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Tight on cash? Read this.

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Every so often we receive an email requesting help we can’t give. It usually goes something like this: “Please help me. I recently lost my job and am running low on cash and my family is depending on me. How can I make a lot of money quickly online.” To which I have to painstakingly reply, you can’t.

Making money online isn’t something that happens overnight. You might be able to land a work at home job, but there isn’t an online program out there where you can join today and see substantial income tomorrow. These things take a lot of time to learn and develop. Time you probably don’t have if your children are hungry and you can’t provide for them. The best advice I can offer to anyone in this situation is to get a job, any job even if it means you’ll be greeting Walmart shoppers during the graveyard shift.

A few days ago, I read a thread on Reddit titled “World collapsing, and two kids (6 and 3) looking to me for everything they need. Cupboards bare. Fridge empty. I’m losing my mind and feel so lost. What am I supposed to do?” The response was astounding and I need to share one of the comments written by the user summermenot with you. Here is some of the best and simple advice I’ve seen for people in financial trouble.

Generating Money

  1. Post several specific jobs you can do on Craigslist. Ideas: helping people move, yard work, garage cleanup/organizing, painting, general home improvement help, babysitting, etc.
  2. Lots of people here have suggested it… Foodbank. Church pantries is another great idea.
  3. Flip burgers. Wait tables. Fold polo shirts. Be a Wal*mart greeter. These basic jobs are often available when no other jobs are.
  4. Sell things: Books, CDs, DVDs to the used book/music stores, Clothes to resale shops, Furniture to consignment shops or Craigslist, Jewelry to estate jewelers, Electronics, yard equipment, tools, old toys to Craigslist
  5. Seek help from family and friends (already mentioned): temporary housing, money, food, transportation, childcare (could Grandparents take the kids for a week or two while you work on getting everything sorted out?)
  6. Seriously think about where you live. Should you move to a city that has better job prospects, a cheaper standard of living and easier means of getting around that would make expenses like a car unnecessary? There have been many articles published recently listing these kinds of cities.
  7. Start to look for an alternative rental that you can more easily afford. Get ready to move. Pack up everything not being sold into boxes. Go ahead and give your 30 days’ notice and get the wheels in gear to move, once you have found a cheaper place. See if you can find an “All bills paid” place, so you don’t have to put down deposits on utilities. See about negotiating a discount on rent in exchange for doing work for the landlord.
  8. If you haven’t canceled cable, give it the axe ASAP. If you’re not stuck in a contract on your cell phone, switch to prepaid and stop using it regularly.
  9. Stagger the times you work so that you can minimize the need for daycare. This sucks, but it will save you a ton, and you’re not in a position to avoid things that suck.
  10. Revamp your resume.
  11. Network. Talk with school classmates and alums (both college and high school). Friends, family members. Mention you’re looking for a job. Referrals make a huge difference when applying, and if someone can put a word in for you, your resume is much more likely to get reviewed. An easy way to get the word out might be to send a note out to all your Facebook friends. Have your wife do the same. Have your parents talk to their friends. The grandma network can be thick.
  12. When you’re out of the hole… Lessons learned: Live below your means. All vital expenses should be able to be covered under one income: rent, child care, food, transportation, healthcare, etc. Make choices on what you can afford based only on a single income. Choose the car that you can afford on the single income. Choose the housing that a single income can afford, even if it’s not as spiffy. The second income should be used for savings, supplemental insurance, college funds, retirement, modest entertainment (only after all essentials and savings have been taken care of), etc.
  13. Don’t buy things: Cigarettes (duh), Designer clothes, Cable, Fancy electronics, Impractical cars, More than one meal out each week, Pre-prepared food (it’s bad for you, and it’s expensive. Make it yourself.), Gobs of gifts for kids’ birthdays and Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever, Beverages when going out to eat. Drink water or have a cocktail before going to the restaurant. (Obviously, the parent doing the driving shouldn’t have a cocktail.), Fast food. People think it’s cheap, but it’s really not — and it offers very little nutrition. Want a burrito? Cook up some beans and tortillas. Better for you, probably better tasting, and much cheaper. Plus, the kids can have fun with “make your own burrito night”.

