For some, the source of our financial difficulties is out of control spending. Whether it is stuff-itis or just a lack of organization, the answer to the problem is simply getting on a budget and cutting extra spending until we get things under control.
But for others, the problem isn’t really out of control spending. What do you do when you have trimmed the budget and there really isn’t enough left over to move the needle?
This was the case with us a few years ago. I was tired of us living paycheck to paycheck and yet we never could quite seem to get ahead. We were always just a little bit short. It was like when a flooded river gets dammed up by floating trees and debris. At some point, is necessary to dynamite the blocked area to get the stream flowing again.
If find yourself in this situation and you’ve done what you can to cut spending, then the answer to breaking the logjam is to do something to raise your income.
Here are 12 things you can do starting today to make a little quick extra money
If you work in a job where overtime is an option, volunteer for as much as you can. I’m not saying working 80 hours a week should become a way of life. But there is nothing wrong with working your tail off for a short while to make progress on your financial goals. And if you show you are willing to work hard on the job, you might just get a promotion out of it.
Check your withholdings
Do you get a big tax refund every year? That isn’t a good thing. It basically means you are giving the government a 0% loan for a year so they can give your money back to you. If you get a $2,400 refund, that’s $200 a month you could be using to pay debt or build savings. Either adjust your exemptions on your W-4 or work with your HR representative to adjust your withholdings so that you don’t get a huge refund. Be careful to not go overboard. You don’t want to end up owing taxes. But if you know you regularly get a large tax refund, you should be able to predict about how much extra you should have in your pay each period.
If you are still unsure, the IRS provides a Withholdings calculator that you can use to estimate how much you are likely to owe in taxes this year and how much of a refund you may be on course to receive. You can adjust the numbers until your tax paid is fairly close to your tax owed and you should then have a pretty good idea of how much should be withheld each pay.
Pause your retirement savings
OK. I know this one is a little controversial and many financial advisers may disagree. In the long-term you need to be saving at least 15% of your income toward retirement. But for a short period = a few months or maybe a year or two – you might want to consider stopping your retirement savings. This is one of the things I did when we were in that position and that extra money in the pay each month was just enough to get us over that hump where we could really start to make progress on paying down our debt. If you decide to do this, just make sure of two things: You use this as a temporary step only. And you must be fully committed to using that extra money to pay down that debt. If you use that money to buy pizza on Saturday night, you’ll never get out of debt and you’ll wake up someday when you are 65 wondering why you have no retirement savings.
Do something that others don’t want to do
Find a task that people don’t like to do and offer to do it.
- Mow some yards
- Clean gutters
- Paint houses
- Rake leaves
- Shovel snow
- Wash windows
These are just some of the jobs that people will often gladly pay someone else to do. Take a walk around town and go door to door offering your services.
Clean out the attic or the basement
Many of us have hundreds of dollars of stuff that has been sitting in boxes for years. We have probably forgotten that we even have some of it. Do some spring cleaning and start selling. Have a garage sale, list them on E-bay or Craigslist. Many areas have Facebook groups for local “online garage sales”. Or if you have a flea market in the area, pay for a spot, pack it up, and spend the day passing your “treasures” on to someone else.
If you like children, offer to babysit. As a parent, having a reliable, responsible person that I can trust to watch my child is very valuable, and if you love children, you can get paid for doing something you love.
Have a special skill? Offer to tutor kids after work. Play the piano or other musical instrument? Start giving lessons.
Are you one of those people that are blessed with the skills to fix practically anything? Start a handyman service. Print up some business cards and leave them at local businesses offering your services. Talk to local banks. They may have foreclosed homes that are in need of some repairs before it is resold. Talk to local real estate agents. They may be able to connect you with landlords or sellers that are looking for help fixing up properties to rent or sell.
Do you have a special skill? If you work in accounting, find a couple of small business that need help with their books. Computer skills? Do some programming or computer repairs. Graphic design skills? Writing skills? There are many ways you can reuse these skills on the side to make some extra income. Elance, Odesk, Fiverr, and Craigslist are great places to advertise your skills. Just make sure when you do this that you aren’t doing anything that might cause a problem with your primary employer.
You can earn a few extra bucks by donating your plasma and along the way you might save a life. You can find more information at http://www.donatingplasma.org/
Deliver newspapers or pizzas
Get a part-time job. Deliver newspapers or pizzas. At holiday times retailers are often looking for extra help.
Help a farmer
Live in a rural community? Farmers often are looking for some extra hands during harvest times or for other needed chores.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
If you have a good job with a good income and your problem is simply too much debt, then following these suggestions to earn some extra money while you are paying that debt down may be all you need.
If, however, your problem is you simply aren’t making enough money to support yourself and your family these ideas may provide some temporary relief, but you also need to spend some time considering your future career. If you make $20,000 today, what could you do to be making $40,000 or more 5 years from now? What have you always enjoyed doing? What do people tell you that you do well? If you could go back and advise your 18-year-old self what career would you tell them to pursue?
Think about those questions and then do some research into what you need to do to pursue that career. Do you need some training? A degree? Need to work for a different company? Develop a plan and begin to work toward the career you always wanted. The suggestions above may help keep food on the table in the short-term, but in the long-term you want to move toward a career that will help you support your family and meet all your financial goals.
Break that logjam
If you find yourself in that position where you have cut the budget and there just isn’t enough money to make it each month, or if you are just really tired of being in debt and want to get out as quickly as possible, these are just some of the ways you can jump-start your income and kick that debt out of the house. If you feel like you are stuck, do something this week to start to break that logjam and get your finances flowing again.