Personal Finance,  Sustainable Life

3 Easy Steps to Make Ends Meet

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Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Carolyn

3 Easy Steps to Make Ends Meet

Rising Costs: How Can you Make Ends Meet

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure here. Investment advice published here is of a general nature only as disclosed here.

Today I read this Facebook post by a local single mom:

“I truly don’t understand how the middle to lower class people are going to make it through this inflation. I am a single mom and I’m struggling to make it. My rent is being raised almost 200 dollars, and my wages do not keep up. I haven’t been able to buy food since the beginning of June. We hardly go anywhere because my car needs repairs, and I can’t afford gas , and because I had Covid at the end of May, my once a month paycheck is short almost 1500 dollars. My bills are falling behind, my credit score is dropping and I just don’t know what to do anymore. I have a decent job, but I cannot afford to live. “

-Anonymous Facebook Poster

I can definitely empathize with this Mom, what she writes rings so very true.  It seems everywhere you turn expenses are skyrocketing and more and more people are living paycheck to paycheck.

The Meaning of “Make Ends Meet”

Making Ends Meet
Making Ends Meet

Per the Oxford dictionary “Make Ends Meet” means to earn enough money to live without getting into debt. 

Sounds simple enough unless you’re living in 2022.  The world is still reeling in the aftermath of Covid-19; we’re left with product shortages and greedy suppliers seizing the opportunity to jack-up prices, the ever-present threat of war looms over our heads and craziness is running rampant among our population.

How is the ordinary family supposed to cope and not fall into that gaping hole called “debt” that is so eager to engulf us? If only our wages were rising as fast as inflation but sadly for most of us this is not the case. Making ends meet is becoming problematic for many.

There are Only 3 Solutions

In reality, there are only 3 solutions to the problem of making ends meet:

  1. Reduce expenses;
  2. Increase earnings;
  3. Reduce expenses and increase earnings

Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Let’s discuss how we can accomplish this.

Reducing Expenses

How does one go about reducing expenses when all your expenses are increasing? The very first thing on your agenda should be tracking every dollar you spend and then once you have an idea about where your money is going, create a budget.

How to Track Spending

Tracking Spending
Tracking Every Dollar Spent

How do you go about tracking spending? You can do it the old-fashioned way with a pen and paper or a spreadsheet (and some diehards say the exercise of entering that information every month is an eye-opener and makes you more aware of your spending) or you can avail yourself of one of the many apps out there that will track every dollar you spend. The great thing about many of these apps is that they are free!

Some of the most popular spending tracker apps are:

I believe all are available on both IOS and Android platforms. Some free versions are better than others, and some paid versions are better than others. I’d suggest playing around with several and choosing the app that appeals to you most, afterll an App you don’t use is not going to do you any good!

How do these Apps Track Spending?

These apps work by linking to your bank and credit card accounts. They import transactions automatically and categorize them into spending categories such as housing, utilities, food, transportation, etc. At the end of the week, month, quarter, or year you can view reports to see exactly where your money has gone.

Creating a Budget

Now that you know where your money is going it’s time to create a budget, preferably a “Zero Based Budget”.

What’s a “Zero Based Budget”?

It’s where you start at a budget of zero and every item you add to the budget must be justified.

  • Is it essential?
  • Have you shopped around to confirm you are paying rock bottom dollar for that item?
  • Can you reduce that expenditure by taking constructive action elsewhere?

Let’s use your phone bill as an example. The average American pays over $100 a month for the convenience of a phone. Is that necessary? Absolutely not, with some shopping around that can easily be cut in half and even beyond that. My monthly phone bill is $3.00 a month. Yes, you read that correctly $3.00. Impossible you say? No, not at all. I use a free service called “google voice” that uses my wifi service to make and receive calls. And when I’m away from wifi, my T-mobile prepaid plan of $3.00 a month suffices. No, I don’t have data on my prepaid plan but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to minimize my monthly outlay.

Where to Start with a Budget

For many of us, budgeting is intimidating and overwhelming.  We shy away from sitting down and preparing a budget as facing financial reality most often is just not fun.  But once you’ve been tracking your expenses for a few months you’ll find budgeting will be much easier.  You will know where the money is going and will have the information required to see where the fat can be trimmed.

