Do you find yourself caught in the rut of living paycheck to paycheck? Do you live in the constant state of fear that one mishap—an illness, car problem, unforeseen expense—could and would devastate your bank account and send you spiralling into debt? Join the millions of people stuck in the same rut. I too had been in that situation, and it can be an awful feeling that really limits your ability to enjoy life. And I’m not talking about enjoying life’s extravagances like exotic vacations and Gucci bags. It’s missing out on simple things: declining dinner invitations because payday is still three days away or skipping impromptu happy hours with friends because the tips just weren’t great 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 had finally had enough and decided this was not the kind of life or future I wanted, so I decided to make a change.
At this point in my life, I was young, 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 tail 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 getting a second job.
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 programmed 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 programmed 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. When I realized this, I decided to start breaking down what I was doing, how I was doing it. and what I needed to change.
Below are a few steps I decided to take that tremendously helped me.
- Is it a need or a want—this can be tricky. You see, by being in the spa and following fashion trends, I was always getting new black clothes that I would eventually have to cover up the bleach marks with a sharpie. But what I did not realize at the time was that most of my work clothes were in great condition. It was me who said it was a necessity when really it was a want.
- Start out small—this was a game changer. And I mean starting small with saving. I always thought that in order to save I needed to start banking big chunks of money that I simply did not have. When really, $10/week=$40/month=$480/year and so on. So, I started small with $10 of tips a week stashed away and then increased it to $20/week and so forth. Before I knew it, I had hundreds of dollars saved in case of an emergency.
- Be realistic with yourself—I was young and wanted to have fun. But I also realized that the last $40 in my pocket was going to either pay for a weeks’ groceries or one great night out with my friends. I had to pick and choose what I would spend it on. The cute pair of shoes I “wanted” or my phone bill? Eventually, the realization is that you really don’t need another pair of shoes.
- The more money you make, the more you spend. I think we’ve all been there. A little more money comes into our paycheck, which gives us the green light to get those shoes we were eyeing. This is where I refer to #1 and #2 above. Just because I have an extra $100 in my paycheck doesn’t mean I need to go and spend it on things I don’t need. I instead increased my weekly savings and started paying off a few of my credit cards to reduce my monthly bills so I could start saving more and eventually be able to get the shoes I wanted without the stress of having to choose between food or the shoes.
If you’re currently living paycheck to paycheck and no longer want to be in that position, make a conscious effort to start the process of change. 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 a 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.”
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