Help! How do we cut our budget when there’s nothing left to cut?

My husband and I have been trying to live as cheaply as possible, and almost every article I read on the subject recommends cutting back. What can I cut back on when I don’t feel like I have anything to spend?

We don’t watch tv, don’t pay for internet, and don’t rent movies. We can’t afford to eat out, and the only dates we go on are funded by a change jar. The debt we have is his college loans, which are over $31k. The interest rate is 6.8%, which means we aren’t seeming to get anywhere on it.

We don’t buy new clothes, or get our hair done. His mom feeds us as often as she can, and we don’t need to buy much milk, meat or eggs. What more is there to cut back on? -Ambrosia

When I read your note, my heart hurt for you. I well remember the law school days when money was tighter than tight and it felt like we were never going to make any financial traction.

It’s hard when you feel like there aren’t any other corners you can cut and yet you are still stuck. Here’s my advice:

1. Focus on the Progress You Are Making

There is always something you can do — even if it’s as simple as learning a new way to stretch beans and rice, playing the drugstore game, or taking surveys online to earn money. Often, you can’t do a lot to change your financial situation overnight, but focus on what you can do and it will help you stay empowered and inspired.

Giving into hopelessness and despair will never get you anywhere, but it will make you feel powerless and stuck. And when you decide to give up, your chances of actually getting back up on your feet again are pretty slim.

Also, be encouraged! Your sacrifices and careful money management are actually doing quite a lot for you as they are keeping you from getting mired in a much deeper financial mess. While $31,000 in debt feels massive to you, many people would love to be in your shoes instead of dealing with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt they’ve accumulated.

2. Keep Cultivating Contentment

Now, more than ever, you have the opportunity to choose to bloom where you are planted. Challenge yourself to keep a gratitude journal and write down at least three blessings every day. This will help you to weather the difficult days and weeks — and will remind you that even though life may be hard, there is much to be thankful for.

Looking for more encouragement and inspiration? Check out my article on 16 Ways to Become More Content.

3. Find Ways to Increase Your Income

The easiest way to dig out of this hole you find yourself in is to give yourself a bigger income to help shovel yourself out more quickly. This will benefit you not only in the short-term, but also in the long-term as it may allow you to completely change your financial situation within the next five years.

This is exactly what happened with us. When Jesse was in law school, we were determined to stay out of debt and I really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. So when we found out we were expecting our first baby, I kicked into overdrive and started researching and trying everything possible to make my dream of staying home a reality.

It wasn’t easy — in fact, there were many months when I worked too many hours and made very, very little for all my time and effort. But it eventually paid off in great measure as I landed upon this thing called blogging, started MoneySavingMom.com and eventually turned it into a business that earned enough for me to make more than a full-time income and to pay for a wonderful team to work for me, too.

Read the whole series of my journey to becoming a work-at-home mom here.

There are a thousand and one ways to bring in extra income. Start researching, experimenting, learning, and putting forth a lot of time and effort and you’ll likely land upon something that works well for you. It won’t be an overnight success, but if you persevere, I’m certain you’ll find some things that will bring in extra income.

What advice do the rest of you have for Ambrosia and others in her shoes?

photo from Big Stock

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Comments

  1. says

    Often, housing is the biggest expense. Sometimes buying is cheaper than renting. There are so many loans out there—first time buyers, Veteran, Rural loans, etc. Also, interest rates are at records lows. If anyone needs help with housing, PLEASE email me. I’m a Realtor licensed in NH, but I can refer you to an agent in all 50 states.

  2. Rachel says

    I am so sorry that you are facing this trial. My family is facing this same trial, and going through the storm. It is very hopeless if you can’t go through the storm along with Jesus, He the source of strength and courage. I hope that you know God our Maker and HIs son Jesus, our Savior. We are going through this most humbling experience along with 3 boys under the age of 10 and one teenage girl. It’s not easy at all, but through prayer and support from wonderful encouraging friends it would not be worth the pressing on and keeping on to get out of debt and living this way. One other piece of advice too, is be humble enough to ask for things you need for free or cheep. I have amazing friends who have blessed me. Just the other day I posted on facebook, “looking for a vacuum cleaner that you may have sitting around-willing to pay a price” and I got one for free from a friend, because she just bought a brand new one and this one was just sitting in her basement. And it works awesome! Also I had a new baby last year and so wanted to have newborn pictures take, my dear friend who is a professional came to my home and blessed me with a session of amazing newborn photos you see in the magazines! Humble yourself to ask for things you need/want and God who blesses and provides will do this for you, if you follow Him. My prayers are with you and your family!

  3. Jessica says

    There are a lot of really good suggestions on here for making some extra money. I wanted to add a few that have been helpful to me.

