Breaking the Paycheck to Paycheck Cycle: Step 1

11/05/2021 10:00 AM By Paul Thompson

If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you’re in good company. Some studies report that 75 percent of people in the USA do this. In fact, most people cannot deal with a $500 unexpected expense without borrowing the money or dipping into savings. What’s worse is that according to, only about 29 percent of the population in the USA has at least six months' living expenses saved. All these facts are simply to let you know that you’re not alone. 

Most people live paycheck to paycheck. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can break the paycheck to paycheck struggle once you identify the problem, set a budget, and learn how to spend less on what you need and what you want. It’s all about living within your means, while also identifying the things that will make your life a little bit easier and happier without breaking the bank. 

Identifying the Scope of the Problem

The very first thing to do if you want to fix your struggle is to identify the scope of the problem. There could be one or more major reasons that you’re struggling to live paycheck to paycheck. Not everyone is struggling due to lack of funds. Some people struggle due to lack of planning and simply overspending. When you figure out your issue, you can correct it. Here are some common reasons for struggling.

  • Lack of Income – In many cases, money problems do not come from overspending but instead from lack of income. If you’re underemployed, or you simply are not making enough money to live the way you need or want to live, you’ll need to figure out a plan to remedy that situation. You can get a part-time job, freelance part time, or sell off some assets to pay down bills to fix this problem.

  • Overspending – Some people have enough money on paper, but due to not paying attention to a budget at all they overspend. If you have credit card debt, you may belong to this category. Credit cards are great tools but not if you keep any balance on them long term. 

  • Credit Card Debt – Most credit cards now have standard double-digit interest rates, which makes them horrible deals. What’s worse is that some cards have fees too. A family with an income of just $40K a year can often end up with thousands of dollars in credit card debt over the years, with no way to ever pay them off. $30K's worth of credit debt on various cards can easily add up to over $1K a month in minimum payments if you’re not careful. Add it all up so you know where you stand. Check your interest rates too.

  • Too Much House – Did you buy more house than you can afford? This is not unusual in the USA where it’s simple to buy a house without a down payment, and the interest rates are still reasonable. However, banks often approve you for far more than you can really pay. They’re so focused on the mortgage that they forget the other expenses such as insurance, taxes, and upkeep.

  • Lack of Savings – Not having savings is expensive. It can cause one to borrow money even from payday lenders, which is a trap better avoided. Lack of savings can cost you so much money. You won’t be able to take advantage of deals that come along if you have no savings, nor deal with a minor unexpected expense such as a vehicle breakdown.

  • Illness – If you have a lot of medical expenses and this is the reason you are living paycheck to paycheck, that is hard. You cannot just magically make yourself better or skip the doctor. It is one reason people are in debt to start with. In fact, most US bankruptcies are due to medical bills among people with insurance. (Source: AARP)

  • Poor Credit – You can have poor credit even if you did nothing wrong. Having a low income, no credit cards, or low income and high credit cards even if you pay them religiously each month, can still result in low credit numbers. When you have poor credit, everything costs more - from rental deposits to interest on other loans.

  • No Plan – Many people who struggle to make it between paychecks often have no plan at all. The main reason for this is simply overwhelm. It’s just emotional and difficult to put into words how emotionally damaging money issues can be. For this reason, you need a plan.

Once you realize what your issues are, you can set up a plan to combat those problems. Until you know, you can’t do anything. It will take complete and utter honesty from you to yourself and anyone you are relying on to help you to overcome the situation. But you can overcome it if you plan to.

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