Turning a Financial Reversal Around

Crystal Jackson


Financial setbacks happen. Facing a financial reversal just might be par for the course, but surviving it may feel impossible when we’re going through it. I’ve managed to survive — and thrive — after more than one financial reversal with a hell of a lot of grit and more resourcefulness than I knew I had.

To do more than just survive a financial setback, we need to tap into our inner creativity. This is the best time to work smarter rather than harder, although the truth is that we usually have to do both. We have to be willing to adjust our expectations, to envision a new way of living, and to swallow our pride. I truly believe that challenges can be opportunities in disguise — but they rarely feel like it. Instead, they feel like struggle, like hardship, and like life at its most unfair.

This is not a definitive guide to all the ways to turn a tough financial situation around. This is what worked for me. With a little creativity, you might be inspired to find something that works for you.

I truly believe that challenges can be opportunities in disguise — but they rarely feel like it.

Believe in the power of budgeting.

First, we consider our spending. Depending on the severity of our situation, we’re either doing a tidy trim or a ruthless cutting back of our expenses. It could get ugly, but we have to keep our end goal in mind. We may also have to come up with a plan for addressing any debt we have — while making sure not to accumulate more.

The most important part of budgeting isn’t what we make or what we spend; it’s our value system. Determining what’s important to us and why is an essential part of creating a budget that will work for us. If having a morning coffee sets the tone for the day and feels essential, the budget may allow for this during the week but cut down on the frequency. Being smart and thrifty doesn’t have to feel like a hardship. It’s all about making our lives what we want but doing it for less.

We’ll also need to compare what we’re spending on what we’re earning, and we try to make those numbers balance. Since we’re talking about thriving and not just surviving, we’re even looking for ways we can start saving for life’s emergencies. But more on that later.

The art of the side hustle.

If our income is gone or just inadequate for life’s necessary expenses, we’ve got to learn to hustle like we never have before. Sticking to one job probably won’t work. If there’s a “but” coming to your lips, let me just say that I’m a single mom of two. I get that people have children and child care issues or other dependents that create time and energy restrictions. That’s why the side hustle is an art.

It’s time to be as creative as we ever have. When we have limited time and energy but a huge deficit in our income, we’ve got to figure out ways to make money that never entered our consciousness before. Google is a start, but we can also network with others by explaining we’re trying to meet a financial goal and asking others for ideas on how to do it. We could source some great ideas, and we don’t have to pour out our whole sob story to do it if we’d rather not.

Here are a few options for side hustles (be prepared to do more than one of them):

  • Participate in paid university research
  • Participate in paid market research
  • Donate plasma, if eligible
  • Look for online, work-from-home jobs that work on a flex schedule
  • Use coupon rebate apps that help you earn money from your regular purchases
  • Walk dogs, pet sit, or babysit
  • Proofread or edit papers
  • Get paid to read books by becoming a reviewer online
  • Mow lawns or do other yard work
  • Tap into any talent that can be turned into cold, hard cash

That last one is essential. Good at baking? Hang out a shingle for your baked goods locally with a home business. Good at arts and crafts? Open up an Etsy shop online or take your work to local craft fairs. Have a special skill? Consider teaching it online on a website like Konversai. I’m a writer, so I started looking for more paid writing work. But I also looked for other skill sets that I could use to really do the hustle.

The lost art of bartering.

Part of being creative means also looking for opportunities to barter with goods or services. Bartering seems to be a lost art, but it can be a valuable one. Perhaps we can’t afford a babysitter, but we don’t mind swapping with another parent so everyone gets a break. Bartering requires incredible creativity and resourcefulness to figure out what we’ve got that someone else might want and how to trade fairly.

I have a friend who is amazing at this. She’ll make her own wine and turn around and barter it for fresh eggs or vegetables. Her creativity and resourcefulness is awe-inspiring. I don’t have her skills, but I can let what she does inspire me to find bartering arrangements of my own.

The throwback move.

Surviving a financial reversal could mean throwing our mindset back to earlier times. Think Depression Era. When finances get down to a shoestring, it may be time to bring back some throwback methods of surviving:

  • Start a garden. Growing our own herbs, vegetables, and even fruit can make us feel more self-sufficient while giving us the side benefit of time in nature.
  • Embrace the idea of gently-used over new.
  • Get creative with holiday, birthday, and vacation budgets.
  • Clip coupons.
  • Curb impulse buying and learn how to save for what we want.

We can complain about it, resist it, and/or resent it. Or we can embrace the challenge of trying to get the most for the least amount of money, time, energy, and resources.

Save like we mean it.

When we ruthlessly trim our budgets like it’s our new religion and then side hustle like nobody’s business, we can use some of our newfound creative mojo to come up with a savings plan. Maybe we aren’t quite there yet, but if we want to thrive after a financial reversal, we’ve got to look ahead to the next emergency. It’s likely there will be one, and we need to be prepared.

Deciding on an amount we can automatically transfer to savings each month is a start — regardless of the amount. We can also save our leftover change and collect it in jars and piggy banks. We’re not going to create emergency savings doing this alone, but we get in the habit of putting back extra for another rainy day.

It stops feeling like we’re losing something, and it starts feeling like security. Soon, we’ll want to grow the amount big enough to cover larger emergencies. Or maybe that once-in-a-lifetime vacation we’ve always dreamed of. If we get really good at this part, we’ll find a way to do both.

Thrive, really.

Thriving after a financial reversal is entirely possible. It doesn’t happen when we see a surge in our income or pay off a debt. The thriving comes when we learn how to create a good and meaningful life no matter what our income or financial situation. We figure out how to make our funds stretch and how to provide for ourselves with the lowest possible overhead, but we also begin to create a different relationship with our finances.

By working smarter and harder and learning to be creative with our resources, we begin to create a healthy relationship with our finances. We stop accumulating debt, start saving, and figure out how to live off less and still create lives we love.

Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention that we don’t all have the same level of opportunity. Privilege abounds — not just the privilege or race or gender either. Our health and even our environments can play a role in what resources we have access to when we struggle.

This isn’t a foolproof plan, and it’s not meant to be. It’s a glimpse of the possibilities. Shifting to a mindset of creativity and abundance over struggle and scarcity is empowering. It can change our lives.

But only when we change our minds.

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

Madison, GA

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