For the first few years of our marriage, my ex-husband and I lived paycheck to paycheck.
I barely made over minimum wage, and although he made significantly more than I did, it still wasn’t a lot. We had a mortgage payment, as well as a stack of credit card debt accumulated from my ex being out of work for a year because of an injury. We struggled, but we got by. And eventually, we pulled ourselves out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle.
Then, in the summer of 2012, I became a single mom — and once again, I had to learn how to pull myself out of that vicious cycle. I’ve done it twice now, and if I can defeat the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, I know you can, too.
How to Save Money When Living Paycheck to Paycheck
1. Find cheaper housing
When I got divorced in 2012, I knew the one expense I desperately needed to reduce was my housing.
So instead of buying or renting a house, I made an unconventional decision: I bought a trailer. I took out a $10,000 loan on a four-year term with payments of $226/month. (It is now completely paid off.) If I’d purchased or rented a house, I would’ve paid double to triple this amount. Not to mention that now I have an asset I can sell.
Be willing to make sacrifices, and know that very few things are permanent. Find cheaper housing now — even if it’s less than fabulous or isn’t accepted by society. You need to do what’s right for you and quit worrying about what everyone else thinks. When you get back on your feet, you can upgrade to something better.
2. Apply for assistance (if you need it)
I know that many people don’t want to apply for government assistance even though they truly, desperately need it. Again, this is something we’ve labeled in our head as degrading. But, it’s not.
If you can’t make ends meet, can’t find work, or can’t find anything better than a minimum wage job AND have a family to support, then it’s time to get some help.
Government assistance is temporary; it’s not meant to be a long-term solution. It’s simply there to help you get back on your feet, and there’s no shame in it.
3. Cut your grocery bill for a month
Let’s say that right now your grocery budget is $50/week. Cut that down to $30-$40. Buy your usual groceries, but use that extra $10-$20 to stock up on non-perishable staples when prices are at their absolute lowest.
You’ll have to eat simple meals for a while, but after that month is over, you’ll have an ample stock of staples.
4. Looks for ways to make more money
Before I started my own online business, I worked two day jobs. My main job paid $11.50/hour, and my second job as a bookkeeper paid $300 a week. I needed both of these jobs to be able to support myself and my two daughters.
Then I had the bright idea to start an online business. I began by blogging, then I went on to write an ebook, and then I started looking for writing work. I now have several sources of income, and most months, I make more than I did with both day jobs — and I work about half as many hours.
Be creative. There are unlimited opportunities to make more money if you just go after them.
5. Be positive
Your attitude will determine your outcome.
If you wallow in misery, you’re not going to get too far. But if you maintain a positive attitude and look for creative ways to earn and save more money, you’re going to free yourself from the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle a lot more quickly.
What advice would you offer someone living paycheck to paycheck?