I Live Paycheck to Paycheck, How Can I Save Money
Living paycheck to paycheck without any savings is not something new to me.
I experienced this during my first few years of having a real job. Back then, I have no idea about budgeting, tracking my expenses and living below my means. I keep on making expenses here and there.
And even though I earn extra money from hosting weddings and events, I ended up saving nothing.
I know I can’t be the only one who can relate to this (embarrassing) financial situation.
Fortunately, my obsession of surfing the web got me exposed into reading blogs about money. Applying the lessons I learn helped me to financially recover. I became wiser and better in terms of managing money.
And soon I’m no longer living paycheck to paycheck.
Today I want to share all the tips that helped me save money and end my paycheck to paycheck lifestyle.
What It Means to Live Paycheck to Paycheck?
Living paycheck to paycheck simply means getting always broke before the next payday begins. This is a common scenario present especially to those who earn just one source of income – salary.
As a financial advocate, and as someone who had once been in the said arrangement, I can tell you how stressful living paycheck to paycheck is. You are left wondering where you will get the money to commute, eat lunch or pay for an emergency.
Paycheck-to-paycheck approach also makes one vulnerable in getting into debt whether it be a loan in the bank or a person.
Reasons Why People Keep on Living Paycheck to Paycheck
Before we dive into the practical tips to reverse the situation, let’s look into some of the common reasons why a person tend to be broke before the next paycheck comes in. The culprit has almost always be – overspending.
Here’s what I believe in, the more we know what’s causing us to overspend and live paycheck to paycheck without any money saved, the more we are able to fight back.
1. Having no budget at all
A budget is an estimate of your income and expenses over a set period of time.
Normally done on a monthly basis, budgets work to:
- Allocate your salary/income/money wisely
- Know how much is coming in and going out in your cash flow
- Identify the areas where you can spend less to save more
Over the years I have developed a love and hate relationship with budgeting.
And I can say I am really thankful I chose to still make one no matter what and no matter how hard.
Budgeting is one financial task we all must do. It is like setting your to do list for a new day, when you make one you are able to define and make a plan on one of the most valuable resources we have as humans – money.
You are more likely to overspend when you don’t have any idea how much money you have and where you are spending it.
Budgeting doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply write down how much money you have and the corresponding expenses you have to pay. That’s it.
2. Not enough income
Another obvious reason why people live paycheck to paycheck is low income to sustain his/her expenses. We can only save as much money as we can with our income and if what you have now is already tight, it will cause you to live paycheck to paycheck.
3. Credit Card
Credit card in general is good. If you know how to manage your money and you don’t treat credit card as replacement for cash then you won’t have any problem.
However, there are those who can’t stop swiping for here and there, accumulating stuff that depreciates in value overnight. And because of how accessible shopping is nowadays, with malls in every corner and even online, credit cards can often be abused leading to a paycheck to paycheck living.
4. Living way above your means
Will Smith once said, “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.”
And this is a sad reality for most of us. We can’t help but spend to impress which leads us to living way above our means most of the time.
This lifestyle often leads to you living paycheck to paycheck without any money left for emergency situations.
I Live Paycheck to Paycheck, How Can I Save Money?
Living paycheck to paycheck is a real phenomenon and everyone, including me, have found ourselves in that difficult situation once.
The question now is how do you break the cycle?
Break the cycle and stop living from paycheck to paycheck doing the following:
Track where your money goes
Do you keep track of where your money goes?
I used to not mind tracking my money. I see money in my payroll account, I withdraw, I pay bills, I spend and I wait for money to arrive in my payroll account once again.
Until I realized I can’t seem to save any money.
Tracking your day-to-day spending is essential to keep up with your financial game.
How to Track Your Expenses
There are a number of methods you can use to track where your money goes. Some use apps such as. With these apps all you have to do is record your latest spending and it will automatically calculate everything for you.
Others use a simple notebook and pen to track expenses. This can be a tedious task especially in the beginning but once you get the hang of it, everything will already be habitual.
Currently what I do is plan and record my fixed expenses in Google Calendar. Then, I have a small notebook for recording the day-to-day expense.
No matter what method you use, what matters is that you have an idea where your income goes. Doing this will surely help you save amidst the paycheck to paycheck condition.
Gain financial awareness
Knowing where you income goes is important because it gives you so much awareness when it comes to your finances. I don’t know about you but for me, wondering where my money went over the last pay day isn’t cool. I want to know exactly how I spent my income whether it’s from my salary or the extra income I earn on the side.
Awareness is the knowledge or perception of a situation or fact. It is being conscious, being able to recognize and to realize things. When we become more aware we become more wise in money matters.
Examples on how Awareness will teach you to save your Money:
- Be aware that you have debt.
- Be aware that you need to work in order to live.
- Be aware that you are overspending.
- Be aware of inflation
- Be aware that credit cards are not replacement for cash.
- Be aware that you need to invest NOW if you want to be financially secured for tomorrow
- Be aware that everyday is a blessing, whatever the situation may be… you are still blessed to be alive.
Becoming aware of the situation will definitely lead you to act wiser than the usual.
Keep a budget that works
I realized when I started tracking my expenses, I became a better budgeter. It became easier for me to keep my budget at work.
You see even if we allocate our money well, follow the 50:20:30 budget rule or use cash envelopes – if we lack monitoring, we can lose track of where we are in our finances. We will not know when to stop spending on that particular expense or category.
Understand your spending habits
We all have different habits when it comes to money. Some find it easy to save money, delay gratification is something they are alright to do. They’d rather see money pouring in their bank accounts first before they become comfortable to spend on luxury. Others find comfort and happiness in spending in travel or lifetime experiences.
