These days of austerity and limited supply of money in households has meant that families now find creative ways to make their money stretch farther than an elastic band. No one imagines being hit by one of these hard times but like everything that comes along through change and uncertainty, it can be sometimes inevitable. The extent to which it hits every individual is another matter even subject to controversy.
I remember during the good old university days back in Nigeria, “alarm” was the term used to describe any form of hardship we faced as students. Alarm always came along irrespective of whose child you were – rich or poor. It just meant something different to each category of student. The controversy was not about the reality of the alarm as an experience. It was rather about the definition of what bank balance qualified a student to be in full-fledged hardship. The truth was that we all had different alarm thresholds. We could neither brag nor discard the existence of these thresholds in a hurry. Every alarm experience was unique bringing with it pain, sadness, dexterity, creativity and even hope.
I giggle whenever I remember the good old days. Now, fast forward donkey’s years later after signing contracts, chairing meetings, travelling the world, becoming a mum and all, I can still tell when the good old alarm rears its ugly head. I can sniff it from a mile off. You cannot blame a girl for devising some alarm alerts. I find that with a good understanding of proper alarm alerts one can postpone or reduce the alarm impact when it eventually strikes.
Many of my alarm alerts are not new. The only problem is that we all generally choose to ignore them. The alarm impact will become severe enough to scar us for quite a while if we underestimate them. Alarm can occur as a result of controllable or uncontrollable reasons.
One of the most significant alarm alerts is losing your primary source of income. When you lose your main source of income, you must start readjusting your expenditure. Technically, when one’s income reduces, it makes sense to limit the level of outflow. This will be the most sustainable response in my opinion. Income constriction may be temporary or long term therefore appropriate adjustments should still be made to prevent reaching the point-of-no-income.
An increase in family size should also be another alarm alert. This can be expected or unexpected. When a new baby is on the way for example, there will be some inevitably new expenses to be catered for. These can put a strain on existing income. If income flow remains the same then adjustments must be made to the current components of our spending. Cutting down on some luxuries, increasing savings etc may reduce the impact of the alarm that may occur due to the increasing family size.
Acquiring new tastes and habits should be an alarm alert too. When we begin to engage in new habits and develop new tastes, we must remember that they may impact on our income. Sometimes these costs seem small and irrelevant but they all add up, creating pressure on your existing income level. If you are spending more than you are earning then you need to have a rethink because you will be on your own when you go broke.
The only means of averting an alarm strike will be to confront the reasons for the non-sustainability of our current income. Why are our current levels of income no longer enough to sustain us? Are the reasons under our control? If so, then what steps do we consciously need to take to stay on top of things? Such practical steps can help to cushion the effects of the alarm strike.
Living within our income will be the right place to start. We can start by calculating what our total available income is. How much income do we have at our disposal in terms of cash? We can determine this by totalling our cash in hand, cash in our bank account(s), cash received from our debtors and so on. Once this is worked out, the next thing to do will be to start taking active steps to try to live within this amount.
Personally, I make sure that I spend my money on only essentials as soon as I start to sniff alarm. For me, essentials are basically food and shelter. I do not normally add clothing to the equation because as far as I am concerned, my existing clothes will do just fine. I find that once I can eat and keep the shelter over my head I feel less pressured. At the end of the day, life boils down to those basics- food and shelter.
Cut down your credit level. Start cutting down on your level of debt exposure without delay. In this day and age a lot of us are living on credit. Credit cards, car loans, mortgages, store cards etc. If you can pay off any of your debts before an alarm strike, do not put it off. Before an alarm strike, if you find that all your earnings gets exhausted on paying off the different types of debt you have you may have to quit delaying taking steps to reduce your debit level. This should be prioritised to reduce the possibility of defaulting on them in case they fall due during an alarm strike.
Focus on your minimum payments. During an alarm strike, make it a point of duty to keep up with your minimum payments. It is normally a bad idea to pay only the minimum payment on debts. This is because it will take much longer to clear the debt. Interest rates may soar resulting in an endless cycle of debt. However when one is broke honouring at least the minimum payments becomes the least that can be done to salvage the situation. Since debts do not shrink with declining income levels, this becomes the best way to keep one’s credit rating from tumbling alongside.