Start with your fixed expenses (the payments that don’t fluctuate from month to month)  such as rent or mortgage, loan payments, fixed utility bills like internet and trash service, child care, and health insurance. Refer to your spending summary to make sure you don’t miss any.

Once those are listed move on to the variable expenses like groceries, utilities, fuel, gas, etc.  Don’t forget to factor in expenses that aren’t paid monthly but have to be budgeted for; things like memberships, home maintenance, medical bills, and gifts.  From your spending summary calculate your average monthly total for each of these expenses and set that as your preliminary budgeted amount.

Total all of your fixed and variable expenses.  This is your total budgeted expenses.  Now compare this to your monthly net income. If this figure is higher than your income, you need to trim the budget to make your ends meet. You might think this is impossible but with due diligence, you’ll find places to trim.

Suggestions for Trimming the Budget

Necessity is the mother of invention” -Plato

When the budget needs to be trimmed you will find the excess.

  • Does your budget include clothing? Where have you been shopping? Perhaps it’s time to shop at thrift stores.
  • Does your grocery budget include a lot of prepared foods? It’s cheaper to cook from scratch.  Start meal planning so that you have less food waste and don’t get lured into buying extra groceries.
  • Can you turn your thermostat up in the summer to save on a/c costs and perhaps down in the winter to save on heating? Just a degree or two will make a difference (statistics say you’ll save 1-3% for every degree).
  • Review your car insurance coverage, can it be lowered or perhaps you can raise your deductible? Get quotes from other companies. I saved over a thousand dollars a year by shopping around for my teenage daughter’s car insurance.
  • Consider alternative modes of transportation: Perhaps you can take the bus instead of driving to work every day or even better ride a bike to work and also get the benefit of exercise.  When you must drive combine all your errands into a once-a-week trip to save on fuel.
  • Do you start the day with a trip to Starbucks? Calculate how much you’ll save if you brew your coffee at home and bring it with you. You’ll be shocked. That $3.00 a day workday treat is costing you a minimum of $60.00 a month.

Be vigilant, examine all your spending categories. I recommend taking a snapshot of your preliminary budget and then comparing it to your eventual budget. It’s quite rewarding to see that fat being pared off.  Each week tackle a different category and scrutinize where the money is being spent. Are there places to trim? Sometimes it’s not totally obvious that there is excess, question everything.

And remember a budget is an ever-evolving item, it shouldn’t be static. Every few months compare your actual spending to budgeted spending and tweak it some more.

Increase Earnings

Counting Dollars Earned via Side Hustle
Increasing Earnings

Sometimes despite trimming the budget there still is not enough to pay the bills. Perhaps you have amassed credit card debt and though you can manage your current monthly bills you can’t manage to pay your current bills plus make the credit card payments.  A little extra monthly income can help bridge the gap.

Quick Ways to Earn Some Extra Cash

If you’re backed into a corner financially with a bill due in a few days and no means to pay it, you need an immediate earnings boost. Here are a few ideas to make that happen:

