When you don’t make enough money, it’s easy to feel discouraged.
Whether you want to build an emergency fund, start investing, or even just save for a vacation, you need to have enough financial margin to make your dreams a reality.
But I think we can all agree, that’s easier said than done.
I mean, if maintaining a healthy financial margin was easy, then everyone would already be doing it.
So the question is, what can you do when you don’t make enough money to cover achieve your financial goals?
In this post, I’m going to reveal 5 practical steps you can take in order to maximize your financial margin. Plus, I’ll 27 of the best ways to boost your financial margin every month.
What To Do When You Don’t Make Enough Money
When you don’t make enough money, it’s easy to get caught up in the overwhelm and stress. Trust me, I’ve been there.
But if you want to make progress and turn things around, you need to start by taking a breath, and breaking the problem into smaller, more manageable steps.
Step 1: Set Clear, Measurable Goals
When you operate your financial life without any kind of direction, it can feel a lot like treading water.
After all, when you aren’t sure where you want to go, it’s hard to assess your progress.
With that in mind, if you want to take control of your finances, you need to get clear on what you’re working towards.
Start by setting some clear, measurable financial goals for yourself.
For instance, you could set a goal like:
Over the next 5 years, I’m going to do the following:
- Spend the first 9 months paying off all my consumer debt, which currently amounts to $7,500.
- Use the following 15 months to build a $20,000 emergency fund
- Spend the remaining 36 months steadily increasing my monthly investing rate to 30% of my income.
- Use the entire 5 years to increase my annual income to $125,000
What makes these goals so good?
- They are crystal clear- Each goal has a clearly-defined destination.
- Every goal is measurable – Not only can you break each goal into smaller, bite-sized steps, but at any point in time, you can track your progress.
As an added note, they are ambitious, but achievable. These aren’t pie-in-the-sky goals that are impossible to achieve. But they also aren’t so small that you’ll achieve them without putting in some quality effort.
Step 2: Budget Backwards From Your Goals
If you want to achieve any of your financial goals, you need to get intentional about how you’re spending your money.
And the best way to do that is by using a reverse budgeting approach.
With reverse budgeting, you start by breaking your financial goals into monthly parts. Then, once you’ve allocated enough income to achieve your goals, you add in your monthly living expenses and discretionary spending.
For instance, if we use the first goal we set in Step 1: “Spend the first 4 months paying off all my consumer debt, which currently amounts to $7,500,” then all you have to do is divide $7,500 by 9, which equals out to $833 per month.
(Obviously, this example doesn’t account for interest, which is something you would need to add in… but you get the point.)
From there, all you have to do is allocate $833 per month to paying off debt, and then budget your remaining amount of income to pay for everything else.
The first time you budget like this, you might actually end up with a deficit.
In that case, you have 2 options: move on to step 3 and start cutting expenses or adjust the timeline of your goal.
Assuming the deficit isn’t too large, I recommend the former. But, if the deficit is a little too big to stomach, don’t be afraid to go back and tweak your goals to make them a little more realistic.
Step 3: Cut Your Expenses
If you don’t make enough money to make ends meet, you need to get serious about cutting your expenses.
I wish there was a less painful way. But the fact of the matter is, cutting your spending is the fastest way to get your financial life back on track. The good news is that you won’t have to live like this forever.
So, how much do you need to cut?
At minimum, you need to cut as many expenses as it takes to achieve your monthly financial goals.
Going back to our previous example, if you ended up with a deficit of $300 in step 2, then you will need to cut at least $300 worth of spending from your budget.
To do this, I recommend sifting through every expense in your budget. And seriously, if it isn’t a necessity, cut it.
The more expenses you’re willing to cut, the faster you will experience the sweet relief of financial margin.
Step 4: Attack Your Consumer Debt
If you want to get your financial life back on track, you need to get rid of your consumer debt as quickly as possible.
If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that my wife and I are big fans of the Debt Snowball Method. In fact, we used it to pay off $34,000 of debt in just 6 months.
The Debt Snowball Method is simple:
- You list all of your debts from smallest to largest.
- Then you make the minimum payment on every debt except for the smallest one. With that smallest debt, you throw as much extra money as you possibly can at it.
- Once you retire your smallest debt, you roll the money you were putting toward that each month into your next smallest debt. By the time you start attacking your largest debt, you will be throwing the sum total of all your previous payments at one single debt.
The power of the Debt Snowball stems from the series of confidence-boosts you get from paying off each debt. Unlike other debt payoff methods, this one allows you to experience the taste of victory throughout your entire journey.
Ultimately, the debt snowball helps you experience a feeling of positive financial momentum. And when you’re having difficulty to making ends meet, that glimmer of hope can give you wings!
Step 5: Play Offense With Your Income
Once you’ve achieved financial margin by cutting expenses and paying off debt, it’s time to start playing offense with your income.
