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If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you’re not alone. A Recent study The study, released last November, found that seven out of 10 US citizens live without a financial safety net. While it’s not an ideal situation, there are ways you can make the best of it and (eventually) extricate yourself from it.
For anyone struggling with the daily stress of living paycheck to paycheck, we asked financial experts to step in and explain how everyone can make the best of the situation. While her advice can help save money, it can also be used to start building a more solid foundation that can put you on the path to financial independence.
Find Out: Reasons You’re Still Living Paycheck to paycheck
See Also: 50 Mindless Ways You’re Burning Your Paycheck
Get a budget
The first thing you want to do is come up with a budget and stick to it. Jay Zigmont, Founder of Live, learn, plansaid it was crucial not to take on any more debt to break the cycle.
“Lock your credit cards (away) and make debt a no choice,” Zigmont said. “The first step to getting out of debt is to stop getting into debt.”
While credit cards are an obvious factor here, there are other red flags to avoid, including predatory payday loans. Creating a budget can help you avoid these pitfalls.
“Budgets are like diets; The best is what works for you,” Zigmont said.
“With my clients, I encourage them to budget for musts, shoulds, coulds, and won’ts,” Zigmont added. “Must are all the things that keep a roof over your head and/or that you have to pay for. You pay your musts first before going to your musts. If you’re really going from paycheck to paycheck, you may never get what you can, reflecting your discretionary spending. Summarize your musts; and if it’s more than you bring home, you’ll either have to cut back immediately or take on part-time jobs.”
Negotiate better prices
Once you’ve got your budget organized, it’s time to see what kind of adjustments you can make to your spending. In some cases, savings could be in plain sight, as Chief Attorney Lyle Solomon noted Oakview Law Group.
“Look at your current plans to see if there are areas where you can save money,” Solomon said. “Are you using all the advantages of your telephone plan? Do you see the cable TV you pay for? Is there a chance you can get a better deal from another provider?”
The same goes for any insurance you pay for, especially when it comes time to renew one of your policies. You can save money by bundling your plans, as some insurance providers will give you a discount if you have two or more with you.
Find: States where you are most likely and least likely to live. Paycheck to paycheck
Admittedly, this approach doesn’t work for all your expenses; and while you may not be able to choose a gas or electricity provider, you can try to negotiate those rates.
“Alternatively, you can reduce your consumption to lower your expenses,” Solomon said, “even if it’s just a small amount. Many utility companies offer free energy audits where they evaluate your home and identify ways to make it more energy efficient while saving money.”
Look for cashback perks
While you’re looking for better prices on your bills, you can also look for ways to save on other important things.
“While it’s important to limit discretionary spending as consumer prices rise, learning how to get more back for the things you need to buy can take the sting out of increased costs,” the money-saving expert said Andrea Woeroch called. “It’s also a good idea to review your current credit card to make sure it’s giving you the maximum return for the types of purchases you make most.
“Switching to a credit card that offers grocery rewards or gas discounts can take your dollars further. Compare credit card rewards programs on sites like CardRates.com to find the best one for your needs, and that will give you the best return on your purchases.”
Be frugal when shopping
Just because you need to buy something new doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be “new”. Woroch recommended buying used and refurbished items for these must-buy items.
“Shop fashion resale sites like Swap.com, which sell gently used clothing, shoes and accessories for the whole family, to cut spending by 60 to 70 percent on average,” she advised. “Meanwhile, OfferUp is a great place to find used toys and home goods, and Best Buy or eBay sell certified refurbished electronics, appliances and even power tools.”
Start funding your savings
Once you’ve got your spending in order and determined the best interest rates, it’s time to start thinking about how to start saving.
“Look for a savings account that pays interest but has limited access so you can’t just put the money into a checking account,” Solomon said. “Put an initial amount into your savings account after you open it, then contribute whenever you can.”
Learn: How to build your emergency fund when you’re living paycheck to paycheck
He noted that some savings accounts can be opened with as little as $25 minimum. Once this is done, you can make deposits automatically.
“Even if it’s just $10 or $20, knowing you’re gradually increasing your savings reduces the stress of living paycheck to paycheck,” he added.
If the automated strategy isn’t working for you, he also recommended a “pay yourself first” strategy.
“Before you do anything else with your paycheck, put a modest portion of it in your savings account,” Solomon said. “Depending on your estimated spending, it could be $5 one week and $25 the next. This strategy ensures that you save at least part of your income.”
Obviously, living paycheck to paycheck isn’t ideal; and while these changes can be helpful, it will take time to see any real impact.
“Patience is the key to success,” Solomon warned. “It takes time and energy to make the most of life from paycheck to paycheck. There are a few areas where you can reduce your spending, and it may take time. Even small deposits into a savings account can be incredibly stress-relieving and motivating.
“But you can do it,” he added. “Be patient.”
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