Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck? 30 Tips on Gaining Traction and Saving Money!

Becoming a one income family has opened my eyes in ways I could never express. The transition, to one income, was by far the most difficult. Living paycheck to paycheck became a reality. Saving money…well that wasn’t happening! Our salvation came when we began showing some signs of discipline in addition to redefining our wants and needs. Frugality for this family comes now out of necessity. And, it has been the great blessing!
But, when living paycheck to paycheck leaves you little room for saving money, the blessings can be hard to find.
You see, I know what it feels like when you are working so hard and it seems like you’re getting nowhere.  And, I know what it’s like to wonder “how on earth will we make the ends meet come the end of the month?” Not to mention what we would do if an emergency were to happen or the car were to break down!
For some of us it simply comes down to putting food on the table or putting money in the savings account, and the children have to eat. Even when there is a little extra money, it’s very hard to save.
So how are we supposed to save when we’re living paycheck to paycheck?
I will tell you this…it is really, really hard, but it can be done.
Sometimes our circumstances in life leave us paralyzed. Sometimes we feel desperate, which leads us to search for a quick fix or an easy way out. As I have learned, there are no quick fixes, no easy ways out, when it comes to money and saving it!
It takes steady discipline. And trust…
The lessons we as a family have learned over the days of this past year, through times of feeling pretty desperate financially, have blazed a path for us into the future. One that I am convinced we would have never chosen on our own. They have not been easy days! Oh no! Quite the opposite, but they have been good nonetheless. In fact, I wouldn’t trade them for the world. These days are maturing us as individuals, they are strengthening our family, and they are inspiring us to learn all sorts of sustainable and entrepreneurial things we never would have ever dreamed or pursued!
Here are 30 tips that have helped us gain some traction and save money:
1.  Redefine wants and needs (make a list)
2.  Create a budget and stick to it.
3.  Remember: “You’re not stuck unless you choose to be.”
4.  Count your blessings rather than all the difficult things in your life.
5.  Commit to living debt-free.
6.  Use any extra time you have in your day to increase your income.
7.  Start saving small amounts (i.e. $2, $5, $10 per month).
8.  Teach yourself a new skill such as sewing, painting, or computer software programs (utilize DIY books or YouTube)!
9.   Read books that will help develop your interests (use the library).
10. Ask friends and family to save cans for you. Recycle them when you need a few extra bucks.
11. Trade in DVDs or video games at a game exchange shop.
12. Instead of giving away your children’s clothing, take it to a consignment shop and get some cash or a store credit.
13. Check out itunes U. There are thousands of free college courses, lectures, and instructional videos for you to learn from. That’s right…all free!
14. Have an extra room in your home…rent it out.
15. Look into buying in bulk and discounted food programs.
17. Save your tax return, don’t spend it.
18. Line dry clothes
19. Drink water instead of buying juice
20. Shop yard sales
22. Find a hairstylist to do your family’s hair in exchange for you cleaning her house.
23. Sell the cutter (craigslist, have a yard sale, etc.)
24. Pass out fliers in wealth neighborhoods offering a Christmas light hanging service
26. Grow-Your-Own food
27. Remove negative influences from your life
28. Stay positive
29. Stay faithful
30. Do what you love!
When attempting to gain traction for the first time, I suggest starting by spending some time redefining “enough”. Take a good look and your needs vs. wants. Then begin setting a few attainable goals each month. Once those goals are accomplished, try adding a few more. Little by little, and only when you feel ready, increase the goals. Setting goals, who cares if they are big ($100 per month savings) or small ($2-$5 per month savings) just so long as they are attainable, can give you enormous encouragement when you actually reach them.  
Never give up. It’s true, there are no easy outs and our situations will not change overnight. But if you keep up the hard work, continue with the discipline, constantly re-evaluate needs and wants, keep setting attainable goals, pursue your passions, and keep going when the going gets tough, I promise you it will pay off in the end.
Be encouraged today! You are not alone! The answer is out there. To quote Albert Einstein:
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
Take the time today to leave an encouraging comment! It could be exactly what someone needs to hear. Have you lived paycheck-to-paycheck? Are you now? How did you make it through?

You can also participate in and continue the discussion on our facebook page!

See this post and a host of others like it here: Simple Lives, Your Green Resource, It’s A Keeper, Friday Favorites, Fight Back Friday’s, Fresh Bites, Frugal Friday, Weekend Bloggy Reading, Sunday School, Monday Mania, Homestead Barn Hop, Cure for the Common Monday, More the Merrier, Made By You Monday, Make Something Monday, Fat Tuesday, New Nostalgia, Tip Me Tuesday, Handmade Tuesday, Tutorial Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesday, Terrific Under $10, Raising Homemakers, Wicked Awesome Wednesday

Comments

  1. Julia + geocaching = juliecache says:

    nice post!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Love this! Lots of ideas I hadn't really considered!

