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

These are such simple ways to cut your budget, even when it feels like there's absolutely 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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132 Comments

  • Erin says:

    Be encouraged Ambrosia! My husband and I married two years ago with about 25,000 in debt from his college loans. We have minimal income jobs and didn’t have extra to cut. We just paid our last bit off. I can not tell you where the money came from except God provided. We ended up selling our good vehicle and driving something less expensive. We also prayed and asked God for extra opportunities, and he provided. He brought opportunities out of no where and provided. God honors financially responsibility, just as you are doing. Be so proud of what you are working for. It’s honorable. It can be so overwhelming. I would be in tears feeling we would never be able to get ahead. We arent necessarily ahead but we have paid our loans off, thankful to God. I will be praying for you, hang in there!

  • Great post! I totally can relate. Extra income for us has taken the shape of me housecleaning for my mom-in-law, getting kid clothing items cheap/free at garage sales or on freecycle.net and then reselling them for more on eBay, selling items we don’t need/use on Craigslist, hosting a garage sale last weekend, offering to babysit for other mom’s who work, taking advantage of any free offers here on moneysavingmom.com or elsewhere, writing freelance for Helium.com, and whatever else I can find. Keep being wise in your spending and you’ll start to cut back on debt, too. I try to resist the urge to stop and get a soda or coffee when I’m driving around town, and instead make myself a cup of coffee at home. That’s one little example of where I choose each day to sacrifice a want to save money. God bless!

  • Alysia says:

    I feel bad that Ambrosia doesn’t buy new clothes or get her hair done….because going without for so long can make us feel hopeless. Life’s little pleasures don’t always have to cost money, but often they do. I agree, that getting your income up is going to be key. Also, I’m not sure if your tight money situation is temporary (due to being in school, a job loss, etc), but if it is, could you move in with a family member while you get on your feet?

    • I think a lot of it depends on your mindset. My ‘new’ clothes come from yardsales, goodwill or friends. I’ve been cutting my, my husband’s and my daughter’s hair for years and years…but when we are doing those things, they bring me joy because they are part of the reason we can afford for me to stay home with our daughter – that is completely worth it to me. 🙂

    • Rachael says:

      If you really want a haircut, which for me does really help my overall mood, Great Clips often has sales for $7.99. Or, check out a local beauty school which also offers really cheap haircuts. I used to get my nails done once a month, but I just spend about $5 on some good nail polish and this also helped me feel happier!

  • Rachael says:

    First off, get that student loan refinanced. Interest rates are low right now, so call up Sallie Mae and talk to someone. That will save you a bundle. And when you pay on time for 3 years, they drop your interest by 1% (automatic payment sure helps here).

    And I know it goes against a lot of advice, but don’t be afraid to arrange a lower payment on a low interest loan (likely with a longer repayment time) so that you can do other things with that money (retirement savings? emergency fund? savings for the rainy day?)

    • I agree! Refinance it for a lower rate!

    • Jen says:

      I graduated as a Physical Therapist Assistant in December with federal student loan debt at 6.8%. There is no way to refinance federal student loans, and they can only be consolidated once. If anyone else knows of any way to do it, I’d sure like to hear about it, as this is a topic I’ve researched hard and long. She could do a Pay As You Earn repayment plan, where the DOE will adjust the payment according to income. I’ve found the DOE website helpful, as well as a loan snowball calculator website, where it tells you how much you save by paying more than the principal each month.

      • Sarah says:

        Agreed, Jen – Federal student loans are not getting lower than 6.8% right now. My husband has a loan from 10+ years ago and it is at an awesome 3.2%! When we tried to get mine that low, we were basically told that no one is getting lower than 6.8%. You can apply for all kinds of assistance with it – lower payments due to unemployment, income level, or hardships…but eventually it all has to be repaid . Oh, the things I know NOW — I never would have taken a loan!!

      • Erin says:

        Is it possible to take out a lower interest loan and pay off the student if it isn’t possible to refinance the student loan?

        • Katie says:

          You can use a lower interest rate personal loan–but then you can deduct the interest paid when you file your taxes. The savings may still be advantageous; you just have to do the math.

      • ann says:

        My husband just started working for one of the major student loan companies. Even if you can’t refinance, talk to loan company. My husband and his team have the focus of preventing people from defaulting (and working with those who have). The customer service dept. should do everything they can to help. That may be by lowering your interest rate or another arrangement. Call them!! 🙂

        • Kate says:

          My fiance and I are currently in the process of paying off my student loans as I just graduated last May from college. I have federal loans (that I received starting in 2010), and my interest rate is no where NEAR 6.8! I have an average of 3.7 as one loan is 3.2 and the other is 4.something. Definitely call and see what you can do…hopefully something in your circumstances can help it to get lowered. We are being very aggressive in paying ours off– we are going ‘without’ on a lot of things: eating out, expensive entertainment, long trips, coffee out, brand new clothes, professional haircuts, movie rentals (that cost), expensive groceries (i.e. not a lot of meat!), buying ‘things’, using extra electricity, etc. Sure– some days it seems like we’re doing a lot and only saving a little— and sure, some other people think we’re crazy, but we trust God and know that it IS working. If other people think our financial plan is weird, we are on the right track. (Thanks, Dave Ramsey!)

          Best of luck– it’ll work out! We are getting married in 2.5 months and have paid cash for everything and are keeping costs very, very low. We are honeymooning in Michigan where a family friend has a cottage, rather than spending a lot on somewhere tropical. What matters to us is that we are together and that we have some time with each other to have fun…the expense and fancy stuff just doesn’t appeal to us anymore.

          I will keep you in my prayers!! 🙂 PS– in addition to MSM, seriously…check out The Prudent Homemaker! She is the BEST and has some of the most wonderful recipes and inspiration.

          Blessings,
          Kate

  • We’ve dealt with this for a long time. The last 5 years have ben the hardest, with an income decrease of 75% (and the first half of last year we had a 90% cut in income).

    I actually have a planned blog post on this same subject that is mostly written 🙂

    One thing I’ve learned, over and over and over again these last 5 years, is that there is ALWAYS something more to cut–even $5 a month here or .20 there. It does make a difference. During this time of income loss we had several hospital bills as well, and we just finished paying those all off, despite the income decreases. I’m glad we went without; it has allowed us to stay in our home and pay off those bills.

    For you hair, see if your husband will cut it for you. Mine started cutting mine 5 1/2 years ago and I am so glad. I cut my husband’s and we cut the children’s hair as well.

    I don’t have a cell phone. We don’t go out to eat. We are a one-car family, and I stay home 5-7 days a week. I lowered our grocery bill and then lowered it again. I learned to feed my family for .40 per person per day. I made more soups and ate more beans. We have dates at home (we usually play cards with some old cards that my parents gave me).

    I know that you can pay those loans off. It takes time, and it takes sacrifice, but it can be done!

