What do you do when there’s more month than money? When the bills are paid, but the checking account is at (or below) zero and there are still more groceries to be bought? Or when your budget was looking good, but then the car needed a new clutch, and things all started to fall apart.
We’ve found ourselves there more than once, so I know from broke as old Yiddish grandmothers might say. Here are some ways we kick into high frugal gear when there’s more month than money, trying to make ends meet and save as much money as possible.
These are not tips on frugality in general, although it could be argued that by following them in the first place, you never would have found yourself in the situation. Nor are these long term money saving ideas on how to lower your bills and increase your savings. These ideas are ways to get to the first of next month with as little damage (to your credit history and your emotional state) as possible.
I often take laundry to be dried at the laundry mat, or I buy presliced cheese for my daughter. I do these things because not doing them costs me more in time than doing them costs in money, and I have even less free time than money at the moment. However, you better believe that when money is tight, I hang the laundry and slice the cheese myself, time expense be damned. Forget about taking your taking your work clothes to the dry cleaners- hang them up in the bathroom when you shower. Look for free or demo versions of computer software, read the newspaper online.
Do you wash your hair every day? Try every other day. Dilute your liquid laundry soap or use a smaller scoop. Try hanging your clothes to dry, either completely, or by using half the time you usually do on the dryer. The longer you can go without needing to replace something means spending less money every day. If I forget something on my shopping list, there’s no way I’m making another trip to the grocery store, unless the product has to deal with bodily secretions like cat litter or diapers.
Just say no
Don’t be afraid to turn people down. A few school friends asked me to go out to lunch with them the other day. Another month I might have taken that money from the general grocery budget or the eating out budget but I turned them down, as much as I would have liked to have gone, because it wasn’t in my budget. I have a dear friend who I see less often than I would like because neither of our budgets can expand to include the gas for the 80 mile round trip between us. Say no to any plans this month that will require you to spend money, be it an association meeting that requires you to pay a babysitter or a trip downtown that means you’ll have to pay for expensive parking. Now is not the time to be trying to come up with extra money, be mean and stingy!
Find another solution
If it’s really necessary that you go, for a parent teacher meeting for example, try and figure out a solution that means you can go without it costing you extra. Can you swap babysitting with a neighbor? Park further away and walk? Could you reschedule for next month perhaps. Instead of driving to the tram stop, I have now started walking, heavy laptop case and all. I wasn’t using much gas on the five minute drive, but now every little bit saved counts. Instead of paying to print out case studies for class, I’ve now started saving them on my computer and reading them on the screen. I don’t like this method, but it saves â‚¬.05 a page!
Cancel left and right
My husband has canceled his company sponsored lunch tickets, adding â‚¬70 to his monthly paycheck. I have canceled my kids’ reading classes, which wasn’t an easy decision. I’ve stopped using my cell phone for everything but phone calls to my husband and the nanny. What could you cancel? You may not like the choices, but there might not really be a choice either.
When things are tight, I buy less food. One of the quickest ways to add money back into the budget is by canceling a grocery shopping trip. But that means getting really creative with what we eat. I always make sure that that the kids are eating balanced diets, but mine and my husband’s might consist more of what’s left over than of what’s new.
When I can see that there’s going to be more month than money, I start plundering the pantry and making lists of meals. (Most of those meals end up on Almost Frugal Food, so if you’re interested in making your food budget stretch too, then make sure to take a look!) It’s amazing how creative you can get with a little bit of spice and imagination, and how good popcorn tastes for lunch when eating out is not an option.
I’m not being original with these tips, I know. And some of you might (rightly) point out that these tips would be better if I followed them all the time, instead of just when times are tough. Think about how much money I could save if I never bought presliced cheese at all!
But my point is this: you can rise to the challenge. You can do things beneath you, that you don’t want to do. You can call for sacrifice in yourselves, and push your families a little bit further. I know I can when I need to, now the trick is learning to push myself when I don’t have to as well.
I hate being financially uncomfortable, I hate having to worry about making ends meet. But for now and for numerous reasons, that is how things are. So, as the Pollyanna Sunshine I am often accused of being, I try to make the best of it, and that is where this list comes in. In fact, it’s at times like these that I realize how much more I need to learn about frugality and managing my money; after all, I’m still only almost frugal!
What do you do when there’s more month than money?