  3. I can't believe I'm the first to comment on such an awesome post! We are celebrating our 27th anniversary today and for most of that time we have had budget/money issues of some sort or another. We have lived out practically every thing you mentioned and I just want to affirm – it does work! And, you mentioned several new things I hadn't considered – can't wait to look into itunes U!! We even survived 11 months of unemployment and at the end I could honestly say we did not lack for one, single thing. We were not prepared financially but we pulled together and kept a good attitude and I look back on that period of time as a very sweet time. I think my hubby struggled a little more than I did :) I wish I could say we have "crossed the finish line" but it is still a day-to-day thing with deciding what is essential and what is important and what isn't necessary at all. Thanks so much for taking the time to put this list together – I will certainly reference it again and pass it along to my young 20's and teen children. God Bless!

  4. Now that the page has refreshed I see I'm not the first – you can delete that part if you wish :)

  5. Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog says:

    Great post and good luck living on 1 paycheck for the time being.

  6. We are doing it now…Plus we are having another baby in February so then it will be just my husbands income. (I am temp right now and don't see how we will be able to afford daycare after the baby so I will eb getting very creative and resourceful!!) :) I have started selling alot of unused items on FB garage sale sites and c-list. Plus dabbling a little in arbitrage…I am also considering a blog. My goal is to take the money made online and pay off debt and/or put into savings.

    And just when I think I can't take it no more, I remind myself that it's all temporary….it's about to change.

  7. I love this post! I bookmarking it so I can re-visit it. We made a decision to be a one income family once our son was born. So, yes – we know what it is to live paycheck to paycheck. Things are much better now as I am learning ways that I can save money at home, as well as learning as a family that debt freedom is an incredible gift – not a burden. You had a few things on your list that we haven't done, yet. So, thank you for an encouraging post.

  8. april@gingerbread says:

    Thank you for the sweet comment…I am your newest follower!

  9. Andrea @ The Greenbacks Gal says:

    We have a personal situation where we might get better quality of life but have less $. Very timely post…:) Thanks for linking.

  10. With regards to #11, I've had a lot of experience with this, and the best option by far is to sell the items yourself to another person, via Craigslist/eBay/Amazon. Stores like Gamestop and Exchanges will rip you off when it comes to the value of your items. It takes more time, but the difference in money is well worth the effort. All three are free to list the items on. Amazon and eBay take a fee if the item sells.

    • I have to agree. I recently went into a Gamestop to sell a game and the guy at the counter told me outright that I could get a better price if I put it up on Criagslist. He even recommended what I should price it at. I took his advice and sold it myself within a few days.

  11. What a great post!

  12. Good Girl Gone Green says:

    Love this list!!!

  13. Stacy Makes Cents says:

    Great post Andrea. :-) Your steps are a great foundation for being debt free….it takes resolve and it takes dedication. Living debt free is a way of life. :-)

  14. Malynda Twitchell says:

    This is awesome Andrea!! Thank you so much for sharing!! This post has inspired me magnificently! I am so looking forward to learning more from you!!

  15. Great post! We currently do and have for some time lived paycheck to paycheck as a single-income family of six. I've been doing a lot of research on how to live more frugally and be happier because of it. It's a long and difficult process, especially since I wish I would have known all I do now when we first got married before we had kids! But, we're getting there. Thanks for the encouragement your blog provides. Probably going to subscribe!

  16. Thanks for the ideas!

  17. WONDERFUL tips!!! Thank you so much!

    So nice to 'meet' you today! I blog at "Only A Breath" and would love for you to stop by and visit :)

    Hugs!
    Melanie

  18. Jill@ RealFoodForager.com says:

    Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!
    http://realfoodforager.com/2011/12/fat-tuesday-december-6-2011/

  19. Ann @ makethebestofthings says:

    Living paycheck to paycheck? Laws, yes. Learn to sew, it will save you tons of money. Learn to cook from scratch. Keep a list of items to watch for in thrift shops/garage sales. Collect ideas all year long for gifts to make. Organize your shopping trips for efficiency. Make lists and review them often. My kids still tease me about my list filled spiral notebooks. We raised 4 kids on a limited budget and they appreciate the lessons learned.

  20. We are lucky enough to be able to save money while living on my husband's grad student salary and my part-time salary. To make it work, we do a lot of the things you suggest – especially the needs vs. wants assessment. Thankfully we have enough extra for some wants – like Netflix Instant – but we skip a lot of things that most people consider routine in order to make it work. It's all worth it in the end. We do not have kids yet but hopefully will be able to keep saving when we do.

  21. So many good ideas. I think a lot of them are helpful even for people who aren't struggling with finances.

  22. Casa De Luna says:

    Thanks for the ideas! I feel like I can do #6, #11 and more line drying. Thank you!!

