Learn how to Trim the budget when you've already cut out everything you can think of and don't know what to do next- Budgeting with little to no money

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  • Trimming the Budget when Everything's already been Cut!

    "Often times we find ourselves sitting down across the table from our spouses with a stack of bills between us and and a worksheet for our budget and we bicker, talk, cry and even yell about how we're going to get everything paid. What I want to know is, how do we go about trimming our budget when there is seemingly nothing else left to cut?? We've already discontinued our satellite tv service, no longer rent movies or pay for internet services (due to citywide free wifi), so what do you recommend?"




    This sentiment is one that we frequently receive from members that are just joining the site and it's one that we've been addressing for over a decade. It always makes my heart feel heavy in my chest each time we receive an email like this because I distinctly remember exactly what it was like to pay a little on this or not have the money for that and have to deal with bill collectors nasty comments and rude "suggestions". When you're backed into a corner, the only place you can go is forward. Here's a little advice on how to get started. . .

    1. Stay Focused on the Positives

    It's really easy to get sucked into feeling overwhelmed and even dreading the day knowing that the phone will be ringing with creditors. Avoid giving into the hopeless feeling which will only continue to make you feel powerless and instead focus on each of those little money saving victories that you attain. Chances are you probably did not get into debt overnight, and you won't get out of debt overnight either, but you CAN get ahead. Put your energy and focus into what you CAN Control, such as adjusting your grocery budget, taking online surveys to earn additional money, etc.

    2. Play the Real Life Grocery Game

    Yes, coupons can save you money, a lot of money; However, despite what many will claim, it will cost you a significant amount of your time. We've gone through stages over the years of clipping coupons, organizing them into binders and traveling to stores multiple times per week for various shopping experiences to "save" money and get "nearly free" groceries. For our family, it was difficult to find coupons, we would frequently have to travel to several different areas to buy multiple papers because people would steal the coupons out of them. When we did find them, we would travel to multiple stores to use them, often being treated like a crook by inexperienced cashiers who were frustrated by the "deals" we found and on more than one occasion I left the store in near tears of frustration.
    While we did frequently get bags full using coupons, the problem with this scenario was that we typically ended up with "food-like" items, not Real Foods (If it has more than 4 ingredients, it's probably a "food-like" item, particularly if you cannot pronounce it!), which have a tendency to increase weight gain, decrease health and have little to no real nutrients to them.

    The real life Grocery Game is learning how to get back to basics, to stop spending hundreds of dollars per month on food and to learn to use the resources that you have available to you in your own area.

    The average family of four spends more than $800 per MONTH on groceries alone, with the majority of that allotment on prepackaged foods. Reducing that amount to $500 per month would give that family a savings of $3,600 per year to apply towards other debts without having to go without. That's an extra $300 per month in savings that you're already accustomed to spending, that you would have to apply to other bills/debts, or even to put into savings for your future. Look at your most recent grocery store receipt to see where the majority of your money is going. For more on playing the Real Life Grocery Game, read our "2012 Family Guide to Groceries under $250 a Month".

    3. Manage Your Time Effectively

    Frequently we hear from folks that they don't have time to make their own convenience foods and mixes, that they HAVE to buy prepackaged meals or dine out because they don't have time to cook real meals, etc. Trimming the budget often means making changes to your schedule and managing your time more effectively. Spending an hour a week after grocery shopping to wash, cut and prepare vegetables will save you hundreds of dollars per year. Here's one method of produce storage that has literally saved us thousands of dollars.

    4. Seek out Ways to Earn Additional Income (Temporarily)

    If you're truly in a bind and you have considerably more money going out then you have coming in, it may be time to consider taking on some part-time jobs such as

    • Housecleaning for others
    • If you have young children, provide childcare services for another family
    • Freelance Writing (there are several paid sites online that will pay per article)
    • Become a Mystery Shopper
    • Pet Sitting
    • Make Crafts and Sell them at Craft Shows or on Etsy
    • Become an Online Tutor



    Sell Used/Unwanted Items on Craigslist/Ebay


    • Sell Unwanted Books, clothing, tools, etc that you have lying around the home/garage



    In short, take heart, little things do add up quickly and even changing a few minor habits will make an impact on your budget. Remember to celebrate small victories and stay positive by finding a decent support system of like-minded friends.




