Want to make your paycheck last longer? You’re not alone. According to MarketWatch, at least 50% of American families are living paycheck to paycheck meaning they generally can’t afford any unexpected or emergency expenses and some may not even be able to make their paycheck last until the next one.
It’s a scary position to be in and I know that first hand. Payday can feel like such a relief then bills, debt payments, and other expenses start piling through.
Plus, there always seems to be something extra that pops up whether your kids need new shoes, you see something on sale that you’ve been eyeing for a while, or you run out of groceries early and need to buy more food for your household.
Before you know it, your bank account is nearly drained and you’re on a struggle bus for a few day desperately awaiting your next paycheck.
Here’s the Deal…
I used to be one of those “I need to wait until I get paid on Friday” people too. My paycheck ran my life and told me if, when, and how I could do just about everything. Often times, it limited my choices and opportunities.
Many people have goals to make their paycheck last longer but are afraid to talk about it and the obstacles that stand in their way which leads them to make some really bad decisions like using credit cards to supplement expenses or taking out a payday loan.
This why I decided to write this post so you can learn the tips that helped me stop living by the mercy of my paycheck. Whether you get paid bi-weekly, monthly, or twice a month, take these steps in order to make your paycheck last longer like it’s supposed to.
Have Less Money Withheld From Your Paycheck
To make your paycheck last two weeks, ask your employer to withhold less from your paycheck so you receive more of your earnings on payday. This will most likely result in your having a higher tax bill but if you usually get a refund it may even out and you may not have much to worry about.
If you’re really struggling to stretch your paycheck and makes ends meet, having more of your money now could ease your financial burden. You can also take advantage of tax breaks and credits that apply to your situation to make things less expensive around tax time.
Your best bet is to talk to your tax professional and ask him or her if asking your employer to withhold less would be a smart move. At the end of the day, you want to do what’s best for you now and in the future.
Rework Your Budget
If you have a budget, you need to determine if you’re basing it on your current needs or your current income. Ideally, you’ll want to keep both factors in mind. If you’re not earning enough to meet your needs and expenses, you need to make some adjustments.
You always want your budget to be set up so your expenses never exceed your income. If it’s the other way around, you’ll wind up with a deficit each month and you’ll have to borrow money to makes ends meet.
Asking friends and family for money can be embarrassing and can possibly even affect your relationship with them. Taking out a payday loan to help you get by can be extremely costly due to the high interest rates they have. Typically, payday loans have 400% interest rates which is plain ridiculous. At that rate, you’ll spend way money paying back the loan to the point that it won’t even justify the amount you borrowed.
Try to go through your budget line by line and see if there are any expenses you can lower or cut. Rework the numbers so you are set up to spend less than you earn each month.
I’ll admit, budgeting is not the most exciting thing to do but it’s necessary and super helpful if you’re trying to get your finances in order. A budget is merely a spending plan and you can set it up however you want. Just make sure you can cover all your needs before your wants.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Budgeting
Adopt a Frugal Lifestyle
Embracing frugality is one of the best things I did to improve my finances, pay off debt, and break the paycheck to paycheck cycle.
Contrary to popular belief, frugality is not all about living as cheaply as possible and hardly ever spending any money. It’s about being resourceful and using what you have while getting clear on your values and spending in a way that aligns with them.
Since I know what my values are, I’m able to practice frugal living and spend guiltlessly on what’s important to me while not spending much at all on the things that don’t add value to my life.
Personally, I love saving money and scoring deals but I’m not willing to do so at the expense of my or my family’s health or security. With frugality, you have to draw a line that you’re comfortable with whereas when you’re cheap, you just try to avoid spending money at all costs.
For example, as a frugal person, I’ll buy used furniture, but I’ll draw the line at a used mattress and opt to buy it new for sanitary reasons. I also don’t shy away from buying quality items that may cost more upfront but will last longer in general.
I love buying used clothes for my son and catching clearance deals because he grows so fast, but I may buy him a quality pair of brand new shoes at the beginning of the school year because they will be more durable and last longer. Frugality helps you save money and less well on less while still being able to spend money on your values.
I encourage you to try adopting a frugal lifestyle if you want to make your paycheck last two weeks. Start cooking more meals at home instead of dining out for convenience and brew your coffee at home to save money on pricey Starbucks drinks.
Find free and affordable ways to entertain yourself, utilize all the resources available to you and avoid wasting your hard-earned money on splurges that don’t really align with your values or end goal.
Avoid Blowing Your Paycheck on Splurges
We all splurge from time to time. Splurges are fun and sometimes necessary. There’s nothing wrong with doing it until it gets out of control.
I remember back when I was living paycheck to paycheck and one of my most damaging habits was getting too excited when I got paid and feeling the need to blow money almost instantly.