Cheap Meal Ideas

  • Spaghetti
  • Burritos
  • PBJ
  • Grilled cheese
  • Egg dishes: egg salad, omelets, egg in the hole (fried egg in a slice of bread with a hole cut out), etc
  • Hot dogs
  • 9 bean soup
  • Baked Chicken (use the carcass for chicken noodle soup)
  • Tuna casserole
  • Tuna melts
  • Mac-n-cheese with tuna
  • Pizza on tortillas or slices of day-old bread
  • Beans and rice
  • Thin out ground beef with boiled wheat berries (bought from the bulk bins), use in spaghetti sauces, casseroles, etc
  • Replace cereal with oatmeal (bought from the bulk bins) in the mornings
  • Cheap snacks: celery with peanut butter, crackers with peanut butter, apples, bananas, popsicles made with fruit juice instead of ice cream or pre-packaged popsicles (the kids can help make them), carrots, nuts (bought from the bulk bins), raisins (bought from the bulk bins), etc
  • Use half milk made from dried milk and half regular milk in cereal. Use milk made from dried milk only in dishes when it won’t make a difference.

Foods you can buy from bulk bins:

  • Peanut butter
  • Honey
  • All dry goods: flour, sugar, oats, wheat berries, pasta, rice, beans, couscous, cornmeal, salt, pepper, etc
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Treats: cookies, candy (this can get expensive, even in bulk, so make it an occasional surprise for the kids, not a regular thing)
  • Herbs
  • Spices
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Cereal
  • Dried milk

Other ideas:

  • Use gasbuddy.com to find the cheapest gas in your area
  • Use washable instead of disposable whenever possible: lunch bags, plates, replace paper towels with washable towels, cloth napkins, etc
  • Only use coupons for things that already on your grocery list
  • Make a grocery list. don’t take kids grocery shopping with you if possible.
  • Plan meals out for each week.
  • Take your lunch to work
  • Do free/nearly free activities with the kids: go to the park, go to the duck pond and have the kids paint, find out what days the museums have free admission, set up the sprinkler in the yard, game night at home, community service together (park cleanups, volunteering at animal shelters or the food bank, etc), kite flying, fishing, sidewalk chalk, make cars/dolls/spaceships out of scraps at home, puppet shows, tossing around a ball in the back yard, etc.
  • Mend things. Patch the kids’ jeans when there are holes in the knees. Take shoes in to get the heels or soles replaced instead of buying a new pair. Make the kids cutoffs when they grow too tall for their pants and jeans. Learn to sew. Learn to knit. Learn to crochet. (Debbie Stoller’s Stitch n’ Bitch books are great for learning to knit and crochet!)
  • Give homemade gifts for birthdays, Christmas, baby showers, etc. This is where the knitting and crocheting can come in. Baby booties or a baby hat can be made in a few hours or less and is a very touching gift for a new mom. Scarves can be knitted or crocheted while watching TV or listening to the radio and make great gifts during the holidays.

You can read the original comment and discussion here. There are hundreds of comments offering similar advice. There’s plenty of insightful comments to help you get inspired. Be sure to take a look at the Frugal subreddit while you’re there. It is updated constantly and contains thousands of links which will help you save money.

Do you have any money saving or generating advice? Leave a comment below. I intend to point those in desperation to this post and it would be great to have as much useful information here as possible.

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4 Comments

  1. A good way to save $$$$ is on cutting electricity costs. It is the highest utility in the house, particularly in the summer.
    Step 1. Unplug every device in the house.
    Step 2. Replug in the essentials that HAVE to be on. Refrigerator, Alarm Clock, Water Heater. Sump Pump.. etc.
    Step 3. Now with all those unplugged. Only plug them back in when they are in use. A common misunderstanding is that items turned off in a wall socket , do not use power. They do. Another misunderstanding is that things like leaving a computer on all the time isnt costing you much. IT IS.

    My electric bil was running $200 a month before I did this, and I dropped my electric down to $75. Nightlights, wall lights, wall running air fresheners, all use power while plugged in an off, TV’s as well, when off. small amounts but it adds up with all the devices.

    With the money you save in 6 months you can afford to buy yourself a small solar panel to expand your energy use, or lower costs further.

    Reply
  2. Great tips for saving money. Hey – here’s another tip. Let someone hack your paypal account (like they did mine, stupid hackers) Then have your credit/debit card canceled because you thought it was compromised (like I did), then wait 7-10 days for your account to be transferred with your money, so you are FORCED not to spend a dime of it(because you have no way to take it out). LOL

    Reply
  3. Yea, the advice is great. I’ve since canceled my cable saving me $60 a month! I was only watching about an hour a week of television and paying such a ridiculous amount to do so. I can’t believe I signed up for it in the first place.

    Reply
  4. Stever–you are awesome. This email today listing so many different ways to make money now is amazing. Pat yourself on your back for you are genuinely helping people. I had already put into action several of these ideas but learned others.

    Thank you again,
    Deborah

    Reply

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