Do you struggle with living paycheck to paycheck? You are not alone in your situation. There are simple changes you can make to improve and better your personal finances. From getting the most out of your paycheck to building up a savings account to planning for the future, here are the top ways to lighten your financial load.
It used to be that living paycheck to paycheck signified poverty or low-income. Thanks to the increased cost of living and the drag in pay raises, people from all income brackets are constantly trying to catch up. Whatever your background or present income, the strategies are the same.
It’s so important to accept the fact that the best course of action to remedy financial hardships will always be slow and steady. It is often hard to stay motivated and encouraged when you are working toward a long-term goal. That is why a positive and realistic mindset is crucial. Keep the following in mind,
- Set micro-goals. You may not be able to reach zero debt or $1000 of savings in a small period of time. You can, however, save $20 off every paycheck or make headway paying off one source of debt. Setting goals that you can achieve within a shorter period of time, without throwing your entire financial situation out of whack, is the wise course.
- Success is relative. Remind yourself frequently that while society sets the bar for their definition of success, it falls short of reality. Success for your personal situation will be based on your unique achievements, great or small. A change for the better in your day-to-day life and your financial habits, and an increase in your health and wellness; are the aspects that denote real success.
- Cash flow. The concept of cash flow isn’t as straightforward as it should be for many. Making your money last paycheck to paycheck outweighs any other concepts. For example, buying in bulk at reduced cost might seem logical, but, in the end, you may be better off buying less, even at a higher rate, when needed. We will consider an example of this below.
CHANGE YOUR HABITS
Take a look at your spending and saving habits. Some individuals throw themselves further into debt or struggle by taking shortcuts that seem logical but backfire. Make these minor changes in your financial habits to make the most of every paycheck.
- Not every sale is a deal. This may sound contradictory, but how often do people on a budget look for deals? You may have enough food for the week, but when something is on sale, you stock up. While this makes sense in some regard, when it comes to stretching your paycheck over two weeks, every dollar counts. It’s better to skip the deal and wait until you need that product to buy it.
- Bulk is not always better. There is a lot of false security in the idea of buying in bulk for less. The reason is this – while the individual rates are less per kilo or unit, food often goes to waste, or we tire of a product before we finish it, not to mention the effect it has on our cash flow. For example, while a large pack of hamburger meat for $28 may be cheaper per kilo, you are better off buying one package of meat for $6 when a recipe calls for it.
- Little luxuries. Little luxuries are integral to making life worth living. A sip of hot coffee while you commute to work, an ice cream cone to celebrate a great week with your child, a few drinks out with friends…these are important for our happiness no matter our financial situation. When looking to improve our financial status, we may need to simply cut down on our pleasure purchases rather than cut them out completely.
Often, we think we are committed to our fixed expenses or getting a good deal on our flexible monthly expenses. While we can’t forgo our utilities or cut every pleasure from our life, we can tweak them to reduce monthly costs. Look for ways to cut your expenses, and as Dave Ramsay always says, “Look again. And again. And again.”
- Fixed expenses. While we can’t ditch our heating bill or insurance, we can reassess our contracts. Make a yearly habit of contacting your providers to renegotiate a lower interest rate or monthly cost. Even a $5 break on each bill will result in hundreds of savings over the year.
- Flexible expenses. Are you paying for a gym membership that you only use once or twice a week, if that? You can get the same if not better workout at home, using just your bodyweight or household items. If you rely on camaraderie and a coach, take an online exercise class once a week for more bang for your buck. Review your subscriptions, opting to alternate entertainment sources instead of keeping them all simultaneously. Review mobile apps and the like, as we often sign up for small purchases, forgetting that they are on auto-renewal or losing interest in them after a time.
- Plan ahead. It definitely requires a lot of energy and thought but planning ahead for meals and lunches can save you loads. Try making a meal plan, including lunches, for significant savings on your grocery costs but also healthy impacts on what you eat. Invest in a good thermos for each family member and embrace left-overs!
FOCUS ON SAVING
When it comes time to focus on saving, it’s more about stability and frequency than how much. It’s also important to recognize that there is no one size fits all savings account. In reviewing your needs, you will be able to set a goal amount for each purpose. Looking for creative ways to save can help too. Don’t forget – slow and steady wins the race!
- Emergency Fund. An emergency fund should be your first plan of attack. The reasoning behind its importance is that should an emergency come up, like a car repair or home repair, you do not want to have to turn to credit or empty your general savings account to cover the cost. In the event that you don’t have enough in your emergency fund, you can rely on us for a simple online loan without impacting your credit score.
- RRSP (Retirement Savings Plan). The importance of an RRSP is two-fold. Not only will you be saving towards a comfortable retirement, but there are plenty of benefits associated with an RRSP. For example, you can borrow from your RRSP to make a down-payment on your first home. There are also government incentives to increase your contributions, as well as support from some employers.
- General Savings. This is the fun savings account. In the sense that you can save for whatever you like, be it a vacation, renovations, etc. If your goals are longer-term, consider a TFSA (Tax-Free Savings Account) to benefit from a decent interest rate and a tax break. You can explore different ways to invest your savings according to your goals.
However you go about it, stay confident and committed. Just because one aspect doesn’t work at the moment doesn’t mean you won’t turn a corner and see success in the short run. Set realistic goals, stick to what works and celebrate each achievement no matter how small. A manageable financial situation that doesn’t lend stress and discouragement to your daily life is an achievement in itself. Make the focus of your endeavours quality-based as opposed to a specific monetary amount.
24Cash is a Canadian company that supports hardworking families and individuals through hard times. Life is rarely simple, but 24Cash is always ready to help in any way we can. Reach out; we are happy to help.