Desperate times call for desperate measures and nothing brings out desperation like debt so if all of your pay is keeping your possessions from re-possession, maybe a few tips on how to legally be as desperate as you can be. I won't advocate stealing or fixing sports games but sometimes you have to be inventive about saving and making money to push your dollar as far as it can possibly go.
Dine and Dash. Oh yes, it's deplorable but I've been to restaurants that don't have prices on the menus, they have a relaxed vibe and average food so you assume the bill will be manageable. When it's not, you wish you could just leave because it wasn't worth coming out. The dine and dash is an art form however and should not be performed lazily. Waiters are trained to catch people slinking away from the cheque so make it untouchable.
Tip: Start a loud and emotional fight, about anything, sex, marriage and money are the most popular among the people I've seen act this out. The lady storms moodily from the restaurant and her dining partner desperately follows her, both sprint when they hit the street. Don't ever do it at the same restaurant, and if your friends want to give it a go, give the restaurant a break for at least three months and change the routine. The flaw of this plan is that staff don't forget it. You should always be prepared to pay full price and a tip, in case you can't pull it off. You should also know that having worked in hospitality before, I don't advocate this at all.
What people throw out for trash collection constantly surprises me, and I'm guilty of a sharp brake to pop out and load up my car with a real beauty. The best thing about these things is you don't stress if they break or get drawn all over by the kids. I've known people who live only on things other people throw out and with the rich upgrading there's no reason the more cash-strapped can't benefit from last year's models that are cast aside.
Tip: Grab the ugly clothes and damaged chairs, make seat covers from the patterned fabrics. Other people's trash can be your DIY triumph. You can make the best cubby the kids will ever have.
Stock up. Every grandmother I've ever met has a few pastas in the freezer. It's economical and if you misplace the recipe you've always got a back up that reminds you of how it goes. This one is great because no-one looks at you weird for bringing a Tupperware container to work. My grandmother makes an awesome set of soups and whenever she cooks she fills seven or eight containers, so she can eat all week on the same $10.
Tip: Buy soup and ingredients bulk from factory direct outlets, make it all up and freeze it in containers big enough to feed two. If you're eating alone, you can save your leftovers in the fridge for the next day, reminding you not to be tempted. You save three times.
If you know you've got the stuff, bet on yourself.
Life's a gamble. Casually bet on the luck of pick-ups at a bar, the outcome of friendly snooker games or sport events. You might lose but you might win, and betting can make you a lot of money if you do it well.
Tip: Don't con your friends out of money, a few dollars here and there will be easy but take on new acquaintances who don't know your poker skills if you want to make bigger bucks the easy way; you don't want to hurt your friends.
Matchmaking. Take up your friend on that blind date she keeps suggesting, say yes to that computer enthusiast from IT. Go on dates with friends of friends, or friends of friends' spouses, or older men. All are eager to please, and they will pay for the meal.
Tip: Always be prepared to pay for yourself, and don't force the issue. More importantly, open your mind. You can find real gems if you let them take you out.
Social Calendar. Visit family and call in on friends, make time for that dinner party with a colleague. It's a free meal and probably the whole night of entertainment.
Tip: Return the favour, even if it's a night of hot chocolate and DVDs with the host, make time for them and they'll invite you back.
Student Living. Students get by on very little because they don't over stretch themselves, they don't need that shelving unit, they don't need that dinner set. And they don't need that meal. Ramen noodles and rice never really leave your mind as the staple of years gone by, but now that you can control flavour why not give them another chance? You've got the skills, why spend up?
Tip: There's no shame in going to a soup kitchen or a pay-what-you-feel-you-can-spare restaurant if you really have nothing to spend. When you have the funds, give back as generously as you are able.
It's really important that you consider other people, your behaviour in trying times can test your friendships and it's those people who will see you through. Don't put money before love, but don't put comfort above necessity. Feed yourself and stay warm, the rest will fall together if you work at it.
Wow, I once read a library book very like this. There was one story where the author took a bottle of wine to dinner, made a big fuss about it then slipped out the back door and put it back in his car. That way he wasn't deemed a cheapskate and the people just thought somebody else drank it.