Most people live paycheck to paycheck. According to a survey, 49 percent of US adults expect to live paycheck to paycheck every month this year. In fact, most people cannot deal with a $500 unexpected expense without borrowing the money or dipping into savings. What’s worse is that 53 percent of the population in the USA reveal that they don’t have an emergency fund that will cover at least three months of living expenses.
All these facts are to let you know that you’re not alone.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are steps you can take to move past it that will make your life a little bit easier and happier without breaking the bank.
Identify the scope of the problem
The very first thing to do if you want to fix your struggle is to identify the scope of the problem. There could be one or more major reasons that you’re struggling to live paycheck to paycheck. Not everyone is struggling due to lack of funds. Some people struggle due to lack of planning and simply overspending. When you figure out your issue, you can correct it.
Here are some common reasons for struggling.
- Lack of Income
In many cases, money problems do not come from overspending but instead from lack of income. If you’re underemployed, or you simply are not making enough money to live the way you need or want to live, you’ll need to figure out a plan to remedy that situation. You can get a part-time job, freelance part-time, or sell off some assets to pay down bills to fix this problem.
You may want to check our Practical Income Generation blog website where we provide income generation possibilities.
Some people have enough money on paper, but due to not paying attention to a budget at all, they overspend. If you have credit card debt, you may belong to this category. Credit cards are great tools but not if you keep any balance on them long term.
- Lack of Savings
Not having savings is expensive. It can cause one to borrow money even from payday lenders, which is a trap better avoided. Lack of savings can cost you so much money. You won’t be able to take advantage of deals that come along if you have no savings, nor deal with a minor unexpected expense such as a vehicle breakdown.
If you have a lot of medical expenses and this is the reason you are living paycheck to paycheck, that is hard. You cannot just magically make yourself better or skip the doctor. It is one reason people are in debt to start with. In fact, most US bankruptcies are due to medical bills among people with insurance. (Source: AARP)
- No Plan
Many people who struggle to make it between paychecks often have no plan at all. The main reason for this is simply overwhelming. It’s just emotional and difficult to put into words how emotionally damaging money issues can be. For this very reason, you need a plan.
Once you realize what your issues are, you can set up a plan to combat those problems. Until you know, you can’t do anything. It will take complete and utter honesty from you to yourself and anyone you are relying on to help you to overcome the situation. But you can overcome it if you plan to.
Setting a Budget
Once you have checked where you are and noted where you want to go, it’s time to set a budget. When you set your budget, it’s important to think about your needs, your wants, and the future, which involves savings according to your goals and plans. This can be overwhelming depending on your issues but with the right goals and plans, you’ll eventually end the paycheck to paycheck struggle.
Spending Less on Essentials
When it comes to buying essentials like food, clothing, and paying the electric bill, it may seem like there is no way to spend less. However, there are many ways you can spend less on essentials if you are creative and determined.
Let’s look at some different ways to do it.
Believe it or not, food is one of the places you can cut expenses and still eat healthily. Eating with a budget meal plan can also be fun.
There are likely resources in your local area to help. For example, in some areas, some organizations distribute food that would otherwise be thrown away for a very small price. In Tucson AZ, for example, you can get 70 pounds of veggies for only $12 every single month via Produce on Wheels. There is no income requirement, and anyone can participate.
The other thing you can do to save on food is to control your own food source. You might want to consider starting a small vegetable garden. Growing your own vegetables will be much less costly than buying from the supermarket. In addition, taking care of any type of plant is a therapeutic activity and can reduce stress.
It really depends where you live regarding your utilities and what you may or may not be willing to do to cut the bill. Check one of our financial blogs – “Are you ready to cut the cord?“ that will help you cut the bills and save without breaking a sweat.
Finding good deals on medicine is a little harder in some cases. It depends on your situation. When a medication is a necessity and has a high cost that you cannot afford, there may be programs that you can get involved in to help.
Contact the manufacturer of the medication to try to get a discount. The other thing you can do is find out if the generic works just as good and buy that. Also, don’t assume that your “with insurance” price is the cheapest; always ask how much it is without insurance first. Call around to check prices. You can also use software like Scripthero.
If you own a house, or a car, or anything that can break down, the best way to prevent unexpected costs is to keep the maintenance up according to whatever the manufacturer suggested. When you do that, you will end up having fewer costly repairs. Getting your oil changed, changing AC filters, and keeping bugs off your car all help maintain the value of your investments.
Anything you want to save money on, including essentials, can be done if you give it some thought. Ask around about what other people do and set up a budget that you will stick to no matter what. When you are forced to stick to your budget, you can become quite creative when you need to. Just don’t give yourself permission to go over your budget.
Manage Your Debt
One budget killer is debt. Specifically, credit card debt. If you don’t manage your debt, you can end up living paycheck to paycheck even if you have a good income. This can be very difficult for someone to accept, but it’s easy to get into debt if you’re not tracking and paying attention. Life can get away from us and time passes before we know it.
One of the biggest things that can help you manage your debt is to have a realistic budget set up so that you know where everything is going, always. By doing so, you can get out of financial trouble and start on the path towards regaining your financial security.
Save and Set Up an Emergency Fund
One of the most important ways you can help yourself financially is to pay yourself first. Paying yourself first involves saving for a rainy day, emergency issues, and the future. Most financial advisors state that you should save at least six months of living expenses in your emergency fund. Plus, you should save the maximum contributions in your individual retirement account, either via your employer or via your own investment funds.
Saving money and getting an emergency fund set up is the best way that you can avoid the dreaded unexpected expenses that often harm budgets, cause people to borrow money, and put you further behind.
Staying on track financially will feel hard to do at first. However, if your goals are strong enough and you really do understand that you are capable of sticking to a budget, saving money, and living the way you want and need to live, you’ll be able to do it and it’ll feel great. Even fun. Eventually, living paycheck to paycheck will become a distant memory.