Look at your wiggle room to find those hidden dollars.
When you need extra money, the first thing you think about is getting another job.
Maybe something part-time, or a little side-hustle.
But what if you don't have time for that, or if you're already working two jobs?
What if there was another way to find that money?
Something to buffer your budget without sucking up your free time?
Somewhere between your income and your expenses is your wiggle room—that place where you balance what you need with what you spend.
What if there were ways to dig into that wiggle room and find some extra cash you didn't know you had.
You might think you don't have much to gain there, but if you look, you might find there's more than you thought.
Here's my story.
My husband and I both got laid off within a month of each other. We had a small inheritance to dip into to stay afloat, but we needed to stretch it as much as possible.
By stretching that money, we learned some valuable lessons.
My husband made a spreadsheet of everything we'd spent for the previous 6 months, and we set about trimming the fat.
We've had to do this a few times over the years, so we've gotten pretty good at cutting back on waste.
To save you the time of analyzing your last year's expenses, here are some of the easiest and most effective ways to find money in your home.
I'm not a cheapskate or a super earth-mother. You don't have to be either to implement these easy ideas for saving on the everyday things you eat and buy.
***All of these suggestions are genuine. There are no affiliate links to anything in this post. Any links to products are merely to be helpful.***
- Harry's razors. My husband introduced me to these. You order them online, you get one handle and replacement heads every month. They're marketed to men, but I have one, and I love it. Women's razors are expensive. They're one of those pink-taxed products, deliberately made more costly for women. These razors are excellent and cheap and good for the environment — win, win, win.
- Baking soda deodorant. Baking soda is a fantastic deodorant. Yes, you read that right. It's science. I have a little container in the bathroom, and I put it on with a blush brush. I discovered this while working a long hot shift at a restaurant. I forgot to bring deodorant for my mid-day reapplication. Deodorant never really worked for me, so I had to reapply often. I was getting pretty ripe when I remembered something I'd read, so I got some from the kitchen. It seemed like a miracle because it worked better than any commercial deodorant I'd ever tried. And the bonus is that it's cheap. There are arguments against it on the internet, but the opponents seem to be deodorant companies. The main drawback seems to be that it can cause a rash if you're sensitive because it's very alkaline.
- Apples and carrots. Apples and carrots are super cheap and healthy. Kids love apples, and you can do so much with them. Eat them with peanut butter, cheese, sprinkle them with cinnamon. Heat them with cinnamon for a healthy dessert. Carrots are the same. Eat them raw with seasoned salt, hummus, dip, or your favorite salad dressing. Steam them, roast them, boil them, mash them, fry them. If you supplement the more expensive vegetables with carrots, you can cut down on any meal cost. (Be warned, though, that if you eat too many carrots, you can actually turn orange.)
- Bottom fitted sheets. Who out there thinks top sheets are overrated? Show of hands? If you're like me, you never use them. So buying a set of sheets only to use the pillowcases and bottom sheet is a waste. While shopping one day, I discovered packages of single bottom-fitted sheets at Walmart. Before this, I didn't know you could buy fitted sheets individually, so I'd never looked. Even if you use top sheets, you can still save money if you buy bottom sheets to supplement your linen closet since that's the one that gets dirty faster.
- Stop eating junk food. Yes, you read that right. Stop buying junk food — chips, cookies, pop, chocolate bars, all the things that aren't a meal. Just stop buying them. They're bad for you anyway. Or at least don't buy them to use as food. Make them special, something you only get on Friday and only buy as much as you'll eat that night. That crap is eating away at your budget and your good health, so don't make it part of your groceries.
- Drink more water — not bottled water. Buy a Brita or some other filter jug and stop buying bottled water, juice, and pop. Drink filtered water. It's better for you, anyway. Soda and juice are expensive. If you need to drink juice, start watering it down. If you don't like the taste, do it in increments so you can get used to it. It's not healthy, and it's expensive.
- Buy second-hand presents/regift. If your kids are little, they'll never know the difference. They don't know where you bought it or if it's new and spoiler: they won't care. Besides, kids break everything anyway, and they only care about unwrapping presents and playing with the boxes. While you're there, look for cool vintage presents for your adult friends. Also, if you have a job where you get a lot of regifts yourself, don't be shy about regifting those if you'll never use them. If someone gives me a candle or body lotion but I don't like the smell, instead of throwing it out, I put it aside to have a little stockpile of things I can choose from for last-minute gifts. It's nice to be able to shop for free in my own home.
- Reuse Ziplock bags. I had a friend who poped ziplock bags as soon as she used them. I couldn't believe she would turn something that could be used many more times into garbage. I wash and reuse Ziplock bags. If you buy the good ones, you can reuse them over and over. I have some that I've used for years. You'd be surprised at how well they hold up.
- Eat all leftovers. It's not your imagination. Your food budget isn't stretching as far as it used to. So it's more important than ever not to waste leftovers. I carry what I can over to another meal, using meat for sandwiches or grilled vegetables for a salad. Sometimes I'll incorporate leftovers into the next night's recipe. My goal is to throw out nothing. I'll even freeze meat drippings for future gravy.
- Make exactly enough. This idea is the opposite take on leftovers in that you try not to have any. Measure your food or at least eyeball it, so you make just the right amount. That way, everyone gets fed, without any waste.
- Make precisely the amount of coffee you're going to drink. If you make drip coffee, figure out how much you drink and then make that much. That extra scoop you waste to make a big pot you won't drink can add up fast. Because coffee is one of those things many of us have every day, wasting it can be expensive.
- Kid's toys. Here's a tip from a daycare owner, kids don't need a million toys — especially little ones. If you have toddlers, you can get by with a play kitchen and a bucket or two with things that work their motor skills. They don't need everything out there, and they don't need electronics. They enjoy the boxes more than the toys. They need some markers and paper; they need tiny scissors and strips of paper. They need to use their imaginations. They need to be outside in nature every day, jumping, climbing, picking at the grass, and getting dirty. That's the best environment for their development. Everything else is superfluous. They need to move and explore and touch and feel, they don't need toys that do one thing over and over, and they don't need a house full of plastic crap, so save your money and take them to the park.
You might not realize it, but when you waste, you're squandering precious dollars.
Try looking at how you spend to find more ways to put that money back into your pocket.
Implement some of these changes, take an envelope, and put the money you'd spent into it.
I bet by the end of the month, you'll be surprised at how much you've saved.
By exploring your wiggle room, you might just find another income without having to work.
Who knows, you might even find more ways than I've listed. If you do, post them in the comments.