How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck Today
“Before you spend, earn. Before you invest, investigate. Before you retire, save.” – William A. Ward
Do you struggle with trying to get by until the next paycheck comes along? Are you working hard to save but never seem to be able to save much at all? Are you frustrated at working hard, but never getting ahead? If so, then just know that you are definitely not alone. With the market economy being the way it is – unstable at best and with costs of living ever increasing, is it any wonder that more and more people are struggling in their finances. The most disheartening part about it is not so much the money or lack of it. The disheartening part is how all of this affects our quality of living.
As frustrating as all of this can be, there are ways to turn the situation, or how we see the situation, around. This cycle that many of us find ourselves in is not simply a money cycle; it is a mindset cycle. While the reality may be that we are living paycheck to paycheck at the moment, it doesn’t always have to be the case. We do not need to let the current situation define our future or who we are. In fact, by changing how we think about our situation can empower us to change the situation as well.
The paycheck to paycheck cycle keeps us in bondage, not only financially, but also emotionally and psychologically. We allow this current situation to determine our reality and our value. We may have been taught to think in terms of paycheck to paycheck living being the norm from the time we were little and saw our parents go to work for a paycheck.
Scarcity Thinking Vs. Abundance Thinking
The Scarcity Mindset
The scarcity mindset is one in which people fear losing what they have and that resources, money or others, are limited. Someone with a scarcity mentality lives in fear of losing what they have – jobs, money and more. They often focus more on what they don’t have or have little of rather than on what they do have.
Before any real change in our finances can happen we need to decide to begin thinking differently. This is not easy, but it is necessary. We need to stop playing the record in our head that says things like:
“I’ll never have enough to…”
“I can’t afford it.”
These are not reality; they are what we convince ourselves to believe. This way of thinking causes us to fear money – having it and spending it. It causes us to have an “us (the poor) versus them (the rich) mentality. It can also cause us to feel sorry for ourselves and therefore, become disempowered. This is the scarcity mentality. It robs us of our joy and our dignity.
The Abundance Mindset
The abundance mindset is quite the opposite. The way of thinking is first and foremost a grateful attitude. Abundance thinking focuses on what is already there, not just in terms of money, but in terms of highly valuable blessings such as health, family, time and experiences.
Thinking in terms of abundance leaves little space to think about dollars and cents because it looks forward to the future and plans for the future while appreciating the present.
“Where your focus goes, energy grows.”
If this saying is true, which it probably is, the more you think about something whether it be your problems or your blessings, energy will be directed in that direction.
So the first step is to decide, and it is a decision, to stop thinking about what you don’t have and start thinking about what you do have or could have.
Make a Budget Today
Don’t wait. Don’t say “I’ll do it tomorrow or next week.” You know that you won’t, if you put it off. Keeping a budget is not as daunting as it seems and with the apps available today it is almost child’s play and can actually be fun. I personally use the Home Budget App and have been using it for years.
Many people do not have or have ever learned how to have a budget. Many lack basic financial literacy skills which then leads to mismanagement of money and poor (regretfully so) financial decisions.
If you want to break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck that you absolutely need to start keeping a budget today. It is a matter of taking stock of what is coming in and what is going out.
- Write ALL your expenses for the month
- Include everything even the smaller purchases
- Keep all your receipts
- Total all your expenses for the month
- Write your income (all the money coming in from whatever source)
- Calculate the difference between income and expenses
- Prioritize -separate the necessary expenses from the unecessary expenses
- Eliminate the expenses that are unecessary
- Stick to the plan
In one column write all your expenses for the month. This means everything, even the takeout coffee, even the chocolate bar you picked up because you were craving chocolate. Keep all your receipts from everything you spent money on in the month. Total all your expenses and write this total at the bottom. Then, on the other side, write your income (all the money coming in). Subtract your expenses from the revenue to see how much over or under you are.
Next, prioritize your expenses into necessary and unnecessary. Resolve – decide today that the unnecessary expenses are going to stop (for now, until you get the spending under control)
None of this means you have to turn into a miser and never splurge from time to time. It simply means tightening the belt for a while to manage your money and get out of the red. Remember, a budget will not work unless you stick to it. So, if you want to get ahead, you need to stick to your budget.
Just Say No
Saying No is one of the hardest things for us to do with others and especially with ourselves. After all, if we are in a money mismanagement mess, it is probably because we have not been in the habit of saying no to ourselves. More than likely we have rewarded ourselves many times just because. Or maybe we have spent money just to feel better about ourselves. We may have told ourselves that we deserve it.
Unfortunately, while we may have thought we were being kind to ourselves, we were actually stealing from our future by giving in far too much to our present demands. Most of us tend to think primarily in the present and, while it is not a bad idea to live in the present, we need to also think in terms of the future and plan for emergencies and the realities of growing older.
Saying no to ourselves is one if the kindest things we can do for ourselves. It shows that we have limits and we respect them. It also sends the message to others that we have boundaries and that we intend to stick by them. When people see that you stand by your boundaries they will be less likely to pressure you into spending in areas where you want to save.
So, tip number three is to learn to say no to yourself and others.