    First, one of the tips I always see on money management posts is to go to the farmers market late to try and get discounts. While its a good idea, I encourage you go try and go early (like when it first open) a few times. About 4 weeks ago I delayed a trip out of town because I wanted to go to the market’s spring opening. The good Lord provided an excellent opportunity that day and I was able to pick up a part time job selling brick oven pizzas that morning. I was friendly, and talked to the owner who said they needed help. Now, each week I bring home an extra $75. I saw all this to leand credit to what I’m about to say. Vendors are often friendlier in the mornings, have more time to talk, and you’ll have more of a chance to connect with them. Tell them your interested in “seconds” (slightly damaged or not as pretty items). Let them know your looking for work. Tell them what skills you have. These are the types of people who are open to bartering and helping the ‘little guy’. Also, even if they can’t help you, they may know of someone who can.

    Second, I encourage you to become a fix it yourself type person. Before I started living this frugal lifestyle I would have said there’s no way I can fix my lawn mower, small car repairs, ect. I’m still not mechanically inclined but I can research how to fix things on the Internet. I was also able to get a costly car repair covered under a recall after doing some investigating and learning that only cars in hot hot states (Texas, arazoina, New Mexico) were recalled. My car had the issue since I went to college in one of those states but since it was registered in a northern state, it didn’t show up as a recall when the repair shop first looked into it.

    Lastly, really look at utility usage. Cooking from scratch is great for the food budget but if your not careful can be horrible for your utility bills. Constantly turning the oven on can be costly. Explore other cooking options based on what you have. Crock pots, toaster ovens, mini grills, benders, and a few others have helped limit my utility usage because they don’t pull as much electricity and often don’t run as long as other options. Also, depending on where your at this may sound crazy but have you considered putting plastic over your windows to help cut down on drafts? In my house, the previous tenant took the blinds and their fixtures off, put the plastic up and then put everything back up. It helps keeps my hvac system from running as often.

  4. cheri says

    Feel exactly the same way….spending everything we make and getting nowhere on our loans….then in the past month we’ve had $1200 in emergency expenses (things that can’t wait, like water pipes bursting) then 2 days ago finding out our income is going to be cut by about $450/mo beginning in June. I’m just thankful that I have a husband who is willing to make any cuts necessary and we worked out a plan to squeak through the next six months and hopefully by then we can increase our income to cover.

  5. Bekah says

    I read a LOT of the comments hoping for some help in my own situation. A lot of people have suggested that when you can’t cut anything else, you have to increase your income. That is good, sound advice. However, does anyone have advice for a couple (just my husband and I; no kids) who already work 60+ hours a week per person because we are starting a business/running a store? It’s awfully hard for us to work more and not damage our marriage and/or health. I already have 4 jobs (tutoring, house cleaning, pet sitting, and working at our store). We live in my parent’s second home for free (which kills my husband and I to think about…we promised we would pay rent and haven’t been able to). I freezer cook and shop only once a month, no cable, no entertainment, hair cut once a year for me and at home for free for hubby. We use one car and have paid off college loans. Still, we put $1200-1500 on the credit card every month for nothing but food and gas (Maine has high living expenses). We have been paying it off mostly with savings (I had put this away before I lost my full time teaching job) in order to avoid interest, but the savings account has only about enough for one more month and some change. I’m definitely in need of upping my gratitude journal from one thing I am thankful for to three. We believe this business is what God has led us to do. We have ministry opportunities left and right because of it; we just don’t have any steady money coming in from it yet. Two of my tutoring clients are gone for the summer, two are cutting back hours, and my house cleaning client has backed off to every other week. I might give swagbucks a try and helium.com, but is there anything else we can do?

    • Kate says

      First of all, $1200 a month for food and gas for 2 people is ridiculous. For 2 people on a tiny income, your food budget should be in the neighborhood of $75 per week, max. And probably less than that. Read Crystal’s archives and The Prudent Homemaker for suggestions on how to do that.

      Same thing with gas. You are driving way too much. Maybe you are too far away from the store – it may be cheaper to rent an inexpensive apartment within walking distance rather than drive there. Are you driving all over the county for your miscellaneous jobs? If so, they may not be paying you enough for the cost to get there. Do you have multiple cars? Can you get by with one and a bike? Or no car at all? Is your car a gas guzzler? Maybe you need something more efficient.

      Finally, as great as this business may be, it probably doesn’t make sense for you both to work there full time while its starting up since it can’t support you. One of you needs to have a job that brings in some real income. Dog walking and cleaning one person’s house every other week do not bring in enough money. One of you should have a real 40-hour a week job that pays real money until this business can generate sufficient income to support you.

      • Julie says

        It is quite expensive to live on the east coast. I eat a Kosher, vegetarian and mostly gluten free diet. I rent a zip car 4 hours x 8.25 hr per month.. I do not pay anywhere near $1200 a month. This immediately has to be addressed as it is a place that can be cut down. Shaws/Star Market is outrageously expensive usually with coupon. I shop at Stop N Shop with coupons and sales. For example, I got two large jars of jelly for $.38 each and 47 jars of pasta sauce for $.90 each after sale and doubling of coupons. Boxes of pasta is $.50 after the $1/2 coupon at the customer service. The deals I’ve found at Shaws/ Star Market: Last week I got free Fresh Express shreds and $1.39 boxes of kosher certified tac0 shells. I also picked up $.50 jars of pickles after coupons.