    • Brandi says:

      I hear you there! I noticed that it didn’t say you have kids. I am wondering if you have a job. If not, could you maybe substitute at a school in the fall? Subs make about $80/day in Illinois and small schools desperately need them Also, look in your newspaper. There will be babysitting and tutoring jobs available this summer, as parents want their students to succeed, rather than fall behind over summer vacation. An average tutoring wage is $10-$20/hr depending on where you live. Tutoring is something you may be able to fit in around a job, too. What are you good at? Figure out ways you can make income doing those things. You can do it! I just got my dream job (after waiting 3 years) and am realizing it is going to cost a lot to move there. We are cutting everything except milk and bread and living off of what we have on our shelves. Our meals are getting a bit different, but food is food and we will be ok. Don’t be afraid to be extreme for awhile to get ahead!

    • This lady’s site – The Prudent Homemaker – will bless you up one side and down the other. Do check it out if you haven’t already. She and Crystal have such wonderful approaches and experience that will encourage you and help you through this time!

      http://www.theprudenthomemaker.com

  • Keren says:

    I can relate to where you are now, Ambrosia, having been in a similar situation myself. Early in our marriage my husband and I were living off of $18,000 a year at one point, my husband busy with work and school, no gov’t help, and unfortunately some school loans, as well.

    It’s hard to know specific ways to help without knowing your circumstances, but I definitely recommend trying to find additional ways to bring in some extra income, even if it is just temporary. But working extra hard for a month or two can really help to bring in just enough of a “cushion” to help you feel like you are going somewhere, and it can be empowering enough to carry you on to the next stage.

    When we were in the above situation, we began to look online for jobs we could do from home. Writing was something both my husband and I could do (and if this is something you can do, these will pay off far more than the time that it takes to do an internet survey, etc…), and now my husband works full-time+ remotely doing jobs we “found on the Internet.” (Craigslist jobs is a great place to look, or if you are a writer, you could sign up on Textbroker.)

    There’s also the consideration of finding alternative housing? Are you renting? Could you live with your mom/family temporarily and save up some additional funds. On the flip side, if doing so brings in even further discouragement and difficulty, it may not be worth it in the long run.

    I don’t know if you have children, have full-time employment, or what your living conditions may be, as those will obviously play into what you can do. But don’t stop enjoying life. Read books, books on business, books on entrepreneurship. Crystal posts a good number of free audio and e-books–there are so many available for free. Grow your passions and learn about as much as you can, and then put it into action. What do you enjoy doing? Is there a way you can turn that into bringing in some extra income?

    Looking back, I’m thankful for the way our time of financial difficulty pushed us to find a lot of options that would have likely been overlooked had we not been so “desperate.” At the same time, I know it’s rough to be where you are now, especially looking at life from that perspective. I will pray for you tonight!

  • Heather says:

    First try to see in the future a bit: Is your situation likely to improve in a few years (ie., through a raise, promotion, loans paid off, etc.)? If you can see light at the end of the tunnel, then focus on that. But if there is no prospect of greater income/less expenses, then definitely plan on increasing your income. Maybe a second part-time job just to have some more wiggle room in the budget. Even taking out education loans to go back to school might be worth it.

  • jenny says:

    I’ve been in a similar position and it can be discouraging. But take heart, it sounds like your doing everything right, and it will lead to something better in the future. Are you a renter? Some landlords will offer lower rent for signing a longer lease. I was paying wayyy too much in rent but couldn’t find the money to move. Finally I figured out that I could move to an apartment offering the first month free- allowing me to use that month’s rent to pay for the moving costs. And then, from then on I saved a few hundred dollars each month on rent. If your not a renter I know sometimes homeowners can negotiate lower interest rates.

  • Sandy says:

    I would look into refinancing your student loan(s). 6.8% is high. Plus, I think there is a loan forgiveness after 10 years if your husband works for a non-for-profit organization.Not 100% sure on that but, I do believe I have that correct. Would be worth looking into. Best wishes!

  • Lyndsay Withey says:

    I am in the same boat you are except we have hardly any income. The best way that I found to stretch our budget was that any time I found change I put it in the bank in a separate account with no way of withdrawing that money except going to the bank in person. At the end of the month before my check gets deposited any money that is left over goes into that account no matter if it is 5 dollars or .50 cents. That is how we have built up our emergency fund.

    We also do batch cooking and freezer cooking. I love having 5 meals ready to go before the week starts.

  • Sunny says:

    It sounds like this reader needs to look into consolidating their loans. They should be able to get a rate of 5 percent or less. There are many comapanies that do it, and it is free and hassle free. Further, 6 months of on-time payments and automatic payments lower interest rates by as much as half a percent. Good luck. Debt stinks.

  • Kelly A. says:

    If you haven’t already, budget and account for every cent spent. Keep every receipt and make note of how much you are spending and in what areas. Maybe you already are, I’m not sure, but this really helps.

    Have you thought of, or have you already contacted the loan company to see if there is a way to lower your interest and or offer & compromise on the amount that your husband owes on his loan? Some companies are willing to do this.

    Most of all, don’t lose hope or motivation. Things will indeed get better. Ask God to show you joy in the midst of this difficult season. God Bless!

    • I’ll second writing down everything you spend – and I do mean everything!

      Even if you feel you can’t cut anything more, there’s usually something and even that 10 cent cup of coffee from the break room at work adds up – 50 cents a week at a cup a day. In a year that’s $26 – enough to get your hair cut with a coupon, start an emergency fund, or to put a little extra on the loans.

      You don’t need to keep track forever but we found that a month was just right to figure out spending patterns and cut if necessary!

      Lea

  • Ambrosia, I don’t know if you can call this ‘advice’, but here are some ways I am able to bring in a little extra. I am at home with our daughter, homeschooling, and my husband’s work schedule changes all the time (sometimes he’s on nights), so something like offering child care isn’t an option for me. Still, I have found some things that help.

    I do swagbucks some. It’s not a lot, but it pays for vacuum cleaner bags, some TP, things like that. I sign up for freebies – some of them are groceries, so they help too. I do surveys with Pinecone Research, and that’s actual cash – not a lot, but it will add up over time.

    I sub at my old job. I was a ‘story lady’ in the library district, but also trained for reference desk and general information and circulation. I can sub if it’s a short shift (3 hours or less) where I can bring my daughter (she is 7 and can stay near me reading or working on school work) or on days when my husband is home, I can work a long shift. I won’t drive far for a short shift, but there is a library just 5 minutes from my house, and there are lots of times when they just need someone for a couple hours. It’s win-win.

    I do library programs. I am paid as a performer, which is much higher than the hourly rate I made/make when I worked there/sub. We live on a little hobby farm, which is what makes this work for me. I take in some of our very tame animals and do programs for children and families. I do programs with chickens in Feb/Mar, ducks in Apr/May and bunnies in June/July. Obviously, this doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a big income source for me and it involves stuff I already knew/know how to do. Look at your past – is there a way to turn something you already know into a side job?

    I score standardized tests from home. It is seasonal, and the company I do it for (I don’t know about all of them) requires a bachelor’s degree. They have online training, online practice, online qualification, then they pay per piece. They say that you can plan to make about $12 an hour scoring. I have been doing it for 4 years now, and my rate/accuracy is high, so I make more than that. Remember the tests where we all had to fill in those little circles? That part gets graded by a computer, but the essay questions, math questions, the stuff for science that had to be written out or diagrammed – those all have to be scored by hand(screen). It is very seasonal, but it fits in with the other things I do that are also seasonal. The company I score for is Pearson, and I have had a very good experience with them each year.

