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As I mentioned in my post about how to help a friend in crisis, I have several people in my life who are going through really tough times. My best friend is fighting an unimaginable battle. My mother-in-law is supporting her husband through a long hospital stay and living with us temporarily. In the meantime, I have my foot in an Aircast boot (and have been told to walk as little as possible), while I recover from a stress fracture in my foot. While my personal situation is temporary, it makes many parts of everyday life a little tougher. While I do my best to stay positive, the truth is that things are hard right now. I’m sure you’ve found yourself in a similar situation at some point. How can we save money when life sucks?
1. Don’t Lose Sight of Your Goals
I think it is important during a crisis is to not lose sight of your financial goals. Before the current storm hit, were you trying to dig out of debt, save for a house, or build up your retirement savings? While you may have to temporarily put some goals on pause, you need to try hard to not go backward. You don’t want a life crisis to turn into a bigger financial crisis than it needs to be.
2. Avoid Retail Therapy
When life sucks, it’s easy to turn to “retail therapy.” I promise that whatever is going on in your life, buying things is not going to make it better. In fact, after that fleeting moment of fun, it will actually make matters worse. It will create more debt, decrease your savings, and bring more useless stuff into your life. Find healthier ways to bring joy into your life. Talk to a friend, create something, get outside, or get some exercise (if your doctor says it’s ok!).
I promise that a new purse will not solve your problems.
3. Lower Your Standards
This is an area where I struggle so much! I have high standards and it’s hard to let them go. Especially during a crisis period, you can save money by lowering your standards. Decide which things are non-negotiable and then let the rest go. I briefly considered hiring a house cleaning service while I’m laid up, but it’s only (hopefully) for 4 weeks. My family can help with the basics and I’m going to let everything else go. Cue the Frozen music!
4. Accept Your New Normal
If your current crisis is not temporary, it may be time to accept your new normal and find a way to get out of survival mode. When life sucks, it can be easy to only focus on your needs for the next hour, but you need to find a way to return to thinking long term (or at least through the next grocery trip!). I remember after each of my kids was born, it felt like I would never have enough time or energy to grocery shop or cook again. While it was fine to live in a survival mode for the first month or so, I had to find a way to cook while sleep-deprived. That was my new normal. I really enjoyed this book on the topic.
5. Turn to Convenience Foods Instead of Fast Food
If you’re used to cooking at home, you may feel like it’s impossible during your crisis situation. If you’re unable to cook, try to buy simpler, pre-made items from the grocery store instead of resorting to a constant stream of fast food. I’ve bought some frozen meals from Costco that can feed my whole family a nutritious meal for less than $10. That’s much cheaper than the $25 we often spend on quick-service food, and generally healthier too. A frozen meal still requires some preparation, so if that’s too much, you can also buy ready-to-eat items. A deli chicken with some pre-made side dishes is still less than $10 for a whole family. Look for other healthy, convenient options at the grocery store like pre-cut fruits and vegetables. If you usually cook from scratch, this is going to increase your grocery budget, but it won’t be nearly as bad as all restaurant meals. Check out my post about how to spend less money eating out for more ideas.
6. Borrow Items Whenever Possible
If you need something temporarily, try to borrow instead of buying it. Maybe you temporarily need a wheelchair, an extra bed, or a shower chair. Odds are good that you know someone who would be happy to lend you the item for a while. Sometimes churches or charities store durable medical items for people to borrow.
7. Accept Help (Or Ask For It!)
When you find yourself in a crisis, you might be amazed by all of the offers for help. Some will be specific and many will be of the “let me know if you need anything” variety. People WANT to help someone in need, but it can be so hard to accept it. Please ACCEPT THE HELP! It will be good for you and good for them. Let them babysit the kids, bring you meals, clean your house, grocery shop, or give you a ride. Another consideration is that the more help you accept from outside your immediate family, the lower the burden is on your family. For example, if you allow your friend or neighbor to grocery shop for you, you can free up your spouse (or parent or child) for other tasks that can’t be outsourced (like helping you take a shower).
How have you found ways to save money (or at least not go into debt) when life sucks? Comment below!