Defaults are recorded on credit files in the UK for missed payments, late payments and unarranged overdrafts. They stay for a minimum of six years on the credit file. They affect the ability to access credit in the future when things are back on track. Sadly, these defaults overshadow every effort at keeping debts on track, lingering on like bad smells long after things settle down.
Take advantage of offers. Look around when you shop for offers. These make your available funds stretch even further. For instance shop around for your groceries. Don’t only shop in the places you are comfortable with. There are many shops that thrive on selling at rock bottom prices focussing instead on their turnover. If you have online access you can check them out from the comfort of your own home. However check items carefully to avoid traps. Be guided by the weight of the item to determine true discounts. Check also the validity of offers sought as some offers may have expired. Try not to be pressured and avoid impulsive buying at this crucial time. Always bear in mind the financial constraints and stick with getting value for every pound you spend.
Take advantage of travel discounts. Some journeys are heavily discounted when booked in advance. It is not unusual to slash your travel costs by up to 70% this way at times. Choosing a different time to travel can significantly reduce fares too.
Sell off unwanted or less used items. This is one of my favourite things to do when I am a bit squeezed financially. Look around your home for items in the home that have not been used in a long while. You can actually have so much cash lying around your home without even realising. These can otherwise be put to good use. Personally, I try not to be attached to my stuff. Some items they even perish naturally when left unused for a long time so selling them does not bug me. Items can be replaced with more modern ones when things improve financially. So it really is no big deal. After all if they were stolen or burnt in a fire I will still live. This is the concept that allows me let go of my things when the going gets tough.
In addition, I never lose sight of the fact that I can even drop dead leaving them behind. So I do not really see why I should spend my living days holding on to things that can create some comfort for me. Better to live a life of comfort albeit with less possessions than to live on my past glory- suffering within and smiling on the outside deceiving no one but myself.
Some of your clothes, bags, shoes and even kids outgrown items – clothes, shoes, toys, gadgets etc can be sold to raise money during an alarm strike. You can organise a car boot sale or auction the items online. Check auction fees and try using a website that is reasonably priced. You will be shocked at how much you can raise this way. Such funds can help pay the bills, provide some food or even create a bit of enjoyment for the family.
You can buy some things second hand. There are lots of charity shops with outlets that sell lots of bric-a-brac at very affordable prices. It is not true that only poor people shop this way. It is only fair when you feel a bit tight to check out good deals in Charity shops. Personally I feel that if you even donate things to charity, there should be no pride when you have recourse to the charity. In the end, your donations to charity are used by other people. They in turn become second-hand gear to them irrespective of their previous value. We are all human at the end of the day. I personally find lovely and rare items in charity shops. I can hardly resist a trip to the charity shop even during the bountiful days.
Stop throwing useful things away if they are still good. During an alarm strike this is especially important. You do not have to throw stuff away if they are still useful. Some of us have the habit of shopping every season. That is ok when you have your money in abundance. However, it is still ok to reuse last summer clothes or your jacket from last winter.it will not be bad to use them this season if there is really nothing wrong with them.
Get creative. Some creativity can also save some cash during an alarm strike. Learn the power of recycling. Yes recycling does not only happen when we throw our rubbish away on Tuesdays (my local pick up day smiling!). We can apply the recycling principle to anything. It can even apply to our personal items. I turned an old Jeans with worn knees into shorts to rock in the summer. I snipped the broken sling off a pair of sandals and they became slippers. Converting things with a bit of creativity makes them unique and equally saves money. It is totally win-win. When cash is tight any little amount that can be saved goes a long way and that’s all that matters. You can also get creative even with food by reducing waste. Some left overs can be made into yummy sandwiches saving a few quid.
The good news is that alarm strikes like every other event in life soon passes. It can go away totally, reduce in severity or make us tougher. Hopefully, it will not go on forever.
So I hope you find some of these survival skills useful. Have you ever experienced an alarm strike of any sort? Please share some of your coping strategies with me I am keen to learn new ideas.
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