How to pay off debt when you live paycheck to paycheck

Are you tired of sending all your hard earned money to someone else?  If you’ve taken the time to sit down and write out how much money you are paying towards debt, you might get sick to your stomach.  I know that I was in shock the first time we totaled up our minimum debt payments.  In fact, our minimum payments were more than our mortgage!  I hated knowing that our family was living paycheck to paycheck.  We had very little savings and if we encountered a financial crisis we would have to borrow more money.  Can you relate?

The good news is that everyone has the ability to stop the paycheck to paycheck cycle that they’re living in.  It doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have coming in each month.  It all boils down to spending less than you make!  If you’re sick of working 40 hours a week and sending all your money to student loans or car loans, then it’s time to make a change!  The strategies below are proven to help you break the cycle and pay off debt!  

Repeat after me, “Budgets are my friend.”

I know you’ve heard it a thousand times.  You need to be on a budget.  Honestly, I hate the way it sounds.  It almost sounds like “You need to be on a diet.”  When I tell myself that I’m on a diet I immediately feel restricted and it makes me want to eat all the Milky Ways (I wish I was kidding about this).  There’s something about someone telling you what you need to do that makes you want to do the exact opposite.  You hear “get on a budget” and your mind says “buy a new outfit!”  So instead of seeing a budget as your boss that is shamefully wagging his finger at you, see it as your roadmap to freedom.  You choose how to reach your financial freedom.  The truth is that a budget is just YOU telling your money where to go.  It’s not in charge of you, you’re in charge of it.  

Budgets are my friend.

Start by writing out all of your expenses for your next pay period (that could be a month, 2 weeks, or 1 week).  Make sure you think of every possible expense you could have.  Then, subtract your expenses from your income.  Any leftover money needs to go to savings or towards debt.  Need more guidance writing a detailed budget?  Check out my step-by-step guide, or get your own budget printable!



Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses.  The Joneses are broke.

It’s so easy to compare your world with others around you.  The grass always looks greener on the other side when your neighbor just got a nice new car.  Let’s face it, your car doesn’t have that new car smell anymore.  What you don’t understand is that their grass isn’t actually grass at all.  That’s right, it’s just astroturf.  Their grass is fake!!!  That new car comes with a nice new car note which tops out at $500 per month.  I don’t know about you, but I’ll take my paid for, boring car any day of the week over a $500 per month payment.  You see, it’s time to stop trying to keep up with everyone when everyone around you is sinking in debt.  Be the weird friend that uses cash envelopes,  drives their car into the ground, and brings their lunch to work.  You’ll have control over your finances and your bank account will thank you!

Start paying on your debts.

Once you have your budget set (make sure you’re not forgetting any items in your budget!), it’s time to start sending your extra money towards your debt.  The only way you’ll pay off debt while living paycheck to paycheck is to start chipping away at it!  If you sell something on a Facebook sale site, then put that extra $10 to debt.  Go under on your grocery budget this week?  Send the extra to debt!  Get paid overtime?  Send it to debt!  Decide to purge your closets and have a garage sale?  Send the money to debt!  Every extra penny needs to go towards debt.  Need more info on how to use the debt snowball method?  Click HERE (and there’s a free printable for you too)!

Debt Snowball Spreadsheet

 

Breakup with any bad financial habits.

We’ve all got bad habits in our life.  To me, the wisdom doesn’t lie in knowing the difference between a good habit and a bad one.  Anyone can tell you that eating handfuls of your kid’s Halloween candy after they go to bed is not the smartest choice (totally doesn’t happen in my house by the way….).  No, the wisdom lies in willingly choosing to do the right thing when it’s not actually what you want to do.  For instance, I want to buy coffee from Starbucks every day, but I choose to brew my own pot of coffee every morning instead.  I desperately want to pick up dinner every night so I don’t have to cook, but I choose to make a meal plan and cook at home instead.  (Need help with figuring out how to meal plan?  Click HERE.)  Take a look at your financial habits and determine what you need to breakup with.  Is it a subscription to a mail order clothing service?  Or maybe it’s online shopping in general.  You probably already know what your bad financial habit is.  It’s time to have the wisdom to break up with your bad habits and form good ones.



Grow your savings.

When you live paycheck to paycheck and there’s unexpected financial stress, it can throw your whole month off.  Here you were thinking that you were finally rocking this budgeting thing, and something goes wrong.  It can make you want to give up entirely.  To keep this situation from making you want to quit, it’s smart to have some extra money in savings.  It doesn’t have to be a ton while you’re working to pay off debt, just about $1,000 or so.  When you encounter an unplanned financial emergency, you can use the money from savings to keep you from dipping into your checking account.  As soon as you can, replenish your savings back up to its normal amount because we all know that life will throw you curve balls!

Minimize your monthly payments.

If you’re serious about becoming debt free, then one major way to do that is to minimize your monthly payments.  We live in a world where banks and lenders tell us that we can borrow much more money than we can actually afford.  Is it possible that your monthly rent or mortgage payment is more than you can handle?  Dave Ramsey recommends that your mortgage or rent payment does not exceed 25% of your monthly take-home pay.  Are you willing to downsize and take on a smaller monthly payment?  If so, this can seriously help you on your debt free journey.  If your car payment is more than you can handle then consider selling your car and buying a much less expensive used car.  House payments and car payments can greatly affect the speed at which you are able to become debt free!

inspiredbudget.com

Get on the same page with your spouse.

Let me paint a picture for you really quick.  You have two young children and a house full of toys.  As you spend your day with your children, they pull toys out and make a huge mess (sound familiar yet?).  Throughout the day you spend time cleaning up after the little tornados precious angels, but your house never ends up clean.  Instead, toys are everywhere.  You feel as if you’ve been working all day cleaning, yet you’ve accomplished nothing.  The same is true when you are not on the same page with your spouse about money.  If your goal is to stop living paycheck to paycheck, yet your spouse’s goal is to keep up with the Joneses, then you’ll constantly be working against each other.  Need some ideas on how to get your spouse on board with a budget without nagging?  Click HERE.



Go back to your “why.”

When the going gets tough (and trust me, it always gets tough) then you need to go back to your why to keep you on track.  What is your reason for wanting to be debt free?  Why do you want to stop living paycheck to paycheck?  Is it because you want to be a stay at home mom one day?  Or maybe you want to put your kids through college in the future.  No matter the reason, write it down and display it so you can look at it every day.  It will help motivate you to keep going when society tells you to give up.

Get your Debt Free Bundle

If you’ve read this far then you must be serious about saving more money, paying off debt, and changing your life.  To help you with that, I’ve created a debt free bundle that is absolutely free!  Just click HERE to signup to receive your printables straight to your inbox.  They include a debt free thermometer, a debt snowball tracker, and cash envelopes!  Enjoy!



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