  • Sell things: Most of us have a few things laying around that are worth selling. If you’re a college student sell your textbooks. Mom of young children? Someone else can probably use that baby stuff you don’t need anymore. What about that kitchen appliance you never use? Now is the time to sell it! With shipping costs so high Facebook marketplace and Craigslist are the best places to sell most items. For brand-name clothing and electronics, online selling sales sites like eBay, or Poshmark may be worth a try or take your goods to a local consignment store.
  • Online Surveys: I’ve seen people who are legitimately earning a couple of thousand a year completing surveys. Completing surveys can fit in anyone’s schedule, complete them on tv commercial breaks, while waiting for supper to cook, or whenever you have a few minutes of spare time. Some of the sites below offer sign-up bonuses so with very little effort you can net yourself about $15.00 right off the bat. Some of the most recommended survey sites are:
  • Swagbucks – pays out at just $3.00 in earnings, and has a variety of ways to earn cash; and often has sign-up bonuses!
  • Surveyjunkie-earn an average of $1-$3 per survey; you can also participate in focus groups for additional earnings
  • Branded Surveys-supposedly one of the quickest paying sites,
  • Mypoints-also has a variety of ways to earn cash and offers sign-up bonuses.
  • Do Odd Jobs: Search on your local Facebook community group or Nextdoor group for people looking for someone to assist them with an odd job. I frequently see people looking for help cleaning, packing, gardening, and various other odd jobs.
  • Earn Cashback on your Spending: There are many apps and browser extensions that will find you the best deals and cashback on your everday purchases such as groceries, department store purchases etc. Here are a few I recommend:
  • -If you use just one app for cashback, I recommend this one. It’s best downloaded as an app, you’ll get cash back for your groceries just by scanning your receipt. You can also get cash back for purchases at Wal Mart, Home Depot, Amazon etc. The savings add up with this one and theyre is a $10.00 sign up bonus!
  • Rakuten-This site does your comparison shopping for you. I enable it as a browser extension and then if I’m shopping for something it often comes up and says you can save $X.XX dollars by buying this elsewhere. It also provides cash back at many many retailers. If you sign up via the posted link you may qualify for a $30.00 bonus!
  • Upside-is a cash back app for fuel and groceries. It looks almost too good to be true but on my first fuel up I saved $5.91 and my daughter saved $9.20 after her first fuel up. This app is free to download and really pays!

Increased Earnings over the Long Term

Have an Idea for a Great Side Hustle?
Have an Idea for a Great Side Hustle?

One of your financial goals should be to increase your earnings over the longer term. Odd jobs and surveys are OK in a pinch but they don’t pay as well as getting a better job, a second job, or starting your own business.

Ask for a Raise

Employers are having a hard time finding people to fill their job vacancies. Now is prime time to request a raise. Do your research first and find out what your employer’s competitors are paying their employees and be prepared to answer your boss’s questions about why you deserve a raise.

Get a Better Paying Job

Changing jobs is always stressful, we get secure in our daily routines and most of us dislike disruption. But changing jobs can be a fast track to financial success. Everywhere you go these days you see employers hiring, now may be the perfect time to change jobs or perhaps even careers.

It’s always never too late to go back to school. Online learning makes getting a degree accessible to everyone.

Get a Part-Time Job

Even though you have a 40-hour-per-week job, you might find you can make some much-needed extra cash working just a few extra hours at a part-time job. Be sure to consider costs when taking on a job with just a few hours a week, if you have to drive very far and/or pay for child care it might not be worth it.

Start Your Own Side-Hustle Business

Having a side-hustle outside of your daily 9-5 job is a super way to make some extra money. You can pursue a passion. Here’s a list of a few side-hustles with little or no start-up costs to give you inspiration:

  • Dog Walking or dog sitting: Check out Rover to get started
  • Babysitting
  • Online tutoring
  • Lawncare
  • Become a freelance reader
  • Do you have writing, tech or design skills? Sell your services on Fiverr

The Slippery Slope of Credit Card Debt

The Slippery Slope of Credit Card Debt
Sliding Down The Slippery Slope of Credit Card Debt

Whatever you do, when you’re broke DO NOT be tempted to charge bills to credit cards unless you can set aside funds to pay the full balance at the end of the month. With current average credit card interest rates hovering at around 20%, this is a path you don’t want to venture down. Your financial problems will only compound and your debt will increase rapidly to insurmountable amounts. It’s a no-win situation. I repeat do not go down this path.

Change Habits-Adopt a Frugal Mindset

“Frugality is one of the best ways to combat inflation. “

Think about it. If you spend less, inflation doesn’t impact you as much.

I’m frugal. If something breaks my first inclination is not to look for a repair person, but rather to do a google search and see how I can fix it myself.

What Is A Frugal Mindset?

Here’s a definition from on

A frugal mindset is where you think and make smart, sensible choices with your money. It’s about understanding and being intentional with what money you have and how you spend it.
Being frugal you plan further ahead and take control of your life, your finances, and your energy to make a positive difference.”

More on how important having a good money mindset is here: How to Stop Being Broke.