        I highly recommend that Bekah check out mavenofsavin.com for the shaws, stop n shop, hannafords and market basket inserts and coupon match ups.

    • Ann says

      You need to take a long, hard look at what it will take to make your business profitable, and what you need to do to get there, with a concrete timeline for when you will bag it if you don’t start turning a profit.

      You could also raise your rates for tutoring and housecleaning, or look for more clients.

  6. says

    Its sad that we all go through this.. me and my bf are in like i would say 20k in debt and not even from school .. just really bad choices as young adults that we are. But when I think about cutting the budget take it slow.. When I look at debt personally I know its there, and I know I have to pay it.. but why focus so much on the negative.. research and find ways to earn money take odd jobs do all that you can but always keep positive me and my lil family of for in the big bad las vegas struggle for money all the time due to only one person working in the home. We make it work.. I know that its not much advice.. but to me being positive and a change in perspective can change a lot.

  7. Cassandra Sarling says

    If you have a spare bedroom, you can look into hosting International students while they go to local schools (in Canada that would be about $700/month), or even be a billet when sports teams come to town for competitions. Yes you need to feed them and they up your utilities but I think that you are paid well all considered.

    • says

      This is a great idea. Also, don’t overlook college students. My son was renting a room from a couple this past semester. He liked it so much more than the dorms he was in. You have to have clear communication about what exactly the rent is for – room and board (including food) or just room. People have rented spare rooms for a long time, it’s just not as common as it used to be.

  8. says

    I can completely understand where you are coming from Ambrosia. First I would like to say its so wonderful that you are taking your debit seriously and are doing something about it. Where I live there are so many people that give get more and more into debit and don’t do a thing about it. And when their money runs out, they are the first ones in line for help through our town or state. It drives me nuts.
    I am a sahm mother of 5 and I have learned to live frugally and teach my children to do the same. There are times when our money is so tight, that is really can drain you, but I learned that during these times, I need to embrace who I am and what I have to offer, and use that to possibly earn some extra money, if the opportunity arises. For example, I am great at finding new recipes and baking. So, one year we really needed some extra cash and decided to do a farmer’s market and bake for it. For $25.00 to start out witch I made double in return the following day, I started my first market. I made sure to start off slow and work my way up, just in case no one bought anything from me. Sure it was long and hard for one day a week, but at the time, it was well worth it to my family. Offering something you are good at or like doing to barter or sell for extra income is my biggest suggestion. Once I stopped baking, I picked up photography more since it was my first love. Now, here and there I get jobs, usually weddings, for a fraction of the cost to the bride, so not only am I helping my family by bringing in extra money, I am helping a couple and family to remember their special day, when they couldn’t afford to hire a professional, since I am a fraction of the cost. I am able to bring enjoyment not only on their special day, but in the years to follow. Plus, I think its cool that people have my pictures all over their walls. God does provide, sometimes you just need to look outside the box :)

  9. Allison V. says

    I lived that life for several years. I think just about everything has been covered, but I didn’t see any mention of going to a local or church-operated food bank in your area. If you haven’t checked that out, do it!

  10. Lauren Henry says

    I did the simple thing of calling my auto insurance dealer and asked her for a better quote and am saving $400 a year with the same type of insurance. All from simply calling and asking if there is a better rate. I was shocked at how easy it was.

  11. Gweny says

    I am reading all of these comments and there is great advice given. The only thing that is bothering me is it seems that everyone that has commented says get a P/T job. or get another job. Here in S.CA jobs are so hard to get. I am going to be 60 in June I still have a 19yr old at home that is in college and works a P/T job. I was in the nursing field years ago until I hurt my back. I then reinvented myself into a school bus driver for a christian school. (God has a great sense of humor) lol. I was the school nurse and office assist. also. After my fathers death my mothers needs became more significant . She asked me to take care of her she was tired of all the caregivers. I quit my job in 2007 and took care of her until 2011 when she passed away at the age of 95. We had a arrangement made up for my income as my Dad had set aside money for this and I am a single mom. Since her death I have struggled to get a full time job. I am currently care giving but the down side is clients either get put in homes or they pass away or whatever else takes place and then your income drops. My biggest paying client just passed God love her and that leaves me with one 3 day a week 3 hr a day client. My car has had expired tags for 2yrs now its over $800 to get it up to date . Its a 2004 town and country mini van with a window that doesnt’ go up all the way on the drivers side and has a small gas leak which no one can seem to find. Need less to say I can’t afford any of the repairs. We are very blessed to be living in my parents home rent free as it is owned but then there’s utilities of which we work to keep very low. I am getting the master bdrm cleaned up for a future renter so that will help alot. BUT my daughter is very uncomforable with a stranger in our house as I know it will be a adjustment for us and the future room mate . Anyway, we at one time didn’t have water, or elec. and lost our gas at one time too. We ran a cord from my neighbors house and she was so wonderful to charge me a small amount. BUT it did make me stronger.. We love God I try to stay faithful and trusting and I will let no one steal my joy !!!

