“I need money desperately.” I get lots of emails from readers, and a few of them make statements like this one. My heart hurts for them, because I know they’re not thriving, and they’re barely surviving. They want to know how to stop being broke all the time.
They’re tired of scraping by. They’re in loads of debt and have bad credit. Some feel overwhelmed, ashamed, and embarrassed.
They need a change, but they don’t know how to make it happen. They don’t know how to get there or even how to begin the journey.
Several years ago, during the recession, my husband was laid off from his job. At the time, our oldest child had just started school, and we were in the process of adopting our second child.
To say I was scared would be an understatement! We’d just lost our only source of income, and the job market was severely struggling. We didn’t know if or when he’d find a new job. We had to learn how to completely put our trust in God and have faith that He would provide for our family.
This was also the season of life where I began to learn about how to be more frugal than I ever thought possible. Thankfully, we’d been tracking our expenses and working on budgeting for quite awhile at that point, so I was able to go through our expenses and drastically slash absolutely everything that wasn’t a necessity.
You might also like:
- We’re Debt Free! How We Paid Off Everything, Even Our House
- A Prayer For Finances: How To Pray When Money’s Tight
- My Dave Ramsey Meal Plan For A Beans + Rice Budget
While money was extremely tight for us during that season, we never did get to the point where we had to say, “I need money desperately” like we know some of our readers have experienced. But — we did learn how to stop being broke.
Someone shared a statistic with us recently: 78% of Americans are living just one paycheck away from being broke. That’s scary! When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you’re always gambling with whether or not you will have enough money for your bills, groceries, or even gas for the car. One emergency could put you into debt, or leave you and your family stranded.
For most of you (and yes, I know there are a few exceptions), it doesn’t have to be that way! But you have to start now. You can’t keep putting it off. As the old saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” It will be crazy hard for a short season, but it will be worth it.
If you’re ready to make a change and learn how to stop being broke, here’s how to get started.
And remember, you don’t have to stay in this season forever. It’s just that — a season. Nothing more. And a season doesn’t define you.
You are strong and capable and you can get through this.
I Need Money Desperately: How to Stop Being Broke
1. Create a budget.
Yes, this sounds cliche, but you can’t figure out where you’re headed if you don’t know where you are right now. A budget is just your starting point.
If you’re married, work through creating a budget together. You both have to be on the same page. We’ve noticed that most couples who fight over money don’t do a budget together or know what each other is spending money on. If your spouse won’t work with you on this, consider marriage counseling.
If you’re not married, it’s worth mentioning: be careful who you date and who you marry. Your partner has a huge influence on your finances. Ask questions, and be honest with yourself. Does this person have a good work ethic? Do they have a spending problem? Are they willing to work together on goals? It’s best to find out sooner rather than later.
Having a budget is like the road map to get you where you need to go. It’s a plan for your money. Most people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. Don’t fail to plan your money. Tell every dollar where to go instead of wondering where it went. Grab a copy of Total Money Makeover from your local library. Read it cover to cover.
2. You have to work, and work hard.
Work any job you can find, as many hours as you can each day, and then find ways to not have any free time because you’re too busy working. I know it sounds miserable, but it’s only for a season. We have to get you out of this hole. It took awhile to get into it, so it will take a little while to get out of it. But — you will get out of it.
Working a job you hate may sound terrible, but it still gives you more options than the alternative… which is not being able to provide for your family and/or losing everything you have (like your home, car, etc) because you cannot make your monthly payments. Even if you’re working in a low wage job, you still create friendships, learn new skills, build your resume, and earn some money.
Finding yourself at home without a job often means you start consuming rather than creating. Consumption by itself is not always a bad thing, but sooner or later, you’ll have to create or you’ll starve. Begin to think of yourself as a creator rather than a consumer.
If all else fails, take Dave Ramsey’s advice and deliver pizzas at night. It’s not glamorous, but it will help pay the bills and might open the door to another opportunity.
3. Sell things, lots of things.
Sell everything laying around: your old cell phone, second computer, and extra television. Get rid of so much that the kids think they’re next (I’m joking, but you get the idea!). You’re going to be too busy working to watch TV anyway. List everything for sale on Facebook marketplace and Craigslist. You could also have a yard sale. Or, here’s how to sell on Poshmark.
Once you’ve sold all your extra stuff, you could consider donating plasma. Many places will pay for your plasma donation, and you’re providing a valuable service at the same time. Plasma donations help save lives.
You can also sell some of your extra time throughout the day by answering tutoring questions on the Course Hero app. It’s quick to do in little pockets of time, and can earn you some extra cash.
4. Invest in yourself.
You might not have money to invest (yet), but you can invest in yourself. Invest in your education and in learning new skills.
I am not telling you to enroll in college and get a degree. That’s an article for another day! I have some pretty opinionated thoughts on that topic.
What I am saying is to use the many available online resources and start learning new skills. You can learn so much online, and many things you can learn for free or cheap. A few examples are computer programming, proofreading, and the bazillion free classes online at Harvard.
Learn new things. Invest in yourself. Find ways to add value to your workplace or organization. If you feel like you’re underemployed, ask your manager what you need to get better at in order to get a raise. Then, do it!
If you’re part of a local church, talk to people there. Let them know you’re taking a class and learning new things. Tell them you’re looking for a new job, or hoping for a promotion at work. If there’s someone you really trust and are close to, tell them what you told me — that “I need money desperately” and want to get your finances in shape. Many people genuinely want to help you succeed and will offer connections if they can.
5. Spend less than you make.
This one can be really hard, especially if you’re a spender rather than a saver — but you have to spend less than you earn.
You can’t out-earn a spending problem.
If you keep spending money you don’t have, you will only dig a deeper hole for yourself. Do not take out more loans. Do not get into more debt. That is not how to stop being broke!
Try to find ways to spend less on literally everything. Can you find cheaper housing? A roommate? Cheaper transportation? Sell a car? How can you spend less on food? (Psst… There’s a great budget meal plan here.)
You have to make sure your outgo doesn’t exceed your income.
This all goes back to number one, creating a budget. You need that budget in place.
If you’ve ever found yourself saying, “I need money desperately” or maybe feeling hopeless about your financial situation — I hope this helps you!
I know this advice won’t work for everyone, since there are exceptions to every rule. But, for most of us, this is what works. There are no shortcuts. This is how you change your family tree when it comes to money.
We did it. You can, too.
Let’s chat again soon,
A few tools I recommend:
Give eMeals a try. This is the meal planning service Dave Ramsey recommends on his show. For a small fee, they’ll even send your meal plan and shopping list over to a local store (like WalMart!) and have your groceries ready for you to just pick-up and go. Click here to try it free for 14 days.
I also highly recommend getting started with a pencil and paper budget, if you’re not already doing so. My printable Budget Binder Toolkit has everything you need to hit the ground running!