I'm writing this on a Saturday after spending hours with work. Part of me feels very crabby about it, and part of me feels I "ought to" be glad I've got a job at all. I went without one for a long time after my last layoff and the economy tanked. I've been laid off a number of times in my career. When companies tighten belts, art is always the first thing to go. I've been forced into learning a lot of survival skills...
1. Live somewhere cheap. Live with others if you can stand them and they can stand you. Buy a cheap house when you've still got some money. Forget about buying what will impress someone else. If your fortune improves, you can rent out the cheap house and get a better one for yourself.
2. Get an affordable car or live on a bus line. If you've got a car, maintain it. I don't believe in leases. All you get is a bill and nothing to show for it when the lease is up.
3. Don't charge stuff, or pay the bill in full when it comes. If you've got a balance on credit cards, pay more than the minimum and call the credit card company for a lower interest rate. Leave the cards at home when you're out. If you really need something, make yourself go home and get the card to slow down your impulse to buy. Especially, quit buying luxuries, and be honest with yourself about what a luxury is.
4. Eat at home. Restaurants are expensive. Cook real ingredients instead of packaged, easy food. The food is better and better for you too.
5. Live with what you've got. Odds are you already have a lot of stuff.
6. Buy things second-hand. I paid $5 for my winter coat at a garage sale and have worn it for years. I got a $200 pair of hiking boots for $5 too.
7. Turn down/turn up the thermostat. Just a few degrees difference in summer or winter can make a lot of $ difference. Do without the heat or AC when you can.
8. Barter stuff and services. If you don't have $ for something, find someone who has something you want who will trade for what you've got.
9. Quit gifting or make your gifts. (See #6) The spirit of giving shouldn't put you into irreparable debt. If people knew you put yourself in financial disaster for their baby/wedding shower, would they be happy? (If they are, get new friends.)
10. Admit your poverty to people who matter. Pretending otherwise only gets you invited to things you can't afford. Admitting your situation also opens up job opportunities and might provide new ideas and emotional support.
11. Accept help. We're happy to help others, but often terrible at receiving. In a way, that's refusing to let someone else be happy in their giving, which is kind of selfish.