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No matter how much you work, do you still end up living paycheck-to-paycheck?
Most people have at some point. According to CareerBuilder, a whopping 78% of people who work full-time still report that they rely on their next paycheck to pay bills and feed their families.
It’s not uncommon to have $50 or less to your name for a week or more until the next payday arrives.
As challenging as it can be to afford what you need and want when you’re in this position, it’s possible, with some creativity and determination, to stretch that $50 wisely, so you don’t end up behind on bills or without enough food in your fridge.
Stretching Your Money to Pay the Bills
When you have bills you still need to pay, $50 won’t get you very far. Use a combination of these tips to help you stretch what you have left until your next check arrives.
1. Cancel Subscriptions Temporarily
All those subscription services you’re signed up for, like Netflix, Dropbox, and Texture, are entertaining and convenient, but they can be costly when you add up their costs each month.
The good news is that most of these services let you cancel your subscription temporarily but leave your account open, so you can quickly restart your service when you’re ready.
Consider which ones you can leave behind for a month. You may have already paid them for the current month, but at least canceling the recurring subscription will prevent any new charges until you can afford to pay them.
If any subscriptions are ones you pay with PayPal, be sure to cancel the recurring subscription there, too, or PayPal may still try to charge you per your agreement.
2. Call Creditors
You might be surprised to see how creditors are willing to work with you when you find yourself in a tight spot and unable to pay.
Rather than falling too far behind on your bills or risking having late fees added to your balance, call your creditors as soon as you know you have a problem – just don’t make a habit out of it.
Be honest with the representatives you talk to. Let them know that you’ve run into a financial hardship, tell them when you’ll be able to pay and ask what they can do to work with you.
You might be able to get an extended pay date or qualify for a skipped payment for one month.
3. Negotiate with the Landlord
If you’re usually on time with your rent payment, your landlord will take notice and probably won’t bat an eye if you need the occasional extension on your rent.
See if you can pay a little extra next month to have a one or two-week extension this month or offer to do some handiwork around the house for a discount on rent.
4. Borrow from Yourself
Getting into the habit of getting paycheck advances or borrowing from friends isn’t an effective way to manage finances because it could land you in a never-ending circle of borrowing.
Borrowing from yourself, however, doesn’t always lead to the same outcome if you’re smart about doing it.
I’d avoid grabbing money from your savings if possible. You might have good intentions of putting it back in as soon as you get paid, but the chances of that happening are slim.
Instead, you can use an app called Earnin, which is kind of like a payday advance of money you earned without the middleman taking a massive chunk of interest to do it.
Earnin only lets you borrow money you’ve already earned from working. You upload a picture of your worked hours from a timesheet and have as much of your earnings as you want to be transferred to your bank account.
Just remember that you won’t see that money on payday, so you’ll need to keep track of everything you take to avoid messing up your finances.
5. Borrow from Others as a Last Resort
There might be a time when you need to use other methods of borrowing to get the cash you need. When that happens, be sure to pay attention to interest rates.
Most quick-cash borrowing methods, like payday advances, have incredibly high interest rates that are difficult to pay off.
If you must borrow, try to ask friends or family first. They’ll likely be more willing to give you a good deal (like no interest at all!) if they trust you enough to pay back what you owe quickly.
6. Ask Your Boss for Help
Another borrowing option is to go to your boss and ask for a payday advance or even a bonus you think you’ve earned. Your boss may be okay with fronting you a part of your paycheck with no strings attached.
7. Get Help from Public Assistance
Public assistance services are available for a reason. If you consistently have trouble making ends meet, you may qualify for help paying for food, bills, housing, or medical insurance.
Save Money on Every Day Stuff
These ideas can help you save money on things you use and do every day, from filling up at the pump to working out, so you can make your $50 go a little further this week.
8. Carpool to Work
Say you drive 25 miles round-trip for work each day with a car that gets an average of about 25 miles per gallon. That’s 5 gallons a week you use just for work, or up to 20 to 25 gallons a month (nearly two tanks for the average car), or up to 300 for the year.
