Life Hacks to Survive Being Broke

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Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a self-proclaimed expert on surviving financial hardship. It would be nice to have developed another framework of expertise from more positive experiences. But I’m in my mid-30s, and I’ve experienced job loss, unexpected expenses, divorce, and other forms of financial hardship. While I could bemoan the things that have happened, I’ve found that it’s more productive to learn from them. We can’t always control what will happen. We can get hit with unexpected car repairs or medical expenses without being able to plan for it. But here are a few tips and tricks that can help us survive our hardship and make things just a little easier.

Be creative about earning extra income. It’s not always necessary to take an extra job. I’ve found the following apps helpful for earning extra money to help during tough times:

  1. ibotta: This rebate app allows users to earn cash back from normal grocery purchases. It’s like using coupons, but we can earn cash back or gift cards. New users get a $10 sign on bonus, and each referral earns an additional $10. I’ve made nearly $50 in 3 months on normal purchases. Check it out at
  2. Kidizen: This app allows you to sell gently used children’s clothes online. Get paid using PayPal, and ship items out with tracking. Shipping is included in the listed prices. In the first month, I sold about 3 items. New users get $5 off a first purchase, and referrals will get you another $3 to be used in the app. Check it out at
  3. Donate plasma. Pay varies by location, and participants must have an on-site physical and meet certain health criteria. Donations are allowed twice every 7 day period, and most centers will direct deposit the funds onto a card.
  4. Sell used items on Facebook’s yard sale pages or have an actual yard sale. This is a great way to clear out used items and make a little extra cash. Don’t have a Facebook account? There are tons of apps that will allow you to buy and sell used items.
  5. Look for part-time work that can be done online with a flexible schedule. Direct sales can be a way of earning money from home. I’ve sold Origami Owl, Posh, and Usborne Books. I highly recommend them all. Parties don’t have to be done in person anymore; it’s possible to host a party through social media from the comfort of one’s home.

Learn to budget.

  1. Reduce expenses. Look for ways to cut costs. Get a cheaper cable plan. Negotiate insurance rates. Find a way to cut out unnecessary expenses.
  2. Evaluate priorities. The trick with a budget is figuring out how to pay for all the necessary outgoing expenses including bills, groceries, gas, and essential household products. If the outgoing expenses are higher than the income, we may be living outside of our means. Either slash costs or figure out how to make enough money to maintain that standard of living.
  3. Factor in saving. Yes, it’s tough to save when we’re completely broke, but it’s also important that we figure out some way of building an emergency savings for future hardships, even if all we do is toss spare change in a jar each week.
  4. Buy used. When the budget is under a strain, buying used is an essential strategy for easing the struggle. Buy used cars, with cash if possible, eliminating the need for a car payment. Buy used clothes; many stores exist with gently used items that look as good as new and even sometimes still have the tags on them. Consider buying used items as gifts for family or friends or making something homemade. Check out yard sales, auctions, and thrift stores when shopping rather than heading to the more expensive department stores or shopping malls. It could make all the difference to work in a little more breathing room.
  5. Budget in self-care and entertainment. A financial hardship causes stress on individuals and families. Factor in a little extra money to afford the occasional treat. Maybe that’s a Redbox movie rental or a matinee to see a new release. Perhaps the splurge could be a meal out or a trip to a museum. Self-care is essential, and if we don’t work in a little room for fun in our budget, we’ll most likely fail to successfully keep a budget at all.

Life can hit us with some difficult experiences. We can go from doing great financially to wondering how we’re going to pay the electric bill when it comes due. It can be an enormous strain, but it’s not an impossible situation. Even when things seem bleak, we can summon our inner strength and resourcefulness and start looking at how we can make our situations work. It won’t be easy, but if we learn how to do this now, when we’re back on our feet financially, we will be able to live even better with our newfound money management skills.

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