At some point in your life, or even right at this moment, you could find yourself living from paycheck to paycheck. This is a normal thing that happens to most people, but it can be stressful. You don’t need to be chained to a lifestyle, bound by your income. With a little strategic planning, you can break out of the cage of paycheck-to-paycheck living. Follow these few steps, so you can finally start to develop a better ifestyle for yourself.
Eliminate Waste: Identify empty items in your budget and get rid of them.
To identify what is depleting your budget, you have to determine your priorities, values, and goals. Decide how you want your money to work for you, what your family’s priorities, values, and goals may be. Identify your long-term goals, and make sure these goals line up with what is reasonable. Then, focus your spending so that it matches your values.
It is always best to look at your expenses in a emotionless manner. Track your expenses for between one and three months. The longer you can track your spending, the better. Download applications or maybe just use a spreadsheet so you have a visual representation of what you’re spending on, and how much you’re spending on each item. You might be surprised how much of your salary is being delegated to unnecessary expenditures like a daily cup of coffee or just grabbing something to eat while you’re out. It’s important to keep in mind that this is the step that most people skip or cheat on, so remember to be honest with yourself.
Go through your spending and look for items that you don’t need, and that don’t help you realize your long-term and short-term goals. All these items are “waste” that can be trimmed from your budget. When you look at the amount of saving that you can potentially get after eliminating waste, you will be amazed.
Also consider your cash flow. The timing of when you’re getting paid from work or other income is just as critical as smart spending. To avoid living paycheck to paycheck, you need to be aware of where your money is coming from, when it arrives, where it is going, and how soon it can get there. This can help you avoid overdraft charges in your bank account, as well as other fees that can come when your money isn’t where it’s supposed to be at any given time.
With the right setup, you can automate your budget tracking. This can help you avoid some of these cash flow pitfalls. However, you still have to take the time every now and then to make sure everything is indeed on track. Make it a point to casually look over any automated portions of your finances a couple times a month to double check that everything is as it should be.
“Recycle” or “reuse” your budget
The next step is to take that “wasted money” and put it to work for you. It is easy to say, but quite a challenge to pull off. Depending on your goals and priorities, “making it work for you” might mean paying off high-interest credit card debt, or it might mean upping your retirement account contributions. You might even opt to put it in a high-yield account designed as an emergency fund.
The idea is to use that wasted money in a way that is no longer wasteful. Pay your bills ahead or even use previously wasted funds to invest on something that can give you a bigger return. If you want to avoid continuing on living paycheck to paycheck for the rest of your life, you need to build up your assets as early as possible.
To be more consistent on taking charge of how you use your money, it is vital that you change your overall outlook on money. Mindfully spend on what matters to you rather than mindlessly spending on consumer items that aren’t that important to you. You might be surprised to see how much fat you can trim off from your budget by simply thinking about your purchases and getting down to the “why” behind your spending.
Look for more income.
Of course, the end of your paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle doesn’t have to depend entirely on what you cut from your budget. You also have the option to make more money. In a way, you’ve already started this if you followed the first two steps.
The fact that you’re living from paycheck to paycheck means that your paycheck generally cannot support a lifestyle that is sustainable for you to grow. Yes, you survive, but you might never grow past basic financial survival.
Cultivating income diversity, or finding different ways to earn, can help you avoid living paycheck to paycheck because it provides you with alternative income. A small side business can be a great way to bring extra income into your home, especially when it does not get in the way of your current job.
Part-time opportunities can be isolated through search options on most job sites. Most have more opportunities than you think, and can appear to skills you already have or interests you haven’t had the chance to explore yet.
Use extra income to further build your assets. You can inflate your emergency funds slowly, or you can add more money to your retirement account.
Use the extra income for “fun” things like vacations or family outings. That way, you can concentrate on using money from your day job to build your savings and other assets.