Personal Finance: How to Make Ends Meet

As promised in my previous post, I’m going to discuss some things to consider if you’re struggling to make ends meet. What can you do when you’re unable to meet your minimum expenses for food and shelter? What are some things you need to do in this situation? How can you climb out of this? There’s no magic bullet, but there are a few things which can help.

Make Ends Meet by Generating Additional Income

Side hustles are all the rage. Of course, side hustles aren’t a new thing, they were just called “part-time jobs” before.  The key difference between a side hustle and what we traditionally think of as a part-time job is that you now have a seemingly endless list of potential side hustles, some which you would never have expected. Start by thinking about what skills you have or what your interests are and how they can be beneficial to other people. Talk to friends, colleagues, or strangers to find out what they do – mention your interests and skills to them, you might find they’re looking for exactly what you’re able to offer.

But maybe you don’t have enough time to take on a side job. In that case, take a long, hard look at your current job and figure out why it’s not enough to make ends meet. Let’s assume that your salary is too low; are you in a position to ask for a raise? If not, then why not start looking around for a different job with higher pay, or a job that would give you enough time to generate additional income on the side? Don’t let fear stand in your way if you need to make a change.

If your salary is reasonable, then the likely culprit of your lack of funds is high expenditures.

Make Ends Meet by Reducing Expenses

I’m not going to tell you to stop buying coffee or to start paying yourself first. If your cash flow problem boils down to spending too much, you have to ask yourself why. And you really have to drill down; this could get unpleasant for you. You can’t stop at the superficial reasons for overspending, you have to find its source. If you think you’re spending too much, then figure out the source and it will become much clearer to you how to manage your spending.

Do you spend too much on clothes? Why? Is it because you have a tendency to shop when you’re feeling down and buying new clothes makes you feel better? Then what’s causing you to feel down and is there a better way for you to manage those feelings?

Are you always eating out? Why? Is it because you don’t have enough time? Then start planning out a schedule – start small, maybe you always buy lunch but you can decide to bring lunch one day a week. Even if you can’t cook, you’re capable of making a sandwich.

Did you go on a vacation that maybe you couldn’t quite afford? Why? Because everyone else goes on vacation and you deserve a treat too? I’m not going to tell you that you can’t occasionally treat yourself (as long as it fits your overall plan) but if you see a pattern of overspending because you feel like you’re missing out, that might be a red flag.

There have been a lot of articles written about the impacts of various types of media on our behaviours. People tend to post their best moments on social media, not their worst, and when you see what they’re doing, you might start to compare yourself to them (consciously or unconsciously). And I’m sure that HGTV has convinced many people that their home just needs a little updating.

Start setting boundaries. I love watching HGTV but I haven’t renovated anything in my home despite the fact that it’s falling apart a bit. Sure, it would be great to have a kitchen which doesn’t have slightly sticky, oddly-coloured cabinets, but I live in an expensive city and need cash for other things.

My #1 tip for reducing expenses is to stop paying for things if you don’t need to.

I don’t just mean big things, this works for little things too. Depriving yourself of happiness sucks and it’s not something you want to do unless its necessary. There are all sorts of ways to reduce costs if you still want an occasional night out or treat.

  • Your public library isn’t just a place to borrow books. A lot of them now have digital libraries so you can access magazines, music, and movies electronically.
  • Google free events in your area. Literally, just Google “free events in <insert area>”. Eventbright has lots of free event listings too, although it may not work as well in certain cities. Bonus – Some of these free events also include food.
  • Check your local community centre or a nearby university to see what events they have. Events will often be free or low-cost, even if you’re not a member or student.
  • Volunteer! Get out, make new friends, do good in the world!
  • Sign up for mailing lists and loyalty programs; it’s like getting random free presents throughout the year.
  • Barter. This one is my favourite; I do it all the time. You can do it for things or for services (True story – I have traded writing for bacon).

Not being able to make ends meet is a shitty situation but you have a lot of possible ways to free yourself. If you’re in a really difficult situation, there are an increasing number of resources you can reach out to for help, whether it’s to get job training, talk about debt management, or how to obtain low-cost food and shelter. Start opening up about your finances and get the help you need.