Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Limping Along when You Have No Money

Somebody I know does not earn enough money. Period. The ordinary expenses of month-to-month living add up to more than this person earns. Every single unexpected expense is a crisis. It’s a heck of a way to live. Been there, done that. I hope I never have to experience it firsthand again, but life is uncertain. I might be in this same fix myself . Again.

What did I learn from that experience that might help my friend, or might help you? Make the credit card payments on time. Always keep an eye out for a lower finance charge rate. Dispute immediately any erroneous or late charges; the company will usually remove or reduce them if you are an on-time payer. Keep extremely organized about what bills are coming in and what money is expected and on what day, so nothing is wasted and no bill due dates are missed. Ask for discounts whenever you buy anything; most store personnel are authorized to give you a 10 percent discount without a fuss, and some managers will do more. Always look for ways to cut unnecessary expenses, and be ruthless about your own personal extravagances. Your purpose is survival, after all.

Sell stuff you don’t need. If you have the time, be creative about finding ways to sell it. If not, just sell it and use the money to keep going. Buy stuff you need at yard sales or discount stores. But never go around such stores with a shopping cart. Trust me, you don’t need that much stuff, and it’s just too easy to toss in yet another bargain item if you’re pushing a huge cart. Never go shopping aimlessly; stay away from malls and other retail (or etail) establishments whose only purpose is to get you to spend. Of course go shopping for essentials with a list, and stick to the list. As for mall walking, find a new place to get some exercise, so you don’t expose yourself to constant retail temptation. The same goes for etail: Get an adblocker on your computer, so you don’t get distracted by all the temping ads on your favorite sites. Focus on not letting good marketing separate you from your money.

Maintain what you own. Wind up the garden hose and put it in its proper place. Mow the lawn promptly. Wash your windows. Change the oil on your car on schedule, and wash the car, too. That includes vacuuming the inside. Remove that pizza stain from your shirt. Iron your clothes. Change the sheets. Keep your living space clean and uncluttered. Establish a regular housecleaning routine and stick with it, or just make a point of checking on certain dirt indicators and dealing with them promptly. It’s depressing to be broke, look like a slob, and live in a dump. So don’t turn yourself or your space into a mess. Treat your possessions and yourself with respect.

Get more money. No, I’m not kidding. Find another job, a part-time thing, a fill-in for a few hours, do some freelance, or whatever. Being careful with your money, not buying what you don’t need, selling things you don’t need, and maintaining what you have all will help. But they will not solve the basic problem, that you do not earn enough money. The only solution to that is to earn more. Yes, for some people, being foreclosed and having to move to a much smaller place, plus having to sell off their stuff and then not being able to pay for expensive schools, clubs, or pampering services has meant that they in effect earn more. But until and unless you make such a drastic lifestyle change, one that reduces your day-to-day living expenses radically, the only real answer is to earn more money. You won’t do it sitting in front of a television or listening to an iPod or even wandering the net looking for entertainment. You have to make connections with other humans. Get out there and try. An amazing number of people simply don’t have the courage to ask others for work. Don’t be one of those people. Keep asking until you find the work that will finally allow you to live in dignity and with peace of mind.

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