When Money is Tight, These 9 Resources Can Help You

Older women worrying with her hands over her face

When money is tight, you can feel like you’re drowning.

You finally make that late payment on one bill, and the next one shows up in the mail. You turn to credit cards to stay afloat, but those bills pile up, too. And just when you think you’re in the clear and a nice paycheck comes rolling in… the rent is due.

Here are nine resources that can give you some relief when you feel like your wallet is stretched as far as it can go.

1. Ask for Help

Shot of a young couple looking anxious while doing their budget at home
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If you’ve exhausted all your options, call a local resource line for help. There’s no shame in it.

Start with 2-1-1, a confidential service offered through United Way that can help you find the resources you need to make rent, pay utilities or find affordable housing.

To use the service, head to 211.org and enter your location. It’ll show you services in your community and give you a number to call.

You can also look into applying for a grant. Take, for example, Modest Needs grants, which are designed for workers just about the poverty line who are ineligible for most other forms of social assistance.

2. Make a Little Extra Money While You Watch TV

Surveys aren’t the quickest way to make money, but they’re a great way to cash in on your downtime and pad your pockets for the next rainy day. Fill them out while you’re watching TV, riding the bus or waiting in line.

One survey site we love is called InboxDollars. It offers several short, daily surveys. You earn cash, so you don’t have to worry about exchanging points. It also offers more ways to earn, such as watching videos, playing scratch-off games and searching the internet.

3. Earn 100x More Interest on Your Savings

One of our favorite banking accounts is the Aspiration Account — there are no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 100 times the interest rate of other banks.

This online-only account comes with a debit card and free ATMs, so you can easily access your money when you need it.

After you open your Aspiration Account, use it to split your income:

  • Automatically deposit a portion of your income into your existing bank account, and use that to cover basic expenses like rent and bills.
  • Deposit what’s left into your Aspiration Account to use for building an emergency fund.

Bonus: You’ll get a free $5 just for signing up!

4. Let This Company Help You Pay off Your Credit Cards

 General shots of a woman downtown Atlanta , Georgia.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

When you think about how much debt you have, you may feel a little anxious.

That’s where a company like Fiona can be helpful. It can help you find personalized lending options to refinance or consolidate your debt to potentially save thousands dollars in interest.

Fiona will show you all the lenders willing to help you pay off your credit card and eliminate the headache of paying bills, by allowing you to make one payment each month.

If your credit score is at least 620, you can borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) and compare interest rates, which start at 4.99%. The idea is to secure a loan at a lower interest rate, potentially helping you save thousands. Repayment plans range from 24 to 84 months.

Take, for example, Katherine, who faced $12,000 in credit-card debt. Holding her back? The 15.24% interest rate. By refinancing with a 5%-interest, seven-year personal loan, she saved $12,000 in interest.

If she’d kept on the same road, she would have paid something like $14,000 in interest alone over 25 years. Yikes.

So even if you’re simply curious about what’s out there, know that checking rates on Fiona won’t hurt your credit score — and can probably save you in interest.

5. Earn Cash Back When You Take a Picture of Your Receipt

TPH photo editor, Alexa Vincent, in various scenes showing credit card debt, consolidation and bankruptcy on August 14, 2018.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

No matter how tight money is right now, you’ll have to buy food at some point. We know it sounds strange, but Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.  

Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.

Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.

6. Prioritize Your Bills and Negotiate Them

Decide which bills to pay first and which ones can slide a little bit until you’re back on secure footing.

Pay your rent or mortgage so you don’t get kicked out of your home. Pay for power and water. You need that stuff.

Ask for payment arrangements. You may be able to negotiate lower bills on essentials like utilities or set up an interest-free payment plan to make larger bills more manageable.

For help, download Truebill, an app that’ll negotiate your bills, cancel unwanted subscriptions and refund your bank fees.

On average, Truebill says it helps customers save more than $700 a year by lowering their bills, canceling unnecessary subscriptions and getting refunds.

7. Sell Your Blood Plasma

It takes about two hours and, yes, it involves a needle, but selling your plasma could earn you about $25 for your first visit. The process is simple, and you’re free to read or watch TV while a machine draws your blood and separates the plasma.

It’s common for plasma donation centers to pay between $20 and $30 per visit, up to twice a week.

Interested? Search “plasma center + [your city]” for options, and ask your friends for referrals — many centers offer referral sign-up bonuses.

If you prefer just to donate blood, look for a blood drive near you on the American Red Cross’ website.

8. Sell Your Stuff

When you’re short on cash, look to the back of your closet and in the depths of your attic or basement. You’ll almost certainly find a bunch of stuff you don’t use anymore.

A lot of people see this clutter and start plotting a garage sale to earn extra money. The prospect is tempting — but a garage sale might not be worth your time.

Try some alternatives, like selling your stuff online or in town to earn more money with less hassle than hosting a full-blown garage sale. Apps like Letgo and Decluttr make it super easy to sell your stuff without sitting in the front yard and dealing with strangers all day.

9. Breathe New Life Into Your Credit

Maybe your credit isn’t the best. Maybe you don’t even have credit. It’s a tough position, but here’s a simple way to remedy the problem: Open a credit card.

Sure, this might sound counterintuitive. However, if you open a credit card and pay it off each month, you’ll likely see your score increase.

Now the only problem is finding a credit card you qualify for.

If you’ve faced rejection after rejection, try applying for the Capital One® Platinum credit card. It’s built for those of us who have average, fair or limited credit. After the first five months, if you’ve made all your payments on time, you’ll gain access to a higher credit line. Another big perk? No annual fee.

Read through customer comments over at Credit Sesame — then start working on your credit.

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