Stop living paycheck to paycheck

I have always been a frugal person and I really had to put it to the test when I quit my job to stay at home with my daughter about 10 years ago. My husband and I discussed how long we thought we could survive. We decided that when we started dipping into our savings account then it was time for me to go back to work. Well believe it or not 10 years later we have not dipped into our savings account. We’ve actually saved more money. I am working a small part-time job but I’m home in the morning to get my daughter off to school and I get home right around the same time she gets home.

What I’m trying to say is that we have money in the bank for an emergency fund we have money in the bank for retirement. We are saving money for college, we have money in the bank to go on a trip or buy a car. It can be done with discipline, we live off my husband’s full-time income and my very part-time income but we do it. We do everything that I talk about in all these money-saving articles and probably even more. You can’t always fix money problems with money, sometimes it’s our mindset that gets in the way and keeps us from achieving our goal. 

You’ll notice there is not one affiliate link in this article, there are referrals to 3 different apps that I use. This article and the articles linked to it are purely to give you tools to start digging yourself out. I know that every situation is different and there are different circumstances and debts and loans and unemployment. However, there are strategies in these articles that you can use, maybe not all. I invite you to go through and read through all the links and see what you can start doing to stop living paycheck to paycheck. 

Start an emergency fund!

I’ve also been a financial counselor teaching women how to create a budget and stick with it. The first thing I always emphasize is to build a $500 emergency fund at least, and here’s why. I’ve seen it where they are just barely surviving but they are working and keeping up with the bills and something as small as a dead battery or hole in a tire can totally throw off their entire budget. It can set them back months because of missed work and unplanned expenses. If you had a $500 or $1000 emergency fund you would be able to replace that battery or get that tire fixed or pay that bill that just came up, without turning your life upside down for months trying to get back on track. Unfortunately, it’s not always less than $500 to fix things but it’s a start or it’s a down payment on something.

So how do I stop living paycheck to paycheck and put $500 into an emergency savings account? The simplest thing is to go to your bank if you have a bank account and set it up so a fixed dollar amount comes out of every paycheck and goes directly into your savings account. Even if it’s only $5 or $10 to start out with. It’s painless and you don’t have to think about it and before you know it you’ll have a substantial amount and you’ll want to see it grow even more. LEAVE IT ALONE, DO NOT TOUCH IT, don’t dip into it to buy anything else unless it’s an absolute emergency, pretend like it’s not there.

Stop living paycheck to paycheck

 

 

If you don’t have a bank account force yourself to take $5 or $10 and put it in a separate envelope and hide it or put it away somewhere that you won’t take it out and use it. If you get some kind of side hustle whether it’s selling stuff on FB pages or doing door dash or whatever you have to do to earn a little extra cash. Promise yourself that you will put that money into savings if you can’t put it all then put half in. You have to start now, there is no better time than now, having emergency savings is the difference between surviving during tough times and not surviving. When you are tempted to use it, think about how tough it is right now and how stressed out and worried you are every month.

Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Start making cuts:

Having emergency savings is just one small step, you will have to make cuts and when I say cuts I really mean cuts. I’m sure you’ve cut out a lot of things already but you can always take another look. A no-brainer is coffee, everyone always says stop buying coffee every day and make coffee at home but think about things like energy drinks or sodas. If you are stopping every day at a convenience store to buy an energy drink or soda I can guarantee you are paying at least 3 times more than if you bought larger quantities at the grocery store and brought it with you every day. Look for sales on cases of energy drinks or your favorite soda. Keep them in the fridge and just grab one on the way out the door. Stop buying juice, when I’m at the pediatrician’s office they tell me that juice is no longer on their list for healthy foods for kids. It has just as much or more sugar than soda and it’s not providing any nutritional value whatsoever. 

Lunches are another huge expense that you might not think about, even if you get cheap fast food you are still spending more than if you packed your lunch and it’s better for your health. When I say pack your lunch I mean make your own sandwich, not a premade sandwich from the store if you don’t like sandwiches, get a can of soup from your cupboard and pour it into a microwaveable bowl, get a baggy and pull out a handful of chips instead of a having single-serve bags.

Gas prices are increasing and you’ll end up saving on gas and wear and tear on your car if you aren’t leaving work every day to go buy lunch. Where I work I don’t have enough time to leave and get lunch so I have to pack my lunch every single day, it takes extra planning and time in the morning or the night before but I like the feeling at the end of the week when I can say I didn’t spend a cent all week long.

