Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck With These 5 Simple Tips

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Are you tired of getting stressed out every month when you have bills coming due because there isn’t enough money in the bank to cover them, and you don’t get paid for another week? Maybe you are tired of losing sleep at night over your finances, and you are ready to stop living paycheck to paycheck once and for all.

You might be thinking, “How can I possibly do this if there is no extra money each month?” or “How in the world do I begin to figure out how to make this work?”

Please keep in mind getting out of debt is not a sprint. It is a marathon that can sometimes take several years to accomplish. You have got to be patient with yourself.

There may be times when you don’t think you will ever see the light at the end of the tunnel. But with some persistence and hard work, you will reach your goals. Getting motivated to stop the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle is the first step you need to take. If your heart and mind aren’t into it, it will be very difficult to accomplish.

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Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck: How to Stay Motivated

Staying motivated can sometimes be tough to do, especially since breaking the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck can be a long and difficult road. Here are some ideas for how to stay motivated to stop living paycheck to paycheck and live more comfortably.

Start a Journal

Keep track of your emotions and your thoughts at the start of your journey and as you progress. You could start out by writing about how you felt when you decided enough was enough. Did you feel angry, upset, frustrated?

Or maybe you felt relieved, happy, and reassured that you finally made the decision to make changes to stop living paycheck to paycheck. Did something happen that triggered your decision and those emotions?

Write about your goals and what you hope to accomplish. Write about how you feel throughout your journey and about how you feel as you are achieving your goals.

Go ahead and write about it all. Put those feelings on paper. Not only will writing in a journal about your emotions help you feel better by getting your thoughts out, but the journal will also serve as a resource that you can read back through to keep yourself motivated.

Have a Family Meeting to Get Everyone on the Same Page

This is especially important if you have kids old enough to realize that certain things are being done differently at home than how they used to be. For example, they might be wondering why Sunday night is no longer the night that you order pizza, and now it’s the night you make your own pizza at home.

Let everyone contribute to the conversation and discuss their feelings. By allowing kids to think of ways they could help to reach the family goals, they will feel important, empowered, and excited to help.

When everyone is on the same page, it makes it easier to work together as a team to accomplish the goal. Working together also will help keep each other motivated. When one team member is wavering, the other members are there to provide strength and encouragement.

Create a Visual Aid of Your Progress

Visual aids do wonders for motivation. There is something about seeing your progress on paper that makes it more real and more tangible.

You can create a visual aid yourself, or there are many free printable templates online you can download, print, and customize. Hang your visual aid on your fridge or keep it somewhere your whole family can see it so everyone can keep track of the progress and stay motivated.

stop living paycheck to paycheck

Find a Good Friend to Confide In

I’m not saying you should share everything (unless you want to) because I know finances are a very personal thing. Think of it sorta like having a workout buddy; to help keep you accountable and motivated.

The two of you may have different ideas to share for reaching your goals more quickly. It would also be helpful to have someone there to support you and understand what you are going through, especially if times get tough.

Now on to the tips to stop the vicious paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck: 5 Tips to Break the Cycle for Good

#1 Get in the Right Mindset

First things first. You have to get yourself both mentally and emotionally ready when you are beginning the process of breaking the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck.

Because let’s face it. It is going to be difficult.

Getting ahead on your bills is not an easy thing to do. You have to be really ready to work at it to make it happen.

If it were easy to do, millions of people would not be anxiously waiting for their next paycheck to be able to buy groceries or pay their bills. Over half of Americans lived paycheck to paycheck in 2021 [source].

Working towards saving money and getting out of debt in order to stop living paycheck to paycheck will definitely test your patience and your willpower.

But I’m here to tell you it is possible.

You can do this. And I’m going to help you as much as I can by giving you some ideas on how to go about getting started on your journey.

But first, as I stated earlier, get yourself prepared. Any negativity you may have toward money, in general, needs to be let go of. Try to embrace positivity and enthusiasm for your money goals. If you need help with that, check out my post on shifting your money mindset here.

stop living paycheck to paycheck

#2 Buckle Down on Your Budget

If you don’t have a budget, now is definitely the time to create one. If you would like a step-by-step guide to creating a budget, check out my post on creating a budget that works. I also made a free printable budgeting workbook that goes along with that blog post.

