At some point in our lives, we all reach the point where we say “I need money”. If you’re at that point, here are some ideas to get you back on your feet. Look for the statement that most closely matches your situation.
We'll start with ways to borrow the money you need. But borrowing only solves short-term problems (and can lead to longer-term issues), so we'll also focus on ways to really improve your financial situation: earning more and spending less.
I Need Money to Avoid Foreclosure
Before you borrow more, evaluate the alternatives. You may be able to participate in a debt workout program with your lender. They prefer to work things out with you and avoid the foreclosure process (as do you). See how debt workout programs work, or investigate government refinance programs designed for homeowners who've hit hard times.
I Need Money to Buy a Car
If it’s a new set of wheels you’re looking for, you’ll need an auto loan. Be sure to keep your loan under 5 years or you'll likely find yourself ‘upside-down’ and unable to get rid of the car. The most important thing to know when buying a car is to not focus on the monthly payment – look at the purchase price above all else.
I Need Money to go to School
This is an easy one. The US government is eager to help you further your education, and federal student loans come with unique benefits. If government-backed loans are not available, private loans are also available (but don't take any private money until you've done investigated federal student loans). Your first step to borrowing for school is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and check with your school’s Financial Aid department for additional resources.
I Need Money to Buy a Home
The place to start is the Mortgages 101 page at About.com Banking. You’ll find out how to get the best mortgage for that home of your dreams. You'll also learn how those loans work so you know what you're spending and how much it really costs to buy a home.
I Need Money to Fund my Business
Entrepreneurs can accomplish anything with the right funding. Start by looking for small business loans, but don't be surprised if banks require you to personally guarantee any loans they offer. If your business is up and running build business credit so your venture can grow without relying on your personal credit.
I Need Money for Home Improvement or Repairs
A lot of homeowners use home equity loans to fund home improvement projects. It’s a good way to get a lot of money at a decent rate. To buy or refinance and make improvements at the same time, consider a government backed FHA 203k loan.
I Need Money to Pay Other Debts
Some borrowers benefit from a debt consolidation program. Of course, these only shift your debt – they don’t eliminate it. You'll need to avoid the temptation to spend again once you see your credit lines with zero balances. Nevertheless, these programs can help you pay less in interest and make a dent in your debt.
None of the Above, but I Still Need a Loan!
Whatever it is you want to buy, there’s a good chance you can borrow for it somehow. Person to person lending, also known as P2P or peer to peer lending, may be a solution for you.
You should also visit About.com’s Credit site for more information on credit cards and consumer loans.
Next: Spend Less
One of the fastest ways to free up money is to spend less. It's easier said than done, but you can improve your chances of success if you have a plan and if you get great ideas from people who've already been there.
First, get a handle on your spending and figure out what you can cut (it's not fun, but it needs to be done – at least temporarily). For instructions on how to do all of that, see How to Trim your Budget.
Finally: Earn More
Once you get things under control, it's time to work on more dramatic changes that will improve your situation. While spending a bit less each month is important, it's ideal to to increase your earnings at the same time so you can stay on solid ground for the rest of your life.
There are several ways to earn more:
Improve your skills: sometimes an education can help you land a job (or a better paying job than the one you have). In fact, education is linked to earning power. If you need an undergraduate degree, start the process, or look into advanced degrees and certificates if you prefer.
Land your dream job: if you've hit a plateau at work (or if you need a job), find work that will support the life you want. The process can be challenging, but people get new jobs every day – even in a bad economy. For tips on how to make the process less challenging, read About.com's Job Search pages.
Start a side gig: if you go into business for yourself, you'll increase your earnings without having to quit your day job (or without ever needing a day job). There are an unlimited number of ways to do this – just figure out what you're good at, what you're interested in, and what people are willing to pay for. To get the creative juices flowing, there are some great ideas here and here.