What to do when you’re running out of money (tips #3, #4, and #5)

Tip #3. Plan your finances.

Lay out your monthly finances in a spreadsheet. Put down everything even if it’s only once a year (property taxes) or once in a lifetime (wisdom teeth removal). You need to see the whole picture before you can figure out what you can cut or reduce and how much money you need every month. The Mint.com website has a number of tools and resources for this part of the process, but just googling “planning your personal finances” or “personal finance budgeting” will give you lots of resources to play with.

Tip #4. Cut down on the expenses!

Tips #2 & #3 will have given you information on where your money’s going… and chances are there are a lot of things you don’t truly need or that you can be more frugal about. Eliminate unnecessary and luxury expenses and be more efficient about shopping for necessities. If you can’t reduce your monthly expenses by 10%, you’re probably not trying hard enough. (Remember, I said this wasn’t going to be fun.) Reducing expenses is a good policy in general: go check out The Millionaire Next Door from the library for a lot of good ideas on things you can do.

Tip #5. Identify how much money you need to be bringing in.

Once you’ve got your finances laid out and have reduced your expenses, figure out how much money–or how much more money–you need to bring in every month to survive. Things might even be not as bleak as they first seemed: when you put a number down, it can make your goal more concrete and less daunting. For example, you may discover that you only need to find an extra $300 a month in net income, which may mean taking one extra shift a week, writing a couple extra articles a month, or finding one additional short-term contract assignment a year. Seeing the difference down on paper may help you identify a way to cut your expenses that much more to survive on what you’re bringing in.

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