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by the author of The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living
Right now, you may be watching the news (or avoiding it because holy cow!!!!) and feeling like everything is out of your control. Prices are increasing, jobs are vanishing, and everyone knows we can’t really count on the government to bail us out.
You’re right – a whole lot of things ARE completely out of our hands.
I hate that feeling.
I find it helpful to focus on the things I CAN control.
Here are the things you can control right now.
If you focus your mental energy on the things you can do something about, it’s a lot more productive than wallowing in stress and uncertainty. So let’s take a step back from the news and think about how we, as individuals and families, can take back some control over our financial lives.
1.) See where your money is going.
It’s time to do a quick audit of your budget to see where your money is going. You want to figure out exactly what you have coming in and exactly what you have going out. This step can’t be skipped – it’s the basis for your entire strategy. Here’s a detailed article on auditing your budget.
2.) Figure out what you can cut.
Just because you cut something out today doesn’t mean it will stay gone forever. But a lot of folks have been kindly trying to help out their local businesses by keeping unused memberships and subscriptions going and it’s time for that to stop. If you cannot go to the gym, you need to cancel your gym membership. If you can’t take the kids to their extracurricular programs, make sure those payments are no longer coming out. Take a look at your fixed expenses and see if there’s room to slash anything.
3.) No, you don’t “deserve” a treat.
That sounds pretty harsh but we’re talking about some serious financial hard times here. So no, you don’t “deserve” a treat if you can’t really afford that treat. I like to get my toesies done just as much as any other lady but now is not the time for spending frivolously if you truly have concerns about your personal economic future.
Cut out everything unnecessary for a couple of weeks: pizza delivery, drive-through dinners, manicures, coffee from your favorite shop – you know the drill. Put that extra money aside.
4.) Start building up your emergency fund.
I keep three months of living expenses in my emergency fund. These aren’t fancy living expenses. I’m not going for brunch and mimosas with these living expenses. But I’m keeping a vehicle in the driveway, a roof over my head, and food in the fridge.
5.) Think about bigger changes.
I’m not saying you need to go move into a shack in the forest with no electricity to survive the upcoming financial woes, but you should start thinking about what you could do if you had to go into full emergency mode. Could you move someplace cheaper? Take in a boarder or roommate? Go down to one vehicle? Get rid of all but one phone?
You don’t need to do these things right now but have them there, lurking in your mental money-saving arsenal just in case things do get worse.
6.) Start producing.
I have long waxed eloquent (or annoying, depending on one’s perspective) about how we’ve become a nation of consumers, not a nation of producers. This is true on a personal level too. If you go and buy every single thing that you need, you may be spending a lot more money than you have to. You can DIY and produce all sorts of things:
- Grow a garden
- Make your own cleaning supplies from simple ingredients
- Build things
- Make your own laundry soap
Honestly, the sky is the limit once you begin to produce things.
7.) Wait – don’t throw that away!
We throw away so many things that we don’t need to toss. Start looking at your trash differently.
- Reuse and upcycle items that were destined for the trash
- Ask yourself if the item can be mended or repaired
- If it can’t be repaired, are there useful parts you can salvage from it? Fabric, fasteners, hardware – if you have room, stash away things that might be useful.
8.) Line up some additional streams of income.
Unless you are truly in a recession-proof field, start considering adding other streams of income to your family budget. Can you do childcare, fix things for others, or clean? Can you sell things on Etsy or eBay?
And don’t stop with little side-gigs. Look at the new economy and think about some vacuums you may be able to fill. Anything that can be done online that used to be done in person is fair game. Companies like Zoom and Amazon are thriving right now while brick and mortar businesses are struggling to hang on. This might be exactly the right time to launch a bootstrap business.
Focus on the things you can do – not what you can’t do.
We all have small things within our control. When we place our focus on those instead of the television news or the bill collectors who are calling, we can accomplish a whole lot more than if we sit around and fret.
Think about the new economy and figure out what is in your hands. What are some things you can do to battle this that are entirely within your control? Share your ideas in the comments!