You don't need to max out a credit card or tap into your emergency savings.
On a recent Sunday night, I stood in the dark beside a glowing IKEA lamp in the CVS parking lot near my home. Why? I needed extra cash fast.
I’d listed the lamp, which was sitting unused in my basement, on Craigslist the day before. On Sunday night, I got a text asking if I could meet. It was 8 p.m. and dark outside, but we met at the corner drug store. The buyer left with the lamp, and I added $20 to my weekend scrounge-up stash.
I wasn’t broke, but my budget didn’t allow for a few indulgences I wanted that week. I could have withdrawn money from my savings or paid for some things with a credit card. However, sometimes I like to see how much cash I can scrape up with what I’ve got on hand. Once I dip into my emergency fund, it’s too easy to keep knocking it down by $50 here or $100 there. Also, I don’t want to add to any credit card balance I might have.
Maybe you’ve been there yourself, trying to stick to a tight budget while waiting on payday. Next time, don’t be so quick to whip out your credit card.
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1. List a few items on Craigslist
If you stopped playing tennis 15 years ago, sell your tennis racket. What about that extra dog crate you don’t use? You can get $30 for that. The key is to list a few things that you don’t use and people actually want. No one wants the outdated $500 camera you bought 15 years ago. Someone does want your floor lamp, and dog crates and cat carriers sell fast.
Tip: Look at what everyone else is charging and price the item $5-$10 less.
2. Break open the change jar
I toss all my change into a Trader Joe’s coffee can and forget about it for as long as I can. But when I need fast cash, that can is the first place I hit. That same weekend I sold my lamp, I counted $23 in change. You can dump your change into a grocery store change-counting machine and pay a 10 percent fee, but why do that? Take the change to your bank so there’s no fee. Or just spend it little by little. I set my $1 change piles aside to pay for each day’s morning coffee, three bucks at a time.
3. Check your credit card cash back rewards
I try to use my rewards card minimally and pay off the balance each month. However, I still rack up cash-back points. That weekend, I had enough points for $25 cash back, which I redeemed to apply to my statement. That meant I could spend $25 on that credit card, and the amount would be eliminated by the cash-back credit. Check your rewards cards and redeem for cash back. Just don’t get carried away and spend more than you have.
4. Clean out your car
I have a tendency to stuff cards and receipts into the console or cup holder, so when I clean out my car, I find money under seats and floor mats, along with numerous loyalty punch cards for pizza or coffee that I can combine to get a free item. Sometimes I find gift cards that still have a few dollars left. While you’re at it, check all your purses, jackets, backpacks and laptop bags.
5. Hit the used book store
Sell your books and CDs at Half Price Books or a similar used bookstore. Don’t expect big bucks, though. If the store already has lots of copies of your Stephen King novels, you won’t get much. However, other books, especially non-fiction, pay better. If your books and CDs are gathering dust anyway, why not pass along The Celestine Prophecy, and that old Backstreet Boys CD along with a couple more boxes of music and literature to someone else for a little cash.
After my efforts, by Monday, I had a $25 statement credit on my credit card and $50 extra cash to pad my budget. So, next time you need money fast, think outside the coffee can. That cash in your pocket feels a lot better than making a bigger payment next month on your credit card.
Published by Debt.com, LLC