  12. Lisa says

    Places to reduce costs:
    Car insurance -raise deductible, ask for any discounts (alumni, safe driver,etc.)
    Return library books & videos on time (I have seen families with $20 a month – or more – on overdue library fines)
    Make sure if you buy food; eat it and don’t throw any out
    Barter (you watch someone’s kids they watch yours; you bake for someone they cut your hair, etc.)
    Sell newer cars and buy older cars – car payment may be less or non-existent; car insurance may go down
    Use coupons for the things you do purchase.
    Grow your own vegetables and herbs (if you have space)
    Make your own mixes, etc. (Bisquick, brownies, cream of mushroom soup, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, etc.) — There are many books at the library on how to do this.
    Reduce gift giving – give of your time and talents instead of things
    Make sure prescriptions are generic or $4 at Wal-Mart, etc.
    Buy gasoline at the lowest price possible (maybe not your normal station.)
    Walk, use a bicycle or carpool as often as possible
    Sell your clothes/accessories, etc. at a consignment shop. You can usually get cash or store credit.
    Do your own taxes or find an organization that offers a free service
    Use cloth napkins, rags, etc. – I don’t know the last time I bought paper towels, and if I get take-out I use the extra napkins for messes on the floor or to drain bacon
    Look at your cell phone – do you really need it? Can you lessen your plan? Do you need all those features?
    Get credit cards paid off and stop using them – Dave Ramsey has great books
    Gather your friends for a clothing/accessory swap
    Only buy things on sale or with coupons
    Change to a cheaper brand of shampoo, shaving cream, peanut butter, contact lens solution, etc.
    Turn down fundraisers from everyone and there brother except one or two you agree on.
    Stop magazine, newspaper and professional organization subscriptions/memberships, etc. If they are a necessity see if you can write them off on your taxes or ask a family member to cover the cost for a birthday or holiday
    If there is something you want to do, see if you can volunteer and be able to participate – Yearly I volunteer at a hot air balloon festival and each year I have had the chance to fly at no charge
    My landlord has found that by unplugging things like computers, microwaves, coffee makers, etc. she saved $40 a month
    Lower the thermostat – put on socks and a sweater or in the summer raise it – Don’t use the air conditioner, etc.

    Ways to find/make money:
    Garage sale – ask family and friends if they have anything you can have for your sale
    Craft show: take a hobby and earn some money at a couple craft shows (tables are sometimes free other times I have seen them for $10 -$80 bucks. I never pay for an $80 table. However, I can always earn $20-$25 back.) Just make sure you don’t spend money at others tables while you are there.
    Look into mystery shopping – when I did this I would buy 2 meals, eat them, evaluate all aspects of the restaurant then be reimbursed for my meals and $10 – $15 on top of that — for about 30 minutes of effort –I found a company that did not charge me. (Whose name escapes me.)
    Substitute teaching
    Library performer/educator – libraries are always looking for inexpensive presenters to share knowledge with adults or children
    Turn a hobby into a part-time business
    Offer lessons – piano, guitar, resume building, etc.
    Consider changing your tax with-holdings
    Offer tutoring

    Any extra money make sure when it is applied to your student loan, that it is applied to the principal. This reduces interest.

    Wanna have fun with your friends: Host a Mary Kay party (or other home party) you’ll feel pampered your friends will buy things and you may earn some things free (for yourself or gifts)

  13. Lisa says

    Another thought…in 2012 10 days before Christmas I had 3 people contact me to make homemade truffles for the. It garnered me $85 for about 1.5 hours of time and less than $10 of ingredients. That was the money I used to get to my parents and back.

  14. Lisa says

    As we come into summer you can often find free entertainment by attending concerts in the park ,events at the library, sometimes you can even volunteer to usher an event and then see it free (this is how I have seen Dave Ramsey twice).

  15. Jessica says

    Oops, the internet beast ate up my comment. Here it goes again…

    Make your own laundry detergent. Use a Wonder Wash and hang your laundry to dry. If you’re in an apartment and don’t have outdoor space, your clothes can be hung on hangers and dried on the shower curtain rod.

    Go to the farmer’s market at the end of the day when everyone is packing up. I guarantee you’ll walk away with some free food!