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help

It can be embarrassing not to be able to pay one’s bills but that’s no reason not to seek help. In most communities, there are food banks and clothing closets that can help you put food on the table and clothes on your children’s backs.

Many of these same organizations assist with credit and job counseling. Swallow your pride and avail yourself of their services, I can guarantee you’ll feel better once you do.

Are the Ends any Closer?

Hopefully, if you’ve read this far you’ve learned how to make those ends meet, or if not meet maybe bring the ends a little closer. Do you have questions or any input to offer? Please feel free to leave your comments below.

If you’ve decided to start a side hustle you might want to read the following posts:

Questions about Making Your Blog (or Hobby) into a Business

7 Steps to Making Your Blog (or Hobby) into a Business

9 Business Lessons that I Wish I had Learned Sooner

How to Stop Being Broke

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  • Amanda

    These are great suggestions! I love that you come at this problem from multiple angles and even offer suggestions for side hustle ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  • Danika

    There is some fantastic advice in this read! Learning to budget and manage your finances is so important, and you’ve done a wonderful job at outlining a guide. I know I can sure struggle with keeping everything managed properly, & I’m sure I’ll follow some of these tips, thank you!

    • Carolyn

      You don’t know how much your comment means to me. I try hard to help people get on the path to financial success but so often my words fall on deaf ears. Thank-you.

  • Riyah Speaks

    These are all great suggestions. I recently started babysitting and selling stuff to try to put some more money in my pocket. I’m slowly moving away from credit cards.

  • Cami @ Becoming Momma Bear

    I really liked your post. My heart aches for that mom, though. Making ends meet is only going to get harder.

    I especially appreciated how you gave a list of budgeting apps tp try; I will definitely look into those.

    I also 100% agree that people spend WAY too much on phone bills, and a big part of that is paying off just the phone itself. I personally never buy a phone that you “pay off” with a plan. There are $100 – $200 smartphones that SERIOUSLY work just as well. (And if you still want a really fancy one, you can buy them LIKE NEW as refurbished phones off Amazon. Just make sure to pick from a reputable seller.)

    Anyways, that’s my opinion 🙂 I try to be a pretty frugal person.

    • Carolyn

      You are absolutely right. Phones have become way to much drain on most of our budgets. I cringe when I see children with iPhones.

  • Ashley

    Great post! Creating a budget was eye-opening for us. We realized we were spending so much on unnecessary stuff, and were able to make cuts. We also found ways to make extra money to help us pay off our debt. I agree with your comment above about your advice falling on deaf ears. It’s so frustrating that people think living with massive amounts of debt is normal and just part of being an adult, and we are the weird ones…lol! This was a very well thought out informative post!

  • Crystal Green

    These are some great tips. I have found that those apps truly do help. Ibotta has given us back a good chunk of funds. Swagbucks is such a simple way to earn extra funds too.

    • Carolyn

      Yes they are easy and simple…for someone trying to stretch their budget they are a no-brainer. Not a get rich quick but a little extra that they can count on.

  • Marina @ NMPL

    To tell the truth, it is so cool that I came across your article because it is a really relevant topic for many people. Unfortunately, people really often can manage their budget in the wrong way and be at a deadlock. Of course, nowadays a lot of people financially survive and even can’t get out of the debt pit, but it is so cool that it is possible to find a way out of any situation, even if it seems to be hopeless. I think that it is really important to track spending because you will have a clearness and accuracy. I really like spending tracker apps because nowadays apps perform a really significant function and you can do a lot of things with them. It is really comfortable to track spending with apps because it is an innovative and modern method. Without any doubts, it is important to find ways of increasing earnings in order to make ends meet and it is important to develop a smart plan. I think that it is the most rational decision to use all these mentioned ideas in aggregate in order to achieve a maximum effect, but I really like online surveys. It has many advantages and you can do it from home, which is truly cool.

    • Carolyn

      Apps are a game changer for sure. They make drudgery fun! The key to budgeting really is tracking spending. So simple yet so many just don’t put the 2 together.

  • nia

    The zero based budget is a cool idea and a great way to think about savings. Thank you for sharing some of your tips, this can be incredibly helpful for people!

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