Living Paycheck to Paycheck? How to Break Free

( – Living paycheck to paycheck is a scary and stressful cycle. You need to make sure you have enough to cover your vital expenses — but when your vital expenses take everything you have, it’s hard to save money for emergencies. If this describes your situation, you’re not alone: 78 percent of American workers are in the same situation, and this number has grown recently due to the pandemic.

With a potential financial crisis incoming and global instability causing worries about the economy, it’s time to consider what you can do for yourself to break the cycle of paycheck to paycheck living.

Track and Budget

How much do you currently spend on what? While you surely know how much things like rent costs offhand, your other expenses can add up. Some of them, like your grocery bill, may also vary. Before you create a budget, it’s critical to know where you are.

Track your spending honestly for four weeks, including all credit, debit, and cash purchases. You’ll be able to identify any expenses you can eliminate. The goal isn’t to convince you not to drink the occasional latte or to make you feel guilt, but to set you up for success by allowing you to establish realistic goals with a budget. You have to know where you are before you can create an action plan to achieve your financial goals.

Always Prioritize Your Four Walls

Four walls expenditures consist of food, utilities, shelter, and transportation. These expenses are critical. Once you consider these expenses, it’s time to prioritize everything else.

During this process, most people find that they are overspending on entertainment, restaurant meals, and travel. Because subscription-based services are so popular, you might be spending more on these than you think. Making some choices about secondary and tertiary needs can help you curb your spending.

How to Start an Emergency Fund

Your next goal is to establish an emergency fund: your safety net. If an emergency happens, you will need these funds to avoid relying on credit cards or taking out more loans (which come with interest). For example, if you have insurance for your pet’s veterinary expenses, many of them require you to pay out of pocket before you get reimbursed, unlike most human insurance. In the event of a veterinary emergency, it’s better to have cash on hand so you don’t have to worry about being reimbursed before your credit card company applies interest on your charge.

It’s recommended to start with a $1,000 emergency fund. If you’re able to do this, the buffer will help you feel better. $1,000 covers most insurance companies’ emergency room copays, deductibles for auto insurance incidents, and many surprise bills.

When it comes to major purchases, plan ahead when possible so you can save for them, rather than pay off debt.

Boost Your Income With a Second Job or Side Gig

Getting a side gig or second job is a great way to pay off debt and establish an emergency fund. You can raise your income with a side job or part-time position, such as becoming a virtual assistant, food delivery driver, dog sitter, writer, influencer, or rideshare driver. Gigging as a second income is a relatively popular thing to do at this time, and a great way to establish an emergency fund.

If you’re looking to make a move to a better, higher-paying full-time role, you can always boost your income temporarily.

As you work hard to break the cycle of paycheck to paycheck life, know you’re not alone. Success in moving beyond paycheck to paycheck takes dedication, persistence, and patience, often while you’re doing other things like building your credit and paying down debt.

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