Easy Places to Find Extra Money for Unbudgeted Expenses

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The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Melissa Batai. Melissa is a freelance writer who covers topics ranging from personal finance to business to organics to food.  She blogs at Mom’s Plans, where she shares her family’s journey to healthier living and paying down debt.

You might know the feeling.  Your budget is beyond stretched, and now you need to find more money to cover an expense you hadn’t planned for.  What to do?

Potential Money Sources

Using a credit card is an option, but if you don’t see the potential to make any more money in the immediate future, how will you pay off the credit card?  Building debt just delays the problem.
You might also consider borrowing from a relative, but that makes some people uncomfortable, and again, how will you pay the money off?

Raid the Emergency Fund?

Finding extra money is the problem my husband and I recently had.  All of our money has a job to do (i.e. a bill to pay), but we needed to replace our four year old tires that were now bald and unsafe to drive in a Midwestern winter.  The tires were going to cost a little over $600.
Yes, we have an emergency fund, but to us, this really didn’t constitute an emergency because we knew this expense was coming up.  We just simply didn’t have the money to set aside for the tires, in part because we’re already paying down some hefty debts.
We also didn’t want to charge the tires because we don’t want to go any further in debt.

Instead, we decided to find some ways to generate the money.  Here’s how we did it:

How to Find Money for Unbudgeted Expenses

Starting about 6 weeks before we planned to replace the tires, we started looking around the house for more things to sell.  Keep in mind, over the last two years, each year, we have sold over $1,000 of stuff from our house, so there is not a lot left to sell.
Still, I had a large tub full of my kids’ outgrown spring and summer clothing, so I went to work taking pictures of the outfits and listing them on eBay.  Each month eBay offers 50 listings for free (you don’t have to pay insertion fees), so I listed 50 auctions.  Almost half of them sold, and I ended up with $220 after accounting for eBay and PayPal fees and shipping.
While that was a good start, we were still $410 short, and I’m too cheap to list the remaining clothes on eBay and pay the listing fees.
Next, I raided our quart size canning jar we keep on our dresser for our loose change.  The change had been collecting for several months, and since we use cash for the bulk of our purchases (since we’re kicking credit card debt to the curb), it was about 2/3rds full.  I cashed it in at the bank and got $50.25.
Lucky me, eBay had a President’s day free listing sale, so I relisted many of the kids’ clothes.  This second round netted me another $70 after eBay and PayPal fees and shipping.  Now we were up to $340, a little more than halfway there.
I got a few extra writing jobs and put that money toward the tires.  We were now only a week away from the time we had agreed to replace the tires.  With the one large writing job I got and the two smaller jobs, I had another $170, giving us a total of $510.
Just when we thought we wouldn’t be able to raise the rest of the money, we got an unexpected surprise.  We took our son to the emergency room 1.5 years ago to have him checked for a concussion after a nasty fall; apparently we overpaid, so the unexpected refund check we got in the mail was enough to cover the difference.

Other Places to Look for Extra Cash

If you find yourself in a similar situation, there are other ways you can find money besides selling stuff on eBay and Craigslist and turning in spare change.  You might want to try the following:
1.  Sign up for Swagbucks and use that as your search engine.  You’ll earn Swagbucks that can be redeemed for a PayPal payment or for an Amazon gift card.  I had just redeemed my Swagbucks in December, so I didn’t have quite enough to tap this time.
2.  Raid credit card rewards.  If you use credit cards, you likely have a rewards program.   I still have some unused points even though we don’t really use our credit cards now.  I could have used the points for a Visa Debit card, but I’m saving that for another pseudo-financial emergency.
3.  Cut your budget.  Another way to get cash quickly is to take a no spend challenge or a pantry challenge.  The idea is that you stop all unnecessary spending or stop grocery shopping for a few weeks and use the money that you save to pay the expense you’re facing.

How about you all? What are your favorite ways to “find” extra money? 

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/73416633@N00/490624619/lightbox/


    1. myfijourney says:

      I have three ways that I could find money for budgeted expenses. The first would be to cut my savings rate. Since I save 50% of my income, at any point I could stop saving that and double my available funds. The second would be to tap into my emergency fund. The third would be to start using the dividend payments from my stocks. Currently these only amount to a few thousand a year, but will continue to increase every year.
      My recent post Portfolio Status: March 2013

    2. @myfijourney Excellent work saving! You've got three terrific safeguards.
      My recent post Menu Planning for March 16, 2013

    3. studentdebtsurvivor says:

      I recently sold a bunch of old jewelry on e-bay and made a few hundred dollars. I didn't “need” the money but it was good to get rid of some stuff I no longer need/wear. I'm going to stick that money in my emergency fund for a time when I do need it.
      My recent post My Spending Life Stages

    4. @studentdebtsurvivor–Excellent work! It's amazing to think how much “stuff” we have that can make us some money if we just look for it.
      My recent post Healthy Food Deals & Deals for Kids, March 16, 2013

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