Statistics vary, but regardless of which source you look at, there is over 40% of working adults in the US that are living paycheck to paycheck (these numbers get up as high as 70%). That is a lot of people that are one emergency or job loss away from being in financial disaster. Now, if you are here on this blog, it means you want to do something about your financial situation, and you want tactical tips on how to improve your financial health. I am not going to give you the standard “paycheck to paycheck” advice which is, “spend less than you earn”. Even if true, the concept is tired, and not very actionable. Below are some tips on how to maintain your lifestyle, but free up some cash that will help you build your savings, your emergency fund, or increase your debt repayments.
Avoid fees: We are surrounded by potential fees, fines, penalties that end up hurting our pocket book. If you are going out, don’t use an ATM to get spare cash that charges you a fee (some of these can charge around $3.00 a transaction. Ouch!) Pay your bills on-time; don’t incur late fees by being lazy, or by hoping your bills will take care of themselves without you having to open them. Pay your bills, it’s the responsible thing to do. Don’t risk a parking ticket, even if you can’t find a spot near your destination; I am as guilty as can be about this. I used to park wherever I wanted and hope that I didn’t have a surprise at the end of the night. Most nights I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t throw away $500 over the past couple of years by not walking an extra few blocks or taking 10 minutes to find an “actual” parking spot.
Get rid of subscriptions: There is a ton of free media out there for everyone to consume. Do you need all of those magazine subscriptions when most of the articles or similar articles can be read online? Do you really need that ESPN Insider subscription for $50 a year? Do you watch enough movies on HBO, Showtime, etc. to warrant both your premium cable subscription AND Netflix? Get rid of one of them and you will still have an endless supply of movies.
Find deals online: There are coupons or specials for nearly everything online. One thing a friend turned me onto last year was Restaurant.com. Here you can by $25 gift certificates for $10. There is usually fine print, like you need to spend $50 to use the gift certificate, but you can easily save $15 a date by using these deals. Also, there is a promotion right now through UPromise where you can get $25 gift certificates for $2. That is great savings if you don’t know what you would do if you didn’t eat out every night of the week. For specific stores, type into Google the retailer name and the word “coupon”.
Transfer a balance: Take advantage of new credit cards’ specials and transfer your balances to avoid paying interest for a few months. If you have a high balance and are high interest rate, transferring to a similar rate but with an introductory 0% APR for the first six months could save you hundreds of dollars and allow you the freedom to start savings or building an emergency fund.
Boost your income: Take a part time job. Knowing how much I work, you can sense I am a big proponent of this. However, this is the best way to get out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle. If you are making more money and you don’t change your spending habits, you are going to have a surplus. Furthermore, when you are working more hours that means there are less hours to spend. Sounds like a win-win, right?
Work from home: In today’s age of technology, this is a legit option for most people. Working from home has several benefits. You aren’t paying for transportation to get to and from work (I pay $9 a day in metro costs, that is sizable), and you are less likely to go out to eat for lunch. This could save you close to $20 a day each time you work from home. See if your employer has a telecommuting option. Doing this one day a week can save you anywhere from $50-$100 a month.
Budget: Most people roll their eyes at budgeting, but this is an effective way to cut your spending and build up a solid financial system that works for you and hits all of your goals. If you are thinking about doing this, I would suggest you take a look at my post about tracking your spending. Trent at The Simple Dollar had a great post about his one month challenge that can be found here. Trent’s idea really takes two months, but is a simple way at looking at where your money goes, and at altering your behavior.
I hope these ideas are helpful and provide you with some motivation to cut spending or to find ways to save money while spending that will leave you with a surplus of cash at the end of each month. Getting started is the hardest part, but if we each work hard enough, anyone can get off of the paycheck to paycheck merry-go-round.