5 Tips to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck
Nothing beats seeing that first, real paycheck deposited into your checking account. There’s a feeling of accomplishment, confidence, and excitement – excitement that you might actually be able to spend money on things you want, rather than only what you need. And, I don’t want to put a damper on any of those feeling, because they have been earned, but before you go buying a full wardrobe from The Limited or scheduling a test drive in a new Audi, take a step back and realize that once the money is gone, it’s gone. Acquiring a professional wardrobe, securing a reliable car, fueling said car, and feeding yourself, all cost money, and unfortunately, living paycheck to paycheck is a reality for many post-grads trying to make ends meet. Here are some tips on how you can look the part, while still saving money along the way.
- Pay Yourself First! Honestly, this deserves the #1 spot because it is the most important. It’s hard to save money after bills and other expenses are paid. Savings needs to be a priority and paying yourself first makes sure it gets done. And to make it easy, put savings on autopilot by having your paycheck or a portion of it direct deposited, or set up an automatic transfer each time you get paid
- Set a Realistic Clothing Budget. Yes, treat yourself to an outfit or two, but be sure to incorporate the “Rule of Three”. Basically, to honestly justify the purchase, suggested by Michelle King of xojane.com, it must be able to be used in 3 other outfits consisting of pieces already in your closet. Then as pieces begin to show wear or get damaged, replace them. But before you run out to the store, check out #ootd blogs that tell you where to get certain items (or look-alikes) for half the cost. You can also find new and gently used items at online thrift shops like ThredUp. (you can also re-sell your gently used items on ThredUp and make money or credits to use toward other items!
- Take Care of Your Stuff! Now that you’ve bought some nice outfits, take care of them so they last. Think of it this way, the longer you make something last, the less money you’ll have to spend on buying more pieces. Wear, wash, hang, iron, as the tag says, and they’ll look new for years rather than months. Woman’s Day has some great ideas on how to care for your clothing. (This tips also applies for other items you’ve purchased – entertainment systems, electronics, appliances – treat them good and they’ll return the favor by living a longer, happier life!) Be aware when you buy clothes that say “dry clean only” you’ll be adding some extra money in clothes maintenance cost. You may want to minimize the number of items you buy that require special care.
- Don’t Wait, Ask! Television, internet and cell phone bills tend to be some of your larger bills, other than your housing and car payments, but don’t just accept the price you are paying. Call them up and ask for a better deal or discount. Another way to save by asking is if you are willing to pay cash, according to Bankrate, at restaurants, gas stations, and even the doctor’s office you might be eligible to receive a discount, so ask, it can’t hurt!
- Drive Down the Cost of Car Ownership. Just as you take care of your clothes and electronics, taking care of your car can save you money too. It’ll last longer, cost you less on maintenance, and lower your gas costs as well. But if it is time to purchase a new vehicle, be sure to do your research. Look for deals that make sense for you, whether it’s deciding to lease over buy, buying an electric or hybrid vehicle, or finding an offer that includes all your maintenance. Don’t just jump at an offer because the car comes with satellite radio and a sunroof, make sure the final monthly payment (after warranties, taxes, and other fees are added) fits into your budget. And then, once you own a car, check out these ideas to learn how to save money while you are driving.
Once real life starts, it doesn’t stop for a long time. And sure, we’re all busy but it’s important to focus on things that are important and saving money is one of them. Living paycheck to paycheck is stressful, so start early and save where you can, no one ever regrets saving money.
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