    When I have time, I make/sell jewelry, greeting cards, etc. I enjoy this sort of thing and I have a lot of ‘stuff on hand’ so it doesn’t cost me. If you’re not already into something like this, startup can be expensive and I wouldn’t recommend it. But if you have stuff you can make/sell, do!

    Also, if you have stuff sitting around that you don’t use anymore, put it on craigslist. Start with your dream price…you’ll be amazed how much sells at that price. Mark it down a little each week (cancel the old ad, wait a day, put up a new ad with the new lower price) until it sells or bottoms out. Wait a couple weeks and re-list. By doing this, my daughter has had toys and clothes that were free to us. We bought them gently used, played with/wore them, then sold them gently used for the same amount…sometimes more.

    I barter things with friends, and I garden, and I do some canning and I cook from scratch and all that fun stuff too. We get our entertainment from the library, all that stuff that you learn from sites and blogs like this one.

    I would just encourage both you and your spouse to add one thing. If you’re both already working outside the home, do some surveys or swagbucks at night after work. If one of you can pick up something part-time – especially temporary, so you don’t burn out – give it a try and see if it works for you. Work at a greenhouse during early garden season….work concessions at weekend events in your area….find something that appeals to you somehow and ask about it. I’ve always been amazed at what I can learn or do just because I asked.

    I hope that something from my little list blesses you!

    -Laura at TenThingsFarm

    • Jenny says:

      Laura, that’s a treasure of great income opp suggestions!

      • Crystal says:

        Great Ideas! I’m very curious about scoring the tests. I did this one summer after I graduated college, but we had to go to a secure location with no windows all day. I’m definitely going to look into this! Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve got 4 tabs open to look into all the things you suggested!

  • Erin says:

    I was listening to Dave Ramsey’s radio show the other day and someone (if I recall correctly, she was a stay at home mom) asked essentially the same question and described the same scenario. His answer: “You have don’t have a budget problem, you have an income problem.” He went on to suggest ways to increase their income. He suggested she could watch children or clean houses or office buildings on the side. Also, from my budget experience, its the biggest expenses– usually housing and car payments– that are the real budget breakers. It seems like all the scrimping and eliminating in other areas can’t make up for being house poor. A good rule of thumb is no more than 25-35% of your income go toward rent or mortgage and utilities. Ambrosia didn’t mention this area of her budget… but is there a way you can cut back or downsize here?

    • Lizbeth says:

      Great advice Erin! I hope Ambrosia is doing a zero based budget too and the envelope system, its easier and guilt-free to find a small amount of “personal and clothing money” this way as well. I think that’s extremely important, getting out of debt isn’t easy, but even Dave says you need to spend a little on yourself just for your long term morale.

  • me says:

    Are the loans private loans? Do you have savings? How are you paying your loans? It may be better to split the monthly payment into weekly or biweekly payments to try and gain on them.

    This will probably be shunned, but I’ve had friends in similar situations where they took credit card balance transfers of a percentage of their debt at 0% to try and make some headway on them. That worked out pretty well. Doing that also moves the debt to non student loan debt and would allow you to declare bankruptcy at some point and move beyond student loans (SL aren’t forgiven in bankruptcy).

  • Rowena says:

    Yep been there done that, came out the other side. If you really can’t make any more cuts in your expenses then you need to look at your income. Sell stuff you no longer need on Ebay, if you truly don’t have anything like that then ask your friends/family if they have “junk” they want to get rid of and split the proceeds.

    Browse the categories on Fiverr and see if you can offer your own gig. Can you write to a reasonable standard? Someone mentioned helium.com – there are other freelance sites out there too. In the past I’ve made $250-300 for writing 30 page ebooks on elance.com. Not bad for a couple of days work. Heck, as I’m writing these words I see a link to a post on this site about downloading a free ebook about selling on Amazon. Why not read that, you never know where these things can lead to!

    God bless

  • Julie says:

    I would look into a deferment. While my husband was working on his Masters degree(only one class a semester) we found out his loans were put in deferment. They went to 0 percent interest and we didn’t have to pay them. We still paid them and every little extra bit of money we had we put towards them. We were able to pay them off 6 years early, his company had paid for the classes he took, and his new degree earned him a higher paying job. It was a win-win situation for our family although it was hard for my husband to work and go to school.

    • Emily says:

      Loans can only be in deferment if the person is still a student (a student working on an advanced degree will automatically have his/her loans placed in deferment). Her husband could request for his loans to be in temporary forbearance, but they couldn’t be deferred unless he was still a student of some kind.

      • Jennifer says:

        There is also economic deferment, that they could maybe apply for.

        • B says:

          forbearance, but interest still accrues.

          • Jacqui says:

            There is both a deferment and a forbearance for economic hardship, at least if you have your loans directly through the federal government. You can defer it for six months, but only 3 times. No interest accrues. After that, you can apply for forbearance, where interest does accrue. I did both when I lost my job while I was pregnant several years ago.

  • celina says:

    Remember if you are not going BACKWARDS, you are progressing and be proud of that….

    running in place is frustrating…but better than the alternative..use all these great ideas to make headway…Crystal has a great post about peanut butter sandwhiches (and it’s not quite about the sandwhiches..lol) take ONE month and live BARE BONES>..like really, water only…pbj for meals…eggs for meals….cheap cheap cheap….and that should allow you a little cushion…and maybe that cushion can allow you to snowball and make other headway

  • Jenny says:

    #1 Gratitude Journal- There are many people who don’t have a warm place to sleep or anything to eat today. Being grateful for what we have helps when we’re feeling down about all that we don’t have.
    #2 Big Dreams- Purposeful living is where its at. Knowing that your sacrifices now will bring you abundance later is the key to living well on less.
    #3 Increase Income- Seek it out. You may not find it but if you’re actively looking for ways to bring in more income He brings it from another source, guaranteed. It may not be in the way you expect it or on the timeline you planned but I assure you if you hold steady and work for it then all your needs and some of your wants will be provided.

    Hang in there!

  • Victoria says:

    I am 100% with the increase the size of the shovel point. When you have cut back everything the only way to dig yourself out faster is to get a bigger shovel. Yard sale season is just starting in my area and is full swing in others. I would recommend studying on line or through a book at the library how to sell things effectively on eBay and Craigslist for a profit. Start with selling something you already own and then use that buy things for profit. Make sure to always pay back your initial “buy stock” fund and then use the profits to pay down the debt. I did this one year just 3 to 4 hours a week, and made enough money to pay for all my children’s swimming lessons, soccer, and homeschool activities. If you put more time into it than that it could be a big shovel. The key is to get creative, I often bought things that were dirty or in need of repair for low low prices, took the time to clean and fix them and made amazing profits.

