Do you remember being in high school, looking at people in their 30’s and thinking “Wow, I can’t wait! I will have all the financial freedom when I’m that age”? Fast forward to now: credit card bills, student loans, and daily expenses make financial peace seem like an impossible goal. Sure, the future might seem bleak, but there are concrete steps you can take to ease the financial burden on yourself and finally stop living paycheck to paycheck.
Plan a Budget and Stick to It
Do you wonder where the money went at the end of the month? Or even at the end of the pay period? Create a budget – tell your money where it’s going before the month even starts. Look at your income and your expenses, and categorize them. A traditional pen and paper schedule, an excel spreadsheet, or a free app can help you assign appropriate categories to the spending. Don’t stop there, actually track your spending as the month goes on. Seeing exactly how much money you are spending on fast food, for example, might help you curb the spending in that category. Usually, the first 30-60 days of budgeting are the hardest, but it becomes much easier.
Cut It Out, Unnecessary Expenses
Do you really watch all of the cable channels? How about the mystery subscription box of cosmetics or kid items? Sure, $10 here and there doesn’t seem like much, but all of that adds up to hundreds of dollars a year. See what you really need, and cancel the rest!
Renegotiate Service Fees
Cable and telephone companies routinely raise fees, but they can usually work with customers who are not pleased by the ever-increasing bills. Many companies have a customer retention department that can temporarily lower the fees, or you can try a service like Bill Shark that will renegotiate the fees for you (if successful, the company charges a fee based on the percentage of savings). Most things in life are negotiable, so don’t feel stuck with bills you can’t afford.
Refinance and Pay Off Debt
Living paycheck to paycheck is especially difficult when most of those checks go to high-interest debt payments. Make paying debt off a priority, and if your current interest rates are high, consider taking out a loan to consolidate your balances. Rolling several smaller loans into one amount with a fixed interest rate will simplify your life and save you money on interest payments in the process. Set up a “rainy day” fund that will cover things like blown tires or an unexpected doctor visit, and focus your energy on living below your means while putting any extra funds toward debt.
It’s OK to Say No to What You Can’t Afford
It’s OK to decline a party invitation or a weekly happy hour trip with coworkers if it’s just not in the budget at this time. Taking care of your finances is more important than keeping up appearances. Craving social time but don’t have the money? Suggest a picnic (and cook the food at home) or a walk in the park, or a trip to a free city museum. Outings with friends do not have to be expensive.
Finances don’t have to be complicated. Most of this is just discipline and common sense! Feel free to contact us if you have any specific questions or other ideas on making living paycheck to paycheck just a bit easier!