5 ways to hack your budget between jobs

Between jobs and struggling to make it by with regular lifestyle choices? Until a hiring manager calls with good news, you need to make a few cuts, but you want to do more than survive.

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You want to thrive! Here are five ways to hack your budget between jobs and save money.

1. Cut the Cord and Keep Tube Time

You may have given up on your New Year’s resolutions by now, but you can cut back on other bills in your life. Start small. Cut the cord altogether, and keep your tube time intact.

Consider casting TV shows from your smartphone to the big screen via Google Chrome, Roku or a similar device if you’re the type that just needs noise in the background and loves old shows. Channels such as HBO and NBC have apps available but offer a monthly fee at much less monthly. YouTube lets you stream some content for free, especially if you love cat videos and keeping up with favorite vloggers.

You’ve heard of Netflix, which is great, but there are more options to pick and choose from — even combine to get the TV experience you want for less. You can still access live TV when you cut the cord, with streaming subscription services such as:

  • Sling starts at $20 and goes up, depending on the package, and you can customize your package with add-ons for Spanish language channels and sports.
  • Hulu begins at $40 a month for 55 channels that include varying major networks, such as NBC, FOX and CBS.
  • PlayStation Vue starter packages offer 45 channels with Access/Access Slim: $40/$30 per month with up to five continuous streams allowed at once.

2. Hack Home and Living Expenses

Ideally, never let your housing budget exceed 30 percent of your take-home pay, and for homeowners, that total also counts homeowner’s insurance and property tax. Typical home repairs vary, but it’s wise to budget that in, too, even for renters, who may be responsible for the damage they contribute to or cause.

Most don’t live in ideal circumstances. Half of your monthly take-home pay gets put toward the mortgage or rent, especially when between jobs. Try living by the 50/20/30 rule where you still have flexibility but maintain a healthy budget for home and living expenses:

  • Fixed costs should only consume 50 percent of income and apply to those fixed costs that remain the same monthly, such as rent and internet.
  • Savings should comprise 20 percent of your income.
  • Variable costs should only use up 30 percent of your income and include expenses such as groceries, entertainment and clothing.

Adjust these percentages based on your circumstances, aiming to work toward the rule for a healthier financial balance.

In the meantime, where else can you cut or hack your expenses? Invest in a French press over heading to Starbucks every other day. Cut the gym fees, and use free weights and bike or dance. Rent out a room on Airbnb or look for a roommate. If you have a skill to teach others, put it to use for a reasonable fee.

3. Take Transportation Disparities By the Wheel

Transportation costs take up a surprisingly large chunk of your monthly budget, especially if you’re a car owner. The good news: this presents you with more savings opportunities.

When buying or trading in a car, do your research first. You probably considered the costs of down payment and closing, but there’s more. Do you drive about 15,000 miles a year? The average total cost of car ownership was $8,469 in 2017 for clocking that mileage, and that doesn’t count the monthly car payment.

Every model differs, as does the added costs of ownership. How much does the gas tank hold in city or on one of your famous road trips? Don’t forget the loan payments, regular maintenance and emergency repair costs. You never know when you’ll need to replace the break line.

Shop for cheaper car insurance: one study noted an $850 disparity annually between the lowest rates and the average quote you receive. So, shop around for multiple quotes from agents and car insurance providers, and don’t discount small providers — they have some of the best rates around. Shop discounts on your policy, such as anti-theft built into the car, AAA, low mileage and multiple cars.

These little discount hacks add up, but you can always consider alternative forms of transportation, such as taking the bus or biking to work.

4. Get By On More Than Ramen

There’s nothing wrong with living off Ramen. You can add fish and veggies and bake it like casserole. Ramen is versatile, but you need a more balanced diet to keep your health up. Eat your choice of fruit, veggies, meat, and bread even on a budget based on the change you find around the house.

Use the power of Pinterest to meal plan, grocery shop and save. For example, Crockpot it if you don’t cook to eat cheap and healthy and gain tips on what to do with leftover turkey slices, how to make various curries and make tons of beans more palatable.

Make versatile and big portions of slow cooker recipes like oven roasted potatoes, bone broth and pulled pork — store the leftovers as freezer meals. You’ll actually know what went into your food because you made it.

Clean up a cast iron pan from the thrift store, and use it for various cooking methods: bake, fry and more. Don’t be afraid to experiment with vegetarian and vegan meals, using protein-rich veggies such as cauliflower in your meals. Buy wraps and make enchiladas one night and a chicken salad wrap for another day.

5. Force Yourself to Save

Horrible at saving? When between jobs, it’s hard to help — using up emergency funds are nearly a weekly or monthly thing, depending on your circumstances.

Save with the power of technology and improve your credit score in the process. Apps like Qapital and Digit make you set rules to save when you spend or put money aside automatically for various goals, even providing you with a spending card separate from your goals. Tip yourself a buck every time you go to Starbucks, and set money aside to back debts.

It’s also worthwhile to check out secured credit cards and credit builder loans, which may ask for a deposit of funds to act as your spending limit on a card or deduct a monthly amount to save for you. Such services typically report to the major credit bureaus to boost your credit score, but don’t go this route unless your budget allows for it.

These simple changes will make you save money between jobs, which doesn’t mean you have to lead a bare bones existence. Your health and happiness matter — it’s just about finding what works for you.

This article first appeared on Personal Branding Blog.