Living from paycheque-to-paycheque is one of the biggest causes of stress, especially when you’re trying to provide for the whole family.
According to an article published by canstar.com.au, one out of three Australians are left penniless by payday. Some say this is because of poor planning, while some contribute this to impulsive buying.
If you have a steady job with a continuous stream of income, then that’s great. But what happens when natural disasters or unforeseen events occur? Without money saved up for the rainy days, how can you and your family cope?
I’ve been there. I’ve lived the paycheque-to-paycheque lifestyle and it wasn’t pretty when we lost our house in a flood. I could have saved some cash. I could have suffered a little each month. I could have.. I should have.
When I started working at SAHM, I learned a lot about being frugal, prioritising needs over wants and having a budget. It’s a struggle to end the paycheque-to-paycheque cycle, but it’s totally doable!
I don’t want to bore you with cliché advice so we looked around Reddit for practical and sensible stories told by real people.
Here’s how they effectively ended the paycheque-to-paycheque cycle and got on top of their finances.
Create a budget out of your personal or household income. Whether it’s a daily, weekly or monthly budget, that’s up to you. But the very first step in ending that paycheque-to-paycheque cycle is mapping out your expenses and being self-aware. Budgeting is a great way to make sure that all your monthly expenses are taken care of before you splurge on things you don’t need.
Definitely need a budget, first and foremost.
My trick is that I round my expenses UP, and I round my income DOWN. If you set aside money for your bills, always set aside more than you need and then forget about it. You will always have extra money for surprise expenses.
Set yourself aside an amount of spend money. If you’re really bad, take cash and leave your credit/debit cards at home.
Part of your budget should include savings. Either short term or long term, depending on your needs at the time. Keep in mind that getting out of the “pay check to pay check” is not an overnight thing and can take years, but you have to start somewhere.
Stop being surprised by regular large payments. You know Christmas happens every year. It should never be a surprise that you have Christmas related expenses. You know you car registration happens once a year. You know your car should be serviced at least once a year. None of these are unexpected costs but people treat them like they are. You can save for these things all year round by taking the total cost (eg $1000 for registration is under $20/week).Make a budget and stick to it. Do you actually know what you spend your money on? If you don’t, there’s a big chance you’re wasting a lot. Coffee or soda every day, eating out for work lunches, ordering in multiple times a week adds up like crazy. Quit it. Or at least if you can’t quit it, budget for it, and spend less money in other places.
Pay bills: when you get your paycheck, pay a portion of your bills (or set specific amounts aside for car payments, rent, etc.)
Pay for necessities: buy groceries, etc.
Save: put a significant portion of what is left in savings, with the intention that you will not touch it for a while unless you absolutely need to (can also be a rainy day fund, but it’s best to keep that separate if you can).
Spend: now that all of your necessities are taken care of and you aren’t behind on any payments, spend what you have left on what you want. This should be a fraction of your original paycheck, not 80% (unless you already have a ton saved up and have no bills).
Most important: make a budget. It’s worth money to go to a conference or someone if you need help in that area. Stick with it, and make bills your priority. Accept that you may have to make sacrifices, and if you can’t handle a credit card get rid of it. Know how much is reasonable to spend on groceries, car payments, etc and know where every dollar is going.
Having a lifestyle downgrade can be difficult, so you’ll have to start slowly. Reassess your expenses so you’ll know what you spend the most on, and which ones can you live without.
Monk Month: live as ascetically as possible for one month. Buy only the cheapest possible food, drink only tap water. Turn of all electric devices you don’t absolutely need. Bike/walk to work. In spare time read books. By the end of it, you’ll probably be healthier, slimmer, calmer, more relaxed and save about 20% of your paycheck at least.
Living paycheck to paycheck is easy to do when you’re living beyond your means, and living beyond your means is easy to do when the expectation is that you’re going to have the latest phone, nice clothes, a car, etc.
If you learn to live with less, you can take what you’d otherwise pay for those “finer things” and sock it away in the bank. It’s certainly not an easy thing to do; people like having stuff, they like looking like they’re better off than they really are, because other people judge them otherwise. Getting over that judgment is key.
Make more, spend less.
If you have to go into debt to buy something (except perhaps a place to live), you can’t afford it. Stop paying high interest rates on silly crap like an Xbox you put on a credit card charging 20%, that you make the minimum payments on each month.
Figure out the difference between want and need. A cell phone may be a need nowadays, but the latest iPhone is a want.
Stop eating out so much, stop eating out for lunch at work, period.
Realise those people that seem to have it “all” are probably living paycheck to paycheck too…quit trying to be like them.Sometimes it takes effort to get ahead in life. Instead of sitting around at night and on the weekends, get a 2nd job.
