We all have a time in the year where we will experience a bit of slow money flow. Well, maybe not ALL of us. There are those out there who make more money than they can ever spend and that's fine. Hi guys!! (HA! Like I know rich people. Right.....).
Anyway....for the rest of average Joe's, "tight money months" happen. Whether you are conventionally employed in a salaried 9-5, hourly with hours that just won't stop being random, or you are self-employed (like me) and your income is all over hell and back.
My husband and I have supported a family of (now) 5 with self-employed variable income and regular salaried income since 2008. It's taken a few tweaks here and there to get it where it's not making us want to tear our hair out every month, but regardless of where the money comes, there's definitely a way to clean up your finanical house and get through those lean months without so much anxiety.
1. HAVE EVERYTHING IN PERFECT ORDER
Now, this is a tip I've left again and again, but it bears repeating. You cannot have an anxiety-free financial month if your finances and budget are a mess. If you have no idea WHERE all of the money you bring in is going, you're likely to have "lean months" EVERY month. So, WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. And I mean everything. Especially if you're not doing a regular zero-based budget. Every stop at the store, every coffee, every ATM withdrawal. Every single penny spent gets noted.
At the end of your "write everything down" month, you should be doubled over in shock and awe at how much money you WASTE. Trust me. That is the punch in the face you need to start budgeting and tracking your finances.
2. PAD YOUR EMERGENCY FUND
Typically, lean months happen because an unexpected expense burns your budget. You should ALWAYS have your $1000 baby emergency fund on hand and never ever touch it unless you have to. A sale at Target is not an emergency. In fact, you shouldn't even be IN Target if it's a lean month! Have some control, man!
How do you save an emergency fund? You go crazy. You get mad. You sell everything that isn't nailed down. Stick all that money in savings and there you go. Typically, it shouldn't take you longer than a month or two to scrounge up your emergency fund. If you're having a hard time finding the cash and you are gainfully employed (you both are)...time to go back to step one and evaluate what stupid shit you're spending money on.
3. DO THE SIDE-HUSTLE
I love a good side-hustle. I am currently freelance writing as a side-hustle. It's not a big money maker, but it makes enough to cover anything outside of our strict household budget that may come along, like Crossfit or a gift for someone.
NOW, I say this with a huge caveat that I've said before. Beware of taking on a Multi-Level Marketing "business" (imagine that with very large quotes around it) as a side-hustle. If you research these, often the independent salespeople for these companies make very little money and spend more than they make on the product. Even if you say you're just jumping on to get discounted product? If you're in such a financial way that you're having "lean months", you don't need ANY product an MLM is offering, even at a discount.
I plan on blogging at length on the whole MLM thing, but there are so many other options out there for side-hustle money: babysitting, dog walking, take in sewing jobs or sell projects that you create online (Etsy is good for this). Waitressing is AMAZING for fast cash. I waited tables for years and you can make a killing on Friday and Saturday nights at a popular restaurant and the hours are typically flexible. Deliver pizzas, clean houses, mow lawns, fix computers. Do you have a specialized skill? LEVERAGE that skill into some extra cash you can count on when things get tight.
If you have kids (I have three), maybe try to find a side-hustle you can complete while at home with them, while they're in school, or at night after bedtime. Yes, time is at a premium when you have kids, but can you really relax anyway if you're all amped up about your stretched finances? Doing something productive to work on the problem will ease some of that tension, believe me. More so than, say, zoning out in front of Netflix bemoaning your strapped existence.
4. SELL STUFF
Lord knows I love decluttering and one of the best parts of decluttering is selling stuff you no longer want. You would be surprised what you can command for some old junk. Old cellphones can fetch a pretty penny on Ebay. Old toys, clothing that is clean and barely worn. I would forego the rummage sale route and maybe try to sell piece by piece for a bigger return on time invested.
Keep in mind, it's JUST.STUFF. You likely have too much as it is. We all do.
5. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SALES OR SHOPPING SMART....OR DON'T SHOP AT ALL
We often talk ourselves into NEEDING to go to the store instead of actually being honest and saying we want our creature comforts and want to go get them RIGHT NOW. I know I'm totally guilty of this. If I don't have the stuff to make pasta or my favorite cereal in the house at all times I get downright annoyed.
But, we shop by a budget and if we want to go out to eat, that's budgeted too. If I spot a sale on something that may be a necessary item, I'm going to take advantage of (sometimes). But the best way to save money on an item is to NOT BUY IT. You really need to get HONEST with yourself about needs vs. wants. This can radically change your lean months.
While there are great ways to deal with lean months, there are some dangerous ways as well. Payday Loans are something you NEVER want to find yourself embroiled in. They prey on the poor and those bad with money management. Their interest rates are insane and you'll likely never get out from under that debt. Stay FAR away.
So, what if you find yourself BROKE and OWING? Strip your needs to the basic: food, shelter, clothing. Make sure your you and your family are fed, have a roof over their heads, and clothing on their back. Once those are taken care of, you can start to tackle the extras: debt, utilities, transportation, and entertainment.
If you are in a situation where you are in absolute dire straits with no way out....and no income...it may be time to seek out a state aid situation to help you get you back on your feet.
Your LAST resort should be taking out MORE debt to supplement a slow period. Avoid this at all costs, because it's just going to put you further behind the 8-ball.
Remember, slow months happen to everyone (except all those rich people I don't know). Take them one day at a time and remember this cliche but oft-true platitude: this too shall pass.