When you face one of those times, try one or more of these quick cash solutions:
1. The first solution is the obvious one: Sell something.
Think beyond the simple yardsale. Websites such as Craigslist and eBay make it possible to get good prices for quality items. The trick is to find things you own that are worth more than a few dollars. Pretend you're going to be on the "Antiques Roadshow." Do a little Internet research on items that you think might have value.
When it's time to sell, remember that collectibles will do better in a virtual auction, since more buyers will compete for your item. Heavy furniture or other items that are difficult to ship should be sold locally.
And don't limit yourself to Internet sales. Consider specialty stores for some items. Electronics and tools might do well at a pawn shop. Your local jeweler might be interested in the broach you inherited from Aunt Agatha.
2. Look for money that's due to you or you can borrow.
You were probably asked for a deposit when you began utility service on your home. If you've been consistently on-time with your bills, a company may give your deposit back early. Call the utility to find out.
Also check for unclaimed property. We live fast-paced lives and move often. Because of that we can unintentionally leave behind deposits, small accounts and refunds. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators says 2.5 million claims for more than $2 billion was recently returned in just one year, and the average check was $892. Look for unclaimed funds at usa.gov.
3. Evaluate your tax deductions and 401(k) plan.
If your cash crisis is likely to be short term, consider changing your deductions to reduce income tax withholding. You will have to pay back the loan when your taxes are due in April, but it will increase your take-home pay until then. Ask your human resources department how it works.
If the problem is longer term, you might want to consider borrowing from your 401(k) plan. The law and most plans allow you to take a loan and repay it over time. Interest rates are governed by law but generally aren't very high. The biggest drawback is that the whole loan must be paid if you leave or lose your job.
4. Add an additional source of income.
If the crisis is big, this may be your only choice. Your best option might be to take on a part-time job. Even if the pay is low, you'll have a steady, predictable income source.
A less certain option, but one with more upside, is to offer a skill you have to friends and family. Whether it's sewing or carpentry, letting people know you're available for hire should generate some work for you. You won't know from week to week how much you'll make – and you will need to check with your local government to see what licences are needed – but if you can find enough work, you might make more working for yourself.
5. Offer a room for rent.
This cash source doesn't require an additional job – just a little sacrifice. Taking in a roommate is a serious step that will change your lifestyle, but it can be a good regular source of income. Depending on where you live and your home, you could score hundreds of dollars each month.
Whatever your cash crunch, try these tips to bring a little extra into your account this month.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who founded The Dollar Stretcher website and newsletters. The site features thousands of articles on how to save your valuable time and money, including an article on when you're desperate for cash.