For years I was in “the struggle,” and by struggle, I mean having to survive on $30-$50 until next payday. Whew, I remember the stress of having to go without necessities and feeling like I was some huge failure.
It wasn’t until I recently reorganized my monthly budget that I realized just how far I’ve come. I subtracted my expenses from my income and noticed $1326 hanging out in the spendable income column.
Ok, what bill did I miss?, I thought.
I swear it felt like I would never get passed the $50 mark, but there I was adding $400 to my savings each month with ease.
(Bi-weekly contribution to savings account)
If you’re busting your rear just to give your whole paycheck away, I feel you. Just know that if I could change my financial picture then surely you can too!
Here’s how I was able to stop living paycheck to paycheck as a mom!
I mastered my budget
As your income and expenses change, your budget will need to be adjusted as well. It will forever be a living spreadsheet, however, knowing how to create one that is successful is crucial for breaking the cycle that you’re in.
Although I had less than $100 from each paycheck, my bills were still paid on time. This was because I was hellbent on making sure that my money was actually doing its job.
Getting your budget just right may take some trial and error, especially if you’re a beginner, so don’t fret if you fail a few times.
Seriously, I found myself making a new one each week because it always seemed like something needed adjusting.
As I’ve mentioned before, I like to take the smarter-not-harder approach. The lazy way you could say. To make sure that my budget goes according to plan, I automate all of my bills and break my categories up into multiple bank accounts.
I tackled my smaller debts first
Obviously, when you have less debt you have more spendable income. Tackling smaller balances first made me feel like I was knocking out debt a lot quicker (hello there instant gratification), thus motivating me to continue chipping away at the mountain I had created.
To date, I’ve paid off over $29,000 and I was considered low income up until late 2018.
If you’re not someone who can throw money towards a balance that doesn’t appear to budge, start with the smallest one. Whether it be $500 on one of your credit cards or a $1000 medical bill, focus most of your attention and money on that balance.
I say ‘most’ because you don’t want to completely neglect your other balances, especially if they are accruing interest or you’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Continue to make your other minimum payments, but be sure that the smallest balance gets some extra lovin’.
Watching your debt shrink from a glacier to an ice cube is so satisfying, and once that balance is paid off you have the money that has been freed up to use towards the next smallest balance.
This, my friends, is called the snowball method. You’re welcome.
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Goals, goals, goals!
To be blunt, struggling financially sucks. No one wants to limit themselves on the finer things in life, especially when it seems like everyone around them is living it up.
The good thing is that, with hard work, this struggle is only temporary and it comes with great lessons!
If you’re not motivated then you’re going to throw in the towel and revert back to your old spending habits. You know, that habit of not giving a rat’s if you only have $10.99 in your account you’re going to swipe that credit card for whatever it is you want at the moment (just me?).
Anyhoo, I’ve had my fair share of YOLO moments. During my “screw it’” phases, I noticed that I had no clear goal(s) to keep me focused on the task at hand—slashing debt to increase my coins.
Knowing exactly what I wanted to accomplish financially in a short stretch of time is one of the main reasons I’ve come so far.
Setting financial goals is SO important for keeping a tunnel vision. If you don’t know what you want then you’re not going to know how to get there. It’s like giving your GPS the name of the city you’re going to instead of a full address and hoping by the grace of God you’ll wind up where you need to be.
What if it’s a large goal?
When it comes to money, the ultimate goal may definitely be long-term. I don’t know about you, but if something is going to take me years to accomplish then I start to lose focus real fast. Instead, break your long-term goal up into smaller chunks.
For example, if you have $8K in credit card debt, set a goal to pay off $800 over the next four months. $800 sounds a whole lot better than $8000 and suddenly you’re thinking, I can do this!
My expenses stayed low
I learned the hard way that when your expenses equal your income then you’ll never break the paycheck to paycheck cycle.
There’s something about an increase in income that makes you feel like your car is no longer up to par or your kitchen needs new amenities. Then, that extra money you once had is gone and your spendable income stays the same.
The key to finally increasing your savings and strangling debt is to live beneath your means. Yes, you may be able to afford something by the hair on your chinny-chin-chin, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the best financial move for you.
As my income increases, I try to keep my expenses relatively the same. Even after I had been promoted, I kept the same apartment with the same prepaid phone plan and the same old clunker.
The extra money I make is literally extra money!
I set aside funds for a rainy day
And when it rained it poured.
Sometimes life gets the best of you and you make a few financial uh-ohs. Maybe something went wrong with your budget, you forgot an auto draft was pending to post (guilty), or Ol’ Faithful ran over a nail.
Unless you have a crystal ball, you can’t predict the unexpected but you can surely prepare for it. This is where an emergency fund comes into play.
An emergency fund helps to protect you from unexpected financial pitfalls (uh duh).
What happens when you have zero dollars put back? You get fees, maxed out credit cards, personal loans, and may even lose belongings.
Ok, so how much do I need to put back? It’s suggested to have at least $1000 saved in your emergency fund, but I’ll admit there were times I’ve had less than that.
Still, whether I had $30 or $3000, when life took a wrong turn I had a map to get back on the correct route.
I kept climbing the ladder
I tell people all the time that their income does not dictate their ability to pay off debt. It’s not so much the amount of your paycheck, but the strategy you have behind it.
Of course, however, if you’re making good financial decisions a larger income has its perks. You can pay off greater amounts of debt quicker and build a mean savings account.
I knew that if I wanted to continue paying down debt and supporting my family, I had to keep increasing my income.
Timeline of my job positions:
Before my last three semesters in college, I switched from a part-time Teller to full-time. This switch gave me an extra $200 on each paycheck, but being a bank teller wasn’t exactly the vision I had for myself.
Check out this post next! 9 Tips to Take Your Career to the Next Level- Get Considered for a Promotion!
After graduating college in 2015, I immediately started working for a company that had numerous opportunities for writers. In order to get my foot in the door, I accepted a ‘bottom of the barrel’ position.
What position do you ask? *Dunt dunt dunt* Customer Service, oh joy!
Still, I was making $5 more than my Teller position which gave me an extra $300 on my paycheck. This helped to cover the cost of my ever-changing expenses (moms know).
After taking on tasks no one wanted and working my butt off to help build my resume, I was promoted to a Tech Writer making $5 more an hour. Next stop? Who knows, but my only direction is up.
Wherever you are in your career, never stop climbing. Complacency can be our worst enemy, so challenge yourself daily to continue learning and growing. Your wallet will thank you for it.
Wrapping it up
Getting to a point where you can stop living paycheck to paycheck as a mom may not come easily or happen overnight, but when you’ve got your eye on the prize your biggest barrier is yourself.