Like many other personal finance bloggers, I am immensely privileged. I know that this can rub readers the wrong way, especially when they’re struggling with money. Today, I hope to be more helpful to those who are currently searching for a way to get out of survival mode.
How to Get Out of Survival Mode
Come to Terms with your Situation
3 Signs You’re in Survival Mode:
- You’re always reactive, not proactive. Instead of replacing the tires on your car before they tear or wear out- you keep driving on them, until the inevitable happens.You then have to scrounge around for a ride, buy used tires, or find a shop that has financing options.
- Everything is a risk. Should I pay the electric bill? Or should I pay my car insurance? One option means risking getting a ticket, and having my car impounded- the other means I risk getting sick or having my home’s waterlines burst.
- You can’t help but feel hopeless. Why should I bother budgeting? Why should I bother trying? I’m not going to ‘get ahead’ so I might as well just do what I want.
Step one of ‘How to Get out of Survival Mode’ is understanding that you are, in fact, in survival mode. It’s okay to hit a rough patch and be ‘stuck’ for a bit. It’s not okay to continue denying your situation, and ultimately, staying ‘stuck’.
Track your Spending Habits
Obviously, you’re not wasting your money on fancy lattes- but your income is going somewhere, and you need to figure out exactly where that is.
Right now, I want you to grab a piece of paper (a napkin works fine), or open your phone’s notebook and start writing down your expenses. How much is your phone bill? Utilities? Rent? Insurance? Food? Fuel? Debt? Write down each of these numbers, and add them up.
Next, how much money do you bring home weekly, or biweekly, after taxes? Write that number down.
Now, take that number and multiply it by two (if you’re paid biweekly) or four (if you’re paid weekly).
If you come to the conclusion that you have more expense than income– you need to earn more, or spend less. Duh, right? Even though ‘earn more or spend less’ sounds simple, I know it’s not. I’ll help you with that.
If you come to the conclusion that you have more income than expense– you either estimated your monthly expenses wrong, or you have a spending issue. Lucky for you, this is the easiest money situation to dig yourself out of.
Make a Budget, and Stick to It
If you have more Income than Expense
Refigure your monthly spending. Did you calculate your income as pre or post tax? Did you underestimate the actual cost of your bills? That’s a super easy mistake to make, especially when it comes to your food and fuel. Did you forget some sneaky bills, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Spotify?
If you still have more income than expense after your recalculation, you have a spending problem. The simplest way to fix this is a one month ‘spending freeze’, or ‘no spend challenge’. This will allow you to live on the bare minimum so you’ll break your paycheck to paycheck cycle, and also allow you to gain new insights into your financial habits. If you’re unfamiliar with no spend challenges, check out this post I wrote about my inspirational friend Shawna. She’s saving twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) of her thirty two thousand dollar ($32,000) income in 2018- plus she has an apartment and a son she takes care of!
If you have more Expense than Income
Read the rest of this article! I’m going to do everything I can to share tips and ideas to help get you OUT!
Cut the Largest Costs
Housing is most likely your largest monthly expense. If you’re able to take control of that expense, you can totally change your life. Here are a few options you should consider to cut this expense, especially if it makes up more than 30% of your spending.
- Downsize. Although there are certainly costs to moving, downsizing can really save you money over time.
- Move to a cheaper area. Be it a cheaper house two blocks over, or halfway across the country where the cost of living is lower.
- Get a roommate or two.
- Rent out part of your house to vacationers.
- Leave your house or apartment to become a roommate.
- Live unconventionally. Stay in your car, RV, or office.
- Move into a friend or relative’s home.
If you’re curious as to how you can buy a house with no credit and little money, check out this post of mine.