  • Sara says:

    I am not sure if you have car loan. Seem everyone in America thinks they have to drive a new car. Well don’t. Put the money you have for a car loan into an account. Pay cash for your auto. That will free up money. I live on a farm in which we rent. Because it is out of town my rent is cheeper. And I am allowed to plant gardens. With five kids this makes it nice for canning. My kids help pick everything there are 5 of them so things tend to get done quickly. We also have connections to farmers where my teen boys help them due farm duties and get paid. This is the money that the kids use on shoes or what they think is important. I do make them save half of what they earn. We cut our own hair. I even play the drug store game to purchase household items. We have a farmer who we buy beef, chicken, and pork from. I do this at tax time. Many meals come from our garden. I also use blogs as a way to find better sales. Dont dispair! God Says PRAY WITHOUT CEASING! This is how you will make it through your tough time. God has and will always be my guide. I do not think my hubby and I will ever be rich or well to do but I do know that I am already richer for the tough times. Read Job. Your problems will not seem so bad. I will pray for you.

  • This may seem like a silly tip, but it saves me a lot of money. Use vinegar! I use it as fabric softener, to clean, and I use a bit of it mixed with water as a fruit/veggie wash. I have also heard that you can use it as a hair conditioner. Sometimes it’s these little tips that can add up and save a lot of money. Look around online – there are so many creative ways you can save that you might not have thought of before. Hang in there! Things will get better! =0)

  • Lauren Patterson says:

    I use Swagbucks to “make money” to buy things we need at Target, Amazon, etc. I was hesitant at first to try it but it is worth it. I can watch the videos and make the points easily. I have my computer on and turn the videos on while I do housework. I can clean the living room and watch 20+ videos while I do it. I also research things online for my kids when they have a question I don’t know. That can add quite a bit of points quickly. And, although it takes longer for the points to show up, I will use the coupons that apply to our family to make extra points here and there.

    I shop online quite a bit because we are a one car family so I also use ebates.com and I make sure and sign up for things like 25% off everything at LifeWay or Family bookstore, free offers where you pay for shipping only, sales at Hobby Lobby/JoAnn/craft stores with free shipping, Bed, Bath, and Beyond’s 20% off coupon with free shipping on items I need, etc.

    I also cook from scratch and buy produce from local farmers/farmers markets. I use the crockpot a lot and make meals that use 2 chicken breasts for 2-3 meals. And, we use a farm co-op to get most of our food. We pay one price at the beginning of each month and then order each week based on what we need. That way, we rarely go to the grocery store and aren’t as tempted to spend more when we go :0) If I do need to go to the store, I use coupons.

    Sometimes, you can call your insurance companies and ask for a lower rate on car and home insurance. Or, find a company that offers a lower rate and switch. Some companies will ask what you are paying at your current provider and then will give you a lower rate if you switch to them. Just make sure you get the same (or better) coverage so that you know it’s worth the switch!

    As far as clothes, you can find some nice things at consignment stores, thrift stores, and yard sales. I never buy shoes that others have worn because I have a thing about feet….I don’t like my own feet, let alone someone else’s! But, you can also find used books, appliances, etc for good prices that don’t cost an arm and a leg! We have a thrift store we frequent regularly when we’re back home that has VERY nice things because it is next to the “rich” side of town and the women and men who donate stuff there are getting rid of name brand clothes that have been taken care of.

    You’re not alone in your struggle. Remember that God is with you and He sees your struggle and sacrifice. He loves you and is blessing you even during this difficult stage in your life.

  • Susan says:

    Don’t give up! It took three years of watching every penny for my family to start moving in the right direction. It was long. It was tough. We learned so much along the way though and those lessons will be treasured for the rest of our lives because knowledge once gained can’t be taken away.

  • Carrie says:

    There is a bunch of great suggestions here. I would like to add to watch your utilities also.
    *I unplug my microwave, electronics, etc. whenever I don’t need them on.
    *Try going to bed earlier, so you don’t need to use lights.
    *Line dry your clothes.
    *Check your tax withholding. Is there a way you can make it so you have more money in your paycheck and less of a refund?
    *Sell everything you can think of.
    *Let people know you are willing to do extra jobs. Word of mouth is where you will get the most leads.

    Every little bit helps.

  • Jessica says:

    Ask around for things you need. Can you glean someone’s fruit trees? Care for someone’s garden this summer while they’re on vacation, and keep the ripe produce for yourself during that time? Can you house sit for vacationers- collect their mail, mow the yard while they’re away, for a small fee? Can you get people to give you their food that might expire while they’re on vacation- even if it’s a few apples and half a loaf of bread? Does your church offer assistance like food and toiletries? Can you help an older person with chores in exchange for a fee or for food?
    One summer I worked at a berry farm during peak berry season. I picked berries (and you could eat as you picked but that slowed you down, though the berries tasted good fresh off the bush!). I’ve done that, I’ve participated in clinical research studies and focus groups, I’ve waitressed, I’ve even worked as a “model” for the nursing school’s students to learn how to do pelvic exams. Free pap smear and I earned a small stipend!
    Can you pick up a shift or two as a waitress? Do summer lawn and garden care? Work for a summer rec program? Do garage sales for people who don’t have the time/inclination to do it themselves (and take a commission)?

    • Carrie says:

      Jessica,

      I really like your attitude. When the going gets tough, you obviously get going. It is so nice to hear comments like your’s about doing something about the situation, rather than waiting for others to help you.

  • Mama Green says:

    Big hugs to you! I’ve been there before when my husband was unemployed for about 8 months, and truthfully things are pretty tight for us now.

    Lots of people have mentioned ways to bring in extra income, so that’s been covered…..I just wanted to encourage you to reach out to your friends for strength and encouragement. I’ve found so many people are in the same boat with us, church and work friends alike. We pool resources a lot and pass around clothing, berry-pick together, garden together, and just lift each other up. We’ve organized “swap parties” so we could get our shopping fix, and have weekly potluck dinners so the kids can play and we share food. Doing this alone can be very isolating and depressing; doing it with friends makes the journey much more bearable.

    If you don’t have many friends, I encourage you to reach out……church is a great place to start, but getting involved in other community play groups or other activities too.

  • Rachelle says:

    We live along a highway, in the spring my daughter and I collect pop cans for scrap and any bottles that can be turned in for the deposit refund. It’s not a big $ maker but we make a little for not much effort. In our last house we were in a neighborhood that had recycling and neighbors would set out large sacks full of pop cans, they would give them to us if we just asked.

  • Anne says:

    When we were in a similar situation a couple of years ago, my husband worked a second job at Target a couple of nights a week and on the weekend. They offer a 10% employee discount (as do a lot of these types of stores). The discount combined with using the 5% Target Red Card discount, and combined with coupons saved a tremendous amount of money on groceries and other items such as diapers. He also donates plasma twice a week, which brings in $60 a week. At BioLife, where he donates, they offer free child care, so if you have young children at home, this could be a way to bring in some money without having to pay for childcare. This makes a huge dent in our grocery money, even sometimes paying for the entire bill. These are often really tough sacrifices, but have ultimately helped us stay afloat.

