University of Florida

Managing in Tough Times

Economic Hardship Guide


To successfully manage your finances and enjoy a comfortable life during tough economic times, it is important to be aware and in control of your assets, debts, potential savings, earnings, and expenditures. Organization is a crucial part of preventing and solving financial problems. When organization isn't enough, here are tips to help you reduce stress by saving money and achieving the balance you need for a happy healthy life.

Know Your Net Worth

Your net worth is determined by subtracting liabilities from assets. Your liabilities include all the money you owe and your assets include everything you own.

What Are Your Assets?

  • Cash or assets easily converted to cash.
  • Restricted financial assets (retirement accounts or CD's).
  • Value of physical assets.

What Are Your Liabilities?

  • Current liabilities.
  • Intermediate liabilities.
  • Long-term liabilities.

Create a Spending Plan

Having a spending plan is critical for successful money management. You must know how much you have to spend and where you are spending your money. Organizing your budget and cutting unnecessary expenditure will help you prevent debt increases.

What Is the Nature of Your Expenses?

  • Fixed expenses.
  • Variable expenses.
  • Discretionary expenses.

Organize Your Cash Flow

  • Surplus or deficit is determined by your income--taxes--expenses ratio.
  • Surplus is money you have leftover.
  • Deficit means that you're spending more than you make, and likely taking on debt.

Prioritize Your Expenses

  • Consider the consequences of missing that expense. What will be the results?
  • Missing payments results in penalties, foreclosure, repossession, shut-off notices, etc.
  • Avoid convenience spending.

Build an Emergency Fund

Accumulate Liquid Assets

  • These are assets that can easily be converted to cash.
  • These funds should be easily accessible.

How Much Is Enough?

  • Set aside money for 3-6 months of necessary expenses.
  • Distinguish between needs and wants.

Consider Other Resources

  • Would you get any help from family or friends?
  • How much credit do you have?
  • Trade time and resources with neighbors.

What Are Your Resources?

What Are Your Financial Resources?

  • Make a list of everything you own.
  • Distinguish financial from physical assets.

What Type of Personal Resources Do You Have?

  • Education, certifications, and designations.
  • Time.

What Type of Resources Does Your Family Have?

  • Family, friends, community and social networks.

Debt Management in Tough Times

Should You Get a Lower Interest Rate on Your Debt?

  • Decreasing cash flow commitments may help.
  • How much does the refinancing cost you?
  • Can you consolidate other debts?

Important to:

  • Maintain payments to creditors.
  • Communicate with creditors.
  • Use extra money as "power payments" to maximize debt reduction and management.

Use Your Credit:

  • Positive credit helps lenders help you.
  • Make use of perks or gifts.
  • Wise use of credit helps in tight times.

Odd Jobs:

  • Do you have equipment or skills in demand?
  • Your free time can be utilized.
  • Find small jobs in your neighborhood or community.

Donating Blood, Plasma, or Other:

  • Blood and plasma banks may pay for fluids.
  • Fertility clinics may also pay for samples.


  • Trading goods/services also provides.
  • Trade time or skills with others to save cash.
  • Trade goods like meals or clothing.

Freeing up Money from Services

Utility Budget Plans

  • Your bill can be based on last years average.
  • This can be short-term insulation to monthly cash flows if utility costs are rising.

Banking and Payment Bills

  • Online bill pay reduces paper/postage costs.
  • Use direct deposit to save on fees.
  • Automated withdrawals may save you money.
  • Avoid using payday loans and cash advance.

Too Much Insurance?

  • Increasing deductibles lowers your premium.
  • Reduce excess coverage.

Saving Money at the Gas Pump

Adjust Your Driving

  • Lower speeds use less gas.
  • Keep your car's load light.
  • Use cruise control.
  • Try to avoid toll roads if possible.


  • Plan out your errands.
  • Use the most fuel efficient vehicle you own.
  • Coordinate errands with a neighbor.
  • Make the fewest trips possible.

Alternate Transportation

  • Take public transportation or carpool.
  • Ride a bicycle.
  • Participate in new community car programs.
  • For more tips, see

Stretch Your Dollars

Prevent Food Waste

  • Cut down on the amount of food you throw away.
  • Take leftovers for lunch.

Plan Ahead

  • Plan meals for a week.
  • Clip and use coupons.
  • Take leftovers for lunch.
  • Cook large batches and freeze portions.

General Money Saving Tips

  • Cut down on expensive snacks limit pre-made and fast food.
  • Avoid soda, energy and coffee drinks.
  • Limit pre-made and fast food.
  • Get and use a refillable water bottle.

Keep Food Safe

  • Keeping food safe saves money.

Planning Shopping Trips

  • Keep a list at home of foods you need avoid.
  • Don't shop with a hungry or tired child.
  • Avoid shopping when you are hungry.
  • Shop when you can take food right home.

At Home

  • Refrigerate ripe fruit and fresh cut produce.
  • Use older cans first and before 'use by' date.
  • Refrigerate and use leftovers quickly.

At the Store

  • Stick to your shopping list; avoid impulse buys.
  • Invest in staple foods when they are on sale.
  • Avoid buying pre-cut fresh foods.
  • Use coupons only for foods you would normally buy and if a cheaper store brand is not available.
  • Buy larger packages only if you will use it all.
  • Buy store brands.

Doing Things for Le$$

Take Advantage of Local Public Resources:

  • Visit the park, go for hikes or bike rides, a family picnic, swimming at the local pool, lake, ocean, or springs.
  • Use the library--it's free.

Find Cheaper Entertainment at Home:

  • Have a family game or movie night; bake or cook together; read stories to one another.
  • Go on evening walks together; teach your children how to garden; teach children crafts you enjoy.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

Importance of Communication

  • Talk and listen to each other's concerns.
  • Work together to find solutions to problems.
  • Set a regular time for family meetings.

Keeping Kids in the Loop

  • Let kids know that the family may have to reduce spending on some items.
  • Answer their questions as clearly as you can.
  • Reassure them that you will work things out.
  • Teach the difference between wants and needs.

Working Teens as Contributors

If your family is going through tough times financially for whatever reasons, consider ways you can contribute. Asking your parent (s) to share with you the family budget and being willing to take some action to help is the first step to gaining respect and demonstrate responsibility as a family member.

Involving teens in family problem-solving helps teach them the reality of managing money. Asking teens to help with household expenses will need to begin with an open sharing of a family budget, income and needs. They need to know that their financial help is appreciated.

Help Your Teen:

  • Analyze expenses and income from their job.
  • Budget their earnings.
  • Plan and budget for family wants like entertainment, vacation or trips. Teens will learn the value of saving over time for wants.

More Tips for Parents:

  • Limit working teens to 10 hours a week.
  • Relieve working teens from extra chores.
  • Ask their help to problem-solve/determine other cost-cutting goals for the family.

Adult Children Moving Home

Adult children move in with their parents for a number of reasons, including economic hardship. As this move will change the parent's household expenses, adult children have a responsibility to contribute to the upkeep of the household. It is important to talk openly and honestly about money arrangements. Be as specific as possible.

Cost of Maintaining Household

  • What are the monthly household costs?
  • How will the costs be shared?
  • Will contributions be in cash or work?
  • Who will do the cooking and cleaning, etc?

Employment Expectations

  • Discuss everyone's employment expectations.
  • Take temporary employment if need be.

Other Things to Consider:

  • Is financial help viewed as a gift or a loan?
  • How will overnight visitors be handled?
  • Will everyone eat together?
  • Who will discipline the children?
  • Sharing a home is a big decision for everyone involved; effective family communication is critical to making a smooth transition.
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