Shopping

Shopping could be an entire post of its own but here are a few of the highlights: stop buying convenience food and pre-packaged food, you save so much
money by doing things like cutting up your own carrots instead of buying single-serve bags, or cut up your own apples instead of the single-serve apples, buy the big tub of yogurt and put it in a small reusable container, buy big bags of chips and make your own snack bags instead of the single-serve bags. Anything that is in the single-serve packaging is more way more expensive and fills our landfills with tons of plastic and packaging. I wrote a couple of great articles with lots of money-saving ideas… Simple changes to your shopping to reduce your grocery bill.
 

Eating Out 

 
Let’s talk about eating out for dinner, I know the struggle is real, some nights I just do not want to cook and it’s so easy to go get take out. If you wrote down every time you got takeout and fast food during the month and then added it all up, you would be appalled at the number. Eating out is a budget killer so you need to stop, maybe those nights that you just don’t want to cook have a frozen lasagna in the freezer or have a frozen pizza or some kind of convenient meal that you can make at home.
 
Eating out one night could cost you $30 or more and that is $30 that could have gone into your emergency savings fund. If you do have to eat out don’t get drinks, just get water. If you know your meal is huge, share with your child or only eat half and eat the rest tomorrow for lunch. Don’t be afraid to use coupons, we have used coupons many times, buy one meal get one free or half off, find out where kids eat free, and plan to go on that night. 

 

Cook at home:

Cooking at home is the best way to save money, when you are cooking meals try to use real ingredients instead of opening up packages, something as simple as roasted potato’s and chicken thighs and a steamed vegetable, not canned can cost $5-$10 depending on the size of your family and you might have leftovers for someone to take for lunch the next day. When you are shopping look for deals on chicken breasts and thighs or whatever meat you use a lot of, if it’s in a larger package bring it home and divvy it up into meal sizes for your family into plastic bags and put in the freezer. See how I Cut up a whole pork loin and make meals for $5 or less for an entire meal.

Cut up your own whole porkloin

If you need to stretch your meat, add in a can of black beans or pinto beans. I do that with taco meat, shredded pork, regular ground turkey. Consider making a meatless meal as often as you can, rice and beans and lentils go a long way and are way less expensive. Red Beans and Rice is just one of the meatless meals I make for less than $5. 

Here are more articles with great ways to save money:

When I grocery shop, I look for deals on items that I know I’m going to use eventually so I stock up when it’s cheap. I always have it on hand so I don’t run out and have to go pay full price for the item. I’m not always a brand snob, some things I might be picky about but if it tastes the same and I can get it cheaper by purchasing another brand then I will do it. If you use a lot of peanut butter, buy several when it’s on sale, or buy canned tomatoes or whatever shelf-stable item that you use a lot of then you always have it on hand and you don’t have to go shopping and pay full price, wait for the next sale and buy more when you are running low.

I also shop seasonally, in the fall apples and different kinds of squash are in season so I buy those, I don’t usually buy items that are not in season and are really expensive. In the summer, berries and watermelons are fresh and inexpensive so we eat a lot of those. Some things like bananas and broccoli and celery and onions are year-round so I buy those every time.
Download the grocery store apps, most stores have them now and they offer additional savings and coupons that you can load ahead of time, some of them start tracking the items that you normally buy so they send personalized deals for those items.
 
Stop living paycheck to paycheck
 
 

Legitimate Apps to save money:

 
There is a lot of apps out there that you can use to make extra money on groceries, the 3 that I use most of the time is ibotta and Checkout 51. As of 12/2020 I’ve earned $855.18 in cash back from ibotta, go ahead give it a try, here’s my ibotta referral link. I’ve earned $199.70 over the last couple of years from Checkout 51, I can get cash or pick out a gift card.
 
Fetch Rewards App
 
 
The newest app I’ve been using is Fetch Rewards where you can scan any receipt anywhere and earn points towards a gift card. You can read our article Free Gift Cards from the Fetch App, Is it Real? I know when it comes to Apps I want to know if it is legitimate or not and how many hoops do I have to jump through the get my ” prize”. I have enough for a $10 Amazon card right now but I’m going to keep saving my points. 