    “Sleep with the sun”–wake and go to sleep earlier so you don’t have to use as much electricity. Or use candles or an oil lamp. Reduce overall electricity usage. If you’re baking bread, go ahead and make 4 loaves at once since you’re already using the oven anyway! Look for little ways to save electricity. Do your computer and TV need to be plugged in when they’re not on? Do you really need to keep the microwave plugged in so you have a clock when you already have one on your cell phone? And so on…

    Shop for “loss leaders” at the grocery store. Buy the sale meat that’ll expire sooner and freeze it so it doesn’t actually go bad. ;) Take reusable bags. Most stores will give either 5 cents or 10 cents per bag back. It’s not much but it will add up!

    If you have kids, sell their clothes as “lots” on eBay.

    Reduce your car usage. If you have to cars, can you sell one? This will save hundreds, if not thousands, every year on gas, insurance, registration, and maintenance. Instead, walk, bike, carpool, or take the bus. If you’re going grocery shopping, get a ride from a friend who is also going. If you need the car, see if your husband can bike to work on the day you need it, and get all your errands done in one day. Or, can you walk to the grocery store? I used to go grocery shopping on foot with my son in the stroller. I’d fit one bag in the storage basket under his stroller and hang the other from the handlebar. Not only did I save money on gas, I saved money on groceries because I only bought what I could carry myself all the way back home.

    Do Swagbucks and OpinionOutpost polls. Redeem your points for Amazon gift certificates and use them to buy pantry staples such as grains, beans, or canned items.

    Don’t wear makeup! I’m sure you’re pretty enough without it. :)

    Can you sell something, anything? Even an old scarf or a nice pair of ear rings?

    If you don’t have kids, or don’t stay at home with your kids/homeschool, or have a few hours of free time throughout the day, go to edjoin.org and see about being a crossing guard. Each listing is different, sometimes they’ll want you for the morning, mid-day, and afternoon, or any combination of those shifts (1-2 hours each shift). In my area they pay $11-13 an hour. If you have the various rush hour times available, it’s worth looking into.

  16. says

    I was a single mom of four in college when I could have written your question and my heart goes out to you – I’ve been there.

    My solution was to dig in the Bible and find promises of God’s provision and help. I wrote them out on index cards and still have them memorized just from reading them so much. I remember praying – at times just reminding God and myself that he promised he would meet all of our needs and take care of us. As I kept reading, I also found challenges to give that went along with promises that God would care for us. I started tithing our income and so many miracles happened to us! We never missed a meal and my income went up year after year. I eventually met a wonderful man who adopted my kids after we married. We kept giving and God kept blessing.

    One of my favorite scriptures was Phillippians 4:19 but there are tons of them. I pray that you’ll find the ones that really speak to you and that you’ll be blessed beyond belief as you discover that the promises in God’s word are meant for us. The Bible came alive for me during that time and now I know I can trust him for so much more than money.

  17. Julie says

    Sometimes the answers we seek are right under our nose.

    1) Deep clean your home. You will find things to sell. It will also help you refocus. I did this last year and managed to pack my life in one large box. It started with five. What we think we need and what we actually need are very different. I became a minimalist.

    2) Car ownership. Walk as much as you can to places you need to go. Exercise produces endorphins so it helps one feel better. You also save on the cost of gas and car repairs.

    3) You can get a free subscription to Netflix for one month. You can hook up a $20 antenna to your tv for 20 basic tv channels.

    4) Go to your grocer, Target, Walmart, etc and find cheap clearance. Resell it on Ebay. I found .05 bottles of Coppertone sunscreen expiring in 2015 or Almay icolor eye shadow for .75. This method will slowly but surely build up some funds.

    5) Coupon, coupon, coupon and go after cheap or free items. I did not have a printer here for 1.5 years. I bought one last month. I’ve printed $190 worth of coupons. Use these coupons with sales to get free items you need. Last week, Target had the Buy one oral care pack item for $5.99, get a $5 gift card. There were coupons for the toothbrushes and mouthwash making them free after the first purchase. I read this morning that Walgreens will have free Oral B starting Sunday. There is a coupon at Redplum.com for $1 off All mighty packs which are $1.99 at Target. Cheap laundry detergent. Walmart has 8 packs of Hawaiian topic razors for $.75 on clearance. Find three to four coupon/savings sites and check them regularly. Coupons.com is a must to check every few days.

    6) Make your own products. I use Zote as a laundry stain remover, leather cleaner and for dish soap. I use a 50:50 mix of white vinegar and water to clean my home. I use white vinegar and baking soda to clean my sinks and bath tub. You can also find cheap self make dishwasher detergent recipes. The Zote bar is 400 mg and costs $.97 at Walmart in the laundry aisle.

    7) Shop garage sales for gifts and needed items. Last year I found a $15 Burt Bees gift pack for $4, bars of soap for $.25, Bed Head products for $.50 and Philosophy products for $3. You can always find new candles but never pay over a $1 for the pillar or $.50 for the stick or tea. Candles always help center and make me feel peaceful. As far as cloths, make sure you put them in a plastic bags and keep the cloths there until you wash them. If you get bed bugs from the cloths, you will pay thousands to have them killed. I tend not to purchase cloths second hand for this reason.