Assuming that the price of gas is about $2.50 in your area, you’re looking at up to $750 for a year to fuel your car for work alone. Each week, you’ll spend between $12 and $14.
Skip your ride and carpool with some co-workers instead, and you can keep this week’s gas money in your pocket.
9. Walk More
Remember, the above calculations are only considering the amount you spend on gas for work! What about doctor visits, trips to school, and shopping trips? Add on another 5 gallons a week, bringing your total to around $25 in gas.
You might not think that a 2-minute drive in the car will eat up your gas much, but for most cars, quick trips are the ones that are least efficient (your vehicle likely gets better highway mileage than city mileage).
Instead of taking the car to the convenience store down the road, you can grab some sneakers and walk.
If they’re within walking distance – a couple of miles away – try walking to pick up the kids at the bus stop or from school, trekking to the library, and footing it to work if you don’t have a carpool.
10. Barter or Trade
I wouldn’t try getting your groceries for free at the supermarket by offering them your labor to wash windows or clean, but there are some circumstances where you could try to bargain your way to getting something for free or discounted.
Do you need a textbook for an upcoming class? Let your friends know by posting about it on Facebook or Snapchat and see if anyone’s willing to trade it for something you have.
Maybe you’re good at repairs or handiwork and can offer an hour or two to someone in your neighborhood in exchange for a tank of gas or a few bucks.
Local thrift shops and antique stores can sometimes be used for trading, too.
11. Work Out for Free (or Get Paid to Do It!)
Going to the gym might be your preferred method of staying fit, but gym memberships can be costly at an average of $58 a month, or over $14 a week. Skip the payment this month and use the outdoors as your gym instead.
Look for trails near your home that are good for hiking, jogging, or cycling. Borrow a neighbor’s pool. Walk your dog through nearby neighborhoods. You can even use local playgrounds to get a workout in.
Don’t forget about getting paid to workout too! Apps like DietBet and HealthyWage will pay you if you win challenges and bets against other players or yourself. Not only can you save money by getting fit, but you might also make some.
12. Check Facebook Groups or Craigslist
When you need something you can’t afford right now, like a suit for an upcoming work event, supplies for a child’s school project, or even clothing or furniture, you can check Craigslist and Facebook Groups for free finds.
Craigslist has a “Free” section under the “For Sale” category. You can also add a listing for free if you can’t find what you’re looking for to let others know what you need.
Buying and selling Facebook groups are usually perfect for finding free or low-priced items people are getting rid of. You can use the Search function to see if anything you need is listed, or post your own status in the group to ask if anyone can help.
13. Get Free Entertainment
A movie rental is about $5 from most rental services, magazines are about $3 to $5 each, and books are about $10 to $15. When you need entertainment until your next paycheck, skip the costs and opt for free.
The library is the best place to go. Not only do most libraries house all of the above for free with your library card, but they often have various classes and activities for kids and adults to enjoy.
My local library offers adult coloring and painting classes, music classes, family movie nights, and more fun stuff every week.
Don’t forget to use what you have already (I’m guilty of this sometimes!). Do you already have a Netflix account or some other movie/TV service?
Look for something new to watch. Or, if you have an Amazon Prime account, you might forget that your subscription comes with things like Amazon Music, Prime Reading (it’s like a virtual library!), and Prime Video for TV and movie streaming.
14. Find Other Ways to Get Social
Instead of going to the bar or restaurant for your weekly outing with friends or family, try inviting them to your place for a free movie or game night.
Make sure everyone brings their own alcohol, snacks, etc., so there are no expectations for you to pay for all the entertainment.
15. Reschedule Doctor’s Appointments
Most health insurance plans have a co-pay for a doctor visit, usually between $10 and $50. When you only have $50 to spare, that co-pay seems expensive. Most offices won’t let you see the doc without paying it at the time of your visit.
Try rescheduling any doctor appointments to another week when you know you’ll have the cash to do it, but make sure you give at least a 24-hour notice, so you don’t get charged for a late cancellation.
