One of the biggest life lessons that came for most people from the financial crash a few years ago was not an abstract awakening of global finance, but a concrete awareness of their own personal finance. While for some the rapid collapse of a $639 billion financial institution like Lehman Brothers in 2008, the revelation of the United States’ trillions in deficit, or the interconnected economic relationship between different nations was a rude awakening, for many the shock of those difficult years was something much closer to home—how they were one paycheck away from homelessness.
Living Paycheck to Paycheck
Unfortunately, even today after managing to hold on to their jobs or finding another one, a large number of people still live paycheck to paycheck.
In essence, this means that they can’t pay their bills until the next paycheck and if that income flow should stop, then they must find another job immediately, no matter how miserable it might appear to be.
Living from paycheck to paycheck results in a state of chronic stress for numerous reasons:
- You cannot quit your job even if you feel you are underpaid and overworked, harassed by your boss over petty issues, or have to put up with difficult coworkers.
- You feel frightened if something costs more than you anticipated or you have some unexpected expenses to pay.
- You may have to rely on high-interest credit cards or personal loans from family, friends, or payday loan places to cover car problems, dental work, a sick child or any other unexpected emergencies.
- If you end up falling behind on your bills, you then play a game of rotating bills, figuring out how much time you have before your services are cut off.
- You can’t even begin to dream of improving your life—enrolling for more education to get a better-paying job, joining a health club to get back in shape, going on vacation, or getting a reliable car that consumes less gas.
10 Steps to Savings
While it may not be your fault that you didn’t get more education, could not find a better job, or ended up paying high mortgage or rent costs, you’re not entirely helpless when it comes to developing financial self-sufficiency, and here are 10 things you can do to ease out of your situation.
- Realize that you are not alone.
Millions of people have experienced a similar situation and climbed out of it. Their stories, strategies, suggestions, and solutions are available with a little research. Go to your public library, read blogs on personal management, and find ways that you could earn extra income. You don’t have to win the lottery to experience some measure of prosperity.
- Review your current expenses.
There may be some ways to cut down on expenses that you had not even considered before. For instance, you might be able to ease the strain on your wallet by taking your own packed lunch to work rather than relying on nearby restaurants during lunch or dinner times. If you’re a member of a gym, you might be able to buy home exercise equipment to keep on top of your exercise routine. You might be pleasantly surprised by the number of ways you can save money. While each way may appear to be small and significant, they all add up.
- Avoid the perils of retail therapy.
Often people shop for fun and as a pleasant way to spend time with family and friends. Even if you merely accompany other people and do window shopping, you’re only making yourself miserable by looking at all the things you dare not buy. If you’re interest in retail therapy is because you’re a shopaholic, you have to realize that this is not a harmless way of “blowing off some pressure.”
- Organize your finances.
Instead of merely trying to figure out how to make enough each month to cope with your living expenses, try to figure out ways that you can put some money aside toward an emergency fund. Another thing you could do to organize your cash flow is put a limit on how much you allow yourself to spend on entertainment—things like going to restaurants and movies or trips with your friends. Managing your money is not about using your ATM receipt as a measure of your financial net worth. While balancing your income and expenses may seem like it will cramp your style, do you really want to spend the rest of your life chained to a desk?
- Begin paying your bills on time.
Once you have reached a point in your money management where you have more money than month, then you should consider paying your bills on time. In fact, pay them as soon as you receive them. This will prevent you from forgetting to pay bills, spending time keeping track of when to pay bills, or getting dinged with a late fee every time you send a bill that has passed its due date.
- Play the credit game better.
If you have too many credit cards, you may not be able to pay off all your monthly bills and carry a forward balance. Instead, only have enough credit cards to be able to pay off each one in full when you receive your bill. Additionally, if you have a low FICO score, you may be paying much more in interest rates on many things than someone who has a high score. If this is the case, check out credit repair services like Lexington Law on the Better Business Bureau to find out what steps you can take to clean up errors in your credit reports that are causing you to have a low score.
- Do more free things.
You don’t always have to spend money to enjoy entertainment or education. You can exercise in the park instead of the gym, listen to free downloadable music on your iPod, or take free online courses from leading universities in the world through MOOC (Massive Open Online Classes).
- Learn some basic skills to do things yourself.
If you’re not good at fixing your car, doing home repairs, figuring out your own workout routine, or cooking your own meals, these are learnable skills. You can save yourself quite a bit of money by simply learning how to do things yourself rather than hiring an expert to help you.
- Lower your standards of living.
It’s possible that you are spending a lot of money trying to look good. If you’re driving a foreign car, for example, you may be paying much more than someone who has to pay less in car parts by driving an American car. If you’re eating only at the best restaurants, you’re probably paying a lot more than people who eat at family diners. If you’re wearing only designer clothes, you’re generally spending a lot more than someone who gets a more generic line of clothing. While it’s not necessary to live modestly, it may not be wise to try to impress your neighbors if you’re struggling from paycheck to paycheck.
Rising Cost of Living
This dependency on a paycheck-to-paycheck living may not actually be your fault. With the cost of living exceeding the amount most employers are willing to pay for entry level work, it is extremely difficult for millions to make more than enough to pay for food, shelter, healthcare and transportation. Still, there is a lot you can do to end the quiet desperation that comes from living above your means.