Living paycheck to paycheck is actually very common in the United States. In fact, you could say that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. As many as 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck—that’s 8 out of every 10 workers. And it’s not just low income workers that are living this way, even many workers who make $100,000 a year or more report to still be living paycheck to paycheck. This tells us that living paycheck to paycheck isn’t a problem of money, it’s a problem of mentality or the ability to keep ahead of your finances.
Why You Want to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck
The big problem with living paycheck to paycheck is you don’t have any extra funds each month. This makes you vulnerable when disasters and emergencies strike. If all of your monthly income is being used each month then you won’t have any funds to lean on when you suddenly have to repair your house after a flood, or you need to move, or travel for a wedding. It also keeps you from saving for important things like,
- Repairs and renovations
- Accumulating wealth
Assess why you are living paycheck to paycheck
There are many reasons to be living paycheck to paycheck, but it usually comes down to one of three reasons. Either you aren’t making enough money, you are spending too much each month, or you have essential spending like debts or housing that overtake your whole monthly budget. After you determine which of these three reasons applies to you, you can better determine how to fix your finances.
Basically you need to see what is overtaking your budget and readjust to be living within your means. When you are living within your means you are able to save which helps you live better later on in life. Living within your means and putting away into savings each month is how to budget for the long-term.
Get a new job
If you just aren’t making enough money to live on, then you need to get a better job, a raise, or a second job or side hustle that can help make up for the little you’re making where you’re at. There are lots of job websites out there right now to help you find a better job. There are also many programs that can get you the training, education, or certifications necessary to help you qualify for better paying jobs.
Control your spending
If the problem is your personal spending habits, then you want to deal with this by controlling yourself and your budget more. this may sound boring or depressing to have to control your spending so strictly, but think of it as figuring out how much you are actually allowed to spend each month, rather than focusing on how much you can’t spend.
Downsize the way you live
You also might need to adjust your living situation. You might be paying too much for rent, compared to how much you make each month. If this is the case than you might need to move so your mortgage or rent is more doable within your budget. You can also downsize other aspects of your life, like transportation. Downsize to a more affordable vehicle, or try carpooling or biking to work to save on gas.
Take care of debts first
If you have a lot of debts that are bogging your budget down, you can try debt consolidation with your bank to get a better interest rate or payment plan. You can also downsize the way you live so that you can pay off your debts more quickly.
The rest of this article was written by a guest author named Adam. He wanted to share with everyone some helpful tips that he’s used to stop living paycheck to paycheck. We hope you enjoy his insights as much as we have!
How Adam Stopped Living Paycheck to Paycheck
Sometimes, during the week leading up to payday, I find myself clinging for dear life to my finances. If I can just survive until I get paid, I think to myself, then everything will be OK. I go into crisis mode, axing all discretionary spending and hoping that no unexpected expenses pop up.
When my paycheck finally appears in the mail, I breathe a huge sigh of relief. And then I revert to my old spending habits—eating out, buying the latest gadgets, etc. A few weeks pass, and I’m right back where I started, panicking about making it to my next paycheck.
It’s a cruel cycle, like the spin cycle of a washing machine. But instead of coming out clean at the end, I would just wind up dizzy and half-drowned.
If any of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Thankfully, I found a way to escape the constant spin cycle and stop living paycheck to paycheck.
My Arch-Nemesis: The Dreaded Budget
Saving money does not come naturally to me, and money gets spent often without me even realizing it. I knew right off the bat that I was going to get nowhere without a budget.
Budgets take hard work and discipline especially if you want to stop living paycheck to paycheck. You need the self-control to resist making any unnecessary purchases, and you need the personal honesty required to separate wants from needs.
Taking a Long, Hard Look at My Spending
It was time to take out the old magnifying glass and look at how I was really spending my money.
I was shocked. Did I really spend that much money eating out every month? It was atrocious how much of my paycheck went to entertainment.
As soon as I had a strong grasp on where I was spending my money, I was able to craft a budget that accounted for my needs, and even made a little room for some wants (for the sake of my sanity).
My Game Plan for Dealing with Credit Card Debt
One of the big motivators for turning my finances around was that I wanted so badly to get out of debt. Over the years, my spending habits had been subsidized by various credit cards, and I’d built up quite a chunk of debt.
Thankfully, my credit card debt provided short term goals to help me along the way. Basically, I would zero in on one balance, keeping all other balances on the back burner. Once that one card was paid off, I felt the accomplishment of having achieved a goal, which helped me forge ahead with my budget.
Every six months or so, I take time to reevaluate my budget and spending, and make adjustments accordingly. As I’ve reduced my debt and added to my savings, things have gotten easier. I’m no longer living paycheck to paycheck, and I’ve even been able to fit in a few purchases for things I really want, like gadgets and such.
How did you stop living paycheck to paycheck? Leave your tips in the comments section below.