16. Find a Free Health Clinic
If you can’t wait to see the doctor, try searching for a free clinic near you. Most clinics provide primary care, dental, prescription, and vision services to low-income people or those experiencing financial hardships.
Check out FreeClinics.com to browse your state’s clinics.
Save Money on Food
Food can be one of the biggest cash-suckers for individuals and families. On a typical week, you likely spend at least $50 on food for yourself alone! Below are several ways to keep more of that money in your pocket.
17. Pack Lunches
It’s convenient to stop at a fast food place or order a salad every day for your work lunch but considering the typical cost of a store-bought lunch is at least $5, it’s not a cost-effective way to eat.
For that same price, you can buy a loaf of bread, cheese, and lunch meat or some salad fixings and make enough lunches for the week.
If you must eat out here and there, consider skipping the drink and bringing a refillable water bottle with you to work.
18. Shop Discount Stores
Discount grocery stores are the way to go when you need to use what you have sparingly. I became an avid Aldi shopper a couple of years ago and have easily sliced my grocery bills in half ever since just by shopping there.
CashSaver stores are also great for saving money because they don’t have high markups on products. Instead, you pay only slightly more than the store does to purchase and stock the items, plus an extra 10% (only $1 for $10 worth of stuff) at the register.
19. Head to the Dollar Store
Dollar stores have a surprisingly good selection of foods to buy when you’re broke. Pick up canned vegetables and fruits, boxed meals, and even some snacks for the week for less than $10.
If you need other household items, like toilet paper or shampoo, you can also find small versions at dollar stores to get you by until you get paid again.
20. Use Coupons (to the Extreme!)
Whatever you do, do not skip the coupons! A lot of people I know laugh at the idea of using coupons because they don’t want to be those “annoying” people who stand at the register making sure each one gets entered. I say: coupons are free to use and take money off your bill, so why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of them?
Use coupon sites to find coupons for things you need to buy and print them at home before you shop. Here are a few of the best:
You can also Google coupon sites for specific stores you frequent, like Walmart or Target – there are plenty of them that will help you save money.
21. Visit the Food Pantry
Low-income households can typically qualify for food from a food pantry, also known as a food bank.
This service distributes donated ingredients and meals to people who either don’t make enough money to feed their families or have experienced financial hardships.
Some food banks don’t require proof of income, but it should go without saying that you should only use the service if you’re in desperate need of food to hold you over until you get paid.
22. Skip the Alcohol
Winding down with a glass of wine or a couple of beers after work might be your usual go-to, but alcohol is one of the most expensive things you can buy.
Instead of picking up a 6-pack or wine bottle, make a decadent drink at home.
Mix fresh fruits with lemon-lime soda or sparkling water for a bubbly drink that tastes similar to a cocktail. It won’t give you a buzz, but it’ll keep your money where it belongs.
23. Drink from the Tap
Bottled water costs up to 2,000 times as much as tap water! Save your money this week and use tap water. Hint: sticking it in the fridge overnight or adding ice cubes to keep it as cold as possible makes it taste better.
In the future, you might want to invest in a tap water filter, filtered pitcher, or a filtered water bottle to save money over time.
24. Plan Your Meals
Meal planning is one of the best ways to cut food costs, now and in the future.
Write down every meal you need to eat this week and come up with affordable options for each. Meals that use whole chicken, pasta, beans, and rice are among the cheapest.
Try to pick meals that will have leftovers and use the least number of ingredients. Shoot for 10 ingredients or less for the week.
If you’re stuck, check Pinterest for “budget-friendly meal plans.” You’ll find plenty of options!
Cutting back on things you enjoy, or going without, isn’t something anyone enjoys doing, but it’s sometimes the only way to hold you over until your next paycheck.
More importantly, getting yourself on track financially now can help you avoid ending up in this position later.
See if you can work some overtime hours, get a side gig you can do from home, or help family and friends for extra cash to pay off debt and start saving. Here are a few articles with ideas to earn more money: