If it seems like your paycheck is disappearing right before your eyes and you’re always anxiously awaiting your next payday, you’re familiar with the feeling of stretching a dollar to its limits. The anxiety of living paycheck to paycheck is unnerving. Unfortunately, many of us have been there, and sometimes, at no fault of our own.
Living from paycheck to paycheck might leave you to think that you are spending unwisely, but you may just need to fine-tune your expenses, set a budget, and take a closer look at what’s coming out and going into your bank account each payday. You deserve to see the fruits of your hard-earned money, not watch it go by while living on pins and needles financially until your next payday rolls in.
There are no shortcuts or secrets on how to maintain a healthy relationship with your money to avoid living from paycheck to paycheck, but you can be better equipped to make your money last longer and work smarter for you. Here are a few tips you can use if you are struggling to make ends meet in between paydays.
Evaluate your expenses
Your expenses are usually the biggest culprit as to why you might be living paycheck to paycheck. Expenses often include fixed bills like your rent or mortgage, car payments, utilities, and other living expenses that don’t fluctuate much month-by-month, and variable expenses like transportation costs, dining and eating out, your personal care expenses, and other costs that can easily increase or decrease, depending on your personal spending.
Take a closer look at all of your expenses, down to the dollar, to evaluate where your money is truly going—even after you’ve paid all of your bills. This will help you map out how little or how much money is being spent after every paycheck. What is being spent each paycheck on food, drinks, living expenses, and other personal items? Write down how much you’re spending on a daily basis after each paycheck has hit your bank account.
As you assess your expenses on a paycheck-by-paycheck basis, evaluate what’s being spent and how much is going out, especially if you’ve set up auto-pay on any of your bills. Are you finding that your cable bill or your online subscriptions are going up each month? If you have these services on auto-pay, don’t continue to set and forget them. Make sure to skim through the breakdown of your bills each month to make sure you aren’t paying more than you should.
Another part of your expenses is how much is being taken out of your paycheck each pay for taxes, health, dental insurance, and retirement. It’s important to keep track of your contributions and elections for each to see if you can save any extra dollars by modifying your deductions. It’s best to consult with your Human Resources team or personal finance advisor about ways you can save money being taken out of your paycheck.
Evaluating your expenses can be cringeworthy, making you take a hard, honest look at your finances and addressing how you’re spending your money, but it’ll help you gain more control over where your hard-earned money is going to help you better manage it.
Use a budgeting app
There’s no shortage of budgeting tools and apps on the market that can help you track and control your spending so that you can stop living from paycheck to paycheck. There are a wide variety of budgeting apps to choose from that can fit your financial situation and personal preferences, from apps that track your daily spending straight from your linked bank account to ones that let you manually track your expenses yourself. Many of these apps also offer tips and ways you can help curb your spending by grouping your transactions into categories so that you can easily visualize how much you’re spending in each area of your life, from shopping to bills and utilities.
From the EveryDollar app to You Need A Budget (YNAB), these device-friendly apps are designed to keep you on top of your spending and expenses in an easily accessible way. Stop living from paycheck to paycheck by using a budgeting tool to monitor your expenses and track where your money ends up after getting paid. Look at it as your accountability partner, reminding you to give every dollar a job, spend more wisely, and prepare for those unexpected expenses before they siphon your paycheck.
Consider a side hustle
Sometimes, no matter how much you try to make your check stretch after payday, one job may not be enough to cover all of your expenses, especially if you’re facing a financial hardship. If your schedule permits, pick up a side gig, as increasing your income might help alleviate some of the stress of living paycheck to paycheck.
Assess your personal and work schedules to see if picking up another source of income can work for you. If you have a specific skill or are trained in a specific field or trade, find a side job that will accommodate what you already have knowledge or experience in and what might fit your schedule. From freelancing to customer service to project-based jobs, there are many ways to make money on the side to offset any loss of income. Make sure your side hustle fits your lifestyle and is budgeted into your already-existing expenses, and that it doesn’t tempt you into adding more expenses to your budget.
Downsize your lifestyle
After evaluating your bills and expenses, it may be time to cut some of your spending and downsize where you can to give yourself more room in between paychecks.
A great place to start is your personal spending. Are you able to cut out a few trips to Starbucks or on online shopping? Are you able to save a few extra dollars by doing your own hair and nails or working out at home instead of paying for the gym? See where you can cut back on your personal spending in a few areas like food, drinks, personal care, and entertainment—a few spending categories most people end up overspending each month.
Next, try evaluating ways you can save a few extra dollars by downsizing your living if possible, cutting back on what you spend on wants vs. needs each paycheck. This could include your cable and internet services, subscriptions you barely use, and other various services you could possibly live without. Find ways to share these services with friends and family and split the cost of them to help free up some money for you.
Don’t skimp on saving
Even though living from paycheck to paycheck can be daunting, no matter how tight your wallet gets, don’t forget to budget in money for savings. It might be tempting to forget or push off saving due to the stress of taking care of bills and other expenses, but saving is a very important tool to help you get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.
Set aside a few dollars each paycheck to go straight into your savings automatically before any spending. Saving first before spending helps you set aside your hard-earned money for emergencies or future expenses so that you’re not using your last dollar solely on paying bills with nothing to fall back on. Even if it’s only small amounts here and there, each payday, designate a portion of your check to yourself in a savings account. Paying yourself first is one of the most important steps in managing your money wisely.