 

Stop living paycheck to paycheck

 

Save on your utility bills:

Whether you live in a house or an apartment or condo, you still have to pay utility bills. Electricity, natural gas, propane, water, sewer, garbage. Those bills are all rising and It’s something we all have to deal with. If you are having trouble with your electric or natural gas bill, talk to your provider. Most providers have a program called budget billing or maybe a budget payment plan. They look at your bills for the last year and then they average it through summer and winter. They come up with an average dollar amount you will pay all year round, summer and winter. So in the winter when it’s cold you aren’t hit with a super high bill or in the summer when it’s hot you aren’t hit with super high bills running the A/C. The bill is the same every month, there’s no discount you are just paying the average of your yearly bill every month. 

Looking for more ways to save on utilities, read my article 25 Energy Saving Tips for your Home. It is loaded with everyday things that you can start doing right now to lower your electricity or gas bill. I also wrote an article about how we Reduced our Garbage to once per Month Pickup and how much we are saving by doing that. That’s another thing you can check on if you are paying for garbage service. When I am looking for ways to save I go down every avenue!!!!

 

What can I live without?

Start thinking about things that you don’t need to absolutely survive, you don’t need paper towels….yes they are nice to have but you could survive without them, start using rags and washcloths and see how much you could reduce your paper towel habit. Paper napkins are another thing you can live without, fortunately, I can sew my own napkins and I used inexpensive fabric from the thrift store so I use very few paper napkins, I could probably quit using them all together I just have a few on hand for guests.

Stop buying bottled water, unless you live somewhere that you can’t drink your tap water then you should be buying the big jugs of water. Buying the little bottles of water for convenience is a waste of money, you may as well be throwing dollar bills into the garbage and it’s adding to the huge piles of bottles that will never biodegrade, they will just be buried in our landfills for 100’s of years. Get a good insulated reusable water bottle and just keep filling that thing up. I take my bottle everywhere we go, in case we are eating something in the car I have something to drink and I don’t have to go buy something, we should all be drinking more water anyway.

Stop buying expensive cleaning products, most you can make with 2 inexpensive ingredients!

Fabric softener and dryer sheets are other items that you can do without, you shouldn’t be using fabric softener for a lot of things like towels anyway, use vinegar in the wash, it doesn’t leave a bad smell and it softens clothes without leaving all the chemicals in your clothing. I don’t use or buy fabric dryer sheets, I just don’t need them. When it comes to laundry soap I only use about 3/4 of the recommended amount on the bottle, my clothes come out just as clean and my washer isn’t working so hard to get rid of all the suds. You can try this with shampoo and conditioner, try to use just a little bit less when you pour it in your hand, it may take a few seconds longer to lather up but it gets your hair just as clean, more doesn’t always mean better or cleaner.

 

Buying cleaning products are expensive but you can clean most things in your house with vinegar and baking soda and both of those items are very inexpensive to buy. Make a window spray with equal parts vinegar and water, clean your microwave with a small bowl of vinegar and water, heat it until the liquid boils and it makes all the stuck-on food particles soft and easy to wipe off. Freshen stuffed animals and pillows that can’t be washed by putting them in a large plastic garbage bag with a few sprinkles of baking soda, shake well, and then let it sit to absorb odors. Shake well to get rid of the baking soda when you are finished. Make little sachets, take a coffee filter and fill with baking soda and tie it closed, put them in places like shoes and closets to absorb moisture and odors.

Stop living paycheck to paycheck

These tips are not going to make you a millionaire but if you can make it a way of life you can start putting the extra into your savings account even if it’s just small amounts it will give you the incentive to try to save more and before you know it you could have your emergency fund. After that you can work towards paying extra on your school loans or paying off a car loan, pay for braces or buy a house…..it’s your money to do whatever you want with it.

You need to read this article: Questions to ask yourself before you make that impulse buy

 
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4 thoughts on “Stop living paycheck to paycheck”

  1. I knew a married couple years ago. The husband said, "I work hard every day to bring home a paycheck. I deserve to be able to go out for lunch every day. Ka-Ching 20days/mo @ $7.50 a day=$150/mo. The wife said I need my iced latte everyday to function. $3.50 + tip = $5.00/day x 30 days = $150/mo. They had other expensive habits too. So just the lunchs & lattes were at least $300 a month plus everything else. Needless to say, the wife couldn't afford to stop working long enough to have a family, and they still live in a rental. Sometimes our priorities and what we think we deserve get in the way of financial success. Great article, "Sisters With Stuff".

  2. Years ago, when I was in debt up to my eyeballs, and I was moved to do something about it, I categorized my spending for the past month or so, and found that the "eating out/fast food" category was larger than the rest of the spending put together. It was a real eye opener, that if I limited this one category, almost everything else would come into place.

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