  • Lori says:

    My family went through several years of hardship as well, so I wanted to encourage you. Now that we are on the other side of it, I can see the blessings that came from this season – even though they were never obvious while we were going through it. Philip Yancey said “I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse”. It’s so true. This challenging time will eventually be in the past, even though it may be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel right now. Every day you are one step closer to turning the corner. 🙂 Here are some blessings that came from our dark days:
    1) We are closer as a family because we know we can survive anything.
    2) We are stronger. There isn’t much we are afraid of, because most challenges pale in comparison to what we have already walked through.
    3) We are less judgmental. We know people are not defined by their darkest days.
    4) We are equipped to help others, because we have firsthand knowledge of what they are going through.
    5) We value every dollar in a way we never did before. This is a quality we can pass on to our children and grandchildren.

    I know your question was regarding what to cut back on, but I wanted to encourage you that these days won’t last forever, and they will serve to strengthen you for the rest of your life. You will be in our prayers Ambrosia! Hugs!

  • anonymous says:

    I apologize if this is a repeat suggestion, I don’t have time to read through all the comments, but have you checked about getting your interest rate lowered on your loans? Our student loans are around 3%. Whoever holds them may just do it for you if you are in good standing.

  • AmazonsRock says:

    As much as it may be a hit to our prideful natures, assistance programs exist for families who are struggling for any number of reasons. This may be a season of life where you receive FoodStamps or Medicaid coverage. Freeing up the existing income that is currently going to those expenses could be applied to debt repayment and/or creating an emergency fund.

    When you find yourself on more solid ground, that can be the time you gift to others by donating to food banks, volunteering at shelters, etc.

    As for income options, many communities have scrap metal recycling that goes beyond aluminum. Aluminum cans add up, and adding in other metals will build up the “spare change” jar even faster. In fact, that’s often why you’ll see people picking up mattresses and couches left out on the curb.

    When we were looking at ways to cut all expenses possible, we cut out greeting cards. We send e-cards (including photo cards!) for almost all occasions. When an e-card isn’t an option, we turn the kids’ art projects into one-of-a-kind cards.
    We also cut out wrapping paper. If we don’t re-use gift bags we’ve received, we wrap the gift in comics, fabric remnants with ribbon ties, the scrapbook paper that didn’t end up being right for the layout, etc.

    Lastly, take advantage of Joann, Hobby Lobby, and Michael’s dollar sections and the weekly 40% off coupons. I’ve found bandaids, socks, soap/shampoo/conditioner, nail polish, hand sanitizer, snacks, picture frames, straws, sandwich bags, flip flops, etc in the bins. By pairing these full-price $1 items with a 40% off coupon, my out of pocket cost is $.60 plus tax.

  • Anonymous says:

    I haven’t read everyone’s post but my suggestion would be to tell friends/church that you want to earn a little extra income. They may have ideas for you. Also there are some people who are more than willing to help people that are struggling. Many of us have been in your shoes so we know what its like. Pray Ambrosia and God will guide. I will be praying for you.

  • Pam says:

    I have a daughter who was in your shoes. She was finished with school and her husband was still in school. When she confessed to me that she had been using cc’s to get by I knew something had to be done.
    I am proud to say that my daughter is one smart cookie, she knew she could not continue the way they were living and did not want us to keep bailing them out with money she could not pay back. The answer was for them to move home for a year. This allowed for a few things to happen. They managed to pay all their outstanding debt, this did not include their student loans but they did pay some of it down and consolidated them into a managable chunk. It also allowed them to buy their own home. Sounds like a huge burden but really not so much. Rents here are high and owning your own home is actually cheaper than renting, so much so that the money they save monthly pays some of the student loan payment and gives them some to put away for home repairs.

    I know this sounds drastic but it’s happening more and more in our economy and it changed their lives. He graduating from school this year with a job lined up with a pay increase, they have their finances in control, and they are now ready to start their own family. They still watch every penny but now they know life can get better.

  • Amy H. says:

    If you don’t have children and have an extra room you could consider renting out that room to lower your rent. Check your local laws and regulations, but it’s an easy way to save a bundle if you have the means.

    Sell stuff. Take clothes to a thrift store that offers in-store credit to use for future purchases.

    Make a written budget and go to cash only. It may seem like you’re not overspending, but a dollar here and there at the store adds up quickly. Cash will keep you in check for that.

    Turn off the heat/ac – it’s that time of year where climate control is really not necessary. If it starts to get warm utilize ceiling fans.

    Stop using paper towels. A washcloth or hand towel works just as well, if not better. The cost of laundering is minimal comparatively.

    Hang clothes for drying.

    Wash dishes by hand – or at least turn off the drying cycle. You can open the dishwasher after the cycle is done and let them air dry.

    Do oil changes and minimal car maintenance yourself. It’s not difficult to do and I’ll bet you have a friend that could show you how.

    Find store bought products you could make yourself. Instead of a can of soup, try making it yourself. Homemade bread is much cheaper than store bought. There are a lot of recipes online for homemade convenience items, like brownie mix or baking mix (like Bisquick).

    Remember to enjoy the moment, too. Try not to worry too much about how long it will take or trying to see the end of the tunnel. It’s difficult, but even minimal progress is still progress. That’s something to celebrate!

  • Carrie says:

    I agree with many of the others who say there has to be an income increase somewhere.

    We lived for quite a few years in a similar situation. You can only cut a budget where there is wiggle room and if there is no wiggle room left, you simply cannot cut to produce more money.

    I would start to look for ways to earn money. If you have children, could you work at a daycare that provides free childcare for your children? Baby-sit from your home? House clean or wait tables in the evenings a few nights a week? Be an evening or weekend grocery store clerk?

    I really wanted to be able to stay home and not have a job but it didn’t work out that way. I wish I would have done it a lot sooner — instead we had a few years of pinching things that couldn’t really be pinched and it was too stressful.

    I only had to work a couple of years and now I am in the position that I know longer have to, for which I am grateful. Those couple of years of working allowed us to pay off some of our debt and we no longer carry such a heavy load. It was totally worth it.

    Thinking of you!

  • kate says:

    The question doesn’t read like you have kids, so I am going to assume that you don’t. You both need to maximize your income. That means full- and part-time jobs for both of you.

    For your full-time jobs – what is your income? Are you underpaid for the job that you do and the experience and education that you have? When was the last time you got a raise? If it’s been awhile, make a list of your accomplishments and sit down with your boss to ask for a one, and make an argument about why you deserve it. The worst he can say is “no.” Can you take on additional responsibilities or get a promotion? Is there another job opportunity within the organization that you would be interested in and that would pay better? Is there additional schooling, training, or certification opportunity for your current job that would justify a higher salary? If so, start studying. (If your employer offers some kind of tuition reimbursement for that, so much the better.) If opportunites for advancement don’t exist with your current employer, look for a new one.

    As far as part-time income, there have been a lot of comments about how to cobble together some extra income – selling things on eBay, babysitting, collecting cans, etc – but don’t forget to look for actual jobs as well. Does your primary job have opportunites for overtime? If not, see what stores or companies nearby are hiring, and get hired. If your primary job is M-F 9-5, you should be able to work a few extra evenings per week and all day either Saturday or Sunday and maybe get an additional 20 hours a week. Maybe you can find a part-time job that has useful perks – employee discounts for things you need to buy anyway, free food if you work in food service, opportunites to glean, etc.