    8) Find a place that offers in person surveys in your area. You can earn from $100-$300 per 1 hour session. Collect coke codes. I see caps around on my walks so my balance is increasing quickly. You can use the codes to get a free case or 20 oz bottle of coke. A nice little treat on a hot day.

    9) Why raid the change jar for things to do when you can do a lot of things for free? Many museums are free one night per month. Check your local library and see if they offer reduced cost passes to local activities. Pack a small picnic and eat it at the river. Go to fests in your local communities. I went to one last weekend and won $16 free for my Zip Car account! There are free passes to new movies regularly–just remember to eat before you go to reduce the purchase food at the theater urge. Take a walk with your spouse a couple times a week. Go out at night and enjoy star gazing. There is so much to do for little to no cost if you think outside of the box a bit.

    10) Anything you desire to learn? I have studied Swedish for under 2 years as I want to move to Sweden. I’ve paid $275 (including books) through my profits of clearance items for over 200 hours of speaking and grammar tutoring. 200 hours costs $10,000.00 through a private tutor. I use several free or very cheap websites to learn words, I use a free website to practice with native speakers and other learners and I recently found a local tutor for $20/hr. If you check craigslist, there are tons of free or cheap classes from anything to language to arts and crafts.

  18. says

    Wow, great comments, everyone, and I second some things and have some more tips:

    1. Use a free online site like Mint.com to help budget. If you go over in a category, you get an email and that bright red line on the page that makes you feel guilty. It’s enough for me to change things always when it happens to me! I hate those “you’ve been bad” emails!
    2. Stay inspired/encouraged. Surround yourself with friends and family who are on the same page. If you’re on facebook, become a fan of MSM and ONLY similar websites, nothing that makes you want to spend money or live a life you can’t afford. Even remove some “friends” from your timeline who aren’t supporting you or who bring you down (you don’t have to unfriend, just remove from your news feed). The morale shift helps, and if you spend less time on line because you’re reading less status updates, you’ll have more time to work! Read the Bible every day, go to church, join a Bible study and/or MOPS if you can (Mothers Of Preschoolers) for support. SURROUND yourself with support.
    3. NO JUNK FOOD! It’s expensive and doesn’t keep you healthy. You need to stay healthy to be able to work and avoid healthcare expenses.
    4. I second the idea to sell on Amazon/eBay/Craigslist. We are doing this now and it’s literally helping me get by. SELL EVERYTHING BUT THE KIDS!
    5. Ask for prayers, and be specific! Don’t be ashamed to ask people to pray for your financial well-being. PRAYERS HELP!
    6. Remember, faith works both ways. Have faith that God will help you, because HE is faithful to his Word.
    7. Drink water only. No juice, no coffee, no wine. Unless it’s free, it’s costing you.
    8. Make everything yourself. Dish soap, shampoo, you can find out how by Googling everything, or on this site, Keeper of the Home and others mentioned already.
    9. Very important: Be sure you are on the same page as everyone in your household, or none of these tips will work. Do it together. Get excited about it. Saving and making extra cash is addictive, you just have to take the plunge!

    You can do it!

  19. Amanda says

    I want to echo the sentiment of others here, and commend you for taking responsibility for your life, your debt and your future. It is my biggest pet peeve to hear young adults complaining about the situation they put themselves in (esp. debt) without taking any responsibility. So YAY to you for that! It’s a really big deal, so please take that to heart.

    I read through all the other comments, and have a couple to add that I did not see elsewhere.

    1. A lot of people mentioned refinancing your loans, or seeking forbearance or deferment. I did not see anyone mention making extra payments, so I’ll add it here. Right now, the majority of your payments (probably 50-75%) go towards the interest only, which is why it feels like there is never a reduction – you’re right, there isn’t! However, making ANY additional payments each month go towards your principal balance, and THAT is how you will pay off your loans. I am not suggesting making a double payment – that does not sound feasible with your current situation – but find a way to pay ANY extra at all. I’m talking $5 or $10 – anything. That is how people pay off their CC debt, mortgages, loans early – extra payments. I hope you’ll consider it, it will really make a difference.

    2. Some other people have mentioned asking your friends, neighbors, church for help, which I agree with. However, I want to challenge you to be purposeful with your requests. This has nothing to do with asking for a “handout”, but instead being honest with people about your situation, what you need, and what you can do in return. For example, telling a neighbor that you are looking for odd jobs or “work trades” to get you and your husband through a temporary rough patch. Just like finding a job, it’s all about networking. People are more inclined to help you when you present yourself as someone who knows times are tough, and is motivated to find a way to get your family past these times. Something like, “Susan, I’m not sure if I’ve talked to you about this yet, but I wanted to let you know that I’m looking for extra odd jobs to do, to help my family get through a temporary rough patch. My husband and I want to make small additional payments to tackle our student loan debt, and I would really appreciate your help with this. What you can do is let your friends and coworkers know that I am available to help them out with small jobs like housecleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, ironing ( etc, whatever). Do you know any moms that work FT outside the home? I know that they can be especially short on time, and I could help them around the house for a couple hours a day so they have more time with their kids. My husband and I are really committed to getting back on track as quickly as possible, and a referral from someone like you will go a long way. Also, if you know anyone who does hair and would be open to it, I would love to get a hair cut/color in exchange for helping them around the house/shop/etc. Susan, I really value our friendship, and I hope you know how much I truly appreciate your help. We’ll be back on our feet soon enough, and even faster with the help of friends like you.”

