It’s the end of the month, and you’re out of money—again. It’s a hopeless feeling scrambling to see which bills you can pay late and scrounging around in the pantry for food until your next paycheck.
If that’s you, hear this: You aren’t alone. In fact, 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck . . . to paycheck.1 And now, inflation is jacking up prices and making it even more difficult to make ends meet.
But listen: There. Is. Hope. We mean it. Let’s talk through what to do when you’re running out of money.
What to Do If You’re Running Out of Money
You might think all you need to do is make more money to solve this problem. But here’s the truth: It’ll never matter how big your paycheck is if you’re always spending it on your past (aka debt)—or if you have no plan for your spending.
Don’t put a temporary bandage of more cash on the problem. Find a true solution.
Are you ready? Stop the cycle of running out of money by following these five steps.
Step 1: Review Your Spending
It’s time to get serious and take an inventory of your money.
Go ahead and log in to your bank account, pull up your transactions, and look at your expenses, big and small. Where is your money actually going each month? Do you see patterns in your spending?
No matter what you find, it’s important to dig deeper and ask yourself, Is this purchase a need or a want? If it’s a need like your utility bill or rent, that’s a different story. But if it’s a want like restaurant delivery or random movie rentals, something’s got to change.
Remember, you’re running out of money—so you can’t keep spending like you have been. But as you make these changes, you’ll start feeling something you haven’t felt in a long time. Peace of mind.
It’s worth it. Trust us.
Step 2: Create a Budget
Okay, you’ve looked at where your money is going. Now you need to make a plan.
You’ll do this by creating a zero-based budget—which is when your income minus expenses equals zero. This type of budget puts you back in the driver’s seat as you tell every single dollar where to go. This is one of the few times in life where seeing that zero is actually a good thing.
When you’re used to running out of money, you need the confidence of knowing you’re not wasting a single dollar. That’s why this is the best budgeting method out there. And if you need help getting your budget set up and keeping it going, check out our free budgeting tool called EveryDollar.
Okay, but when you’re setting up that budget—what comes first? Good question. Our next step answers that!
Step 3: Pay Your Important Bills
Which Bills Do I Pay First?
When you’re running out of money and you’ve got more bills than you know what to do with, you have to play favorites. So, set aside those sternly worded letters from the credit card company. Guess what, debt collectors: You’re not getting paid . . . yet.
Keep shuffling through your bills until you find the ones that cover the Four Walls. These are your basic necessities. You want to pay these first and in this order:
After you’ve got your Four Walls covered, you can start spending what’s left to cover your other payments, like your credit card or other pressing bills.
What Should I Do When I Can’t Pay My Bills?
This is rough. We don’t make light of that. You’re probably feeling the anxiety rising in your chest. So pause and take a deep breath. If you can’t pay your bills because of inflation or a job loss—it’s going to be okay.
Start budgeting with EveryDollar today!
We’ll say it again: It’s going to be okay.
After taking care of your family, if you don’t have any more money to send to Mastercard or Sallie Mae, it’s not the end of the world. And even if your bills go to collections, you still have time to pay them.
Remember: No matter what that creditor might say, don’t let them bully you into believing that paying their bill is more important than putting food on the table.
It’s time to get creative. Once you’ve done an inventory on where your money is going and made a zero-based budget, it’s time to cut spending and bring in more money.
Step 4: Find Ways to Cut Spending
Remember the patterns you found in your monthly bank statements? Whether it was your daily drive-thru coffee fix, extras at the grocery store, or those little Amazon purchases, it’s time to press pause on these spending habits until you can get ahead with your income again.
1. Eat meals at home.
Hey, eating out is easy (and tasty), but if you can’t pay your bills, the only time you should see the inside of a restaurant is if you’re working there. Seriously—meal plan, buy groceries, cook the food, and eat your meals at home.
You’ll save hundreds on food each month if you get intentional like this. It’s extra work, but so very worth it.
2. No one is too good to use coupons.
There’s no shame in clipping coupons and shopping the clearance aisles. In fact, make it a game. It’s fun to see how much you can save, and there’s a sense of pride that comes from saving money for your family. And since paper coupons are harder to come by these days, you could try out a few money-saving apps like Ibotta, Honey or RetailMeNot.
3. Review your subscriptions.
We all do it. We hear of a great new show everyone’s talking about at work, so we sign up for a new streaming service so we can catch it. And then another. And then another. Because of course all the popular shows aren’t on just one platform!
When you were reviewing your wants and your needs, hopefully you noticed if there were a bunch of extra subscription services you can cut. Use the free versions for now. Endure those ads!
Bonus tip: When it comes to cutting extra spending, you’ll need discipline. To help, get a trusted accountability partner (that’s your spouse if you’re married!) and start having monthly budget meetings together. They’ll provide an extra set of eyes and help you keep up the hard work along the way.
Step 5: Find Ways to Make Extra Money
Okay, we said making extra money isn’t the only solution here, but it is a solution. Once you’ve gone through these other steps, it’s time to work this one. Here are a few ideas to help you increase your income:
1. Deliver food.
If you’ve got a valid driver’s license, a working car (or bike) and some extra time on your hands, delivering food might be the perfect opportunity for you. Check out food delivery apps like Uber Eats, GrubHub, Postmates or DoorDash. Companies like these offer a base pay, and you get to keep your tips! Boom.
2. Shop for groceries.
3. Become a glorified mailman.
Everyone loves a good mail day. But even more than that, we all love a good Amazon delivery day. Sign up to deliver for Amazon Flex and start making money (and putting smiles on people’s faces).
4. Get creative.
Do you have any skills in graphic design, writing or other freelance-type work? Check out Fiverr. This site will connect you with lots of creative opportunities. You’ll get the satisfaction of creating something beautiful while making even more money.
5. Walk the dog.
If you have a flexible schedule and enjoy being outside, you might want to look into becoming a dog walker. Rover allows you to make money by walking Rufus or Buddy around the block.
6. Sell stuff.
An old-fashioned yard sale could raise the cash you need to get back on top of your bills. Don’t want to spend a Saturday haggling over prices? Sell your stuff online with Facebook Marketplace or eBay instead.
Hey—there’s no shortage of ways to make extra money when you’re in a pinch. You just have to be willing to put in the work.
Bonus tip: Listen, if you’re running out of money, these tips will help—as long as you get all those savings and all that extra income into the budget!
Don’t let one dollar from your hard work and sacrifice get wasted by accident. Give. It. A. Job. Check out EveryDollar today!
You don’t have to live like this—with too much month left at the end of your money. You can get out of this cycle. We know it.
You’ve got this!