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How to Make Ends Meet in the Short Term, the Long Term, and For a Lifetime
Making ends meet is not an easy task. You think you are going fine, and prices keep increasing, but your salary does not. There may be a sudden spike in gas prices or food prices. There may be a recession or depression. Other times you have a personal emergency, such as a pregnancy, a health issue, or a job loss.
In all of these cases, you need to find a way to make ends meet so you can have a place to live and retain your dignity.
These solutions are provided to help you make ends meet in the short term, about a month or so. Solutions are also provided to help you make ends meet in the long term, about a year or so. Hopefully, these financial solutions will help you so that you can eventually find a way to make ends meet for a lifetime.
How to Make Ends Meet in the Short Run
These steps only work as short term solutions. By short run, I mean a time period from one day to two months. If you are expecting some income, a tax refund check, or your first paycheck from your new job, and you have bills to pay before then, you will be able to juggle some bills to cover your short term situation. You can reduce your expenses by avoiding buying things, even groceries, and eating only what you already have in the house, or visiting your parents at dinnertime. You could skip paying your utilities until then, for example, or make only the minimum due on your credit cards. You might be able to borrow from family, friends, or credit cards to make ends meet. If things are really desperate, you can skip paying a bill and take the hit on the penalty charges. I would recommend managing your payments to minimize the amount of interest and penalty charges you incur, so your situation doesn't continue to get worse.
"Use it up; wear it out; make it do, or do without."
This method cannot work as a long-term solution. You are going to get deeper and deeper in debt and can risk losing your good credit rating, your utilities or even your home. You must be able to find a way to make sure that your cash flow is balanced. The amount of money coming in must be equal to or greater than the amount of money going out.
How to Make Ends Meet in the Long Term
When I got pregnant, I was making slightly over minimum wage. I thought I was already being very frugal. I lived in the cheapest apartment I could find, and had furnished it with furniture I had bought at thrift stores and yard sales. I even negotiated those prices down. I used coupons and ate cheap food. I was living as cheap as I could and working many hours of overtime just to make ends meet. But then I got pregnant, and had to find ways to do even more with less. My small savings account was used very quickly for medical costs. I had insurance, but it paid 80%, and I had to come up with the remaining 20%. The following are steps you can take to make ends meet in the long term:
- Reduce your Expenses. You must keep your expenses to a minimum when you have a cash flow problem. Spending will only make things worse. See this hub for assistance: Saving Money When there is Nothing Left to Cut. My daughter did not have a nursery, and there was no changing table. She used a crib that was given by a friend, and clothes that another child had outgrown. I bought only the necessities, and used cloth diapers to save money.
- Refinance. I refinanced my car loan so that the payments were spread over a longer period of time. This reduced the amount of my monthly payment. Yes, I wound up paying more interest over the life of the loan, but it was something I had to do to make sure I could make all of my payments on time. At the time I refinanced, I was only able to get the new loan at the same interest rate as the old one. I would recommend trying to get a lower interest rate if you can.
- Get a Roommate. I moved out of my apartment because it was not safe for a baby and moved into a two bedroom apartment, with a slightly higher rent payment. I rented out the second bedroom to a college student. The extra cash helped tremendously in my cash flow.
- Get a Second Job. My second job was only on the weekends, which was convenient as it did not cause any scheduling conflicts. However, since I was paying for a babysitter, it did not help me as much as I would have liked, and it took time away from my newborn.
- Drop Out of School. At the time I got pregnant, I was going to school to get my Masters Degree. I had to pay for the classes up front, and when I passed, my employer would reimburse me. I would then use the reimbursement for my next set of classes. I stopped going to school for medical reasons, not to save money, but I was able to borrow from my education fund to pay my bills. Since I knew I was going back to school eventually, I had to find longer term solutions, but this did help me out in the first year.
- Get Help from the Government. This method did not work for me, because I was not knowledgeable about the available resources, and the one place I applied said the amount I was making was slightly over their maximum. I could have stopped working overtime, or stop trying for raises and promotions, to change that, but I preferred to do things independently. I wanted to find long term solutions, and being dependent on the government was not the solution for me.
- Consider Moving. If you are renting, you can try to find a place that is cheaper, maybe even moving in with friends or family for a while.
- Help from Medical Provider. I was not aware of this solution at the time, but apparently you can call your doctor or hospital and let them know of your situation. They may be willing to reduce the amount of the charge or help you with a payment plan.
How to Make Ends Meet For a Lifetime
None of the tips so far in this article are long term solutions. Sure you could tolerate them for a time - maybe even a year or two - but eventually you will want to find a more permanent solution. The only way to keep making ends meet is to reduce your expenses so that they are less than your income. You can't expect to live in a mansion if you have a minimum wage salary, so you must have realistic expectations. Save the difference for a rainy day, because even though you don't know what problems lie ahead, you do know that there will be some financial problem in your future. Be prepared. For the long run, get an education, and work on increasing your salary and keep reducing your expenses. Save up for the items that you want or need, instead of buying them whenever you get the urge. You may feel like you deserve it for the things you have gone through, but the stress of paying for the item will not be worth the amount of joy buying it gave you.
Making ends meet can feel like a sacrifice, but when you adjust your lifestyle to one that fits your earnings, you will find that you will have less stress, and have a reasonable quality of life.