This means finding ways to make more money.
Now, I know this can be a tough pill to swallow when you feel like you’re working your butt off and still struggling to make ends meet. But as hard as it might be, sometimes you just need to bring in a little extra cash.
Even a couple hundred dollars each month can have a massive impact on your finances.
And the best part is that there are all sorts of ways to bring in extra money each month.
The Best Side Hustles To Help You Make More Money
When you don’t make enough money, starting a side hustle is an awesome way to boost your monthly income.
But where do you start? And what kind of side hustle should you pursue?
Here are 21 of our favorite side hustle ideas:
One of the most effective ways to start making more money is by freelance writing.
If you have a knack for writing and know how to communicate well, you can start pitching to various publications and websites.
You can even set up a gig on a site like Fiverr or UpWork to start connecting with clients all over the world.
Arguably one of the best things about freelance writing is that you can do it from anywhere in the world.
So if you’re looking for a great way to boost your income without having to leave the comfort of your living room, freelance writing might be just the ticket.
Social Media Management
Another great way to boost your income from home is by becoming a freelance social media manager.
If you know how to use various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, then you can start offering your services to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Social media can play a prominent role in the growth and sales of a small business. And if you can harness that power for your clients, you can make quite a bit of money.
In fact, I’ve seen social media managers charge thousands per month for a single client. So, if you’re good, this could very well become your full-time gig.
Teach Music Lessons
If you have any kind of musical talent, why not share it with others by teaching music lessons?
You can teach in-person or even online through a variety of different apps and platforms.
There are all sorts of people out there who want to learn how to play an instrument but don’t know where to start.
So if you can help them learn, you can earn some extra cash in the process.
This is a great way to generate additional income if you have a passion for music and love helping others.
Pro tip: if you really want to generate some interest in your business, you could start a YouTube channel that teaches people the absolute basics. Then, within each video, you could direct them to your website, where they can schedule a virtual lesson with you.
If you have a talent for editing videos, you could start offering your services as a video editor.
There are all sorts of businesses and individuals who need help putting together videos for their YouTube channels, social media accounts, or even just for personal use.
And if you have a strong attention to detail and know your way around video editing software, you could start making some serious money from this gig.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that this could be a very time-consuming job, so make sure you’re prepared for that before you take on any clients.
Plain and simple, if you don’t make enough money, editing videos is a fantastic way to boost your income.
If you’re good with numbers and you have a head for business, you could start offering your services as a bookkeeper.
There are all sorts of small businesses and entrepreneurs who need help staying organized and keeping track of their finances.
And if you can do that for them, you can earn quite a bit of money.
I’ve been designing and building websites for quite a while, and I can tell you that it is a fantastic side hustle.
If you posess a talent for digital design and have a basic understanding of coding, you could start offering your services as a website designer.
There are tons of businesses that need help getting their online presence up and running.
And if you can do that for them, you can earn some serious money.
The best part about website design is that it is a fairly easy sell. In other words, most small business owners don’t need to be convinced that they need a website. And if you can offer your services at a reasonable price point, you’d be amazed how much income you can generate with this one skill.
As an added bonus, you could also offer your clients ongoing website maintenance for a monthly fee. This is a proven way to build your monthly cash flow and develop a solid base of consistent monthly revenue.
Whether you’re looking for an ongoing service to offer your clients or just a one-time audit, SEO consulting is a great way to make money.
These days, nearly every small business is looking for ways get their website and digital content in front of potential customers. And speaking from experience, organic search traffic is one of the highest-quality, most likely-to-convert forms of traffic you can drive to a website.
And if you’re good at SEO, you can charge a hefty fee.
Seriously, you can easily charge between $750 and $2,500 per month (or more) for SEO services. It all depends on what you do and how well you do it.
Ultimately, if your work ends up driving more traffic and sales to your client’s business, they’ll be happy to pay your monthly fee.
If you’re good at managing campaigns and know your way around Google Ads, you could start offering your services as a PPC manager.
There are countless businesses that need help with their paid search advertising, and if you can help them get good results, you can charge a nice monthly fee.
Depending on your preference, you could charge by the hour, a flat fee, or even charge a percentage of their monthly PPC budget.
Regardless of how you structure your fee, if you don’t make enough money, PPC management is a great way to add some fuel to your monthly income.
Start A Podcast
If you’re passionate about a particular topic and have something to say, you could start a podcast.
Not only is this a great way to share your thoughts and ideas with the world, but it’s also a fantastic way to make some extra money.
You could sell advertising space on your podcast, or even offer premium content to your listeners for a small monthly subscription fee.
To be clear, starting a podcast isn’t the fastest way to increase your income. Since it will take time to build an audience, this is more of a long-term play. However, if you’re willing to commit the time and effort it takes to build a large podcast following, this can be an incredibly lucrative side hustle.