If you would like it, you can get it here.

If you already have a budget, now is the time to recheck all of your numbers.

You are going to have to figure out what your total monthly income is. Use your net income, what you actually bring home. Be sure to take into consideration all your income.

If you have some income that varies from month to month, use the lowest amount it possibly could be so you don’t overestimate.

Once you have your total income figured out, you need to make a list of all of your monthly expenses. Every last one. You don’t want any surprise expenses throwing your entire budget off.

If you download my free budgeting workbook, I have an extensive list of expense categories in there to help you so you don’t forget anything.

This is where it will get slightly more complicated. You have to differentiate between essential expenses and non-essential expenses.

Essential expenses are those expenses that are necessary in order to live. They also include any debt you might have since you are required to make monthly payments on debt.

Things like your rent or mortgage, groceries, utility bills, car payments, student loans, taxes, homeowners insurance, renters insurance, & gas for your car are all essential expenses.

If some of your essential expenses are paid yearly, for example, real estate taxes or homeowners insurance, you can budget for them monthly by dividing the total amount by 12 to figure out how much you should set aside every month for them.

Non-essential expenses are those expenses that you choose to spend your money on. They are those things you don’t really need but want.

Some examples of those are dining out, entertainment, subscriptions, clothing and accessories (beyond what you need), manicures, and electronic purchases, to name a few.

Once you have your income and expenses, it’s time to crunch the numbers. If your number is negative and your income does not cover your expenses, you will need to figure out where to cut back.

The first place you are going to look to cut back your expenses is your non-essential expenses. See if you can make a few changes there to get your bottom line positive.

Maybe you could decide you are only going to eat out once a month, or maybe you will do your own manicures and pedicures at home.

Challenge yourself to find that extra money within your budget. Once you looked at your non-essential expenses, go ahead and check out your essential expenses and see if there are any items on that list you could save on.

Could you lower your utility bill by taking shorter showers, adjusting your heat or air conditioning settings, or installing a programmable thermostat?

Could you start monthly meal planning to both decrease your grocery expense and decrease the number of times you dine out? By the way, that’s what I do. I love meal planning. It is a total sanity saver for me.

5 Tips to stop living paycheck to paycheck (woman cooking at home)

Monthly meal planning does take some thought and time at the beginning of each month, but it saves so much time in the long run! If you would like to learn how to create a monthly meal plan, check out my step-by-step guide here.

How about getting rid of cable tv or, at the very least, calling your cable provider to see if there are any cheaper packages that would work for you?

There are so many creative ways to save money in your budget. Sometimes it takes some planning and phone calls to make it happen.

If you are looking for some ways to save money on your expenses every month, check out 20 Ways to Save More Money Every Month. If you would like to live more frugally by spending your money more intentionally, check out 70+ Frugal Living Tips to Spend Less Money.

If you are still struggling to get your bottom line in your budget out of the red, you may need to find ways to make some extra money. You could find a part-time job.

Another option is to find a side hustle that works for you. Check out my post on 50+ Ways to Make Extra Money or Realistic Ways to Make an Extra $500 a Month to get some ideas.

Find a side hustle to stop living paycheck to paycheck

There are so many different ways to make money outside of your full-time job without actually going out and getting a part-time job.

Just to give you an example, when we had outrageous daycare costs that come with having two kids in daycare, aka our “second mortgage payment,” we started a small eBay business.

We sold our own stuff on eBay, and if we went to a garage sale or thrift store, we looked for items we could resell. That side hustle worked well for us at that time in our lives because we were able to work on it nights and weekends and still be home with the kids. 

Some ideas for other side hustles are:

  • Babysitting
  • Selling stuff (eBay, Poshmark, Craigslist, Etsy, garage sales)
  • Dog sitting, walking, or grooming
  • Uber/Lyft driver
  • Delivering food
  • Mowing lawns
  • Tutoring
  • Catering or preparing meals for people (especially the elderly!)
  • Cleaning houses
  • Personal trainer
  • Giving music lessons
  • Doing hair or makeup
  • Photographer

Decide what your interests and skills are and see how you can work a new side hustle into your schedule. You can check out another list of extra income ideas to find something that could work for you.

#3 Start an Emergency Fund

Now that you found extra money in your budget or are making some extra money every month, you are going to want to open a savings account. This is going to be your emergency fund.

