Getting By Story Contest WINNER, Week 2!!
Saw your post and thought maybe I could toss in a handful of helpful hints. Having previously worn the spoiled-rotten tag, then having my head smacked clear by a financial "trial by fire" of sorts, I feel like I can offer up some moves my husband and I made to save our sinking ship. Some of these are time consuming...and took some persistence and determination...but in the long run we are better for having powered through.
* Call all of your credit card companies. Tell them you have had a drastic pay cut and are considering bankruptcy (even if you aren’t). Ask if they offer any programs that would halt interest and/or provide a structured repayment plan. Don’t take "no" for an answer. Ask for a supervisor and ask the same question if you don’t get adequate response from the first person you speak to. Yes time consuming…but could save you money and protect your credit rating.
* Take advantage of 0 % balance transfer offers from credit card companies offering a lower interest rate (after the initial 0% period…usually six months to a year) to consolidate debt. Read the entire offer very carefully and make certain that there is not an outrageous transfer charge. Many offer a very low or free transfer rate.
* Two words. GARAGE SALE. Get all of your un-needed items together (everything from paperback books to vehicles to clothing and toys), put up signs at all busy roads near your house, put an ad on Craig’s List and sell, sell, sell. Top price on big items (big pieces of furniture mainly) should be no more than $50…and be ready to negotiate. The average take at every garage sale we have had was $300….the highest take was $800. Stuff that you think is crap someone else will pay money for without hesitation. If you haven’t used it in a year sell it.
* Call your mortgage company and see if you can refinance, taking no cash out of the deal. This can get you up to two months without a mortgage payment which will allow you to pay down bills and reduce your future monthly expenses.
* See if your auto loan people have a program in place that will allow you to skip one payment (which they move to the end of the loan) with no penalties. If not…ask if they have a program in place to assist people who are being financially stressed by job cuts/downsizing/etc… We’ve done both with remarkably good results.
* Barter: Whatever skills you have someone you know, who you pay for some service, is paying someone to do. You can barter hair styling, babysitting, lawn service, errand-running…working out a deal for the service provider to exchange service for service. You can also go the other way and offer your skill for pay. Doing taxes, babysitting, doing resumes, typing papers, etc… it adds up. I barter my writing skills and love of doing house painting for my cherished hair style and coloring requirements. My Husband barters his computer skills for everything from car repairs to sprinkler system repairs. My 74 year old Mom barters her love of animals...taking care of friends who travel for business' animals in exchange for hay for her horses and repairs to her fences and barn.
* Use a spreadsheet program like Excel to project your income and expenses at least three months in advance. This helps you see where your money is going and where you can make changes. This has helped us probably more than anything in the short run. Set the budget and stick to it.
* Carry your lunch and pack lunches for any kids going to school or day camp. Even if you only spend $10 for lunch each work day that’s $50 a week. Multiply that by a year of weeks and gasp. Same goes for designer (Starbucks, etc…) coffees. Skip it or only get it on Friday as a treat.
* Coupons, Coupons, Coupons. You can get them from the newspaper, from online sites and in magazines. They add up fast. We save about $20 per trip when we shop for groceries. The key is to only use coupons for things you normally buy and stock up when you can combine coupons with a great sale on non-perishables.
* Scale back going to the movies, out to dinner, for drinks, etc…to one night a month and set a $25 spending limit for that event. This includes ordering pizza/Chinese food, etc… Only one special treat…and only once a month. Honestly? This makes one appreciate this type of thing more. I have more...but I'll stop here :-) Hopefully these ideas can help someone else out there.