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How to Survive a Cash Crunch Without Using Credit Cards

It happens to everyone at some point. Your bank account balance bottoms out but there’s still several days to go until you get paid again. Whether as a result of poor planning or unexpected expenses, it’s never fun to find yourself in a temporary cash crunch. When faced with this situation, many will turn to credit cards to help bridge the gap until they have cash in their pockets again. Unfortunately, doing so only leaves bigger bills down the road. Instead, try these suggestions for making it through a cash crunch without using your credit cards.

Take a Deep Breath—Being broke temporarily isn’t a good feeling, but it’s not the time to panic. Stop, breathe, and take stock of the situation. Remember it’s only temporary and will resolve itself when you get paid again. Spend some time thinking about what led you to where you are. Perhaps you’ve been spending money too freely, or haven’t bothered to budget. Decide on ways to modify your financial habits so you don’t find yourself in this situation again.

Eat What You Have—Now is not the time to be picky about meals. Chances are, you have plenty of food in your pantry and freezer that you haven’t taken the time to prepare. Putting together meals from food you already have can be a fun challenge. And when all else fails, sticking to eating rice and beans or PB&J for a few days will keep your belly full and prevent you from spending money you don’t have. When your finances improve, focus on stocking the pantry with these basics so you’ll always be able to whip up tasty, healthy choices.      clear glass jar of change in US currency

Don’t Keep the Change—You know that jar or can or box overflowing with spare change that you usually ignore? That’s real money that can help you get by until payday. Take it to a Coinstar machine or get coil rollers from the bank and spend some time rolling, then cash it in. You’ll probably be surprised by how much you have. Use it for urgent necessities like a tank of gas or a bag of basic groceries.

Get Out Those Gift Cards—If you’ve been hanging on to gift cards, there’s no better time to use them. Use restaurant gift cards to get takeout and break it up into multiple meals. Put general-use gift cards, like those from Target or Wal-Mart, to use for household staples, groceries or personal care items.

Take a Social Time-Out—When your crew is heading to happy hour or catching the latest blockbuster, it’s not easy to bow out. But when you’re broke, it’s the smart thing to do. Remember, you’re trying to avoid using credit cards—especially for something as fleeting as paying a bar tab or seeing a movie. Let your friends know you’ll definitely be in the next time around, or, invite them over for game night or a movie at your place. You’ll still have fun together and no one will have to spend money.
If you find yourself living paycheck to paycheck more than you’d like, it’s time to make some positive changes. Free Credit Counseling can help you put together a budget and action plan that can help you meet your financial goals.