Are you tired of being broke? Of there being too much month and not enough money? It doesn’t have to be that way!
There are a million resources out there that will tell you how to save money or how to cut expenses, but those only touch on a very small part of a very large problem. Are you ready to stop living paycheck to paycheck and get your finances in order once and for all?
11 Ways to Break the Cycle and Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck!
First, how about a little introduction and backstory. I met my husband when we were both 16. We were young when we got our first apartment- and we probably went a little overboard setting up house. What can I say? Those credit card companies take advantage of broke college students who should know better!
So we got into some debt. We paid off debt. We had jobs. We had kids. We were okay. But then, life happened. Things like working in a commission-only sales job when the economy tanks. But at one point- usually the lowest- we decided to take control. We were tired of living paycheck to paycheck. We didn’t want to worry anymore. We didn’t want to tell the kids- we can’t do that right now because we can’t afford it.
So we became intentional. We stopped letting our finances control us and started controlling them. So if you are where we were- perpetually broke and just barely getting by. Sick and tired of living paycheck to paycheck and ready to break the cycle. Keep reading and get ready to take back the control of your money.
Assess your Finances
When it comes down to it, you need money in this world. It’s what creates the economy we live in. So the first step to stop the cycle of being broke is to really understand your finances. You can’t guess and you can’t ignore. You have to know exactly what is coming in to your home each month. Exactly.
You also need to know exactly what is going out each month. Exactly.
There are plenty of financial planners around- I am more of a Google Drive girl when it comes to my planning, but a pretty planner works too. Just get it all out on paper so you can see an accurate view of what you are dealing with.
Create a Budget
Dave Ramsey is probably the most well known financial system. It’s what we used years and years ago and it has solid advice. I tend to tweak any system to make it my own- everyone’s brain works differently on how they process budget information.
The basics of a budget are- incoming vs outgoing. How much do you have coming in (and when). And how much do you have going out (and when).
When setting a budget don’t forget the extras. This is not just paycheck vs bills. A budget has to include other stuff- toiletries, clothing, medical co-pays, pet food, gas, etc. It has to include everything you pay for during your month. (I say month because it’s most common, I actually have a 2-week budget since I can easily budget per paycheck.)
You may find out that you are actually broke. That there is more going out than there is going in. At that point you will need to prioritize what gets paid first, second, third, etc. And keep reading for how to reduce the money that is leaving your home each month.
This is the part people tend to groan at. It’s the tough stuff that no one really wants to hear. I am going to assume that if you are living paycheck to paycheck, you don’t have cable (if you do have cable, why??)
Cutting excess doesn’t apply in all situations. If your budget revealed that you have more month than money- you need to cut excess expenses. If you are in debt- you need to cut excess expenses. If you make the exact amount you need- you may not need to, but you won’t get ahead in savings either.
So what can you cut? Lots, depending on how serious you are. Cable, cell phone, and car usage (one car family).
Stop smoking, alcohol consumption, and buying soft drinks.
Use the library to its fullest- books, movies, wifi, education to learn all those skills you are currently paying someone else to do for you.
Don’t buy paper towels. Buy cheap toilet paper. Go generic. Cut your grocery bill.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. If you are serious about taking control of your finances and you want to stop living paycheck to paycheck- get creative and cut. A lot.
Related Reading: 19 Ways to Save Money on Groceries
Create Multiple Savings Accounts
This is sort of my high tech envelope system. We do almost all of our banking online. We do all of our bill paying online. We also do all of our saving online. We have 2 checking accounts, 1 paypal account, and dozens of savings accounts. When we have money come in, it gets divided up between those accounts based on what each is used for.
The easiest way is to use the Capital One 360 accounts. They are totally free and it’s easy to create lots of accounts and transfer between them and your checking accounts.
We use these savings accounts for the items on our budget that aren’t paid monthly- like general saving, giving, retirement, car maintenance, vacation, medical, clothes, etc. These are things we put money aside for each month but don’t actually USE each month. I have named each account for it’s purpose and transfer money into them each month.
This way the money is there but not accessible- meaning I won’t accidentally use it for something else. And when the car transmission drops- you’ll be ready!
Stop the Debt
If you have a credit card in your wallet, take it out right now. You have to stop accruing more debt if you ever want financial peace. So step one is to either cut up the cards or stick them in your files where they are not readily available.
Step 2 is pay down any and all debt you have. Now most people have heard about the Snowball Method, and I do a variation of that. But instead of paying off debts strictly by balance, I also prioritize them based on other factors such as interest rate, length to pay off, etc. Student loans are way down on my list because they are low rates and we are on a income based plan. Credit cards have the highest interest and take the longest to pay off, so they are top priority for me.