    Can Stock Photo Inc. / pressmaster
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. angelsvn24's Avatar
      angelsvn24 -
      I too have gone through some rough times with my family. The advice above is terrific! Prioritize your spending. Odiously the basics come first, like rent/mortgage, food etc. We cut back on gas leaving only enough to get back and forth to work, and to allot for one shopping trip a week. At Christmas, my youngest son came up with the idea of only giving one gift to each other. Each gift was treasured because it was the only one. In good weather we would ride our bikes to the grocery store, about 3 miles away. Each of us carried a backpack and I had a basket on my bike so we could get home about 4 bags of groceries. As far as bill collectors go, here is a small tip, take advantage of your caller ID. if you don't know whose calling or if you know it is a collector, don't pick up. You know when and if and how you are going to pay them and trying to manage everything is stressful enough without them giving you deadlines you cant make. Pay everyone a little, each month, even if it is just 5 dollars, at least they will know you are making an effort. When things get better, and they will...negotiate or pay them off.
    1. PurpleButtons's Avatar
      PurpleButtons -
      We also have through process and the advice in this article is great. Remember you can't solve all your problems at one time. Don't try to change everything at one time . You will only be frustrated and more stressed. Try to change your current habits one step at a time one day at a time and avoid a lot of frustration.
    1. queentel's Avatar
      queentel -
      I have to say for the last several years since I was layed off and working now part time that the Budget living has been a long and arduous learning process. The advice here on this web site is so valuable. In addition I wanted to say to anyone that is working a budget and or still trying to make it work or just starting. It is a learning process and never get frustrated. Each month you work on it you find new ways to cut something. I examine every bill that comes into the house to make sure they did not make an error. They frequently do, especially the cable company. I have in addition changed my eating habits. One thing is I found it very hard to purchase some of the items that I need as they are expensive from the health food stores. But so is changing my eating habits. So I realized that I do not need to change the pantry all at once, Just throw in a new meal or two a week and that enables you to buy a new ingredient once in a while. I have not completely removed everything bad and replaced with good, I am doing it over time. That enables the house members to slowly adjust their meal likes and it is softer on the shopping budget. The other day I was making a new dessert and my neighbor and I were going over the ingredients and she said what do you need, I went over and only needed 3 items. She wanted to help and know about my budget and purchased those items for me, but the funny part was, she said do you have agave syrup, and then laughed and said of course you do. Only you would already have that in your cabinet. In addition to helping my budget and my health, I am helping some of the neighbors to see the value of healthy eating. Win Win All around. They want to know where I get all my valuable information. I tell them Budget101 But as I was saying, DO NOT FEEL like your failing. It is a learning process and it takes time. But when the money is good again then you will still be budgeting as it has become a way of life and can use the left over for savings. I have managed to put away 400.00 into a savings account for a rainy day.
    1. francisfamily's Avatar
      francisfamily -
      Quote Originally Posted by angelsvn24 View Post
      As far as bill collectors go, here is a small tip, take advantage of your caller ID. if you don't know whose calling or if you know it is a collector, don't pick up. You know when and if and how you are going to pay them and trying to manage everything is stressful enough without them giving you deadlines you cant make. Pay everyone a little, each month, even if it is just 5 dollars, at least they will know you are making an effort. When things get better, and they will...negotiate or pay them off.
      I really like the part about creditors, I have been out of work for over 4 months for medical with no pay. I screen my calls already but I figured I had to pay the full min balance. I can send 5 or 10 dollars every month. It will allow me to also pay on my medical bills.
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