Living from paycheck-to-paycheck can be a stressful way to plan a budget. It’s hard to cover expenses and may leave little to no money left over for saving, investments or much needed fun activities. If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck and feeling the financial pinch, there are ways to get yourself into a better position. Here are three steps you can take to break out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and get your budget into a more comfortable place.
Step 1: Calculate Your Monthly Expenses
The first step to breaking out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle is to get a good understanding of your current financial picture. That means tallying up all your monthly expenses.
Start by thinking through the necessary expenses. This would including rent, utilities, groceries, car payments, and insurance. Don’t forget about any pre-existing debts you may hold or recurring debts such as child support.
Next, list your variable expenses. These are often associated with things like personal care, entertainment, children’s activities, and travel.
Once you list out all the items you plan to spend money on, add them up to get an estimate of your monthly expenses.
Step 2: Trim the Budget
Once you have an understanding of your monthly expenses, you’ll be able to pinpoint where you should start trimming your budget. Start by looking for ways to reduce your fixed expenses.
This could include getting a roommate to split the rent or shopping around for a better car insurance rate. Another option is to consider refinancing your debts if they have a high interest rate.
Be sure to also look for ways to reduce your variable expenses. Things like exploring free or inexpensive entertainment, eating out less, and regulating the time you spend shopping can help you cut down on spending.
In addition, determine if there any recurring charges on your bank statement that you aren’t using or maybe even forgot about. Doing this can help you cancel any charges you don’t need and safe you money over time.
Once you’ve identified the areas you can trim, recalculate your expenses to get a better sense of your current financial picture.
Step 3: Align Your Income and Expenses
With a better understanding of where your expenses, it’s time to move on to income. Start by calculating your monthly income that comes in from paycheck, investments or other sources.
Next, make sure all of your expenses fit within your income. If not, find more ways to cut costs. You can also look for ways to earn additional income such as taking on a side hustle.
Once your expenses fit within your income, create a budget that outlines how you plan to handle spending and saving for the month. Budgeting apps or software can be helpful tools to use and help you keep track of how you plan to manage your finances.
Breaking out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle is an attainable goal if you’re willing to take action. Start by calculating your monthly expenses, look for areas where you can save, and align you income and expenses into a budget that you’re comfortable with.
If you feel overwhelmed with taking on these steps alone, a financial advisor can help guide you in the right direction. A financial advisor can help you develop a budget and offer assistance if you find yourself stuck and unable to move ahead with creating a budget.
With a good budget and savings plan in place, you can break out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and create a healthier financial future for yourself.