If you’re good at organizing and coordinating events, you could start offering your services as an event planner.
Whether you offer your services to individuals or businesses, there are all kinds of people out there that are willing to pay for a quality event planner.
From birthday parties and weddings to corporate functions and charity events, there are plenty of ways to make money as an event planner.
And depending on the size and difficulty of the event you’re planning, you could definitely make a few hundred, or even a few thousand extra bucks each month.
If you love to shop and have a good eye for style, you could start offering your services as a personal shopper.
There are so many people out there who would love to have someone else do their shopping for them. And if you’re good at finding the right items at the right price, this can be a great side hustle.
If you’re good at organizing and decluttering homes, you could start offering your services as a home organizer.
Whether you’re organizing someone’s closet, garage, pantry, basement, or kitchen cabinets, there are so many people that would love to have someone else come in and help them get their homes in order.
If you’re good at what you do, you can easily make hundreds of dollars (or more) per client.
Dog Walking/Pet Sitting
If you’re an animal lover, starting a dog walking or pet sitting business could be a great way to make some extra money.
Seriously, if you’re good with animals, this can easily result in a few hundred extra bucks each month. And it might not even feel like work to you!
As an added bonus, dog walking can be great exercise. So, if you like the idea of getting a workout while you earn money, this might be just the ticket.
If you’re good with kids, babysitting or nannying is a fantastic way to make some extra money.
Of course, this will require you to have some experience with children. But if you have the patience and skill set to care for kids, this can be a great way to boost your financial margin.
This is one of my favorite side hustles. Not only is it a really good way to make some extra money, but you also get the satisfaction of helping someone learn and grow.
If you’re knowledgeable in a particular subject area, you could start offering your services online through a platform like Wyzant or a handful of other websites. Or, you could market your educational services to your local community and tutor your students in-person.
Whichever method you decide, tutoring is a great way to boost your income.
If you have a keen eye for detail and a good grasp of grammar, proofreading and editing is a fantastic way to make money on the side.
This side hustle is a great way to supplement your income as a freelance writer.
But even if you don’t want to do any freelance writing, offering your proofreading and editing services to bloggers, businesses, and authors can still be a great way to earn some extra cash.
Food Delivery Driver
If you have a car, becoming a food delivery driver is a great way to make some extra money.
There are so many companies out there that will hire drivers to deliver food to their customers. And depending on the restaurant, you could easily make upwards of $20/hour or more.
You could deliver anything from pizza to Chinese food. Or, if you want, you could sign up for a service like Uber Eats and set your own delivery schedule.
Along the same lines, you could become a rideshare driver.
If you’re not familiar, rideshare drivers use their own personal vehicles to give people rides. And in exchange for their services, they earn a commission from the rideshare company.
Becoming a rideshare driver is a great way to make some extra money on the side. And depending on where you live, this side hustle can earn you a nice side income.
Start a YouTube Channel
In today’s day and age, starting a YouTube channel is a great way to make money on the side.
If you can build up a sizable following, you could potentially earn a decent amount of money from ad revenue. Or, if you’re really successful, you could even make enough money to quit your day job.
I personally follow a few YouTubers that make upwards of $1,000,000 per year through their channel.
The key is to find a good niche, post helpful/valuable content, and stay consistent.
Start A Blog
If you’ve followed Be The Budget for even a short amount of time, you probably know how much I love blogging as a side hustle.
- You can operate a blog from anywhere with an internet connection.
- It is a fantastic way to build a steady stream of passive monthly income.
- You can start a successful blog in almost any niche.
- Consistent blogging compounds over time.
So, if you like to write, starting a blog is a great way to make money on the side.
Additionally, blogging offers so many ways to generate revenue. You can sell advertising space, info-products, consulting services, physical products, or, if you build up enough traffic, you can even make money through paid sponsorships.
Create An Online Course
If you’re an expert in a particular subject area, you could create an online course and sell it for a nice profit.
You could host your course on a platform like Udemy or Teachable. Or, if you want, you could even create your own website and sell a course directly to your visitors.
The greatest thing about selling an online course is that once you’ve developed it, you can sell it over and over again. In other words, once you put in the up front work, you can continue to make money for years.
Plus there isn’t a whole ton of overhead.
Seriously, the profit margins you can achieve when selling an online course are ridiculously good!
When you don’t make enough money, it can be difficult to see past your current financial struggles.
However, if you take a breath, step back, and break the problem down into manageable steps, you’ll see that there are a number of things you can do to improve your situation.
From getting on a budget and cutting expenses to paying off your consumer debt and starting a side hustle, you have the ability and power to turn things around.
So, don’t get discouraged.
Take action and start making the changes you need to make in order to achieve financial success.
Did I leave anything out? Be sure to drop your suggestion in the comments below!