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How to Cut Back Spending When You're Short on Cash

Learn How to Cope With Sudden Expenses and Gain Control of Your Finances


What's the first thing you do when you're struck with the realization that you don't have enough cash to get by until your next paycheck? Do you panic? Ask for help? Give up and go shopping (on credit)? Whether you're dealing with a sudden emergency, unpaid child support, or a job loss, there are some things you can do to gain control of your finances and bounce back when you're short on cash.

1. Stop Spending

Man holding empty wallet
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This is the first step. Think over what you have planned between now and your next paycheck. Are there social plans requiring spending that you could postpone or cancel? Would it be possible to cook dinners using only what you already have in your pantry or freezer? Look for ways to stop the flow of money out of your bank account right now, and avoid the temptation to purchase additional non-essential items.

2. Re-evaluate Your Monthly Spending

Most families spend quite a bit of money on non-essential - yet standard - items. For example, consider eliminating your cable or satellite TV service - or at least switching to a lower-cost option for a while. In addition, consider the money you may be spending on the convenience of a cell phone or text messaging. These are luxuries that can be eliminated when you are short on cash.

3. Create a Budget

If you don't already have a plan in place for how you're going to spend your money each month, now is the time to create one. Use our free budgeting tool for single parent families to plug in your monthly income and expenses and play around with which items you can reduce. In addition, remember that living on a budget is intended to help you free up your money so that you can spend it where you really want to, rather than unintentionally spending more than you can afford each month.

4. Resolve Outstanding Debts

This is also a good time to follow through with any friends or relatives who may owe you some money. In addition, if you do not receive child support, and you've never applied for it, this would be a good time to begin the process of filing for child support. Most likely, even in the best of circumstances, it will take some time before your child actually receives this type of financial support, but this is as good a time as any to begin that process. Keep in mind, too, that it's your child's right to be supported financially by both parents.

5. Trim Some More

Before you begin thinking about taking on another job, look for additional ways to cut your spending. Simple techniques such as drinking water instead of soda or fancy coffees can really trim your monthly spending. Look for ways to save at least as much as you hoped to make with a second job. For example, if you really need another $300 to get by each month, look for ways to save $300 before you take on another job (which could put extra strain on your family).

6. Maximize Your Income

Finally, you may come to the conclusion that you do, indeed, need to look for ways to earn extra income. If possible, look for options that would allow you to work from home, around your family's schedule, or perhaps even allow you to bring your children with you. For example, consider spreading the word in your area that you are available for child care in the evenings, or that you can take care of pets on the weekends.

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