Q. My family is having a family reunion at the end of the summer. I can’t afford the airfare and I don’t want to use a credit card, but I also don’t want to miss the reunion. What should I do?
— Strapped

A. We’re glad you’re thinking twice about taking on debt.

You may not have to. Instead, you can take on some extra work and get creative, or prepare for a little finagling on your part.

“There are so many inventive ways to make extra money these days,” said Debra Morrison, a certified financial planner with Empowered Retirement in Lincoln Park.

You don’t mention the distance of the airfare or the cost of the airline ticket, but if you buy well in advance of the event, especially greater than 30 days, the price is generally cheaper, Morrison said.

But you still need the money to pay for it. She offered these 10 ideas:

  1. Consider taking a train or a bus if it will be cheaper than airfare.
  2. Post on social media that you’re planning a trip, and you may find someone else who already has plans to drive there, Morrison said. You could then hitch a ride, paying your share.
  3. Write to one or more of your family members and explain that you’re temporarily strapped, but you really wish to reconnect with your family. Ask if someone may has frequent flier miles they’re willing to transfer to you, Morrison suggested.
  4. Write to your family members and ask if anyone is willing to pitch in. She recommend asking if they could contribute $40 each so you could join them. “Less than $50 seems less threatening of a request,” Morrison said.
  5. Clean house. Look into your closet or attic or basement for items that you aren’t using, and post them for sale on Craigslist, eBay or another web site. “If you don’t know how to do this, offer to pay most any 12-year-old in the neighborhood and/or give them a percentage of sales to further incent them to get a good price,” Morrison said. “Tell them your deadline for the funds so they include a Buy-It-Now price, etc.”
  6. Having no idea of your age/abilities, Morrison said maybe there are tasks you can perform for neighbors, friends or co-workers to earn extra cash. What are you good at? For example, could you help people clear clutter, help people paint houses, do leaf raking/spring clean-ups, bake some cakes or cookies for parties, offer to cater a home party—basically heating up food, keeping the liquor flowing, washing dishes, tidying up the house, etc.? “There are a lot of tasks that would only take a day or so each that could garner you $100 or more,” Morrison said. “Advertise your services on social media, especially if you have a lot of local friends on social media.”
  7. Look at your budget and stop all dining out at restaurants for a month or two. Just eat what you have in your fridge, pantry or freezer. This could save you a couple hundred dollars in a month or two, Morrison said.
  8. If you own a car, start to drive for Uber or Lyft during the hours after work.
  9. If none of these options enable you to be there in person, she recommends you set up a Skype call, Facebook live or a Blab session at a specific time during the family reunion, and then target specific members of your family that you really wish to connect with. This isn’t the same as a trip, but at least you’ll get to see them and talk with them.
  10. Start planning for the future. Create a savings plan in which you can set aside $10 per month between now and the next planned family reunion so you are ready to spring for the airfare, Morrison said.

“I often believe that if the motivation is high enough, you’ll find ways to fulfill your wishes,” she said. “Hopefully you have enough time to make this happen, for you and your family.”

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for The Star-Ledger and she’s the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Click here to sign up for the NJMoneyHelp.com weekly e-newsletter. Like NJMoneyHelp.com on Facebook and follow it on Twitter.

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