Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck

Escaping Paycheck-to-Paycheck Mentality

By: Ali Davidson (Executive Director of Associated Hair Professionals)

For years, I lived paycheck to paycheck in a constant state of fear that one mishap—an illness, car problem, unforeseen expense—could and would devastate my meager bank account and send me spiraling into debt. It was an awful feeling that really limited my ability to enjoy life. I’m not talking about enjoying life’s extravagances like exotic vacations and Gucci bags. I was missing out on simple things: declining dinner invitations because payday was still three days away or skipping impromptu happy hours with friends when the tips just weren’t flush that day. Ever put off running an errand purely because of the required gas? The worry and anxiety kept me bound to tracking paydays on my calendar more closely than upcoming holidays. I decided this was not the kind of life or future I wanted, but I really felt like there wasn’t much I could do about it at the time. I had all the excuses.

A black and white image of woman with 100 dollar billsI was still working to build my clientele as an employee in a commission salon. I negotiated my commission as high as I could, and my prices were set by the salon owner. I was working my butt off to get as many clients in my chair as possible, but I really felt like there was only so much I could do. I even looked into starting a side hustle, but even those businesses have a startup cost that I’d have to wait for next payday to afford.

As I waited for the startup money to come in, I realized something. How do I have this extra money in my paycheck to use for side hustle startup costs? It dawned on me: I’d been living paycheck to paycheck for the past couple years, but during that time the amount on each check had gone up a bit. If I was making more money, how was I still in the same financial position?

If you are currently living paycheck to paycheck, the amount of said check is not the sole reason for your situation. Think back to the amount you were making when you first began living this way. Even if just marginally, your checks have most likely increased since then. For me, when it really came down to it, the paycheck lifestyle was a mindset I just needed to consciously reset. When I saw the amount of a check, my brain saw the amount of money I could/would spend over the next two weeks. I was so programed to not have any money left over that I didn’t even notice as the checks grew, so did my spending. Where did these new clothes come from? They were a “necessity,” my brain would think. Really, they were only a necessity so I could continue living the way I was programed to live. Every time I saw money in my wallet I would think, “Wow I still have money; I’m doing really good!” then promptly spend it. Somewhere along the line I stopped clipping coupons, shopping clearance racks, and taking advantage of specials.

As most people bring in more money, they tend to spend more money without consciously meaning to. My brain was programed to believe I was a paycheck-to-paycheck person, so my actions followed suit to continue to make that true even when it didn’t have to be that way anymore.

If you’re currently living paycheck to paycheck and no longer want to be that person, decide what kind of person you want to be and make a conscious effort to just be them. Even if the amount of your check isn’t going up, the amount of your bills can go down. The extravagance of your lifestyle can be adjusted. Take action with what you have now rather than waiting for the next raise to set you free. When you do begin to pull in more money, take the difference and pay your savings account first. Don’t add on a new bill for the money; think of your savings account as the bill that needs to be paid. Create a budget for yourself. Make a plan for your tips; they are real money—not just “fun money.”

Living paycheck to paycheck is a mindset. We can easily make all the excuses in the world, pass the blame like a hot potato, and become so ingrained in the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle that we fail to even notice it’s not our means that are dictating that life. Or we can decide that this is just not the person we want to be. That’s not anxiety we want. Changing your mindset is just as crucial to changing your financial situation as the number of figures on each check.

AHP Roots Finances cover pageArticle as seen in the most recent
AHP Roots Resource Book

In business, people say change must start at the top and trickle down for real progress to be made. But the hair industry, as you well know, isn’t made up of average business people. Hair professionals are business people with flair! AHP firmly believes the hairstylists and barbers working behind the chair—the ones AHP exists to support—are the root of our industry, and together we have the power to change and shape our industry into its best self. The hair industry, at its best, will be known for the community and camaraderie among hair professionals. That kind of richness must come from the roots. AHP Roots are going to change our industry by bringing hair professionals together for real talk, real connections, and real community.


Read on for more tips to improve your finances HERE



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