Now if you are truly broke and living paycheck to paycheck, you are probably currently paying the bare minimum on all of your debts. That means you really need to look at your budget and see where you can cut and you will probably need to look at securing other income sources. (We’ll get to that in a minute)
Learn Frugal Skills
Living frugally is one of the easiest ways to reduce your expenses. It’s the little things that pile up into a big cost that keeps you feeling behind and broke. So learning to cook frugal meals (or cook at all!) will help a lot.
Teach yourself to do or make the things that are causing expenses.
Plant a garden- it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Here are 9 Gardening Supplies You Can Get for Free!
Learn to sew. Learn to bake. Learn to change your own oil.
Use cut up old shirts instead of buying paper towels. Use vinegar instead of all purpose cleaner.
And repeat to yourself: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without
Related Reading: 5 Frugal Skills That Will Save You Money
Create More Cash Flow
Sometimes no matter what you do, you really just don’t MAKE enough money to get ahead. Maybe you got into debt and until you get out of it those minimum payments are killing you. Maybe you are living outside your means in a big way (change that, by the way). But for whatever reason, in order to get ahead you need to increase your income. But how?
There are lots of ways actually to create more cash that don’t include a second job (though that is always an option).
- Downsize. Move to a cheaper place if you rent, sell a car if you are a 2 car household, sell off some of that stuff that is cluttering up your home, etc.
- Take online surveys- you’d be surprised how lucrative they can be, and remember every little bit helps.
- Sell your skills. Do you have a hobby? Start an Etsy shop! Avid gardener? Sell plant starts. Get imaginative and see how your current skill set can bring in money.
- Start a blog! It’s not quick money but pretty cheap to start and can easily grow into a solid part-time or full-time income. Seriously- we went from broke to my blog being our sole family income. It’s possible!
- Affiliate marketing. You don’t have to have a website or blog to be an affiliate! Learn how to harness social media and you’ll be set.
Related Reading: How I Make Over $9000 a Month Writing About Farm Life
Change Your Mindset
This is a big one. Arguably the most important part of learning how to break the cycle of being broke and stop living paycheck to paycheck once and for all. Chances are if you are stuck being broke, it has a lot to do with your mindset.
There are simple mindset changes that can help you break out of a broke mindset and into a wealthy mindset.
Things like There’s nothing I can do about it. If you fall into this hopeless thought, then you are thinking with a broke mindset. There is always something you can do about it. You have a choice in everything.
What about I deserve it. This is a big one. Everyone works hard. Everyone gets tired. Everyone gets stressed. Sure you may WANT to go out to eat, splurge on that new outfit, or take that vacation, but the truth is you don’t NEED it. If you are in debt or don’t have the money in your account to fund these things then you haven’t made smart financial decisions in the past. And none of them is owed to you.
Are you guilty of this one? I am not as bad as ____. Sure your mom/sister/BFF/neighbor might be in a worse financial situation. But does that really matter? Why does that have any bearing on the fact that you don’t have the money to pay your bills? You are still broke. And broke is broke no matter the degree.
Look for these mindsets in your daily thoughts about money. Where can you change things? How can you think rich?
Increase Your Work Ethic
This goes hand in hand with both your mindset and creating more income. Ask yourself, are you working as hard as you can work?
Really think about it.
There have been studies on the habits of millionaires and certain characteristics emerge. They are do-ers. They are disciplined. And I can guarantee you that they wouldn’t vegging out on Facebook or watching TV if they were broke. Most people who have gone from broke to wealthy worked their tails off to make their money.
If you are tired of being broke, you have to want the change. You have to do anything it takes to make the change.
No matter if you are tired. No matter if it means staying up late at night to work after the kids go to bed. Even if you don’t get to go out with your friends.
You have to be willing to work harder than you ever have before.
Don’t Be a Victim. Take Control.
One step deeper into the broke mindset is being a victim. Broke people tend to think that life happens TO them and that they don’t have any control.
“But I don’t make enough money.” Make More
“But I can’t sell/make/learn/do” Learn How
“But I don’t have enough time.” Unless you are working 24/7, yes you do.
Get the picture? Your life is yours to live. Take control. Make the choice to stop this right now and stop living paycheck to paycheck. Set goals and work harder than ever before to reach them- no matter what it takes.
Stop Making Everything About Money
You know that old saying…money isn’t everything. It’s true. Sometimes being broke comes from within. Maybe you are sick, tired, and broke. Money is quantifiable and easy to track. But those other things- not so much.
Get yourself in shape. Eat healthy. Stop drinking/smoking/etc.
Clean your house.
Eliminate the negatives (people or otherwise) from your life. You might be surprised by how much better your quality of life becomes when you FEEL better.
And guess what- when you feel good- both physically, emotionally, and spiritually- you will have more power to do everything else on this list to tackle the money part of your life.
Will you continue to let your finances control your life? Or will you finally break the cycle and stop living paycheck to paycheck?