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If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you’re not alone. TO recent study published in November of last year found that seven out of 10 US residents live without a financial safety net. While not an ideal situation, there are ways to make the most of it and (eventually) resolve it.
For anyone dealing with the daily burden of living paycheck to paycheck, we asked financial experts to weigh in and help explain how anyone can make the most of the situation. While his tips can help you save money, they can also be used to start building a stronger foundation that can put you on the path to financial independence.
Find out: Reasons you keep living paycheck to paycheck
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The first thing you’ll want to do is create a budget and stick to it. Jay Zigmont, founder of Live, Learn, PlanHe said it’s critical to stop taking on more debt to help break the cycle.
“Lock your credit cards (out) and make debt not an option,” Zigmont said. “The first step to getting out of debt is to stop borrowing.”
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 stay out of these traps.
“Budgets are like diets; the best one is the one that works for you,” Zigmont said.
“With my clients, I encourage them to budget for what they should, should, can and don’t want,” Zigmont added. “Debts are all the things that keep a roof over your head and/or you are obligated to pay. You pay your Obligations first before going to your Debits. If you’re really paycheck to paycheck, you may never reach your Pods, reflecting your discretionary spending. Total your Obligations; And if it’s more than you bring home, you need to immediately cut back on some expenses or do some additional work.”
Negotiate Better Rates
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, there could be savings hiding in plain sight, as noted by lead attorney Lyle Solomon of Oakview Law Group.
“Review your current plans to see if there are areas where you can save money,” Solomon said. “Are you taking advantage of all the benefits included in your phone plan? Do you watch the cable TV you pay for? Is there a chance you could get a better deal from another provider?
The same can be applied to any insurance you are paying for, especially when it comes time to renew any 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 them.
Search: States where you are most and least likely to live paycheck to paycheck
Granted, this approach won’t work with 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 usage to lower your expenses,” Solomon said, “even if it’s only a small amount. Many utility companies provide free energy audits, during which they assess your home and identify ways to make it more energy efficient while saving money.”
Look for cash back benefits
While you’re looking for better rates with your bills, you can also look for ways to save on other essentials.
“While it’s important to reduce discretionary spending as consumer prices rise, learning how to get more for the things you need to buy can ease rising costs,” money-saving expert Andrea Woroch said. “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 the most.
“Switching to a credit card that offers grocery rewards or gas rebates can make your money go further. Compare credit card rewards programs on sites like CardRates.com to find the one that best suits your needs, and that will give you the most bang for your buck.”
Be frugal when shopping
When you need to buy something new, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be “new.” Woroch recommended buying used and refurbished for those items you must buy.
“Shop on fashion resale sites like Swap.com that 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 household items, and Best Buy or eBay sell Certified Refurbished electronics, appliances, and even power tools.”
Start financing your savings
Once you’ve got your spending in order and locked in the best rates, it’s time to start thinking about how you can start saving.
“Look for a savings account that pays interest but has limited access so you can’t just move the money into a checking account,” Solomon said. “Make an initial contribution to your savings account after you open it, and then contribute whenever you can.”
Learn: How to build your emergency fund when you live paycheck to paycheck
He noted that some savings accounts can be opened with as little as $25. Once this is done, you can make deposits automatically.
“Even if it’s only $10 or $20, knowing that you’re gradually building up your savings takes the stress out of living paycheck to paycheck,” he added.
If the automated strategy doesn’t work for you, he also recommended a “pay yourself first” strategy.
“Before you do anything else with your paycheck, put a modest portion into your savings account,” Solomon said. “Depending on your estimated expenses, it could be $5 one week and $25 the next. This strategy will ensure that you save at least part of your income.”
Obviously, living paycheck to paycheck is not ideal; And while these changes can help, it will take some time to start seeing a real impact.
“Patience is the key to success,” Solomon warned. “It takes time and energy to make the most of life from check to check. There are some areas where you can reduce your expenses and it may take some time. Making even small contributions to a savings account can be incredibly motivating and stress-relieving.
“But you can do it,” he added. “Have patience.”
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