According to the American Payroll Association, 74% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck. If you are a single mother, your odds likely are higher. That means a majority of parents would struggle greatly if their paycheck was delayed or would not be able to take care of a large emergency expense leading them to rely on credit cards, home equity loans, or even title loans to take care of them. This can make day to day living very stressful indeed. And even though it is true that systemic change is needed in order to improve this, it can still be very helpful to explore ways in which you can make your money last longer, so you don’t have to feel the financial stress as heavily.
Here are a few of the best practical tips for making that paycheck last as long as possible, so you still have money left over by the time you come to your next payday:
1. Be Aware of Your Income
What is the actual income you are bringing in every month after taxes and after any other holdings or withdrawals (i.e., your net income)? You don’t want to assume you have more money than you do based on an overall salary or a certain number of hours. It’s very important you have an accurate count of what your income will be in any given month to ensure you budget properly.
2. What Are your Necessities?
After you know how much you’ll be bringing home every month, subtract all the necessities that you can’t do without. Things like your rent/mortgage, groceries, transportation, utilities, and anything else that you cannot do without. What you have leftover will be what you are really trying to make last longer in any way you can.
3. Can You Cut Down Monthly Expenses?
Now that you’ve put aside all that you and your children can’t do without, it’s time to take a look at all the recurring monthly expenses that aren’t technically life or death. Things like your cable bill, your streaming subscriptions, your clothing budget, your gym membership. Is there anything here that you can cut down even if it is temporary? Going without some of the things you enjoy for a few months isn’t always nice, but it could be the difference in getting to a better financial state. There are a number of ways that you can reduce the monthly cost of owning a car by shopping around for insurance, get regular maintenance done, etc.
4. Fixed Versus Variable Expenses
Many people break down this budgeting process down into the categories of fixed and variable expenses, meaning expenses that are the same every month and ones that fluctuate. This is not the approach that has been outlined, as it does not consider a necessity.
When your family is struggling with money, you have to start making tough choices for you and your kids. Some of your fixed expenses aren’t necessary, and some of your variable expenses aren’t either. Therefore, it is important to frame it this way so that you can look into and adjust spending so that you have more wiggle-room between paychecks. The kids might drive you crazy without Netflix for a month, but if it’s between that and making the power bill next month, the choice is clear.
5. Avoid Impulse Buying
Don’t ever buy something on a whim. Don’t see something or read about something and buy it immediately after. This doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot have that thing, but instead of getting it right away, wait for a while to determine if you really need it or even really want it. Take a picture of the item and take note of the price on your phone, then, if a week later you still really feel the same interest, then go back and buy it.
You will be surprised how often you just forget about the item altogether and how much money that will save you. The same principle applies to the children too. It can be hard to say no, but they almost always forget quickly.
6. Make the Extra Money Harder to Access
Whenever you get to the end of the month, and there is a little bit of money left over, make that money more difficult to access. Put it in a savings account so that you will have to go to extra steps to spend it, and it will need to be a conscious choice to do so. Do not set up automatic transfers, and if you already have, turn that feature off.
If you don’t know what this is referring to, some banks allow you to set your account to automatically transfer money from savings to checking when you don’t have enough funds to cover a purchase to avoid a card declining. Sometimes it can also be set for when your checking balance falls below a certain amount. This is cheaper than an overdraft charge, but if the goal is to save money and build a financial cushion, it is most beneficial to let your card decline if the purchase isn’t necessary.
Continue with the cost-cutting measures until each paycheck lasts longer and longer, and you might just be able to enjoy the feeling of not needing to live paycheck to paycheck anymore altogether. In the end, ideally, you’ll have the ability to splurge a bit from time to time and get something nice for the family! And if not, at least you have a safety net in place for when things get tight again.