Food is probably taking up at least 20% of your paycheck, if not more. Being able to control this expense, like housing, can be life transforming. I created a really in-depth and comprehensive article over how to cut the cost of your food which you can read here. But, the main takeaways are to:
- Buy foods that are less than $1/lb
- Go vegetarian, at least as often as you can
- Avoid large chain stores, and visit more places like Aldi
- Coupon, shop for discount items, and then stockpile whenever your budget allows
- Avoid the organics (because it’s really just an expensive scare tactic)
- DIY what you can
- Avoid overly processed foods
- Forget the name brand foods
- Use up everything in your cabinets (even if you do have a weird food combination)
Cut the Outlying Costs
“I’m broke anyways, what does it matter?”
All the little things eventually add up to become the big things.
If your bank account keeps hitting the negative, you’re probably getting slapped with some serious overdraft fees. Either change your account at the bank so that it cannot be over-drafted (you’ll instead be declined if you attempt to make a purchase without sufficient funds), or change banks completely.
You’re probably already doing this, but if you’re not, you should. Stay home more often, or take advantage of free activities, hobbies, and events. If you live in Southern Indiana, check out this list of free things to do.
Stay away from the dollar stores, especially if you’re a bit of a shopaholic. Put down the $2 emoji throw pillow!
Find a hobby that can save you money, or even become a side hustle. A few examples of this are:
- Cooking at home
- Raising chickens (read how this woman makes $1k / month with 15 chickens)
- Being a tour guide in your own city
- Refurbishing furniture
- Babysit, housesit, pet sit
- Blog (Here’s why you should start blogging, and here’s how you get great at it) or Freelance (Here’s what freelancing is, and here’s how to do it)
- Sell your photos / photography skills
Debt, especially the unnecessary kind
- Rent-To-Owns. Walk away from it, your interest rates are likely at 200-300%.
- Payday Loans. Most payday loan companies charge $17.50 for every $100 a person borrows.
- Pawnshop Consignments Most shops only give you 70% of what the item is worth in cash, then to add insult to injury, they often require an additional 10% of that cash they loaned you. Just sell the item and cut your loss.
- Car Title Loans. Not only do they only give you about 20% to 40% of what the car is worth, but if you can’t pay on time, they just keep tacking on more and more fees and interest until you can no longer afford to pay, AND you’re also out of a way to work now.
- New (or Newish) Cars. Dealerships are notorious for tacking on an additional 1-5% in interest fees, on TOP of the interest rate you would typically qualify for, had you simply gone to the bank yourself. Plus, the pull on your credit is bad for your score.
Make More Money…
…but never inflate your lifestyle. You’re stuck on a hedonic treadmill that’s keeping your happiness at a bland 7 out of 10, don’t keep yourself poor by trying to beat the treadmill. Instead, make a reverse bucket list.
Here is how you can make money from home, as a freelancer, or by even starting a business (that doesn’t have start up costs!).
Here’s a guide on how to make an additional $1000 in 90 days (even if you only make minimum wage).
Start Living Intentionally
For you to live your best life possible, you need to know what your dream life actually looks like! Plan out your dream day (like I did), and then closely analyze what’s on your list. After that, you need to put a price on your dreams, and then turn that into an attainable shopping list!
Take up some degree of minimalism. Remember, minimalism is not about depriving yourself- it’s about having everything you need, and nothing that you don’t. Downsize your closet easily, based on your personality type (I have 16 pieces of clothing, and haven’t bought clothes in 2 years now- and I think I can make it to 3 or even 4!!). Get rid of your smartphone like I did. Heck, you can even start living like a happy little homestead granny, or downsize your kitchen (or even live in 70 square feet like my husband, my dog, and myself did for a year so we could see the 48 continental states). And don’t worry- you don’t have to have money to be a minimalist. In fact, I think that becoming minimalist leads to you having more time AND money.
- Should personal finance bloggers cater more towards the lower class in our writings? Are we totally out of touch with our readers’ struggles?
- What’s your best tip for how to get out of survival mode?
- What’s your favorite way to make money, that doesn’t require any start up costs?
- What do you like to do for free entertainment?
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