Stretch a Limited Income With These Genius Hacks

Reviewed by Financial Expert Allison Martin
Stretching a dollar

We've all been there. You run out of funds before you finish the month, leaving you scrambling to figure out how to survive. Fortunately, there are some great life hacks that can work around financial issues to help bridge the gap between a limited income and that pot of gold otherwise known as the next paycheck.

1. IRS Deductions

Uncle Sam wants what's his, but he doesn't want you to give him more than you legally owe. So if you're fortunate enough to have a regular job, turn over your W2 form and look at the space that says "Withholding Allowances." That's the number employers use to calculate how much to withhold from your pay to send to the gub'mint. There's no rule on how many allowances you can claim.

Allowances instantly increase your take-home pay, but be careful. The ultimate goal is to balance things out so that you don't owe the government money, and they don't get an interest-free loan for the year on your withholding. So increase your pay by increasing your allowances, but remember that you will ultimately have to deal with the consequences at tax time if you take too many allowances and can't come up with the right number of deductions to offset your tax liability. The IRS provides a handy calculator to help you determine your correct number.

2. Threaten to Cancel Your Utilities

Woman in kitchen with laptop

There's a war going on for your monthly fees among big powers in the telecommunications and utilities industries. There are all sorts of deals that are carefully hidden from the public, particularly if you're thinking of leaving a mobile or television carrier or changing trash companies. Call them up and tell them that the product price is too high and that you want to cancel. Then sit back and watch the invisible hand of free enterprise work its magic. In fact, negotiating for a better deal with your cable company can almost be considered an art form, and the same is true for other utilities. The deals available aren't secret, just not widely advertised - use Google to see what's on this month's deal menu. This tactic can work in a lot of instances - cell phones, garbage collectors, virtually any service. So study the art of the deal and get ready to negotiate.

3. Happy Hour for Dinner

Friends laughing at restaurant

Sure, they're trying to get you to drink booze. But they also know that cheap (or free) tasty plates will entice more paying customers to join the party. It's not just free peanuts either - how about deeply discounted ceviche, eggplant lasagna, quesadillas, hot dogs and tacos to start? It's a beggar's banquet, all available for the price of a discounted beer. Just remember to rotate your stops, tip the bartender, do your homework, and go in with a game plan (note: be careful with the pre-gaming at home, as that might just loosen your spending inhibitions). Here's a little extra hack: if you tip the bartender well, sometimes a free glass of water may be all you need to gain entry to the buffet.

4. Film/TV Extras

TV Production team

Need work? Most major cities have some sort of advertisement industry in place and some have actual film or TV productions. If you get into the regular extras rotation for union shoots, you will spend most of your day standing around and looking at your mobile phone. In other words, money for nothing! Some extras make $70,000-$80,000 per year doing this, and the food is always free and delicious at the craft services table. The Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (commonly known as SAG/AFTRA) provides details on getting aboard this gravy train.

5. Discounted Cell Phones

Smart Phone

If you're in the super low income bracket, you might qualify to get a discount on a government-issued cell phone that has unlimited minutes and internet connection. The government wants you to have this FCC-run Lifeline (and also wants you to use it to find employment). But there's no reason you can't text and talk to your bae in-between. However, use caution in setting up this kind of plan, as the FCC warns that the industry is plagued with fraud. To find out if you're eligible, fill out the form recommended by the FCC.

Not only will you talk at a discount, but you can use the picture-taking capability of your phone to earn income from, a service that allows you to upload your shots for potential compensation by larger organizations who need stock photos for everything from advertisements to news stories.

Of course, there are many other deals out there-health care at free clinics, free museum and zoo visit days, or volunteering for access to fun events. So start asking and start getting!

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Stretch a Limited Income With These Genius Hacks