Living paycheck to paycheck

5 Oct 2020

paycheck to paycheck

The act of using most or all of your monthly income to cover expenses – with nothing left to save or to live on – is sadly more common than you would think.

Many people live to their means rather than within them, which during times of illness, unemployment, or something unprecedented like the Covid-19 pandemic becomes a real issue. In this blog our experts will provide simple self-help measures to get out of this trap.

This isn’t an isolated issue just affecting those on lower incomes, a recent study by global advisory firm Willis Towers Watson found that 18% of upper middle-income employees – those earning six figures annually – are also falling into the trap of living paycheck to paycheck.

With household debt increasing and the cost of living also climbing sharply, a large income doesn’t always translate into financial security. The Covid-19 pandemic has sadly highlighted financial shortcomings across the board; households of all sizes have been left worrying how they will continue to function if finances feel the pinch.

Signs that you are living paycheck to paycheck.

  1. Are you spending your entire paycheck to cover your monthly expenses?
  2. Do you have money in savings?
  3. If you have savings, is it enough to cover your expenses for three months or more?

Finding ways to break the paycheck to paycheck cycle is essential to long-term financial health. The rest of this blog is dedicated to highlighting self-help measures to stop the cycle.

The art of budgeting

Budgeting is the first and biggest step to stabilising your finances. Learning to write down a budget is a good first step, but living to that budget is the key. When you are budgeting effectively you are tracking your spending, and you stop spending when you run out of money.

A budget needs to have all of your expenses built into it so that you are not surprised when your car insurance and road tax are due. It also helps you deal with fluctuating bills, such as higher heating bills in the winter.  Successful budgeting is the single biggest step you can take to stop living from paycheck to paycheck. Use a spreadsheet and update it monthly.

Limit your spending

Once you have the hang of budgeting, you need to look into reducing your outgoings. This will mean you have access to extra money, enabling you to pay off debts faster or to start saving. Once debts have been cleared your disposable income will increase.

The key to limiting your spending is to challenge yourself to spend a certain amount less a week on regular items, especially non-essential items, it could be £20, it could be £50 – the amount is up to you. By working in increments, it becomes more manageable and less noticeable. Try to reduce spending in several categories, these extra savings will add up quickly.

Saving for a rainy day

The best way to stop living from paycheck to paycheck is to have savings. You should aim to have three month’s salary in the bank and to budget and plan for larger items, such as holiday or a new car. Savings up for these items is far better than borrowing.

The easiest way to save successfully is to set up a standing order to go directly from your current account to a savings account, if the transfer happens the same day as you get paid you will hardly notice it.

Pay off your debt

Any debt will eat a portion of each paycheck, this can hold you back from doing the things you want to do the most. Logically, you will need to stop using your credit cards until your debt is paid off.   This will help you to control and monitor your spending. If the temptation is too high, cut up all your credit cards. You can still pay the balance without the card.

Finding your feet financially can be tough, it can help to have a long-term goal in mind. Perhaps you want to know you have money saved for Christmas, or for a holiday, or maybe you just want the peace of mind of knowing your account isn’t going to be overdrawn again. Whatever your goal may be, it isn’t going to happen overnight and it isn’t going to happen unless you start working towards it now.

If you would like to speak to one of our experts about any aspects of your finances please get in touch.

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