I would stop by the store and treat myself to a new outfit from the store or a nice meal from one of my favorite restaurants. I would say yes to any and every opportunity that came my way and before I knew it, my paycheck was almost gone and my bank account was dangerously low.
Living that type of lifestyle forced me into a state of panic and stress every two weeks because I knew I didn’t have enough money to get by. This is why it’s so important to embrace frugality and get clear on your values because if you don’t, you’ll wind up splurging all the time and then regretting your purchases later.
If you have issues with falling for the latest fad and making impulse purchases solely off emotion, try using the 48-hour rule. When you’re in a store and see something you like and are tempted to buy, try waiting for 48-hours and sleeping on the decision.
After that time has gone by, you may realize you didn’t truly want or need that item and can get by without it just fine.
If one of your habits is to go out on the town every weekend, see if you can cut down to going out every other weekend and having friends over instead. Also, check out Groupon to save money on activities and outings that you would normally splurge on.
Use a Daily Budget
Once you have your budget under control, consider adapting to a daily budget to help you stay on track and avoid overspending. Developing a daily budget is simple. You just need to break your spending allowance down into 30-31 parts.
Subtract your regular living expenses from your budget like rent, utility bills, insurance premiums, debt payments, groceries etc. then use what’s left as your spending allowance.
Let’s say you have $400 left each month. That breaks down to $13.33 per day that you can spend to allow your paycheck to last. You can even go some days without spending any money at all to increase your daily budget.
Let’s say you have 2 no spend days during each week. They could be during busy work days when you don’t really have time to spend much money anyway. That would bump your daily budget up to $18.18.
Be sure to check your bank account regularly to monitor your transactions and update your budget. That way, you’re are able to have more control over what you spend and won’t be surprised or stressed out when funds start running low.
Learn How to Create a Budget You Love?
Ask For a Raise
Now that I’ve talked about a few ways to keep your spending under control and embracing frugality, it’s time to address the big elephant in the room – earning more money.
Don’t forget that if your paycheck is not allowing you to live comfortably, you can always try to increase your income and one of the easiest ways to do this is to ask for a raise.
Your annual performance review is one of the best times to ask your employer for a pay increase but if it’s been a while since you’ve had one, you can ask at any time.
Be sure to research the salary expectations for your position and round up some documentation that will justify a pay increase. If you’ve been doing well on your job, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for a raise.
The worst someone can say is no, but research shows that people who ask for raises tend to get them. If you don’t ask, you could be missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars during the life of your career.
Getting a salary increase can help you make your paycheck last longer than previously.
Get a Side Hustle
Another way to earn extra money is to get a side hustle. Side hustling is all the craze right now but if you’re short on money, I’d definitely recommend giving it a try. Side hustling can help you meet your financial goals quicker and keep more money in your pocket in general.
You can get a part-time job on the side or you can choose a flexible side hustle that allows you to work from home or work flexible hours whenever it’s convenient for you.
If you need to resolve your issues with having a low paycheck quickly and can’t get a raise, I’d highly recommend starting a side hustle.
Related: 80+ Ways to Earn Extra Money
Refinance Your Debt
Finally, realize that high debt payments might be preventing you from being able to make your paycheck last two weeks. If you have a big car loan or a lot of student loans, your minimum monthly payments may be high.
If your interest rate is high as well, you might want to look into refinancing your debt. Refinancing allows you to get a whole new loan with a new lender, but it can get you a lower interest rate and/or lower monthly payment. If you’re interested in looking into refinancing your student loans, check out LendEdu.
LendEDU is one of my favorite free resources when it comes to refinancing student loans because it lets you browse different offers for a lower interest rate without even running your credit. If interest on your student loans is costing you thousands per year, you can save thousands by refinancing with help from LendEdu.
Wrapping It Up
Living paycheck to paycheck and not being able to stretch your income to last until your next payday doesn’t have to be your situation long term. You can change your finances around and even increase your income with these tips and strategies.
The key is to focus on always having more money coming in than the amount of money that goes out and being able to control your spending habits.
Have you ever had trouble making your paycheck last a full two weeks? If you’re struggling to make it to your next payday, feel free to download my free Mindful Budgeting printable worksheet, ask me any questions for more context in the comment section, or reach out to me privately.
My Favorite Resources
ThredUp – The best online consignment shop to find affordable clothes and accessories for women and kids.
LendEdu – Free online marketplace for student loan refinancing. Shop around for better student loan rates without hurting your credit
Survey Junkie – Earn money taking surveys online
Opinion Outpost – Another legit survey company I like. My husband uses this site to earn extra money we can spend on dining out
CapitalOne 360 – My favorite high-yield online savings account. Earn $25 when you open an account.
STOP Living Paycheck to Paycheck
You can't break free from the status quo when you're living like everyone else. Get one of the free spreadsheet tools I used to pay off $35,000 of debt quickly, build an emergency fund, and break the paycheck to paycheck cycle.