    As far as cutting costs, it sounds like you have the small things under control (cable, food, extras), but look at the big things. Are you overpaying for housing? Consider moving or taking in a roommate. Are you overpaying for transportation? Do you have two cars? Do you need two cars? Maybe you can get by with one car and a bicycle, or maybe you don’t need a car at all. Maybe you can trade in a more expensive car for something cheap but reliable. Are you paying for health insurance or other benefits? Maybe you can find a job that offers benefit coverage. Maybe there is a less expensive plan that would meet your needs – if you’re relatively healthy, maybe you just need a low-payment, catastrophic plan. Look at your insurance coverage – maybe your current carrier offers discounts that you don’t know about, or maybe you can find a better rate with another carrier (I would caution against shopping your coverage too frequently – there are benefits to having a long-term relationship with a carrier – but that doesn’t mean you have to stay forever with a carrier that’s too expensive). Are you paying fees at your bank? If so, you need a new bank or credit union. Maybe you can garden and grow some of your food to save money.

    Finally, don’t have kids yet. I know this will be controversial, and I know there are sometimes extenuating circumstances, and there are people who can make it work, and there are “surprises.” But adding kids to a situation where money is this tight can be a recipe for financial disaster. Kids are expensive. If you can wait a few years until you are on more solid financial footing before adding kids, it will be so much easier, not just now but for the rest of your lives.

  • Martina says:

    Do you have to chance to grow your own veggies and fruits? Even if its in containers on a balcony or porch, or ask neighbors who have a garden if the could share some of their produce. My family is in the same boat… but a garden helped us still to have food on the table without spending a lot of money.

  • If you can’t find a way to save more money, then try to find a way to make more money. Refinance that loan. Put any tax refunds toward your debt. Do odd jobs for others. Sell off your extra possessions on Ebay, Amazon, and Craigslist. Etc. Etc.

    We had 88K (aside from our mortgages) in debt when we got married, and we’re down to 15.5K. We’re really been aggressive since we found Dave Ramsey 3 years ago. All I can say, is we keep learning new ways to save money every day. Recently we started making our own laundry detergent. There’s always something more to learn!

  • Andrea says:

    This might not be the most popular option, but you can always sign up for welfare or food stamps! If you are really that broke, you shouldn’t have trouble getting assistance!

  • Suzanne H says:

    As Crystal said, don’t get discouraged! I have found that when I get overwhelmed or discouraged, that’s when I tend to give in to temptation. So keep reminding yourself that every $1 not spent, is a $1 less of debt. I know you wish you had $1’s going towards your current debt but for now, just maintaining may be the best you can do until another opportunity opens up. Hang in there!

  • Andria says:

    This may be a little off topic, but I find that when I am getting discouraged about buying new things or getting the itch to want something I can’t afford, it is a perfect time to throw myself into an cleaning/organizing project for the stuff I already have. For me, it is often the perfect cure to discontentment. I realize we are trying to avoid spending money 🙂 but the dollar store can be a great resource for inexpensive house projects. A couple dollars change for new matching hangers or a couple pretty bins with labels from a free printable label site can look like a million bucks. Just giving your kitchen a good cleaning or even a dollar store candle and a thrift store vase filled with roadside wildflowers can be a huge lift of the spirit. I often find that getting a good look at what I already have reminds me how much we are blessed! Also want to throw my vote in for bartering. You might be surprised what people are willing to trade. Keep your chin up and remember that lots of little steps forward will equal a huge distance one day. You can do it!!

    • Julie says:

      I am starting to look for things I need at the Dollar Tree first. I was miffed I paid $6 for a pizza pan at Target that was $1 at the Dollar Tree. One can save a ton of money in the cooking section alone!

  • leah says:

    There’s not a whole lot of info here to get the entire picture. Yes, there may be an income problem, and it was well addressed by other commenters. But one should also look at overall household spending (mortgage/rent, car loans, insurance etc.) Are your budget categories in line? If your mortgage/rent is over 50% of your take home pay, you will probably not be able to make ends meet, no matter how much you cut back. It should be around 30% or less. Check out Dave Ramsey’s budget maker. It mentions appropriate percentages. http://www.daveramsey.com/tools/budget-lite/

    Also, I would follow his baby steps. Are you paying lots in debt repayments, on all your loans, more than the minimum? This will be too tight for you. Make sure you have a $1000 emergency fund, then pay the minimums on your debts except the smallest one, which you can throw extra money at. Do not try to pay them down aggressively all at once (or without an e-fund). Yes it takes time! Keep working at it and praying for creative ways to make ends meet. God will answer you!

  • Ashley_P says:

    Don’t be discouraged. We’ve TOTALLY been there. It doesn’t last forever.

    Do you own your home, or are you renting an apartment? If you’re renting, it may be time to try to find somewhere cheaper. Yeah, you’ll probably be kinda cramped in a smaller place for a couple years, but once your debt is paid off, or paid down significantly, the financial peace is worth it. We went from a large 2 bedroom apartment to a tiny 1 bedroom for a little over a year. Most of my stuff is still in boxes just because there was nowhere to put it all. Now we’re weeks away from closing on our first home because we took the money we were spending on rent at the other place and socked it away into savings.

    If you own your home, and have been paying the mortgage for a while, talk to a financial advisor about re-financing. The interest rates are very low right now, so it’s a good time to lock into a new rate. It may significantly lower your mortgage payment.

    If you have the option, I suggest overtime, overtime, overtime.. Since the closing costs are going to be higher than we anticipated, and since I’ll be going on maternity leave (unpaid) about 2 months after we move into our new home, hubby and I are currently working between 12-14 hours/day each! And I’m 7 months pregnant, so it’s really NOT easy. Plus, hubby is also working overtime on Saturdays for extra cash. (My job won’t allow me to, or I’d totally be there.) Dave Ramsey calls it “gazelle intensity”. You just gotta throw everything you can at it.

    Also, shop around for better prices. I thought I was doing really well shopping at Sam’s Club when it came to my grocery bill. Then, when we moved into our smaller apartment, I discovered the wonder that is Aldi’s! We’ve been able to cut our grocery bill in half, and still buy almost the same amount of food. (Actually, a little more, since I’m eating everything in sight now.) Some of the brands take a little getting used to (I’m still not a big fan on their brand of Doritos, but I’ll survive.)

    Find meals that stretch your budget and make lots of it at once when the ingredients go on sale. Since the basketball tournaments started, Velveeta has been super cheap because people are buying it to make dip. We’ve taken advantage of the sale and made a huge pot of potato soup. The pot will last me and hubby 3 days, and I can freeze anything we don’t eat right away. We make several meals that last 2-3 days including rigatoni, taco salad, pork fried rice (with more rice than anything else), stew, chicken and rice casserole, and a little dish we call “pepper steak”. It’s a beef stew served over rice. Can you tell we eat a lot of rice?