I went to a very affordable college on scholarship, always lived below my means, never blew money on drugs/alcohol/movies/bars/other expensive stuff, worked my ass off extra hours when I was young to avoid debt when I could, and now…
…I’m in good shape. I mean, I’m not a rich person, but I don’t have a car payment, I have a nice house, and I can afford what I want.
In other words, I sacrificed my social life in my 20’s to live the rest of my life in relative comfort. No regrets.
3. Trick yourself into thinking that you have less
This one is a favourite trick of mine. It’s effective – but will take some time to practise. I trick myself into getting to work early by setting my time 5 minutes advance. I trick myself into thinking I have 50 dollars a week when I can actually afford 80.
My favorite trick is upping the savings by a dollar a week. One dollar the first week, two the second, etc. You’re never saving more than 52 dollars per week, so it feels like nothing, but it adds up to quite a bit. Not huge, retirement savings amounts, but it gets you in the habit, and it’s something.
I’ve never gotten to “life or death,” or ever even completed the year long cycle without needing the money, but if you don’t have emergency funds, it really is good. Sometime within the first couple years, you probably will say “wow, I’m glad I had that $X00 or $X000 saved, so this was a minor savings setback instead of a complete financial disaster.”
Agreed You can also automatically set some aside and trick yourself into believing you are living paycheck to paycheck. Direct deposit a portion of the paycheck into the alternate account. Some people pay more taxes so they get a bigger tax refund (financial advisers don’t recommend it but it works).
4. Cook your own meals and eat at home
We at SAHM promote cooking and making our own meals because eating out is extremely expensive. Most times, homemade even tastes better!
Meal planning as a replacement to buying lunch every day will save you so much
Vastly cut unnecessary expenses. Stopped eating out
I seriously stopped eating out for lunch and saved about $300 a month!
This. I looked at my spending and realized that food was by far my biggest expense aside from rent. Cooking your own lunches can be healthier and way cheaper.
Pack your own breakfast and lunch! A pack of bagels is much better than paying $2.00 per bagel, and also bring your own instant coffee if you don’t have a machine at work. Stop spending on those 1 or 2 cups a day because they add up.
It may sound small, but some years back for the most part I stopped ordering soda at restaurants and anywhere else I ate out at, in favor of water. Savings doing that, really add up so much over time. And my stomach feels so much better, without drinking HFCS soda.
ETA For those still struggling with this, switching to drinking any carbonated water (including LaCroix) would be a good first step to cutting back on soda consumption. Once I did that, cutting back on soda was very easy to do.
5. Look for extra income
If you really need more money, look for a side gig or start a small business at home. The more work you have, the more tired you are. All you’ll think about is eat and sleep and you’ll have less or no time to buy anything!
Find extra money. Sell crap you don’t use. Do online surveys (I make around $80/month doing online surveys, and I complete them at work when I’m already being paid in the first place). Find a small business and offer to manage their social media. Write resumes for people. Edit people’s assignments. Walk dogs. Clean windows. Just do one of these things.
You need to budget,look for alternative money. If you are choosing between rent and heat you have some serious thinking to do on your situation,If you are choosing between eating in a restaurant and grocery shopping you have some impulse spending to curb. Collecting Cans, selling things you can make ,part time work. take advantage of a skill you have to supplement your paycheque.
The Dave Ramsey approach works. A rice and beans lifestyle followed up with “the only place to go when you are broke is to work”.
Lower your bills and raise your income. It’s just like losing weight, the idea is simple, less calories more exercising. It’s the discipline that’s the hard part.
6. Treat yo’self! (in moderation)
Depriving yourself will only cause you further stress and fatigue. Treat yo self! But in moderation.
If you’re completely broke as fuck, then find the one (relative) luxury a day you can afford and want to keep, and then chip away at the rest.
There are thousands of ways to work on earning more money, or spend less. He biggest factor is exhaustion. Decision fatigue is real, and leads to bad choices. As much as possible, engineer to make changes the easiest option.
It’s awful the first while, but pack up food on your day off for the rest of the week. Take the thinking out so later, when you’re too tired to think, the work is already done. Once you get a breath of air, find something else like this to do again.
The easiest one to start with is deciding what your one nice thing is – then when you’re wondering whether or not to get something, you know, you want the ability to get a cheap hot dog between shifts, that thing is amazing and is the only way to get through a fourteen hour day.
Practicing Stoicism or DBT helps too, because being poor is a mental fight almost as much as a physical one. It’s goddamn exhausting. Being kind to yourself about that is a good idea, and finding ways to be able to cope is fantastic.
Hope this helps!