The word “budget” for many invokes feelings of tension, restriction and even emotional claustrophobia.
However, ironically, a good working household budget can actually give you a lot of freedom from worry, as well as the ability to plan and even to save for special things.
It doesn’t have to be the taskmaster! Instead, when used well, a budget can be your servant, a great tool to help you determine and execute your financial goals — even if that is simply to keep a roof over your head and everyone in the household fed.
With COVID-19’s effect on the economy and unemployment, the household budget has become more critical than ever.
In our last column we discussed several ways to cut down on expenses. Today, however, we want to concentrate on the other side of the ledger: finding ways to make money.
Once again we’re relying on the expertise of Julie Galligan, the in-house expert on budgeting here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor. She is able to help individuals and families create budgets. After years of working with families, she knows just where to look for both ways to save and ways to earn more money.
Feel free to call Julie at 360-533-7828, ext. 102, to make a phone appointment to discuss your budgeting questions and concerns. We are a nonprofit organization and her budgeting services are free of charge.
Creativity comes into play
After determining how much money you have coming in and what your monthly expenses are, take a look at what is coming in and what is going out — and do what you can to increase your income and decrease your expenses.
Have you or your spouse lost their job during this pandemic? Or perhaps work hours have been cut down or furlough days have been added?
“It’s important to find anything you can to make extra money,” said Julie. “And the sooner, the better. You don’t want to fall behind in your bills.”
Even if it’s not the pay you are used to, pick up a side job; people are still hiring. Begin to see what’s out there, write up your resume and make some calls.
“Look into industries that might be hiring,” she said. “For instance, perhaps you can deliver pizza at night, or work a shift at a fast-food restaurant or coffee stand.”
Take a quick inventory of your skills and abilities. People pay to have their houses cleaned, their lawns mowed, their windows washed, their garden weeded.
What about watching kids or doing errands for older adults? Perhaps you can cook meals, tutor students, sew rips, proofread papers, clean gutters, housesit or walk dogs. Can you cut and stack firewood, or paint a fence or a deck? Maybe you are house-rich and could earn some money by renting out a room to a local college student.
“It’s just a time where we all have to get creative and think creatively in a variety of different aspects,” Julie said.
Some people have talent in creating arts and crafts, using their hands to make something beautiful or practical — or both! Maybe it’s time to take that hobby to the next level by selling your wares at a local farmer’s market or even on Etsy or Amazon Marketplace.
The proliferation of homemade fabric face masks is a good example of entrepreneurs with a talent quickly jumping in where there is a hot market.
These days if you have computer skills, you could be a great resource to help others get set up for online meetings, install cameras and give computer tune-ups. Can you build websites or help others market their things?
“And you can always work on call for a local temp agency,” Julie added. “It allows you to see different work environments and get an idea of what kind of part or full-time work you might be interested in in the future.”
Examine your stuff
In addition to an inventory of your family’s gifts, talents and abilities, take a look at your stuff with a critical eye.
Things are, after all, just things. Look with fresh eyes at what you have in your closets, garage, attics and basement. Is it time for a big garage sale, perhaps organized with your neighbors? Or do you have something major to sell — a car, boat, RV, appliance, or major piece of furniture or jewelry? Do your research to determine a fair price and offer it up.
Even smaller items such as tools, décor, books, clothes, games, plants and household items sell every day through the newspaper classified ads, eBay, Craig’s List, Offer-up or myriad other internet or app platforms. Some are quite broad and others specialize. For instance, designer clothes can be sold through Poshmark or ThredUp and many other places.
Did you know that there are even places online that will take your unused gift card (even if it’s partly used) and resell it for you for a small fee? Raise.com and Cardpool.com are among those that offer that service.
If you have something of true value, you may want to get a more specified audience. For instance, there are special sites for collectibles, cars, wedding dresses and musical instruments.
Our advice: Do a little research online and by talking to friends before dipping your toe in the water. (You can search for “Where can I sell a ___ online?)
Start out with only one or two sites or apps until you feel comfortable with how each works. Most are relatively easy, but each is a little different; so start slowly.
And, at least to begin with, stick to selling what you already own instead of buying new stuff to sell.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is executive director. This is a nonprofit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County. Contact us with questions about the ductless heat pump program, home repair, housing counseling for renters and landlords, or home buying. Call 360-533-7828, listen to the extension picks that will best help you and leave a callback name and number. Due to COVID-19, our office is not currently open to visitors, but we will call you back.