When you’re drowning in debt, getting ahead of your bills feels like a pipe dream. You can’t even daydream about saving, it’ll just make you feel more defeated. There are a lot of reasons you feel this way, not the least of which is the plethora of articles out there that will insist that saving is easy! You just have to stop going to the coffee shop every morning! These post writers don’t know that you never buy your coffee from a coffee shop and that you only drink it at work where it’s free.
Well don’t worry: we know what it is to feel like you’re doing everything you can and not getting anywhere. This post is for you. From us, those who have been there.
Accept the Challenge
Saving money when you’re struggling with debt and already living as frugally as you think is possible isn’t easy. It’s hard. It means getting tough with yourself, making some hard choices and preparing yourself for a lot of knuckling under and pushing through. If you’re ready to fight, though, keep reading.
Believe it or not, your utility prices are not set in stone. If you are lucky enough to live in a state or province with a deregulated energy market (and more areas are deregulating their markets every day), spend some time shopping around for better rates. This link shows you just how much variation on price there can be in a deregulated market. If your market is still regulated, call your provider and ask about every single one of the taxes and fees listed on your bill. You might be able to get some of them removed!
In spite of what our boomer parents and grandparents say, the internet is not optional anymore. We need to be able to access it easily if we’re going to look for better paying jobs, take on those side gigs everyone insists are so easy, etc. There are, however, ways to avoid paying full price. For instance, you might ask your neighbor if you can tap into their Wi-Fi in exchange for paying a part of their bill. Or, offer something in trade–making them meals a couple of times a week, taking on some light housekeeping duties, etc.
Yeah, yeah, you know: you need to get a roommate or resign yourself to renting out your bedroom on Airbnb while you sleep on the couch or camp out in the yard. Or, worse, you need to suck it up and move back home. Except you don’t.
If you are able to share space with someone, taking in a roommate can be a good way to reduce expenses. Or, you could become someone else’s roommate. This is the better option because it won’t subject you to credit checks or huge up front payments. You might think about looking for “live in help wanted” jobs, where you care for someone elderly or disabled in exchange for room and board and a small stipend.
You could also try to find a subletter for your current space (if you have a lease) and moving to a cheaper neighborhood. If your income has taken a hit, check out 211 for reduced cost housing. Some of the income-limited housing is pretty nice! If you can swing it, moving to a cheaper city could be the best way to go.
Facing Your Debt
There are a bunch of ways to reduce your expenses and live a frugal lifestyle, but if you don’t face your debt, these changes won’t really help you. Paying down your debt improves your credit score, makes you look better to potential employers and landlords and is important for your mental and emotional health.
There are a few ways to approach a large sum of debts. One is to make a very strict budget that allows you to pay each bill on time, even if it is just $5 more than the minimum amount due. If your credit is still good, you could also look into consolidation loans to help you reduce the number of payments you have to make and how much you will pay overall.
If your credit is bad and you’re having trouble footing all of your minimum payments, it’s time to get some professional help. Make an appointment with one of your local non-profit credit counseling agencies. The non-profit part is important because these organizations won’t charge you a ton of money just to get some help. A credit counselor can help you sort through your financial situation and decide if credit counseling or enrolling in a debt relief program. They can also help you decide if bankruptcy is something worth exploring.
We’re all tired of being told to give up the lattes when we’re short on cash. But if you’re destitute, it’s time to think bigger. Hopefully, the tips we’ve shared here will help you.