Sometimes we go through seasons where money is tighter than others. Maybe it’s some unexpected expenses that are putting a strain on our budget. We’ve all been there and staying positive can be hard.
Now that I’m on the other side of one of those seasons I have a few reflections on how to stay positive and also prepare for the future. Let’s face it, you never know when an unexpected bill will come up.
Let’s take a step back and take a breath for a moment. Find a way to flip your mindset. While the situation may not be ideal, could it also be an opportunity to get creative?
First, change up your strategy for how you pay your bills
Instead of feeling crushed by your bills after each paycheck, try using a half payment budget method. This method helps you set aside a portion of an upcoming bill each paycheck.
Stop trying to squeeze paying multiple bills from your paycheck. Plan to pay your bills by having the money waiting to make those payments. You will start to feel ahead of things rather than just making it.
And for the larger bills that are paid yearly or twice a year, set up a sinking fund where you save a small portion each paycheck. By the time you need to pay the huge bill, the money is ready and waiting.
Find creative ways to make room in your tight budget.
Are you taking advantage of ways you could be saving money on your current expenses, or potentially tidy up your expenses?
If you have an expensive commute, check if your employer offers any programs to help you save money. You might be able to pay for part of your commute with pre-tax dollars.
Relying on credit cards is usually a bad idea because of the interest costs, but cashback bonuses could help you save a few dollars on the bills you have to pay anyway. Only try this if you can pay the balance in full for each statement and there’s no additional change for paying by credit card.
Also check out cashback savings programs such as Rakuten (formerly Ebates) to help you save money on the purchases you need to make. Don’t use this as an opportunity to spend more, but you can stack deals to save money on some of your expenses.
Take a closer look at your current spending and find opportunities to cut expenses.
When money is tight, it’s frustrating to cut back. Instead look at this as an opportunity tidy up your spending on things you’re not actually using.
Are you really getting your money’s worth out of that streaming subscription or gym membership? Look at this as an opportunity to save money, not that you’re giving something up.
And then take another look at your budget to see where you could be a little more efficient with your spending. Maybe it’s a matter of saving money by bringing your lunch to work, usually cheaper and healthier.
Or find free alternatives to reduce your expenses.
Your budget will thank you both now and in the future. Flipping this season into an opportunity to improve the future will help you stay in a positive mindset.
Avoid the temptations and feeling of missing out
One of the things when you’re in a season of tight money, is you need to look at what’s driving your feeling of stress and frustration. Is it that you’re barely scraping by to pay the regular bills? Or that you don’t have much money left over to pay for the extras?
Avoid compounding the issue by reducing any on the extras. And it helps to either unsubscribe or filter the promotion emails that show up in your inbox. Instead of spending your free time walking through the stores, try walking outside.
Don’t skip eating healthy or including exercise
When money is tight it’s easy to slip into problematic patterns such as eating junk food. Or maybe you canceled the gym membership you were actually using because it felt like a luxury.
Do not let this situation spin into unhealthy habits. The worse you feel physically, the harder it will be to stay positive.
Eating poorly or skipping exercise will compound that stressful feeling.
Walking outside is free. The fresh air and endorphins could give you new ideas on how to improve your situation.
And you need to continue to eat healthy so you can fuel your body and mind to stay on track.
How to prepare for times in the future when money could get tight
Do you have a feeling like an unexpected expense is coming or your income might change? There are a few strategies you can take advantage of to prepare for the future and handle a tight season better.
Find ways to pay down debt faster
Consider paying down debt when you have the money available. Reducing your debt when you have the money to do so gives you more flexibility in your budget for the future.
To this day I’m grateful for realizing I needed to hustle and pay off a car loan. When I suddenly had a commute expense (larger than my car pay), my tight budget would have been even tighter if I was trying to pay for both at the same time.
Build an emergency fund if you don’t have one.
You never know when a new expense is going to crop up or the world doesn’t go according to plan. Instead of raising your stress levels in the moment, plan ahead and start an emergency fund so you have extra cash on hand to help you through tight times.
Once I had a clearer head, I realized missing an emergency fund added a lot of stress to a frustrating situation. Now I can go into a similar situation knowing I can weather the storm in a better position.
Create additional income while you sleep
Start finding ways to supplement your income, especially options that help you earn while you sleep.
Maybe a side hustle won’t fit into your schedule, but have you looked into saving money to invest in the stock market? Building a monthly dividend income portfolio, with time, can be used to supplement your income. And in the meantime, your investments can continue to grow themselves, like a dividend snowball.
Wrapping up. Staying positive when money is tight
Feeling like your budget is strained is frustrating. Change your mindset to stay positive when money is tight. Find the opportunity to be creative.
Use this as an opportunity to learn new skills and find ideas to rework your budget for the future.
Keep your mind that this too shall pass. Or it might be time to consider options to change the situation. Is it time to find a new job that pays more or in some way helps you reduce expenses?
What else have you done when your budget was tight to help you stay positive?
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