Nothing is worse than a broken car in the driveway and no money in the bank to fix it. Unfortunately, that scenario is a distinct possibility for the 76 percent of the U.S. population living without any meaningful savings.
If you’re among them, your best bet is to get some money in the bank ASAP to provide a cushion for life’s many curveballs. To make that happen when you don’t have two nickels to rub together, our article on 10 ways to save when you make minimum wage may provide some inspiration.
But let’s not get off track. We need to go back to your hypothetical broken car. You need it fixed now, or you’re not going to make it to work. If you don’t make it to work, you could lose your job. If you lose your job, well, let’s not go there.
You could borrow money from your rich uncle, take out a payday loan or even turn to a peer-to-peer lending site. However, all those options may only dig your financial hole much deeper. What you need is a money tree, a place where you can get cash without doing significant damage to your bottom line.
Obviously, the best preventative measure is to make a budget and stick to it. Here’s a video we recently did about exactly that. Check it out, then read on for ways to raise emergency cash.
Now, here are three options to find some quick cash in an emergency.
1. Save money on this month’s bills to free up cash
Option 1 may not seem like an option for some people living paycheck to paycheck. You may have already cut the cable and pared down your expenses to the bare minimum.
Still, you may be able to find ways to cut a few bills this month and give yourself some breathing room. Then you could use the money earmarked for another expense to pay for your car repair or whatever other unexpected bill you have.
Here are a couple of options that may or may not work for you:
- Sign up for your utility budget plan. Some utilities offer budget plans in which they estimate your annual usage and charge you a flat rate per month. You end up paying more in the summer than you would under the normal billing structure, but it could drop your monthly heating bills by $100 or more right now in the winter months.
- Skip a loan payment. Again, your mileage may vary on this suggestion, but some financial institutions may let you skip a loan payment for a fee. For example, my local credit union charges $30 for the privilege and only offers the skip-a-payment option in the summer and around the holidays. Other institutions may let you skip a payment at any time. Be aware that by skipping a payment, you’re keeping yourself in debt longer, but that may be preferable to losing your job because your transportation is out of commission.
- Transfer a credit card balance. I’m hesitant to even make this suggestion because it has the potential to turn into a crutch that keeps you in debt forever. However, if you’re really hard up for cash, you can eliminate this month’s credit card payment by transferring the balance to a new card, if you have one. Many cards charge a transfer fee that means you will actually owe more when it’s all said and done (i.e., a 3.5 percent balance transfer fee will add $35 to your debt for every $1,000 you transfer). Therefore, save this suggestion as your last-ditch option.
Are these ideal? Absolutely not. But desperate times call for desperate measures. To avoid being so desperate in the future, you may want to see how you can save up to $1,000 on your monthly bills in the coming year and then put that cash in a savings account.
Also, before you start transferring balances and skipping payments, take a look at options No. 2 and 3.
2. Sell items for quick cash
Your next option to come up with money fast is to sell some of your goods. If you have time to pay your unexpected bill, you may want to find out where to get top dollar for your items.
On the other hand, if you need cash today, you could try these avenues to make a quick sale:
- Online garage sale groups (trying searching Facebook for one local to you).
- Yard sale.
- Consignment shop that will pay cash on the spot.
- Gold or silver shops (contact a few to find the best price).
Don’t assume you don’t have anything to sell. Unless you’ve truly embraced the minimalist lifestyle, almost everyone owns items they can live without: clothes, books, children’s items, dishware, DVDs, furniture or tools, for example. Take a good look around and see what’s available.
As a final note on selling, I don’t recommend parting with anything irreplaceable or sentimental in order to solve a short-term financial crisis. Keep Grandma’s heirloom jewelry and find another way to come up with the money you need.
3. Find a way to make money and get paid fast
This final money tree option is the most lucrative one. It is also the one that, if planted correctly, you can return to again and again.
I’ll use myself as an example. My money tree is freelance writing. It’s something I can do as much as I want. If I know I have a big bill coming up, I may be able to pick up more work through my existing clients, or I could head to a site like Elance.com or Guru.com to find new jobs. Of course, it’s not a sure thing, but the potential is there to earn as much as I need as long as I put in the effort.
Consider your talents and decide what you could do to bring in extra cash whenever you need it. Here are a few ideas you can use to start brainstorming. And you’ll find a lot more in 50 Ways to Make a Fast $50.
- Web design.
- Graphic design.
- EBay listing service.
- Landscaping work.
- Translation (for those of you who are bilingual).
- Uber, Lyft or Sidecar driver.
Will all of these jobs pay instantly? Not necessarily, although it is certainly possible to find people who need work done today and who are also willing to pay today.
In my mind, having a marketable talent or skill is the No. 1 way to ensure you always have access to the cash you need. Then your earning potential is only limited by how much you’re willing to work. For more information and ideas, I recommend this article on making a full-time income off the Internet.
Being broke is no fun, but these three options could help you get out of a temporary pinch. To learn more about how to improve your finances in the long term, you’ll want to subscribe to the Money Talks News newsletter.
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