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Living paycheck-to-paycheck has become somewhat of a norm when you look at how easily we’ve become consumers of things. We see something that catches our attention on amazon and we instantly add it to our cart.
Or maybe we watch a YouTube video and click on their link to buy that awesome new tool they used to make the job easier or more enjoyable.
We consume with the best intentions, often to get us to be more productive, more organized, less stressed.
But, in reality, the money we’re spending in the process of bettering our lives is only taking money away from our future paycheck.
So, we inevitably find ourselves eagerly waiting for our next paycheck, only a week after we received the last one.
When you think about it, we all know how easy it is to live paycheck to paycheck, but we think it’s not going to happen to us, or that somehow, we’ll magically do better with our spending.
And so, here we are. We’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, feeling stressed, not knowing how we got here and continue to get here each month.
I’ve been there too many times to count and I know how frustrating it is to feel like you have no control over your spending urges, even if you start off each month with the best money goals and a heart full of motivation.
But, I soon realized that breaking the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle is not all that hard.
It starts with changing simple habits. Actually, replacing bad habits with new, simple habits.
Here are 7 Ways that helped me stop living paycheck-to-paycheck that were easy to start.
1- Create a Budget
Creating a budget was one of the best steps I took to help me become more mindful of how I spent my money. The thing you got to remember is to keep your budget flexible and adjust it often.
For example, if you budgeted $400 for groceries for the month and you realized that the last two months, your grocery spending is actually closer to $450, then adjust it.
This, of course, doesn’t mean to adjust your budget categories just because you want to add more money. If you’re adjusting one category, you’re taking money from another category to balance everything out. Your overall budget total should not change.
You can get the Budget Cheat Sheet for free if you need help getting started.
2- Reconcile Your Spending Daily
When you track and reconcile your spending, you realize how much you actually spend each day. By monitoring your spending, you’ll be more in control and will likely spend less over time.
You can track your spending by checking your bank statements and deducting each charge from your budget categories. This way, you know how much you have left in each category, each day.
3- Delete Shopping Apps
Simply deleting your shopping apps will mean that you are checking them less and giving yourself less temptation to overspend on non-essentials.
4- Unsubscribe from Retail Emails
You think you have control, but it’s hard to resist good sales from your favorite retailers. And getting daily emails from your favorite stores only makes it harder to say no.
Get rid of the tempting emails altogether and you’ll find that you are spending less and saving more money.
You’ll also realize that you really have everything you need anyway.
5- Start Decluttering More
It’s crazy, but if you’re ever tempted to shop for something, let’s say shoes, I challenge you to declutter your shoe closet. You’ll notice that the urge to buy more shoes vanishes, almost completely. At least, temporarily, haha.
Decluttering not only re-organizes your space and gives you more room, it also gives you a chance to touch every single piece of your possessions.
This process helps you realize how much you really have. And you’ll also find things you haven’t worn or used in years, further helping you see all the money wasted on things not needed.
6- Pay Off More Debt
When I stopped spending so much on shopping, I was able to put more money toward paying off my debt.
When I did this, I started seeing my balances go down faster, giving me even more motivation to add more into my payments.
I found myself adding more and more until I was able to reach debt freedom in 2018.
All the money that was going to debt is now going to savings and sinking funds that I have for fun things like vacations with my family.
7- Save for the Things You Want
I started saving for the things I really wanted. Instead of just buying something when I wanted it, I practiced delayed gratification. I save a certain amount each month and add that category into my budget.
This not only helped me stop adding to my debt, I was able to save at my own pace, with no stress. I was also able to do more research and find better prices for the item.
And sometimes….in the process of saving, I realized that I no longer wanted the item.
So, the savings went to something else that mattered more.
It was a good way to eliminate impulsive spending.
Small Changes over Big Changes
Drastic change doesn’t come about with drastic measures. It’s a result of small, daily habit changes that add up over time.
Because of this, it’s important to be consistent and strive to keep those new daily habits going strong.
Each day that you remain focused on your goal of improving your financial life, is another day that you are not falling back into the paycheck-to-paycheck life.
Changing the way we spend our money can seem hard at first. After all, we’ve been conditioned for years to react to sales, buy on credit when we like something, and not give a second thought about adding non-essential items into our online shopping cart.
So, be patient with the process of change. Be kind to yourself if and when you slip up, and keep yourself focused on your goals.
It takes mental strength to reset your mindset around spending money. But, when your mindset changes, you’ll find that you’re able to spend less and save more of your hard-earned money.
When I was finding my stride with money and trying to change my spending habits, it was a real struggle at first.
Only 8 years ago, I lived my life centered around the motto “I work hard for my money, I deserve to spend it”.
Work hard, play hard was the thought that encouraged me to spend.
But what about work hard, save hard?
This was never in my equation.
With this mindset, I unintentionally led my family to live paycheck to paycheck for years.
We constantly felt stressed, trying to pay all the debt bills that were piling higher every month.
And if, at any point, we lost our jobs, we would have been one month away from becoming homeless.
Homeless with 2 kids.
It’s scary when I think back to that time.
The power is in YOU
I soon realized, with the help of my husband, that something had to change. We were on the verge of buying our forever home and realized that we would not be able to afford it if I continued spending like I did.
So, I got proactive.
I started researching how to budget and save money. How to live more frugally and how to be thankful for all that I already had. I started trying out new strategies to reduce my spending and save more money.
Some things worked well and others didn’t.
But the small adjustments I made to see what works became the gradual change that I needed. We started to see more money each month go to our savings. A couple of months went by and our paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle started becoming less common.
No more paycheck-to-paycheck living
We’re happily at the point now where we forget our payday. I truly never thought that would be a possibility, but with just small, steady changes, we stabilized our finances so well that we paid off over $105,000 in consumer debt as of January 2018, and have about 5 years left to pay off our mortgage (16 years early).
When you can control your spending, you do more than just stop living paycheck-to-paycheck.
You start actually LIVING.
You start being more grateful for all your blessings. You’ll start living in the moment. You start planning out your future.
Everything changes when you take time to improve your spending.