    You are telling her why you need help, that it is temporary, that you want to fix the rough patch yourself, and you are giving her a specific example of a way that she can help you. Sometimes telling people “I’m looking for extra work, so if you know anyone, let me know” is too vague. Try to find words that tell people specifically what you want, or what you can offer.

    It is not rude to ask for what you need, only to not be grateful when you get it :)

    3. Ok, one more thing! For a date night idea, have you and your husband write letters to your future selves…1, 5, 10 years from now. Try to be really specific about the life you imagine you will have together at those timepoints – do you work? do you have kids? where do you live? where did you just go on vacation? what was the most recent holiday (christmas, anniversary, birthday) like? how are those loans looking? :) what do you love best about your marriage?

    Writing about the hard times in the past will help you to visualize the good times to come, and will motivate you to get there. They will also be super fun to read in the future!

    Now go out there, and get cracking! You’re awesome, you have the prize in sight, and you will put this debt behind you!

  20. says

    Kijiji and Craigslist are a great way of getting rid of any unwanted junk in your home as well as making a couple of extra dollars in the process. For the services you do pay for, like car insurance, changing providers when your contract is up will generally save you money as competition always wants to attract you with a better rate

  21. Olivia says

    We still have our moments even though we’ve been frugal all along. We’ve been married 28 years and have weathered all kinds of economic hits. These have helped us.

    Don’t compare. That’s the hardest, but probably the most valuable. You are not your parents or your friends.

    A written budget. Seeing bills paid off over time is a huge encouragement. Even if it’s only a little nibble at a time. It also helps you focus on something outside yourselves. Paying it off becomes a mutual goal, not a wedge between you.

    Cash only grocery shopping. Any extra paper money goes into the envelope for stocking up.

    Keeping a pantry of loss leaders, staples like pasta, dried beans, or canned peaches. You don’t feel totally crazed if there’s food in the house.

    Giving. Besides the planned stuff. The change jar is our method for giving outside the box. We accumulate grocery change and decide where it will go as a family.

    Budgeted personal mad money money. It used to be $1.25 a week. We could save it if we wanted or buy whatever we want, but there were no strings. I saved mine for yard sale season. It was a release valve during our tightest times. We could also eat out with it if we chose. BOGO coupons or value menus are fun.

    If you have a sewing machine. Cutting down clothes for the kids. I could get heavy poly cotton women’s pants for a quarter and would remake them into simple elastic waisted boys pants, salvaging elastic too. At some ages it’s impossible to find intact boy’s pants at yard sales. Along the same lines, making scrap quilts. There’s something satisfying about taking stuff you’d trash and turning it into something beautiful.

    Homemade cloth napkins. Using ratty t shirts and towels for cleanup rags. We used cloth diapers for the boys and they survived.

    Freecycle. Both the giving and receiving. There are always people worse off.

    A small garden with homemade compost. There is nothing better than a real tomato. Learning to can and freeze.

    Learning to cut hair. Actually any skill set is helpful. If you can do it without paying others it’s a great boon.

    Bringing in pin money. A friend made and sold Christmas cookies for years. Another did handmade chocolates. Our sons had a fudge business and sold to neighbors. They’ve also done yardwork. I’ve done surveys (not much return mind you), odd jobs, sold at yard sales, shopped with loyalty cards and gotten gift cards back (the trick is to only buy when there’s a huge bargain).

    Cutting back. Think critically about needs and wants. Do the CVS game. Use coupons on sale items. Go to dollar stores, especially as they now accept coupons. Rebate.

    Some stabs at foraging. We had wild raspberries growing near an old folks home. Mulberry trees spring up in abandoned fields. A couple years ago I discovered purslane and dandelion growing in our yard. Not the full blown “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” but fun.

    Homecooked meals. Experiment with ethnic cooking. They can be fun and frugal.

    Going to the library. Ours has videos and CD’s for free loan as well as newspapers, magazines, books and books on tape. Plus internet. Some libraries have free programs. Ours have reading times for kids, and book discussion groups, but a neigboring library had seminars, one on college financial aid and another on online genealogical research.

    Reading the Tightwad Gazette gave me tons of ideas on how to shave more from a tight budget. I would never have recycled aluminum foil or ziplock bags without her mentioning it. Reading blogs online as well. There’s a great deal of good information out there.

