This is article three of Part One of the “Conquering Debt Series.” Read article two of Part One here.
When you have financial problems, it's essential to find ways to adjust your budget to see if you can increase income to come up with additional money to repay debts.
I know there are a ton of articles out there that list common ways to increase your income by walking dogs using an app like Rover, selling unwanted items, renting your car using Getaround, or making deliveries for companies like Instacart.
Today, I wanted to talk about some ways to increase or supplement your income using a different approach. Not only do I want to talk about the options you might have, but I wanted to give you real solutions if you have fallen behind. I wanted to shine some light on the programs available that help people who haven fallen on hard times.
Some of the ideas talked about in this article have specific laws that change often. I tried to list beneficial programs that are likely to be available for the foreseeable future, but you might need to get more detailed information if you wish to pursue these options.
I will only summarize these various programs throughout this article, but I will make sure to include ideas on where to find more information as well as give you a list of websites that you can go to for further details.
If you have debt troubles, it's vital that you look into and take advantage of programs that were designed to help people with financial problems and you should never be ashamed of using them. In fact, it's likely that you contributed in some way financially to funding these programs either through tax payments or by payroll deductions.
Debt can be unbearable and scary, which may make you feel hopeless. Today, I want to give you the tools you need to realize there are solutions out there that can help relieve some of the stress.
THE EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT
If you are employed, the Earned Income Tax Credit is a frequently overlooked means of increasing your income. If you have had a change in your income or have recently been laid-off, you may be eligible during the year in which you have financial problems.
The amount of the credit you receive is based on the size of your family and the amount of your income. If you are working and your total income falls below a certain amount, you qualify for the credit even if you do not have to pay taxes that year.
To find more detailed information here about the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Losing a job or having your hours reduced significantly can have a significant impact on your financial well-being. You should always think about unemployment compensation and should apply as quickly as possible after your employment has been terminated or reduced for any reason.
Keep in mind; if you were fired or quit voluntarily, you might not be eligible for benefits. Each state administers its own program with guidelines established by the federal government.
One of the resources to look into is The National Employment Law Project (NELP) which has some useful publications on unemployment compensation.
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (FOOD STAMPS)
SNAP is a resource that can help you supplement your food budget if you have fallen on hard times. Your income must be below program limits which vary by family size.
You can apply for SNAP food assistance by filling out an application form at your local SNAP office. These are usually found in public assistance offices in your community. In some cases, you can call and have them mail you an application or some states let you apply online. You can find more information about the application process in different states on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.
If you apply and are denied, do not take that as your final standing. Sometimes, the agency improperly denies applications because of confusion about eligibility requirements or because of arithmetic mistakes.
If you would like more detailed information about SNAP, or if you would like to review program manuals, regulations or pamphlets, make sure to check out your local public assistance office. You can also find a lot of helpful information from the Food Research and Action Center or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
OTHER FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
If SNAP is not n option for you or your family, make sure to check out other local community programs.
For example, if you are pregnant or have a child under the age of five, you should look into assistance from the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC). This program is usually administered by local public health departments and provides vouchers for supplemental food that is important for the health of mothers and to the early development of their children.
There are also some programs that provide meals or snacks for school children, including the national school lunch program as well as school breakfast, afterschool nutrition, and summer nutrition programs.
Make sure to check out local unions, churches, and community groups that offer food services for people who are having financial difficulty. They can help distribute food and might have cafeterias where you can turn to for help. You can find specific locations based on where you live by going to www.feedingamerica.org.
OTHER WAYS TO INCREASE INCOME
Taking a second job, increasing over time, or collecting debts owed to you by others are all ways you can improve your income. Do you have space in your home which you could rent? Do you have a marketable skill which you are not using to its full potential?
If you have decided to stay home or not to work, financial difficulties create an opportunity to reconsider. The decision to go back to work needs to be weighed against the potential increased costs of child care, taxes, and other living expenses.