Your emergency fund will only be for emergencies. You should have this money set aside specifically for unexpected expenses that come up so you don’t have to use the credit cards you are trying to pay down.

Some examples of things you would use your emergency fund for would be:

  • Car repairs
  • Unexpected medical bills
  • Household repairs such as plumbing repairs or furnace/air conditioning repairs
  • Replace a broken appliance, such as a washer or dryer

The goal is to stop living paycheck to paycheck. You are going to accomplish this by finding ways to save money and getting rid of your debt. Developing a habit of saving money monthly will help you move forward with your goals.

Having money set aside will help you avoid putting money back on a credit card that you are working so hard to pay down.

Any amount you can deposit into that savings account every month will help. It doesn’t matter how insignificant you think it is.

Just deposit it! It will add up over time, and before you know it, you will have a nice amount saved.

The most common recommendation for the amount to have saved up in an emergency fund is three to six months’ worth of expenses. The more conservative recommendation is six to nine months’ worth, and some financial people say you should have a full year of expenses saved.

I think you should save as much as you can to help you sleep better at night. People that have a single-income household are probably going to want more in their savings than households with two incomes. Figure out what your magic emergency fund number is and try to reach it.

stop living paycheck to paycheck

#4 Destroy That debt

So now you are putting some money in savings and, at the very least, making your minimum monthly payments on all of your consumer debt. You also now have some extra money every month (by cutting back on your expenses or making extra money) to really tackle that debt.

Which debt should you pay down first?

Well, there are several methods to pay down your debt systematically.

The first one is the debt snowball method. If you think of how a snowball is made, it starts off small, builds up, and gets bigger as you keep rolling it. In debt repayment using this method, you would start with paying the smallest debt you have and pay the minimum, as well as any extra you can afford to pay on it.

While you are paying the extra on the smallest debt, you continue to pay the minimum on all of your other debts. After that is paid off, you would take the amount you were paying on the smallest debt and put all of that money toward the next smallest debt while you continue to pay the minimums on all the others.

You keep with this pattern until, finally, you are down to your last and largest debt, at which time you are paying way more than the minimum and will pay that off in no time!

The second method is called the debt avalanche method. This is where you list all your debts and their interest rates.

You find the one with the highest interest rate and start paying the minimum, plus whatever else you can afford to pay on it. At the same time, you are paying the minimum on all the others.

After you pay off the debt with the highest interest rate, then you take all the money you were paying on that, and you start paying on the debt with the second-highest interest rate. Keep paying those minimums on all the others.

Again keep going in that pattern until everything is paid. 

There is also the debt snowflake method. This method is best used along with one of the other methods. It involves taking small amounts of money that become available to you and putting that money toward paying down your debt sooner.

So, for example, say you get a Rakuten check in the mail. Instead of cashing it and spending it on something, you would immediately use it toward whichever debt you are focusing on paying down at that time.

Tips to help you stop living paycheck to paycheck

So which is better, the debt snowball method or the debt avalanche method? You will have to decide which method will be best for you.

Which method do you think will keep you the most focused and motivated toward reaching your goals?

The debt snowball method may keep you motivated and excited about paying down your debt because you will see and feel the successes sooner.

As you pay the smaller debts off, you will feel like you made a dent in your progress because that is one less bill you have coming in, which in turn will help you stay motivated and driven.

On the other hand, the debt avalanche method tackles the debts with the highest interest rates first. This will save you money in the long run because you will pay less money on interest.

This can take longer to see and feel the successes during your journey because debts with higher interest rates can take longer to pay off.

#5 Celebrate Your Successes

So now you are saving money every month, you started paying down your debt, and you are well on your way to stop living paycheck to paycheck! Find ways to celebrate your victories (within your budget!) as you progress along with your journey.

Celebrating the baby steps along the way will help you to stay on track and to reach your long-term goals.

Final Thoughts

Trying to stop living paycheck to paycheck is no easy task. Getting yourself motivated and staying motivated is half the battle.

But by getting in the right money mindset, creating a budget that works for you, having an emergency fund, paying off your debt, and celebrating your small wins, you will be well on your way to living the life you want.

What are your favorite ways to save money in your budget? What debt payoff method do you prefer? How do you celebrate your financial victories? Please let me know in the comments!

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