    Free outdoor concerts, yard sales, walking trails and birdwatching.

    This is on the edge for some. Finding stuff curbside on trash day. I built our sons’ fort almost entirely from salvaged lumber, shingles, nails, hinges……. Found a facsimile edition of Audubon’s “The Birds of America”, a few pieces of wooden furniture, a working floor lamp, etc. for the house. A friend found and gave us an old wooden Victrola case. After a few coats of Old English furniture polish it looks quite spiffy.

    Negotiating rates. Car insurance. Internet service. Finding cheaper phone service. We use Pioneer out of Maine.

    Hope these help. Considering the number of responses, realize you are not alone.

  22. Molly says

    I understand what you are going through. we also have cut out alot of things and are still finding it hard to stay afloat. But, i have found other ways to generate a little bit more income. First of all, i listened to MoneySavingMom and signed up for Swagbucks! Right this second, i won 8 SB just for searching MoneySavingMom.com through thier search engine. I also signed up for RecycleBank.com and MyPoints.com. Also, you might want to try recycling everything you have. We recycle our soda cans (these payout more than the others), our plastics, cardboard and plastic bags. I also set up a recycle box at work to collect our plastics there too. Try MyCokeRewards.com, i have 5 free magazine subcriptions to People, All You (which has coupons in it), Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day & Family Circle, when i am done with those, i recycle them as well. I also got a complete portable DVD Player with my points. If you don’t drink Coke, no problem, find people that do and ask for thier caps, chances are they do not want to take the time to input them into the website. By doing these things you will have eliminated alot of your costs. Yard Sales, anything you can think of to make more income. All you have to do is figure out is what will make you money without alot of hard work. There are alot of simple things to do. I used to do AVon, and Pampered Chef, these things didn’t really work out for me but i had fun doing them, if you are into these things, go for it, you will be bringing in the money. I have found that doing the simpliest things work for me such as recycling, coke points, and point sites, these will not only save you money, but will also make you money also. I hope i helped you a little bit. Thanks to MoneySavingMom.com, i am finding alot of ways to save and be more creative.

  23. says

    I HATE family budget meetings for that very reason! Like Crystal, I’ve racked my brain and attempted quite a few ways to earn extra income. This year, I landed a dream part-time job, but that was just digging financial hole deeper. While I vowed never to sell anything, I also discovered THRIVE foods for my family and took the leap to become an independent consultant. It’s been such a blessing! I get to teach people how to save time & money on their groceries while eating healthier… plus, I’m on track to earn a full-time income! Keep looking, you’ll find something that’s the right fit for you (you’re welcome to check my webiste for more info on my journey & business).

    • Molly says

      I just went into your website for THRIVE, it is very interesting, i will definetly think about hosting or signing up. I live in Texas, so i am more than sure there is no one here to do a party for me. I will look into it more and maybe this could be something that i could do.

      • says

        Ooo… perhaps we’re alike in more than one way! I hate sounding like such a salesman, but this is truly a risk-free business… you buy food for yourself and if you want, share it with others. There are no minimums/costs/quotas! The company runs on Christian values and gives 5% off the top to charity. I truly LOVE this…and wish I had discovered it 2 years ago before I had to take a job out of the home.

        If you’d like, please send me your info and I’ll mail you some samples to try for yourself or to host a taste testing :) lazygreenmama at gmail

        • Molly says

          I just emailed you my address, i had to do it from work, cause the internet on my phone is not working, thanks a bunch, i look forward to the samples!

  24. Natalie Butts says

    We are the working poor, go to food banks for a little help, we have community clothing giveaways too. I also garage sell and buy things like books and games that I resell for a profit on Amazon. Watch Craigslist first for stuff you need to purchase for a lot cheaper. Cut coupons it’s amazing how much you can save or get for free. If you have an extra room and are close to a college possibly rent it out to them. If you still live in the area you went to college, check at Alumni perks, free bus use etc. see if someone lives close to you from work and maybe car pool saving gas. Good Luck and God Bless

  25. Alicia says

    Our family lives very frugally, but with all our debt we didn’t feel like we were getting anywhere. We were paying more in debt than we were in rent. We put whatever we could into debt, but were barely making more than minimum payments. Then we were given $1000 by some family. Then we got a good size income tax return after our daughter was born. We had been giving pretty much everything we needed for her (even cloth diapers!), and instead of getting some new things or taking a vacation, we put it right into the credit card. After paying off the credit card, we put the minimum payment for that onto the smallest student loan. It was paid off several months later, and now we’ve added that loan’s minimum payment to the next smallest loan. It’s really helped us to realize that what we’re doing is making a difference, especially when it seemed like there wasn’t anything else we could cut out of the budget. We used the extra income (gifts, tax return, etc.) to gain some traction with the snowball plan so that now we’re paying the same amount on loans as before, but more of it goes toward the principal.