When thoughts turn to getting more cash every month, many people assume that they’ll have to take a second job. That may be true. If your financial situation is dire or if you have your heart set on some big ticket item, a second job may be the only way to get to the necessary level of income. However, it is possible to bring in large sums of money without getting a second job, just by changing the way you currently live.
You can do this three ways (singly or in combination): Sell your stuff, cut your fixed expenses, and find ways to earn money that are not a “job” (online surveys, entering contests, a little freelance work, etc.). The easiest and quickest way is to cut your fixed expenses. I hear you now, “But a fixed expense is just that. Fixed. It can’t be changed so we’re stuck with it.” That’s just not true. Nothing is “fixed” in stone. Yes, getting the expense reduced may mean some time, inconvenience, or sacrifice on your part, but it is possible to reduce or eliminate every expense that you think is fixed.
If you are in a financial situation where you need a lot more money fast and you don’t want to get a second job, then reducing your fixed expenses is one avenue you need to look at. So how can you reduce those supposedly “fixed” expenses? Here are a few ideas for some common expenses:
Mortgage payments: Downsize to a smaller, less expensive house. Refinance and take advantage of lower interest rates. See if you have any extras like PMI on your mortgage and find out if you qualify to have them removed. Rent out a room and use the rent money to cover your mortgage.
Rent: Move to a different complex. Move to a smaller unit within the same complex. Take on a roommate. Ask the landlord for a reduced rate in exchange for working in the office two days a week or doing some landscaping. Ask the landlord for a reduced rate based on your status as a long term, good tenant.
Utility bills: Conserve water and energy (take shorter showers, only run full loads of laundry/dishes, stop watering the lawn, turn off lights when you leave a room, switch to CFL bulbs, etc.). Ask your energy company if they offer reduced rates for off-peak usage. Ask if they have an energy conservation discount. See if your utility will give you a discount for paperless billing. Get a programmable thermostat and have it turn your heat/AC up or down when you’re not home or asleep. Unplug anything not in use and put everything else on power strips you can flick off when you’re not using it.
Phone/Wireless/Internet: See if a bundle will lower your bills. Drop extras like call waiting, caller ID, unlimited data, text messaging, and long distance. Switch to a slower speed Internet connection. Drop the phone or Internet service altogether if you aren’t using it. Switch to prepaid cell service. Consider dropping the landline if you only use your cell phone.
TV/Cable: Switch to a lower priced package. Call your provider and ask them to match a competitor’s deal or see if they can lower your bill (many have unadvertised packages or customer retention deals they can offer if you ask). Drop the service entirely and rent movies from Netflix, Redbox, or free from the library, or watch TV shows over the Internet at sites like Hulu.com.
Car payments: Sell the expensive car and get a cheaper one. Turn in your lease and buy a beater. Get rid of one car and become a single car family. Become the carpool leader at work and use the money your riders give you to pay your car note. Sell the car and use public transit, walk, or ride a bike.
Insurance: Shop around for the best price. Drop unnecessary coverages. Ask about discounts for safety features, group memberships, taking a class, healthy living, holding more than one policy with the company, etc. Raise your deductible. Sell something (like a car, expensive jewelry, or art) to get out from under the insurance payment. Sell the expensive-to-insure car and buy one that costs far less to insure.
Taxes: Appeal if you think your property valuation is too high. Contribute to an IRA or 401K to reduce your taxable income. Take all the tax deductions you’re entitled to. Donate to charity. Move to a lower tax area or sell the house and buy a smaller one that carries less of a tax burden. Sell the new car that has a high property tax and buy one that’s worth less.
Debt payments: Ask your credit card company to reduce your interest rate. Move balances to cards that offer zero percent on balance transfers. Look into consolidating student loans. Sell the things that caused the debt (cars, electronics, “toys,” designer clothes, etc.) and use the money to pay down the debt. Negotiate with hospitals and medical providers to lower your payments.
Services: Any service that requires a monthly/annual payment can be discontinued. Alarm service, gym memberships, lawn service, maintenance contracts, subscriptions, dues, etc. can all be cancelled. Try renegotiating the rate on anything you think you must keep.
Food: Use coupons. Shop sales and stock up. Don’t eat out often. Eat less meat. Shop non-traditional markets like Aldi’s and bakery outlets that specialize in overstocks. Don’t waste food; eat it before it expires. Shop local farmer’s markets for in season produce. Buy fewer processed convenience foods and stick to more natural foods.
Fuel: Drive less. Combine errands and don’t make unnecessary trips. Trade in the large SUV for a smaller, fuel efficient car. Use sites like GasBuddy.com to find the cheapest stations. Use mass transit or walk. Start a carpool.
Fixed expenses won’t magically reduce themselves, but neither do they have to remain at their current levels. All expenses can be changed, you just have to be willing to make those changes happen. Some of those changes are hard and may seem like an inconvenience or a burden but if you need money fast and you don’t want or can’t get a second job, then you can still generate a lot of cash by drastically reducing your “fixed” expenses.