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In the past week, I’ve had at least three separate conversations with folks I consider to be close friends about their personal budget. In fact, two of the three I have known since I was a child. They are strong women who over the years have become more like family than friends. One of those two I actually do consider my sister as she spent the vast majority of our childhood at my house, lol. All three of these women are having trouble making it financially and all three have said the exact same thing to me; “I don’t make enough money to survive.”
Sometimes, no matter what we do, we just can’t make enough money to survive and we just can’t seem to break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. For some families, no matter how frugal (Six Dollar Family) they are or how wise they are with their spending, they still struggle to make ends meet each month. If you’re currently in a situation where you’re struggling to make ends meet financially each month, it may seem like there is nothing you can do to better your situation. I won’t lie to you and tell you that it will be easy, but there are things you can do to make the struggle a bit easier on yourself and your family.
What to Do When You’re Struggling to Make Ends Meet Financially
The biggest thing to know when you’re having trouble making ends meet is why you are living paycheck to paycheck. If you don’t know why something bad is happening to your family, you can’t take the steps you need to fix the problem. Your reason could be something as simple as not making enough money to survive, but if that is not the case, you have an issue that needs fixed.
Once you know why you’re struggling to make enough money to survive, you can begin to fix things. It may take a bit – a month or longer – to get yourself and your budget where you need to be, but with hard work, you’ll eventually being to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
What to Do When You Don’t Make Enough Money to Survive
When you don’t make enough money to survive, there are a few steps you’ll need to take to get things back on track for yourself. Unfortunately, fixing things won’t happen overnight so be prepared to dig in for the long haul if you really want to repair things.
List Your Expenses
To start, you’ll need to grab a pen and paper to start listing your expenses. Go through your bank account and list every expense you’ve had over the past 3 months. Be sure to make a note of the amount and the date of the month it charges.
For reoccurring expenses such as groceries, it’s best to keep a running tally of the expenses by category instead of doing it line by line. When I get to tracking our own expenses, I find it easiest to use an account ledger book such as THIS one. It just seems to help me things straight.
List Your Income
After you’ve listed your expenses, it’s time to list your income. If you only get paid once a week or twice a month, this should be fairly easy for you to do.
If your income is variable – meaning it changes from week to week or month to month – do your best to estimate an average. It is better to under-estimate your income than it is to over-estimate.
Create a New Budget
If you are constantly saying “I don’t make enough money to survive,” it’s obvious that your current budget isn’t working. This means you need to create a budget (Six Dollar Family) that actually works for your family. It may be helpful to change the way you’ve been budgeting (Six Dollar Family).
When most families create a budget, they try to budget their expenses without taking into account their income. What this often leads to is more expenses than income. Instead, try budgeting in reverse. You only have a finite amount of income which means you can only have a finite amount of expenses. Cover your necessary budget categories first and worry about the unnecessary later on.
If, after budgeting all your income, you still have necessary expenses that need covering, you only have one option left. You need to reduce your expenses and to make sure you are not getting caught up in frugal living myths that will ultimately cost you more money than you’ll save. I know that when you’re struggling to make ends meet financially, it can be hard to see where you can lower your cost of living, but I promise it’s possible.
Target Your Expenses by Category
If your housing costs are too high, consider downsizing. My Emma and I did this exact thing a couple of years ago when we moved into an extended stay hotel full-time.
If your medical bills are too expensive, take a look at how much money a lifestyle change can save you.
At the same time you’re trying to lower your cost of living, you should consider trying to find ways to make more money. After all, you’re struggling to make ends meet financially because you have more expenses than you have income. Increasing your income may be the only way you and your family can stop struggling as much.
Ways to Increase Your Income
There are a lot of ways you can increase your income. You could start a blog just like this one. It won’t earn money right away (most likely), but it could eventually turn into a full-time income for you.
Where there is a will, there’s a way and that is never more true than with your income; especially when you don’t make enough money to survive.
Change Your Habits
As you work on lowering your expenses and increasing your income, you should also work at identifying any bad financial habits you have. After all, they are most likely the biggest reason your family is struggling financially to survive. If you spend more money with your debit or credit cards, make the change to use a cash only budget. If you have a thrift store habit, resolve to stay out of them until you’re on solid ground. If you eat out too often, learn how to plan a menu and eat at home instead.
It will take your family some time to get on solid ground. There’s really no way around that. However, if you’re willing to do the work, you’ll get there. I have faith in you.