In several of my recent conversations with employees of companies that have access to our financial helpline, I have talked to people about their monthly budget. Often, the line between success and failure for their monthly budget has been a matter of a few hundred dollars per month. In a good month, they have $100-$200 in excess cash flow. But…it seems like there is NEVER a good month and there are ALWAYS extra expenses. A car breaks down, kids get sick and need to see the doctor and get a prescription or there is some other expense that blows up the monthly budget. For people who are in this situation, there are a few things you can do to make it more manageable and reduce the stress level of the situation. The cumulative level of stress was very evident in their voices, and the reason they called the financial helpline was to find a solution to their budget issues but also to drastically reduce the daily level of stress.
During the conversations we look at their monthly expenses and look for ways to reduce some expenses. Usually, they have already trimmed their budget of all the “standard” areas that are easily trimmed. (Cell phone packages, cable packages, utility bills, dining out, etc.) and are thinking hard about making drastic changes. Trimming expenses is one way to close the gap, but there is only so much room for trimming before it starts to negatively impact your lifestyle.
So if there is a limit to the progress that can be made on the expense side of the equation, let’s look at the income side of the equation. (At least we’re willing to look at both sides of the equation unlike our “friends” in Congress…) I have talked to people recently who were formerly having trouble making ends meet but are now in a comfort zone. Anytime that I talk to someone who has solved this problem, I ask them how they did it so that I can use their experiences to help others. A few of the ideas that have worked for a large number of people are to rent out a room (if you own a home) to a student, flight attendant, traveling professional who spends time in your city, or a friend. This increases your cash flow and aside from the friend, all of the others still give you lots of privacy because of the schedule of your renter. That is a time-tested way to try to solve the budget problem. Another time-tested solution is to get a 2nd job, but in this economy that is becoming increasingly difficult.
There is another way to increase income that has recently come to my attention. I had never heard of “tiny jobs,” “micro jobs,” or “gigs” before talking to someone who was supplementing her income by doing this. What are they? They are quick tasks (photographing a menu, standing in line for a sandwich, running an errand for someone, etc.) that turn into quick cash. It can be just a few dollars for a quick task (but if you’re already in the neighborhood and can get paid a few bucks to do a 5 minute chore, why not?) or more depending on the task. A whole new genre of income generation is out there! Who knew? The fun part of this is that with the technology we have today, smartphones have given rise to quick ways to cash in on this trend and maybe close your budget gap.
This article talks about this trend and a few of the websites/smartphone apps that can help you enter the world of “tiny jobs” to supplement your income. Something like this could be just the thing that could help a few of the people I’ve talked to recently and you can be certain that I’m going to be looking for more people who have experience doing this so that I can learn more and see how this might be able to help someone fix their budget problems, reduce the stress in their lives so that they can forget about the short term financial problems and start planning for long term financial success.