Feel like you’ll never stop living paycheck to paycheck? Learn how to get ahead in life with these 7 ideas you can put to use right away.
The mailbox is full of bills, a kid just had an expensive trip to urgent care, and the car is in need of a repair. Now you are just hoping that there’s enough food in the pantry to get you through to the next paycheck.
But deep down, you know that you’re just going to find yourself running out of money again.
So how can you get ahead in life when you feel like you’re just falling further and further behind?
Let’s talk about some money goals that you can set for yourself to make this mess a little neater. Don’t be discouraged! These are goals that people in nearly any financial situation can take use.
How To Break The Paycheck To Paycheck Living Habit
7. The B Word
You probably don’t like it, but this list wouldn’t be complete without using the word “budget”. If you can’t handle the thought of telling every single dollar what to do, make a mini budget.
What part of your budget would you like to get under control? Do you eat out more than you’d like?
Keep track of how much you spend on dining out all week. Then next week, challenge yourself to save some of that money. Pick an amount that seems doable, but stretches you just enough to keep yourself interested.
If you tend to use your debit card for most of your spending, Personal Capital makes budgeting sooo easy!
It automatically categorizes your spending so you can see where your money is going at a glance. It takes little effort on your part to set up, but the results are worth it.
If you’re more the spreadsheet type, try this bi-weekly budget template!
2. Put “Found Money” to Work
We all have what I call “found money” from time to time. Anything from finding a $5 bill on the sidewalk to receiving a refund check to change from the bottom of your purse.
What do you do with your found money? Maybe you indulge in a splurge or just fold it into our checking account (where it winds up being spent on heaven only knows what).
But if you’re intentional about this money, learning what to do with pennies can add up to something great.
To start with, have a designated place for found money. It can be a mason jar, a piggy bank, or a dedicated bank account you open for just that type of stash (we love Capital One 360 for this!). Just don’t fold it into your wallet with your regular spending money.
Now decide how you will put that money to work! What do you want or need now? Some options include:
- create a sinking fund
- learn how to get out of debt (which you should always make a priority!)
- save up for a Christmas/birthday account
- save up for a vacation
- create a rainy day fund
- save until you have enough to invest
- use it to leave random acts of kindness around you
- begin to fund your biggest hopes and dreams
3. Earn More
While most people can do better with their budget, it doesn’t hurt to cut that budget from a bigger pie. You can bring in more money with a few ideas.
Everyone should have more than one source of income. You might feel like you have a stable job, but many people have been surprised by an unexpected lay off.
Getting more money doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be a lot. You can earn small amounts from various sources. Every bit helps!
There’s a variety of side hustles out there. You can do everything from getting a part time job to babysitting (regularly or just occasionally). The internet offers so many different ways to earn money. In fact, here’s a whole list of full time work from home jobs!
The best advice is that if you’re willing to do a job that many people hate, someone will probably pay you to do it.
4. Unfix Your Fixed Bills
We all have bills that we automatically pay every month without thinking much about them. But those bills could be lowered with a few phone calls.
It literally pays to shop around once every couple of years on big bills such as:
- insurance (car, home, life)
- utility bills (look for another electric suppliers or trash services)
- phones (cell phones or landlines) (Republic Wireless saved us $60 per month!)
Even if you don’t want to switch companies, knowing the savings another company would give you is sometimes enough to make your current company bargain with you.
5. Learn Something New
If your dryer goes on the fritz, you can purchase a new one, hire a handyman, or learn how to fix it yourself. With a wealth of knowledge available on YouTube, it’s a great idea to try your hand at fixing the problem on your own.
If it works, you’ll have learned something new, feel great about yourself, and you can pocket the money you would have otherwise spent.
If it doesn’t work, that’s ok. You’ll still spend the same money with the repair guy.
One of the biggest habits of the wealthy is a thirst for knowledge. They make time for reading. You should, too. Try this list of personal finance books that will make a big impact.
500 Ways to Save Money: Build a Cash Jackpot for the Best Things In Life is a great read for anyone who needs a reset of their spending. You won’t believe how many ways you can save money!
And it’s broken into reasonable chunks so you can find the best tips for your own situation and save the most money right away.
6. Always Have Two Money Goals
When with a money goal that feels tedious, it’s hard to stay focused on seeing the goal through to the end. But having a second (more fun) goal can be just what you need to stay on track.
For example, let’s say that your tedious goal is to pay off debt. With the average credit card debt around $10,000 (source), it’ll take a while to get that paid off. Knowing that you can take a fun vacation once your debt is paid off will keep you going.
7. Financial Fast
What is it? A financial fast is a period of time where you try not to do any unnecessary spending. It’s all about knowing the difference between need and want.
You choose the rules that match your situation the best.
- Clearly you’ll still need to pay the bills. If there are bills you struggle to pay, make a point to call that company. Set up a payment plan or ask about forgiveness if you are in a financial bind.
- What about food? Do you already have food hidden in the pantry and freezer that could be used for a period of time (with just a bit of creativity)?
- How long is the right period to challenge you a bit, but not discourage you?
If you have full cabinets, you might try a month. If that sounds too daunting, go for a week. Or even just a couple of days.
At the end of that time, take a break and evaluate how it went.
- Did you learn that you can totally get by without spending? -or-
- Did you feel panicked and ended up binge spending instead?
If it’s that last one, this probably isn’t the method for you. And that’s ok! There are other options for you.
The main point of the financial fast is not to postpone spending until the magical date you allow yourself to spend again. There’s no point in buying the DVD player on the 26th instead of the 12th. Instead, the financial fast should teach you that you can probably do without the DVD player.
Choose your money goals and watch your savings grow!
Small change can become big change over time if you have a great attitude and the drive to succeed.
For even more money saving tips (plus a TON of resources for kicking off your savings with a bang!) join the money saving newsletter! You’ll get a quick, actionable tip to use just once per week.
What money goals do you set for yourself?