition to the obvious savings from not buying stuff, this helps you delay a stop at the gas station.

6. If your medical history allows it, look into donating plasma. Private blood banks typically pay decent money, and it is not significantly more involved than giving blood.

7. Take a close look at the charges on your credit cards and checking account. See all those small, insignificant charges? They add up. Look for a pattern, and find ways to avoid all those charges. In my case, I can save $150/mo just by eating in and packing lunches.

8. Care. That's the absolute biggest step you can take. My girlfriend lives with two housemates. Her finances, despite a college budget, are always in good shape. Her roommates both work more, make more money, and frequently end the month with as little as $2 in the bank. While all 3 girls know they are on limited budgets, my girlfriend is cautious with her money and thinks before spending. The other two constantly eat out and make purchases, not caring whether they will have money left over.

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