    You’d be surprised how long you can live on peanut butter sandwiches when you have to. They’ve actually become my favorite snack. Half a peanut butter sandwich dunked into a glass of ice cold milk.

    Don’t give up. Even when it looks like there’s nothing to cut back on, you can find yourself getting REALLY creative when you have to.

    And most importantly, trust God. Sometimes, it looks like we’re just not going to make it financially. But He always come through in the clutch. Great example: the new home we’re buying needs a little work. There’s some minor termite damage and one of the showers is leaking into the walls. Add in the rest of the repairs, and we’re looking at about $4,000-5,000 in repair. Hubby and I were wondering how we would be able to fix these things (some of which will have to be fixed before closing, like the house being sprayed for termites) when the appraisal came back on the house. Turns out, the house appraised for $7,000 less than the seller’s asking price. The seller was forced to lower the cost of the home by $5,000. It’s enough that we can save for the repairs fast, and our mortgage payment will be lower than we anticipated. Never underestimate what can happen when you put your faith in God. He owns everything, and He promised to supply all your needs. Work hard, and trust Him for the rest.

    Blessings!

  • Alex says:

    Have you tried growing some of your own food? Even if you live in an apartment, you can grow herbs indoors or maybe some tomato plants in pots. You might also look into container gardening. Starbucks has grounds for your garden you can pick up for free to help you fertilize (should be mixed with organic matter like leaves or grass clippings). Hope this helps.

  • WilliamB says:

    Do you make your own cleaning supplies? If not, that’s a good way to save money. These are ones I have used for years with great success:

    Window Cleaner:
    1 part distilled white vinegar
    6 parts water
    optional: a bit of dish soap

    Surface Cleaner:
    1 T. Lysol liquid
    4 c. water

    Produce Wash (water alone doesn’t do much, this gets rid of most chemicals):
    1 part distilled white vinegar
    3 parts water

    Liquid Laundry Detergent:
    Credit goes to http://hannaqueen.blogspot.com/2010/01/laundry-soap-for-less-than-penny-per.html but that site is no longer active.
    Borax and washing soda are both found in the laundry aisle, usually up high or down low. Washing soda isn’t baking soda, btw. This recipe saves me 90% of the cost of laundry detergent. I have no idea why the elaborate procedure. Some day I may either one, experiment to see if it’s necessary or two, get an answer from a chemist. It doesn’t always gel firmly but gelled or liquidy, it works well.

    3 c. hot water
    1/4 bar soap, preferably all-natural
    oatmeal soap (not chunky oatmeal) makes clothes softer
    1/4 c. washing soda
    ½ c. Borax
    2 c. hot water
    2 qts water
    3 c. hot water
    5 gal bucket for storage
    whisk for dedicated stirring

    Heat 2-3 qts water.
    Grate soap into bucket.
    Add 3 c. hot water, stir to dissolve.
    Add Borax and washing soda, stir to dissolve.
    Add 2 c. hot water, stir to mix.
    Add 2 qts cold water, stir to mix.
    Add 3 c. hot water, stir to mix.
    Let sit 12-24 hrs to gel.

  • Jennifer says:

    I totally agree with #3 – increase your income. Dave Ramsey has a saying that it’s either a great way to solve an outgo problem is with income. Once you have cut as far as you have and it sure sounds like you’re diligent in that area, focus on the income. Even if it’s a $3 survey check or a shirt you paid $1 for at Goodwill then Craigslisted for $10, every penny helps. My daughter works at a children’s consignment store and it amazes me the amount of people who shop at Goodwill, the Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity or other thrift shops and bring the goodies to her store and make good money.

    I talked to one of the moms the other day and in 3 months, she had spent $68 at the thrift shops and brought it and made over $200 consigning. Not a huge amount, but I bet $130+ would rock a lot of families world. Just a thought.

  • sarah says:

    What’s your gas use? I’ve been honing in on that lately and trying to cut back and combine trips because gas has become such a huge part of our monthly spending. Just a reminder to check that.

    • Andrea says:

      Excellent tip! Our savings account doubled last year, in large part because I started staying home most days with the kids.

  • Teresa Zandstra says:

    I know how she feels when in 2002 my husband had his own business and we had $400 to live on for four months and lost our house and car and had to file bankruptcy. I found a site called sassy shoppers and did mystery shops. I learned to coupon and I found websites where I could sign lup for free you can do them from the library if y ou don;t have a computer and earned points for gift cards I did online surveys and I finally stopped depriving myself and thinking that way. We also did Total money makeover from Dave ramsey .

  • Katrina says:

    I have my college loans on income based repayment and we actually pay $0. You can actually apply for it online on the student loan website although some lenders may make you submit paperwork for it.

    • Anne says:

      We did this for a few years and really regret it. Our student loans have grown astronomically and we still have to pay them. If you can pay ANYTHING try to pay the interest every month…

  • Victoria 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.

    • Tina says:

      I have to ask is there anything out there to help those with low income and not good credit that IS legit?

      • LD says:

        Yes! Talk to a local bank or mortgage company. Mortgage companies are especially good at finding a way to get you the financing you need. They have experience with all sorts of financial circumstances and only make money if they can find you a workable loan.

      • Jill Johnson says:

        I work for a credit union and we would help. Try a local credit union and if that one doesn’t work, try another. Be ready to tell your story – what happened to cause any credit issues and so on. Talk about why you need the help and what you’ll do to ensure they’ll get paid back. Direct deposit of your pay and automatic transfer of payments is appreciated by the lender. Good luck!! If you’re in Michigan, you may be able to work with us, check us out.

      • Laura says:

        I work at an agency called Communtiy Action, which is a national program. It serves low income individuals. I’m not sure if the programs are all the same, but mine has credit repair and home purchase counselors, job development coaches, and I am a budget coach and run an IDA match savings program. Try dialing 211 to see what kind of services are available in your area.

  • 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!

    • Ashley says:

      I needed to read this today. Thank you for encouraging me with your post!

    • Newlywed says:

      Beautiful — the Lord is so good, an “all the way home Saviour” to those who trust Him! “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.” (James 4:10 KJV)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • shannon says:

    Look into consolidating the school loans to get a lower rate. That could help some.

  • 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.

        • Christina says:

          Yikes I feed a family of five gluten free for $450 in Maine. I cannot even imagine spending $1200 for gas and groceries.

    • 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.

    • Patricia says:

      First…. take a hard look at your income….I am sure you have heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder”. Sometimes we are doing what we think is “right” or “our calling” but when it comes down to the numbers, you are really working for free! If you were in Canada; I would suggest a waitressing job. Minimum wage is law and you would be able to make tips as well. I have friends who have raised families and own houses as professional servers. (working 6-8 hours a day – with vacations!) Reserve “your calling” or the “right job” to the hobby or volunteer hours they really are.

