smart spending

Make more money: Moonlight

Highlights
  • Today, unprecedented numbers of people are facing acute debt.
  • Many have already budgeted to the bone before seeking help.
  • Passions and skills can be routes to income opportunities.

These are indeed lean times, when there's not a drop of froth left in household budgets.

Traditionally, debt counselors could find expenditures -- like the infamous $4 latte -- that consumers could eliminate to better meet their monthly bills.

Now, because of a "perfect storm" of high mortgage payments, gas prices and credit card bills, more consumers have already budgeted to the bone before seeking out debt counseling, says Chuck Stanley, senior vice president at Money Management International, a national, nonprofit counseling firm.

They want to keep their home and preserve their credit record, so these consumers have been living lean -- and still coming up short.

Second job?

"To balance a budget, you either decrease expenses or increase income. And taking a second job is the immediate way to increase income," says Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

But while more income can balance an out-of-whack financial life, a second job isn't always a feasible option in real life.

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"I would estimate that about 80 percent of the time we are putting (a second job) in front of the consumer as an option," says Chris Viale, president of Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp., a nationwide debt counseling firm.

The $800 question

With only 24 hours in a day, some people, like single parents, can't devote any more of them to work.

And when monthly income shortfall is too great -- more than about $800 -- extra, part-time wages won't fill the gap, says Stanley.

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