If you are working to pay off debt and despairing at the amount of time it will take, you might be able to speed up that payoff with some judicious budget tweaks. Finding additional money in a tight budget can seem insurmountable, but nearly all households have a little fat they can trim. Here are some creative ideas for finding extra money in your monthly budget:
1. Go on a financial fast. A quick way to find extra money is by financially fasting for a month. For such a fast, everyone in the family must agree to forgo any unnecessary spending for the entire month and simply plan on using up and wearing out anything you already have. Deciding what counts as necessary can be a little tricky, but generally it’s restricted to regular bills, medicine, and any food you must have to make it through the month.
It’s important to note, however, that most people could easily live off the food in their pantries and freezers for at least a week or two. We often go shopping once a week because we’re out of our favorite foods, not because we are entirely out of food.
A month long financial fast will not only help you to save a great deal of money in a relatively short time, but it can also help you realize what money you spend out of habit rather than necessity. After four weeks of quitting your dining out or coffee habit cold turkey, it will be much easier to continue the frugal mindset once the month is over.
2. Weigh your food. This tip is a two-for: not only will weighing your food to make certain you are eating the USDA guidelines for protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates save you money, but it will also help your waistline. Most people eat too much food—which means they also buy too much. If you weigh all the different aspects of each meal, you can stretch your food budget much farther, and improve everyone in the family’s health, to boot.
3. Sell your stuff. If you go from room to room in your house, it’s likely you can find dozens (if not hundreds) of items that you have not used in at least a year. You can turn those unneeded items into extra cash by holding a garage sale, selling them on eBay or Craig’s List, or by selling them to a consignment shop.
4. Redefine your wants and needs. This is the ultimate tip for frugal living. Many of the things we think of as absolutely necessary are only wants, but it would take a major financial set-back to recognize it. For example, if you spend $45 on a haircut every six weeks, you may think it is a necessary part of looking professional at your job. However, it is possible to find styles that require fewer trims or that you could do at home. You can still look professional—which is a necessity—but you don’t have to spend big bucks at the barber or salon to do so.
The fact that your haircuts are not a necessity would be abundantly clear if you lost your job, but you can recognize that fact and make that change without having to experience a layoff.
The Bottom Line
Finding more money in your budget is really about making an attitude shift. You may be used to the way you are living right now, but which aspects of your current life are absolutely necessary for your health and happiness? Being willing to pare down your budget and life to only include those things will make it possible for you to achieve your financial goals.