Cut back on unnecessary expenses
The most important thing to note is that cutting your spending rate is much more powerful than increasing your income. The reason is that every permanent drop in your spending has a double effect:
- it increases the amount of money you have left over to save each month and it permanently decreases the amount you’ll need every month for the rest of your life
Reading these truth from Mr. Money Mustache blog opened me up to the importance of living below your means. That what matters is not how much money you make but how much you SAVE with what you make.
If you lie paycheck to paycheck and you want to save money, an important tip I can share to you is to check where you can cut back. Now that you are writing down everything you spend for a month—you can then see where you tend to overspend. Then try to do any of the following:
- Use your bonus as savings. Most of us treat our bonus as a means to spend on our wants to reward ourselves for the hard work done. As an opposite why not treat your bonus as savings right away and pay yourself first by automatically depositing it into your savings account. I recently did this for the medical allowance we have every first week of January and I was able to add Php 5,500 on my emergency fund. Amazing!
- Cut out the fancy coffees. If you are used to buying takeaway coffees every single morning for work then stop. Buy a good mug and make your own coffee in your pantry area (if available) or go with instant sachets instead. This will give you almost Php 150 pesos savings daily.
- Save on your commute. When I transferred work in 2017 I found out a way to ride UV Express that will save me a jeepney ride every day. Although I will have to walk a long way from my workplace to the terminal, I still choose to do it. I treat the daily 15-20 minute walk as a form of exercise where I can simply listen to music and reflect on the day while saving some money. Check where you can save money on your commute. If possible, leave the house early so you can walk.
- Cancel subscriptions/memberships. This may be hard but if you can substitute a free way to gym memberships or Netflix subscription, do it. This means you have to exercise on your own instead, following routine workouts online or watching your favorite shows online instead of streaming. A gym subscription costs Php 2000 a month which means Php 24,000 money saved for a year. Personally, I am looking forward to cutting my phone plan subscription this August 2019. This will free me a Php 1000 in my budget which I can simply add to my savings.
- Plan out your shopping. Whether it be grocery or just shopping for supplies or new clothing, I highly recommend planning it out first. What do I mean by planning ahead? Make a grocery list before going to the store. With this you want to check your own kitchen and refrigerator of what’s lacking. Pre-planning helps you avoid picking up extra items you don’t need.
- Save on your utility bills. You can find helpful tips to lower your utility bills – electricity and water. Working in bulk from ironing to washing clothes can actually save you money. Unplugging appliances or chargers not in use is important saving tip too. You also want to invest in appliances that are energy-efficient in the long run. LED Lights for example are way better although pricier. Although your bill won’t magically decrease over night, doing these techniques can help you not live paycheck to paycheck and still have money saved.
Save first, spend later
Here’s where the usual leak on our finances goes – failing to prioritize your savings!
Our poor mentality can limit us that WE CAN SAVE. Sometimes we use the whole living paycheck to paycheck as an excuse why we cannot save any money at all. But only if put saving money on the highest priority will be able to realize that we can actually save.
Save first, spend later.
Put the smallest money you can put on your savings account NOW. Again what’s important is you set an amount to save. No matter how little or how big it is. Decide on the amount and save it consistently.
Automation can be the key here. Saving money could be a very difficult thing to commit. You find so many reason to spend rather than save. Now the best thing to do is to automate your savings.
Set your account to automatically deduct Php 500 on your payroll account and transfer it to your personal savings account. This can be easily done especially if you have a payroll account via Metrobank, BPI or BDO then try applying for the online banking system.
Paula from Afford Anything has a wonderful three-step saving routine I try to follow
- Decide how much you want to save.
- Pull this off the top.
- Relax about the rest.
Imagine how good your life will be if you have established saving money as a priority. You’ll stop being worried as to how you can survive another day or work week. You will establish financial peace and independence because you know you have reserve money in case of emergency.
Related read – How To Save Money Each Month
Earn more money
The truth is we can only save as much money as we can with our income. We need a bigger paycheck to accommodate a bigger savings. This is where earning extra money come into play.
I have been a biggest proponent of side hustling and have made various posts about different ways you can make money outside your 9-to-5. Hustling part-time changed my life for the better. It helped me accomplish the following:
- Boost my savings
- Increase my investments
- Have enough capital for a possible business venture or passion project
- Pay-off debt (credit card)
- Extra money for shopping, paying bills or vacation
Related read – If You’re Living in One Income, You’re Doing It Wrong
Final Notes from SavingsPinay
So if you live paycheck to paycheck, how can you save money?
First, track your expenses. Simply know where you money goes.
Then, you may want to cut back on your unnecessary expenses. Find out which area you can save for your limited money.
Save first, spend later – remember this rule all the time. Prioritize your savings no matter what. And try to earn more money if possible. We can only save as much money as we can with our income. If you want to save more, you may want to mind the gap between your salary and your expenses.
Last but not the least, start thinking about your goals
Goal setting is very crucial for those who want to be free from living paycheck to paycheck.
Have I not set goals for my finances too, I don’t think I will be able to escape the cycle of no savings at all. Your goals will be your strong reasons to change your habits.
Ask yourself this: What are your goals for the next 1 year? How about 3 years from now? 5 years? 10 years?
When you have goals to think about you are more able to manage your money and save.
Izza of SavingsPinay helps Filipinos bridge the financial literacy gap one content at a time by providing insights and tips on budgeting, saving, investing, side hustle and growing your net worth. Aside from this blog she also writes at www.izzaglinofull.com, a beauty and lifestyle blog for frugal Pinays and manages, www.izzagevents.com, a wedding and event business since 2011. For inquiries, topic suggestions or future collaborations email her at firstname.lastname@example.org