    • Beth says:

      Hate to say it, but one of you needs to find a steady job that pays the bills. Part-time tutoring, cleaning, and pet sitting aren’t it. It sounds like when you sit down and crunch numbers, you are working for free. If you feel a calling to your business, one of you can continue down that path, the other needs to do what it takes to bring in a steady income. If there is a time when the business starts to bring in a similar amount for the foreseeable future, THEN you both can continue with it. You need a business plan, and if the business does not pay off in a set time frame, you move on. I’m one of those people who is doing something completely different than what I’d planned on doing with my life, but it pays the bills and I find I enjoy it immensely. I worked several jobs that I hated, but they were full-time and steady and they paid the bills so we could get a little bit of extra income set aside each month to chip away at our debt, and looking back, those ‘dead end jobs’ made me a lot of connections that have paved the way since. And we ended up moving out of a state with a high cost of living to the midwest, where things are much more affordable. While I can’t wait until the day comes when we can move back to the mountains, there is simply no way we could have made ends meet had we stayed at the time. My husband makes more money doing the same job, and our cost of living is half of what it was. Sometimes survival means some tough choices.

      You also need to look at what you’re paying for food and gas…if it’s actually that much, there’s your problem. $50 – $70 per week for two people should get you more than enough groceries for meals, and there were weeks when we first married that we had 2 weeks until the end of the month and $20 in our checking account left for food, and we managed. Lots of rice, beans, pastas, and frozen meals. Turn the oven on and cook several meals that can later be reheated in the microwave rather than running the oven every day. A crock pot meal can feed two people for at least 2 or 3 days. Loaves of bread made from scratch and a jar of peanut butter is lunch for a week.

      It’s tough. I feel for you. I wish you the best.

      • Libby says:

        Meet with a SCORE counselor to get an experienced, third party perspective on your business. SCORE is an organization of retired business executives and they meet with small businesses for free. They may be able to help you find more customers/clients for your business to increase your income allowing both of you to remain working together.

        You mention you are living for free in your in-laws second house. My guess is this is why the gas expense is high. I’ve lived in Maine and understand about the driving distances. If you look at the rent/gas expenses combined, can you rent someplace closer and reduce the gas expense while paying rent? This will also have a time savings. Even if you are only able to swing a seasonal (i.e., winter along the coast) rental.

        Good luck!

    • Laura says:

      I lost money driving between 3 part time positions. I crunched numbers and the nanny job had to go. I loved those kids but working through lunch to leave early pick them up, take them home for an hour, then drive them to sports wasn’t worth $20.

  • Elisa 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • Sarah 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 🙂

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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 !!!

  • 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)

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • Mary 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.

    • Kimberly says:

      Amen! And, please reach out to your church. We have been given gas and grocery cards at one point. Let your needs be known to the elders…. Praying for you!!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Julie 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.

      • Julie 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!

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Martha says:

    I feel for the younger families going thru hard times. We are now retired, with two sons living with us. We do not have a lot of money to live on, but we do make it by being careful. I am an Avon Rep, which brings in extra money. I also raise a a garden each year, putting up veggies, and fruits, making relishes, and such. We do have a cc bill which I am paying $25 extra each month to get that paid off. My food bill is about $50-$75 per week, as I try to keep stocking up on bath tissue, etc and other items when on sale. We might eat out once a year,- I prefer to prepare food at home, cooking from scratch, which I do enjoy.Having money to give to the Lord, and those in need gives us a good feeling, and God DOES bless! I advise ,-do your best , be patient, continue to give to God, and He will see you thru these hard tomes.

  • Amanda says:

    I made my own family cloth from a swap meet out of receiving blankets. And a second hand used serger I got for 80$.. They work as face wipes, butt wipes and dust rags.I take giant stacks of napkins from restaurants and use them to catch grease qhill cooking. I invested in LED light bulbs (on sale) and saved money not constantly buying light bulbs and electric. I save my bath water and wash my clothes in it. When I run water to heat for my bath/shower I get a bucket to catch the cold stuff for my plants. I am going to get a free composer from the city for my dirt to grow my own food on my small 5’x8′ patio. We open the windows when it’s nice out and shut off the ac.in the summer we close our blinds in winter open them and wear layers. We shop farmers markets where they knock off a couple of cents here and there if it’s close to a whole dollar.we have one car and have a food menu every week. We don’t smoke drink,or eat processed foods. I buy from thrift stores.save my spaghetti jars and use them for dry goods bulk storage. We go to the library for movies and books. And buy concentrate cleaners that last longer when mixed.we get family sized shampoos and conditioner. We cut bars of soap in half-one half for hands the other for bodies. We cloth diaper. Air dry clothes. We don’t go many places. Buy in bulk.

  • JC says:

    I hope this helps somehow. When I was living on a low income I budgeted my time a lot. I did not use a lot of electricity. I batch cooked and baked so I could use the oven efficiently to make meals that would last 2-3 days. I switched off all appliances when they were not in use and monitored my energy useage. I put on one lamp in the evening and either the tv or computer. I made sure that the things I had used a minimal amount of energy. I did have a washing machine and hung my clothes to dry on an airer. I made my own cleaning products, toiletries,soaps and mended/upcycled items a lot. I made a lot of items as my hobby is sewing. I used free cycle, charity shops for items and shopped with coupons. I bought in bulk when items were on sale. I did not have a lot of items in my home and that cut my insurance premium. I lived in a cheap apartment in the centre of a city and this made a difference for travel costs. I planned my route before leaving my house so I would not waste time/energy/money on unnecessary trips and things. I used the library a lot as I did not have Internet. I also practiced mindfulness and used positive affirmation for abundance. I was blessed with support and my needs were always met. I always seemed to have everything – I had to be creative to make what I wanted and found pleasure in that.

  • Christina says:

    Don’t get discouraged. Being a stay-at-home mom is the best gift you could ever give yourself and your family. Don’t let society make you feel like you need stuff, debts, and to be living the high life. A simple life is the most rewarding and honestly being home making food for your family is more fun than being in a restaurant paying big money for something you can make better anyways. I struggle with this myself but at the end of the day, I always know I’m better off without all the distractions and chaos of the world. You are doing a wonderful job and just keep paying the piper, your debt will go away. Make sure it’s consolidated and even consider having the one who carries the student loan debt take two classes (I always think of surf lessons or ceramics) something you can do to postpone payment for 6 months because it defers the loan. Then save every dime of the student loan money that you saved and use if for some urgent, medical…This is worse case scenario but you have options. Anyways, good luck!!

  • Sheri says:

    Don’t forget to pray, listen and wait. I’ve been really discouraged sometimes and feel like I’m at my wit’s end and that my prayers aren’t being answered. Now (years later) looking back I can see God’s provision time after time. Sometimes we see God work more when our needs are greater! Hang in there!!

  • LeeLee says:

    I live in Southern California and it is expensive to live here. Many cities have free concerts and movies in the park during the summer months. If you have a local library, there are books and dvd/blu-ray movies available to borrow for entertainment. If you haven’t contacted your local utility companies (GAS, ELECTRIC, WATER), you may be eligible for a low-income discount program. Look for a local food bank or church that has a food pantry. Low income government programs are available to view on this website: https://www.usa.gov/benefits. You can find low income government assistance programs here: http://www.needhelppayingbills.com/html/low_income_assistance_programs.html
    If you have a cell phone, you may want to look into this website: https://www.freegovernmentcellphones.net/free-cell-phone-providers

    And pray, pray, pray

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