Budgetting is important, but there's always two ways to help your cash flow - by increasing your income, or reducing spending!
Here's some handy tips for accomplishing both. Careful planning can stretch a low income enough to cover all the monthly bills. Everything helps, and ultimately you can achieve solvency just by saving bits of money in a lot of different ways.
WAYS TO INCREASE INCOME
* Sell things. eBay has made it easier than ever to pick up quick cash by selling unwanted items to buyers around the world. Stores that sell used CDs and books are often interested in purchasing yours. (In desperate circumstances, in some locations it's even possible to find labs that will pay you for a blood donation!) If the monthly bills are overwhelming, some extra cash can really help.
* Take a part-time job. This seems drastic, but it's often possible to find a convenient way to earn extra money while working just a few hours a week. (Besides online job listings, there are even some jobs where the work itself happens online.)
* Cash in your change. Often accumulated change can be exchanged for a few twenty dollar bills. While "CoinStar" machines at grocery stores will count it all up, they'll also take a small percentage. With a little extra time, it's possible to sort the change, pack it into the appropriate rolls, and deliver it to the bank for a surprisingly large pay off!
WAYS TO REDUCE EXPENSES
* Refinance credit card debt. Often this is the biggest strain on the monthly budget, and with research, there's usually a cheaper option. Banks also know this, and will usually offer a discounted rate themselves if they think it will prevent a balance transfer to one of their competitors.
* Change phone plans. Both cell phone plans and home phone service can end up costing more money than necessary. Reviewing them can reveal that a family's paying for too many cell phones or pre-purchasing too many minutes per month. Most carriers will offer a discounted "basic service" plan, especially if they think it will keep them from losing a customer.
* Eat cheaper. The most common food-related expense is the cost of meals in a restaurant (which can be cheap individually while eating into the monthly budget). But even groceries can become expensive if the wrong foods are purchased - like pre-packaged TV dinners instead of the cheaper basic ingredients. Watching for coupons can eventually add up to big savings, including both newspaper coupons and the coupons on receipts. (And if there's a food item that won't go bad, don't forget to stock up on when it's on sale!)
* Trim entertainment expenses. Cable TV is a luxury, not a necessity (especially since most network shows can be watched online in digital perfection) and the rising price of movie tickets can also pinch your budget.
* Check your auto insurance. Insurance rates are calculated based on the driver's estimate of their yearly mileage, as well as the neighborhood they live in. If either of those have changed, there's a good chance it could impact insurance rates. (Of course, if it's possible to live without a car, another option is simply selling the vehicle - creating a one-time cash infusion while eliminating any future repair bills and those pesky monthly insurance premiums!)
And yes, it's important to track your expenses. When buying something that's a luxury, think about how many hours you'll have to work in order to cover the cost. (It's easier to calculate if you convert your salary to an hourly wage Tracking how much you're spending as well as what you're earning will make it much easier to recognize where your cash flow is leaking!
Saving money is never fun, but it ultimately brings with a valuable gift: real peace of mind and an end to worrying about how to pay this month's bills!