Whether you’re in college, just starting out as a young adult, or have had some sort of financial hardship come waltzing into your life, here’s a list of ten things that can help you make it to the other side of things without completely losing your mind.
1. Change Jar – It doesn’t matter what type of jar it is. It can be an old pickle jar, mayonnaise jar, cider jug… whatever. I prefer glass ones. Something about the sound of the change hitting the glass works for me. Make sure it is really clean and dry before you throw all of your change in it, ALL of it, and let it sit. Don’t ‘borrow’ from it because the money you borrow is just reducing how much will be in there later, when you really need it for gas, food, whatever.
2. Dollar Jar – at the end of every day, put all the ones you have in your wallet, pocket, wherever you keep your cash at in this jar. Like the change jar, LEAVE IT ALONE. “Borrowing” from this jar just guarantees that it will be a revolving maximum $10 jar. Not something that is going to be a huge help when it may be needed. Trust me. It took me a while to just leave this jar alone because dollars are so much easier to deal with than change, and so much easier to spend. Also, don’t bank against the jar – “Oh! There’s $10 in the jar. I’ll use my debit card and then put the money from the jar into my bank account to cover this want item.” Again, trust me. It never turns out that way, and if it should, your dollar jar is back at $0. Not much of an emergency fund.
3. Buy The Expensive Shampoo – OK. I know this one sounds ridiculous when money is tight, but bare with me. I’ve spent years buying the cheap shampoos with very little criteria placed upon it other than it was what I could afford and it would get my hair clean. Once, when I was still doing move out cleaning, someone had left their half-full or better more expensive shampoo and conditioner – jackpot! You know what I discovered? The expensive stuff was really the way to go. My hair looked better, healthier and it took way less shampoo to get my hair clean, which means it would last longer, and it did. Way longer. In fact, months later, I am still using this shampoo and conditioner and there is still a ton left. I would have needed to buy the cheap stuff a few times by now. Better quality = less money spent in the long run.
4. Buy Organic and All Natural Products – Organic products can be a bit expensive, but they are just like the expensive shampoo – they last longer with the need for less product. I had the opportunity to try out an organic body wash for free. I needed body wash and thought why not give it a try. Worst case scenario I would hate it, it would go too fast, and I’d just go back to my usual whatever-is-on-sale body wash. From the first use, I realized the benefits of going organic. It took very little product to get my whole body clean, about 1/10th the amount of the cheap stuff. More money up front, sure, but less money overall.
5. Buy Trial/Travel Sizes – Why buy trial/travel size items? For backup, of course. It really sucks when you go to grab the dish detergent, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, or whatever only to find that there isn’t any left, or not enough to do the job you need it to do. What can make this worse is when it happens a week before payday or when you aren’t really sure when the next dollars are going to come in. Have a ‘trial size’ location to store your trial size items so you can find them when you need them. If you use all of one, remember to replace it asap.
6. Make sure to have your hair cut, at least every other month – I know you might be asking how this helps you make it through being poor, but you’d be surprised. When you let your hair go, it shows and people notice it more than you may think they do. You don’t have to go to the best salon, get the full shampoo and blow dry/style deal. Just go in for a trim, clean things up. Not only will you present more positively to others, but it makes you feel good.
7. Get Comfortable with Thrift Stores – Thrift stores are great! When an item of clothing has begun to show signs that it has reached the end of its passable life cycle, it’s time to replace it. Clearance sales at regular stores are great and definitely worth checking out, but know, just like the thrift stores, it’s going to take some time to search through the stuff to find the item or items that you are looking for at a price you are comfortable shelling out. I’ve taken the time over the years to figure out which thrift stores near or near-ish to me have the best selection and quality of donations. Replacing a worn out t-shirt with another worn out t-shirt is not going to make things better. It’s definitely worth the time to look around at different thrift shops to find the one that is going to have the better quality second hand items. Yes, these stores may cost a little bit more than the ones with a lower quality donation selection, but a buck or two is worth it to look good, which results in feeling better.
8. Coupons – Yes, coupons. I have never been able to figure this one out like the coupon queens you hear about, but they can be valuable, even in small amounts. A friend of mine gave me a coupon the other day that netted me a free 23.3 fl. oz. bottle of one of the better brands of olive oil. There are tons of couponing pins on Pinterest and a Google search will provide you with a ton of results if you should want to figure out couponing. Even that one coupon is helping to stretch the dollar a bit further.
9. Gift Card Budgeting – This one is a bit off the beaten track, I think. It was something I started doing when we were first getting stable in our RV life. I would get paid then disperse the money into a gift card at our normal grocery store, a cash card from Costco for gas, and one for Papa Murphy’s Pizza (we love Tuesdays). This helped keep the money going where it needed to go instead of the soda one of us just had to have from the convenience store, whatever impulse buy crossed our path, or that thing that you really, really need (want) going on sale for what seems like a ridiculous price at the time. Yes, this does mean that should you need the money that is on these cards for an unexpected emergency, you don’t really have access to it, which can be frustrating to say the least. Should you run into one of those events, refer to the change and dollar jars.
10. Meditate – I know this one may seem a bit off topic, but, I assure you, it’s not. When money is tight, it can be extremely stressful. If you are like me, that means you are constantly doing the math in your head, figuring out this and that, how and when, etc. I spend a lot of time in my head trying to solve the problems of the world (well, at least my world) and, without stopping to meditate on a daily basis for a minimum of 15 minutes left me nuttier than the Mad Hatter. That 15 minutes a day I’m certain has saved my life along with the lives of my husband and dogs.
Being broke, just getting started, or having a bout a cash poorness can be really stressful. Be gentle with yourself. Remember this is temporary (hopefully). Also remember that temporary can sometimes be a longer than you were thinking it would be.
When money is tight, self care tends to fall to the wayside. Don’t let it, even when you don’t think you care. If you can’t keep yourself going, how are you ever going to get your finances in order and move forward? Don’t worry. You got this.