A year or two ago I began to take a hard look at my paychecks and where my money was going. I went over my bank statements and receipts with a fine toothed comb. I was shocked at how much money I was wasting on eating out and grocery shopping. I’d eat all the time. I went grocery shopping with a list but whenever I wanted to try a new recipe, I’d just grab the ingredients without a second thought. It got so bad that I’d have three bottles of the same seasonings!!!! And don’t let me start on my shopping habit. I lived in the middle of malls, shopping plaza’s and I had the internet stores at my fingertips. I was wasting money because of poor judgment and lack of planning. I was pretty much living paycheck to paycheck for no reason at all. I had get my habits under control quick, fast, and in a hurry.
Now don’t get me wrong it was incredibly hard not to go out to dinner, shop, cook new recipes every other day but it was a sacrifice I had to make. Once I started watching how I spent my money, I realized that some of my habits were sparked by pure boredom. I lived right a 2 minute drive from Ross, BJ’s Warehouse, JoAnn Fabrics, Dollar Tree, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond (yes all in one plaza)! It was easy for me to just “window shop” to kill time. Killing time meant I was walking out with something. I had just moved into my dream apartment so I needed “ideas” to decorate my new place. I can’t even tell you what I bought because it was all frivolous spending. I was living paycheck to paycheck because I didn’t make enough money. I was living paycheck to paycheck because of poor money habits.
Once I realized I was making stupid money mistakes, I put myself on a strict budget. I went to a cash only system, and I stopped eating if it wasn’t with my honey. I gave myself $20 a week to spend on clothes, coffee, etc and left my debit card at home. Once that $20 was gone, it was gone. I started shopping my own closet and cooking everything I had in the fridge. I put together some pretty creative dishes if I do say so myself!!! It was tough but it had to happen. As a result, when I got engaged I was able to pay for my wedding in cash without blinking an eye!
What exactly is paycheck to paycheck living?
Do you find yourself waiting until payday to fill up your gas tank? Do you wait until payday to buy groceries or pay rob Peter to pay Paul? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you live paycheck to paycheck. Other reasons are lack of planning, not accounting for unexpected expenses, and simple overspending. While it’s true some don’t make enough to meet their monthly expense, many just refuse to budget because they think it’s a bad thing or too restrictive. In fact budgeting is the exact opposite. Budgeting gives you the freedom you need to plan for life. By life I mean bills, savings, shopping, vacations, gifts and more.
Why are you living paycheck to paycheck?
Before you can change your habits, you must admit there’s a problem. We spend for different reasons. Reasons for frivolous spending include boredom, lack of contentment, depression, and emotional just to name a few. Find what category you fit and create a plan to change your habits. It may hurt to find out the reasons you live this way but this must be done before you can move forward. Some can stop cold turkey but others must develop an attack plan to break this awful curse.
Change your thinking
Before you can change your future, you must change your thinking. If you can’t change your thinking, you will NEVER break the curse of living paycheck to paycheck. You can increase your income all you want but your thinking has to change. Think about what you want for yourself and/or family. Your mentally is probably one of the biggest obstacles you will face when you decide you want to get your finances in order. You have to believe that you deserve better habits and a better life.
How do you break the curse of paycheck to paycheck living?
As I said prior, you have to admit there’s a problem before you can fix it. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why didn’t have as much savings as I should have. I felt I never had enough money to save but in reality, I had more than enough. I wasn’t prioritizing my saving and spending. I heard I needed to pay myself first all the time but never put into action because I made myself believe I could. Meeting my husband was in fact the best thing that happened to me because it forced me to deal with my bad money habits once and for all. I wanted to purchase a house, pay off student loans, and vacation more but needed a plan. But first, I asked myself these hard questions and you should too.
- Do I overspend?
- Where is all my money going?
- Do I have enough to cover an emergency such as car repairs?
- If I was laid off today, could I still meet my bills for the next three to six months?
- Do I have an emergency savings of at least $1000.00?
- Could I help a friend in need?
If you answered yes to any one of these questions then you need to re-evaluate your spending.
Stop tempting yourself.
I know my triggers when it comes to spending money. When it’s time to spend money, I know go through several steps to make sure I know it’s ok to do. When you determine what your triggers and temptations are you can develop a plan to avoid spending mistakes. It won’t be easy in the beginning but overtime, your habits and feelings about money will change for the better. Once that happens your financial habits will change and you’ll be closer to reaching financial success. Here are few free hobbies you can start to avoid spending money.
- Create a budget
- Create a vision board
- Host a game night at home
- Declutter your home
- Go to a free museum
- Learn a new language online
Boss your money around.
Money should not control you. Too many times I see people allow money to control them. Because of lack of planning, money just falls through the crack. You feel you don’t have enough to pay the electric bill because you purchased that extra pair of shoes you don’t need. To control your money you must create a budget. There is no other way to put it. YOU MUST HAVE A BUDGET TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE. If you don’t have a budget, you will never be financially successful. PERIOD. You should be telling every dollar where they should go, they shouldn’t be telling you.
You must cut your expenses.
One of the easiest ways to break the paycheck to paycheck cycle is to decrease your expenses. Are you paying for cable, eating out too much, have unused memberships, shopping too much, may too much for insurance premiums, or overspending at the grocery store? These are all areas you can easily change to cut your expense. The number one area is food. You’d be surprised at how much money you could save if you just meal planned, shopped your pantry, and stopped eating out every day. I cut my grocer bill by 60% just by meal planning alone.
You must plan for emergencies.
Realistically you should have at least 6 months of savings as your emergency fund. But, imagine how much easier you’d sleep knowing that when your transmission goes out you have a little cushion to get your car repaired because you have $500 or $1000.00 in your account. Start by saving a small amount and watch the numbers grow. Once I started to see my account grow, it became addictive and I didn’t want to see that decrease.
Increase that income.
If you’re doing all you can and still can’t make it, then you have to increase your income. There is no other way around it. Now if you aren’t doing all you can by changing your habits, don’t think for one second that making more money will solve your problem. If you don’t change your spending habits, you’ll just spend more money and end up in the same boat as before: broke, busted, and disgusted. Here are a few ideas of how you can bring more money home.
- Start a blog
- Become a personal assistant
- Take surveys
- Become a freelance writer
- Have a yard sale
- Get a second job
Get out of debt.
I was car payment free for 3 years and let me tell you that feeling was great! Boy was I bummed when I had to purchase a new car and didn’t have enough money to purchase a cash car. I hate car payments and tell my husband all the time, I will drive this car until I can’t anymore. I will never have another car payment again. It is such a waste of money. If you want to really break the curse of living paycheck to paycheck, you must discipline yourself to pay down debt. Any extra money should be put towards your debt. Start small and build up. Once that first bill is paid, move on to the next. Paying off one debt at time becomes exhilarating. That’s why planning and budgeting are so important.
Get into the habit of paying yourself first.
What is the point of working when you can’t save it? Many people think they can’t afford to save but that’s so not true. “Once I pay all my bills, then I’ll put money in my savings.” How often have you said this and not done it? I used to be one of those people. Now, after I tithe, I put money in savings before I pay anyone else. Doing this will help you budget for fun things in a more mature way. If you can’t afford to put at least 10% of your income away start small and increase the amount over time. Just be consistent and watch it grow.