I read a statement lately somewhere that was pretty powerful to me and I’d give credit if I could remember where that was. “It Wasn’t Raining When Noah Built The Ark”. I am totally guilty of spending to my limit when things are going well when I should really be saving. I’ve done it many times in my life and always regretted it. I just have to keep telling myself that it will be raining soon because it ALWAYS does and I want my ark ready when it happens.
If you are not in the position where you think you can save then I’m sorry because I really hate that. It happens, but don’t beat yourself up over it just do something about it. Sell some stuff…chances are while things were good you bought a lot of stuff. Some of it might be more than worth selling on craigslist or ebay and some might be better in a yard sale. Most people can find a bunch of stuff they could sell, outgrown clothes from the kids, toys they no longer use. Presents received that you didn’t really like. Equipment that you bought for a project and have not used since. Be creative. Let’s say you just have a yard sale and make $50, now what? If you are anything like me I would not be able to just stick it in the bank, that cash would be calling me. My best suggestion is to stock up or pay a bill. Fill the freezer with meat maybe. In my most recent post I told you to only buy meat on sale, this stocking up will enable you to do that really easily. Somewhere down the road you WILL be short on a week and it won’t matter, your freezer will be full and you can make it for some time on what is in the house already. That is a real savings account if you ask me.
The best way to save money is to do nothing. No I mean it. When I say do nothing I mean, go nowhere, don’t go shopping other than for food, don’t order out, don’t go get ice cream, don’t order a movie, don’t even go to your friends wedding. Don’t even go to book club (I’d say church is an exception to this rule) I know it seems harsh but honestly you can’t afford it and you need to save money, right? One month won’t kill you, I promise. You’ll have time to make more home made meals, you’ll have time to work in the garden, to spend with the kids. Doesn’t sound too bad to me. I think you’ll be amazed at how much money will be in the bank at the end of one month.
If you have direct deposit at work I want you to go to HR and change your direct deposit so that SOME money is going to a dedicated savings account. I don’t care if it’s $5. If that account is tied to your checking open another one. Surely you can afford $5. After a month if you lived without the $5 go up to $10 and so on. If you think you’ll go and take the money out all the time put it in an ING savings account. You have to request the money and it takes like a week to get, that way you won’t be tempted to grab money out of the savings for something non essential, it’ll be too much of a pain.
Get out all your bills. I know it’s depressing but it’s GOT to be done. ALL of them. Now you need to prioritize. Mortgage, Car, Utilities, credit card bills, cable, phone, credit cards. Now in one pile I want you to put the things you need to get to work and in order to live in your home. SO rent utilities, car etc go in that pile. Those bills should all be on automatic payment. I know, I know it’s hard, well get over it. Put the mortgage, the electric bill, the car payment, insurance payment etc on automatic payment. You cannot live without these bills being paid on a regular basis. You NEED those things in order to live and they should be paid first. Now in another pile I want you to put things you don’t NEED but really like to have like cell phone bill, cable bill, trash pick up etc. This pile will be things that you can cancel if you need to over time. If you get to pay day and there is not enough money for them then disconnect, suspend service, change service or whatever. You can do with out them. Now put your credit card bills into a pile. I am not going to suggest that you not pay these unless you are desperate but in reality if you don’t pay your mastercard bill you will still have your house, your car, your power etc., and the world will not stop. You can’t keep doing this on a regular basis but you can for the short term. Call them all up and tell them what is going on and that you will not be paying that months bill and you will resume next month. You’ll have some charges from this but you’ve made it through the crisis and now you need to get back on track. If you have a large credit card debt you need to really work on that because it is killing you. If you can work with the other things I have talked about in order to save some money first make yourself a little savings fund for emergencies, once that has been done work to decrease your overall debt. If you get windfall for any reason rather than spending it on a trip, on something frivolous, please, please, please, pay down debt. I don’t care if it’s $100. You could apply that to your insurance bill which then will be a bit lower every month, take that few dollars and stick it on top of the minimum payment you make on whatever. I know a few dollars doesn’t seem like it’s going to make any difference, but it really really will over time. You’ve spent way too much over time and we already know how THAT has turned out so lets reverse the situation shall we.
If when you total up all those bills you have in a pile you realize they equal more than you make, then what do you do? They probably will. If you are worried about your finances I’ll bet it will be really close. Now it’s time to start cutting with precision and cutting hard. The cell phones have got to go, the cable has got to go or at least down to the most basic service, slash the grocery budget, if you don’t already do your best to conserve all of your energy needs. Lights out, heat down, shades down when it’s hot, shades up for sun when it’s cold. Window Quilts to keep what heat you have. If you have a wood stove then go scavenge for wood. Driving down the back roads you can find limbs that have fallen off trees, gather them and cut them up and put them in your wood pile for winter. Grow your own food and I don’t mean salad stuff, I mean things you can either store for winter, freeze or can. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, dried beans, garlic, onions, pumpkins, winter squash, celery, leeks, parsnips, beets, turnips, fruits, cabbage, cucumbers and rutabagas. All of these can be stored either in a cold cellar or somehow processed into something else like apple sauce, apple pie filling, pickles. If you don’t know how to garden, freeze or can then learn for god’s sake. It’s not rocket science and your local cooperative extension has all sorts of information free.
The point is you have to start somewhere, how about starting by only drinking water, tea of coffee. No juice, even for the kids, you don’t need it. Give em an apple instead. Juice is expensive and high in calories, no soda either. Then cut out some expensive treats that you buy all the time. Make your own cookies, don’t buy them. Make your own bread. Make your own cleaners, laundry detergent…whatever. Just start today and do what you can now.