In Budgeting Step Two, I talked about figuring out what you make and what you owe. This time, we’re going to talk about what you should do when you know your numbers, based on what you discovered about yourself.

Let’s get the worst one out of the way first. If you did what I stated and your bring home cash is more than $400 less than what your bills are, you might want to think about going to an outfit like Consumer Credit Counseling and letting them help you out. Not that my next suggestion might not be something for you to try, but taking this step could bring you some instant relief. What these folks do is contact many of your creditors, get you lower payments, then you pay them a lump sum each month, they take their very small piece, pay your creditors, and you get to keep some of your money. You get peace of mind because the phone calls stop, and you still get to eat, keep your car, and pay your mortgage, or rent. You’ll end up paying everyone in full, as they don’t negotiate discounts, only payments without interest, but it does come with a price. You have to get rid of your credit cards, but at this point you shouldn’t even be thinking about using them. Of course, you could always contact your creditors yourself, and they might work directly with you.

If your bring home cash is within $400 of your monthly bills, you have an option. You need to get a part time job. I didn’t say it was a great option, but it’s an option. At minimum wage, if you could work 20 hours a week you’d have your extra money to pay your bills, and probably have something on top for spending money. If you get a job that pays more, even better, because then you could work fewer hours. If you did something like working three 4-hour evenings a week someplace, then working either a Saturday or Sunday shift (or whenever you get a day off), it can be done. Get a job close to home, and it won’t feel so bad. I had to do this for some months back in 1993, and I turned out to enjoy it more than I could have imagined. That, plus it eased my mind because I knew I was making enough so that I could continue living on my own.

If you don’t want a part time job working for someone else, then it’s time to look inward to see what you can do on your own. Everyone has some kind of skill or hobby that they can potentially make money at. You can advertise in your local free newspaper (every community has one) for very little money, or advertise on Craigslist for free. You might make more money than part time pays, although you might also make less; is that a risk you’re ready to take, at least up front? Actually, Craigslist is a great place to look for part time or project work also; just don’t fall for some of the scams that will be there. Can you write? There are lots of sites online that offer money for writing, and that’s something you could do late at night or in the evenings also.

One final thing. If you’re claiming zero on your taxes so you can get a big tax return at the end of the year, change that and get some of that money now. To break even in some fashion, you should be claiming exactly how many dependents you have. If you need emergency cash, you can actually claim more dependents than you have, but you’ll have to pay it in the following year if enough taxes weren’t taken out. Still, that little bit of money might help ease your pain a little bit in the present.

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