15 Smart Things You Can Do With Your Finances, Even if You're Broke


Are you living paycheck to paycheck, unsure if you will have enough money to cover your bills every month? If so, it can seem nearly impossible to get ahead financially.

But even if you're broke, you can focus on making small, smart money moves. By changing the way you handle your finances, you'll be able to prepare for an emergency, save for the future, and break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. Here are 15 smart things you can do with your finances, even if you're broke.

1. Pay your bills on time

No matter how broke you may be, failure to pay your bills on time is only going to make matters worse. Not only will this result in late fees or overdraft charges, but it also damages your credit score and could even cause your credit card's interest rate to increase.

Typically, there are two reasons why people do not pay bills on time. One is that they don't have enough money, and the second reason is that they simply forget.

If cash flow is your problem, you will need to figure out how you can lower your expenses while increasing your income. If disorganization causes you to miss bills, it's time to try out systems to better organize your finances. (See also: 5 Ways to Automate Your Finances)

2. Start an emergency fund

An emergency fund can make or break your finances. Though experts say you should ideally have six months' to a year's worth of living expenses saved in an emergency fund, you don't have to let that amount overwhelm you. Even $500 can protect you from many financial emergencies.

You can easily start an emergency fund by opening a new savings account that is specifically for emergencies. You can auto draft a few dollars out of your paycheck every pay period. This will automatically build your emergency fund without any additional effort on your part. Don't forget, these funds are only to be used in emergency situations, such as for a medical expense or car repair bill. (See also: 11 Ways Life Is Amazing With an Emergency Fund)

3. Prioritize debt

Debt, especially high-interest debt, can completely derail your finances. And if you're broke, it can feel nearly impossible to make any progress in paying it off. If you're having problems even making the minimum payments, it's vital to speak with your lenders as soon as possible. They may be able to get you on a repayment plan that works for you.

The more quickly you pay off debt, the less you will pay. Even if you are struggling financially, try to find small ways to slash your budget and earn more income in order to put more money toward debt. (See also: 7 Easy First Steps to Paying Off Debt)

4. Start small with investing

I know, I know; when money is tight, the last thing you think you should do is siphon off money for investments. But investing even a few dollars now can change your financial future for the better. Start small. If your employer offers a match when you contribute to the 401(k) plan, aim to contribute at least enough to receive the full match. (See also: 7 Things You Should Know About Your 401(k) Match)

5. Automate your finances

Automating your finances is an easy way to ensure all your bills are paid and you meet all of your savings goals. You can set up autopay for most bills. Some companies, or even student loan servicers, offer a small discount if you sign up for autopay, so it is certainly worth considering.

Keep in mind, it's a good idea to still thoroughly look over every bill even if it is on autopay. You will want to ensure that you're being billed accurately. (See also: The Pros and Cons of Autopay)

6. Find a better bank

Most people find a bank and stick with it. But what if you could earn more money simply by switching your financial institution?

When searching for a bank, there is a lot to consider. Everyone has different personal preferences, so it's important to find a bank that works for you. For instance, do you prefer to go into a physical branch? If so, you should make sure there are locations convenient for you. Are interest rates important to you? Shop around for the best deals. Do you frequent ATMs? Find a bank that offers plenty of in-network ATMs. (See also: Switch to a Better Bank in 5 Easy Steps)

7. Live frugally

Living frugally doesn't mean you have to be cheap. You can practice frugality by simply making a few small lifestyle changes.

Cook at home instead of eating out. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Cut back on expensive hobbies and events. You don't have to cut everything out entirely, but by making a few frugal choices, you can save significant money every single month. (See also: The Only 6 Rules of Frugal Living You Need to Know)

8. Track your spending

When you're broke, every cent counts. The most valuable tool at your disposal is a budget. In order to start a budget, you will need to track all of your spending. Where does your money actually go? You might be surprised.

Luckily, tracking your spending doesn't have to be an arduous task. There are plenty of apps that will automatically track your spending for you and provide analytics about your budget. (See also: These 5 Apps Will Help You Finally Organize Your Money)

9. Cut out expenses entirely

While you're tracking your spending, you are likely to find expenses that you didn't even know you had. What could you cut out?

Things like cable TV, magazine subscriptions, or cleaning services might be nice, but they aren't necessary, especially if you're struggling to make ends meet. Cut these expenses out entirely and you may be able to free up a few hundred dollars in your budget every month. (See also: Are You Spending Too Much on "Normal" Expenses?)

10. Communicate with your family

Communication is key to financial success. You'll find it very difficult, if not impossible, to succeed financially if your family is not on board. Talk to your family and friends about your financial goals. Make goals together, so that everyone is on the same page. (See also: How to Talk to Friends and Family About Money (Without Making Everyone Mad))

11. Get organized

Organization can greatly improve your finances, and it costs almost nothing to be organized.

Figure out systems that work for you. How will you track your income? Expenses? Net worth? How will you budget? Make sure all your bills get paid on time? Save money?

You can organize your finances by setting aside as little as one hour per week. Use that hour to update your numbers, check in with your financial goals, and communicate with your family. (See also: 6 Quick Tips for Organizing Your Finances)

12. Prioritize your financial goals

If you're saving for an emergency, socking away retirement funds, paying off credit card debt, sending your kids to college, and plugging away at your mortgage, it can be nearly impossible to hit all of your financial goals at once. Achieving your personal finance goals requires prioritization.

Determine what goal is most important to you right now. Maybe your initial goal is to simply organize your finances, and then focus on paying off credit card debt. Once you set a focus, you'll feel less overwhelmed and you'll be better able to make discernible progress (See also: 6 Simple Money Milestones Anyone Can Hit)

13. Avoid unnecessary fees

Fees are typically penalties for small financial blunders, but they can add up quickly. For example, say you miss one bill because you didn't have enough money to cover it. That biller could charge you a late payment fee, plus you could receive an overdraft fee from your bank. One late bill could cost you an additional $50 or more in fees.

If you have a couple of these a month, you'll find it hard to ever get ahead financially. By budgeting hard for a few months and building enough of a buffer in your checking account, you'll be able to prevent unnecessary fees.

14. Increase your income

Increasing your income is one of the best things you can do for your financial situation. Unfortunately, many people don't think they have control over their income. They might believe that their income is at the sole discretion of the organization they work for.

That's not true. While your boss probably has the final say over your pay, you can always work to earn income outside of your 9-to-5. Whether you start freelancing, baby-sitting, or working a part-time job, there's no shortage of ways to earn extra cash. (See also: 14 Best Side Jobs For Fast Cash)

15. Have fun

Remember, you won't be successful for long if you don't allow yourself to have some fun along the way. Prioritize the things that are important to you, even if they cost money.

Of course, you'll have to make many sacrifices, but by treating yourself every once in awhile, you will be better able to sustain your new financial lifestyle for the long haul. (See also: Yes, You Need "Fun Money" in Your Budget)

Like this article? Pin it!

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.