It can seem impossible to budget when you don’t make enough money, but I’m here to tell you relief is possible. Being in debt and financial insecurity are very stressful experiences. Knowing that at any time, everything could be taken away.
In 2020, we saw first hand the devastation that a virus could do to the population and the economy. Making it unsafe to work, many countries have gone into lock down, preventing businesses from doing sales. This WILL have an effect on the economy and ultimately our jobs.
Growing up, I lived in a family where money was tight. There were times we needed to make sacrifices to keep a roof over our heads or food in our bellies. I remember my mother making cheap meals for us night in and night out to save money. Using coupons with my Grandfather so he could have a name brand item he really adored. My father doing side jobs carpeting houses on the weekends. Going to garage sales to find things around the house we needed but couldn’t afford to buy new. It was the combination of looking for ways to save, making more money, and having a solid budget that kept my family afloat for all those years.
How to Budget When You Don’t Make Enough Money
As we talked about in the article entitled Budgeting 101: What is a Budget, the very first step in any budget is laying out all your spending. Honesty here is most important. It doesn’t matter at this stage how much extra you spend each month, just that you do. Avoiding the truth has cost you over the time you’ve accrued this debt, honesty is the solution.
Once you know how much you’re spending over what you make, it’s time to make some changes in the way you spend money. It’s time to have a real think about the reasons you don’t make enough money to cover your expenses. Is it that you’re overspending on needless luxuries and eating out when you could be reducing this spending by eating in and setting a smaller budget for the luxuries? Or, is this a matter of losing your job or not being able to find enough hours to cover basic necessities? Both of these situations require a different approach which I will outline below.
Step Three: (Part 1)
Part 1 is for those who are overspending because of luxuries they truly cannot afford. While it is tempting to try to keep up with the models on Instagram or your friend who got the cutest sweater, these are the habits that are keeping you poor. Truly look at your spending and make some goals. One or more of those goals should involve reducing spending, and another goal should be around making more money to cover your spending habits and pay off debt.
Step Three: (Part 2)
Part 2 is for those who already are spending as little as possible and cannot afford the basic necessities in life. By basic necessities, I mean: food, proper clothing, housing, electricity, internet, phone. These are vital to all households and should always be the priority over any additional spending. Especially for households with children. Children often grow out of clothing, eat more as they grow, and have school fees that require additional budgeting.
For those that this applies to, the first question to ask yourself is: “Have I looked into all the government resources available to me as a low wage worker?”. Time and time again, I’ve worked with low income families who had no clue what they were entitled to. Tax breaks, forbearance on student loan payments, weekly unemployment payments, food subsidies, are just a some programs ran by the government to help ease the burden of low income families. Check out the government websites in your country and/or state and look at entitlements and what is required to qualify. You may be surprised by what you find.
It’s now the time to seriously cut your spending where you can. Have a high cell phone bill? Call your provider and see about a cheaper plan. Cable and HBO? You cannot afford this right now. The most expensive cuts of meat? Try eating lesser quality meats and buying in bulk to freeze. Just HAVE to get that sweater you saw online and want to impulsively buy? Cut up your credit cards. Cancel them if you can. This is the time to consolidate down to bare essentials.
This step is all about finding ways to make more money. You cannot fully budget your way out of this situation. There comes a point when you just need to make more money and this is it. Some ideas for making more money include:
- Teaching online
- Selling items on Ebay or Amazon
- Write a book
- Start a stall at your local farmer’s market
- Get a part time job
- Find work online
- Start a business selling your hobbies or crafts
- Drive for Uber/Uber Eats/Lyft
- Offer to do handy work for neighbors or friends
- Mow lawns/ help others with gardening
- Clean houses
- Have a garage sale
- Get your real estate license
- Walk dogs
- Learn a new skill and market it
You need to find what works for you and pursue it. This is vital to you keeping your finances afloat long term.
Keep motivated and don’t stop pushing yourself to bridge that gap in your finances. Once you get yourself on the positive side, consistently, not only will you feel a great sense of achievement but the stress of being money insecure is significantly reduced. As you make more money, it’s important to point out and reference from our Budgeting 101 article, once you have started to have left over money at the end of the month, it doesn’t mean it’s time to blow that money. To prevent yourself from getting back into this situation, it’s time to start putting away that money into an emergency fund. To read more about emergency funds, check out the Budgeting 101 article.
Emotional Impacts of Not Having Enough Money
Before I wrap up, I want to take a minute to address the emotional impact financial insecurity can bring on you and your family. Money is one of the most fought about topics in relationships and some times can lead to marital problems, alcoholism or drug use, and strains within the family. If you or someone you know is experiencing really severe problems as a result of being financially insecure, there is help out there. In addition to myself offering one on one support, there are many local agencies who will provide counselling to you or your family at no or low cost. You don’t need to hold this burden alone. Know that there are people out there who understand and genuinely want to help you and your family get past this.
Financial insecurity is a big stress and something that can be addressed. Long term and short term methods mentioned above can help get you on the right track to having enough money for your expenses. Now that you have the knowledge, when will YOU start?