  23. great tips

    would love it if you could share this on my link party Serenity Saturday at http://www.serenityyou.blogspot.com

    Natasha xx

  24. Tybee Dreaming says:

    I just discovered ur blog and I'm ur newest follower. I became disabled in June and I just got accepted for Social Security Disability so I have been living on NO pay check for 6 months. You learn to save and make a little money when u have nothing coming in. I sold everything that was not essential to my living. Asked neighbors, businesses for any kind of scrap metals, such as aluminum cans,copper,brass etc to take to the scrap yard for money. I unplugged everything that was not being used to save on electricity. I make big meals so I can eat them for at least 3 days and with veg in season to get the most for my money. To save gas I fill my car up every 2-3 weeks. When I go shopping I do all of it in one trip. You learn to survive and get thru and Yes it can be done.

  25. Amy Bowman says:

    You are featured on New Nostalgia's Anti-Procrastination Tuesday! Thanks for linking up!

  26. I can't tell you how refreshing your list of tips is. So often these lists only include tips on doing without but you address the bigger question of how to do better by improving ourselves. great post. Thanks so much for sharing.

  27. Evette Liebelt says:

    I am so happy that I found this web-site! Thank you for all that you are sharing. This article is brilliant, you are so fortunate to be so smart at a young age. I wish I had had the foresight way back when but I guess it’s never to late!

  28. It’s been a little over 10 years since you’ve posted this post and the information is still 100% relevant. I wish I had you when I was raising my kids~I’m here all the time now thought. The few times I was able to stay home and take care of my family, it seems like we did without lots of things. Looking back they were mostly wants. My daughter is pregnant with her 3rd, she has a new 3 yr old and a 15 mo old. I’m sending her straight to your website. She just had to quit her job and they will be relying on one income or a fast paced life of working, babysitters, driving 3 babies around, drive thru dinners and still finding themselves unable to make ends meet at the end of the month.

  29. Strike that! A year ago, not ten??

  30. This is such a nice read. Love the tips. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’! We love it.

  31. Great ideas. I’m interested in the iTunes U. Are the courses Free or just the app?

  32. When things were very tight for us, we did absolutely no recreational spending. There was no recreation budget, and even if it was a good deal, if we could wait and possibly find it free later, we’d wait. We also learned to eat cheap, but well (http://adventuresinthriftland.blogspot.com/2010/11/beyond-coupons-truly-frugal-food.html). A good attitude makes all the difference. While we were scrimping, we still led happy lives.

  33. Good tips, except number 17. Getting a tax refund is letting the government use YOUR savings interest free! Instead, adjust what’s taken out of your check for taxes and put it into savings yourself … have it automatically deposited from your paycheck so you never see it. You’re already used to it not being there, so it’s a painless way to save. Then in an emergency, you’ll have it … and YOU will be earning the interest on it. Ideally, you want to break even, not get a huge refund! If you get back $1,000 a year, that’s almost $20 extra a week in your paycheck, or you could have $1,000 plus interest every year in your savings account! Last year my daughter, who is a single, homeowner, with a good income, about broke even, she owed $17 to the federal and paid $37 in to the state. That is how it should be. We always pay in because my husband is self employed and I run 3 home businesses as well as work full time.

    • I have heard people say that they LIKE giving the government too much money so that they get it back. They consider it a “savings account” of sorts. This is a sign that they are NOT in charge of their money.

  34. Joycelyn says:

    We are retired and living on a fixed income. I have started making my own cleaners and laundry detergent. This year we have planted a garden. I purchased a portable clothes line and hang my laundry instead of using the dryer. I have seen a big change in our electric bill. Our home is all electric, so any savings on that is totally awesome! Still trying to convince my husband we need to eat more home cooked meals.

  35. I’m printing this off now. Thanks!

  36. When you are broke for an extended period of time, the list of needs do add up. What my husband and I did was to create a list of Needs, Wants, and Dreams (Zzzz) in a spreadsheet. We listed each item, who it was for (individual’s name or “family”), if it was a need, want, or dream, and put a priority with 10 being the highest, life and death critical, 9 just below that and so forth. We put a cost next to each item and a description of why we need or want that thing. They are sorted by Need, Want Zzzz, then by priority (descending), then by cost. It works out really well to keep us on track. We actually had to add another category of “blessed” for the times we were blessed with something we needed and could not have managed without God’s help through others. We also added a “done” category. These help us to see that we have indeed made progress and that by being specific and intentional with our goals and priorities.
    Another area is to remember to tithe. God does bless those who tithe. What if you are in debt and cannot tithe, honor God by paying off your debts as quickly as possible and tithing your time in your church or in other service to your neighbors. Do not do things that cost you, but you can do things to help others that do not cost: teach Sunday school, trade baby-sitting with your friends, mentor someone in an area for which your skills can help them, work at a food bank, make copies of bulletins for church, use your skills to help a church or community service program. You will be blessed. I hope this helps someone. God bless.

  37. I would first say that tithing, even when I was desperately poor, always ended with more coming into my household than I gave to the Lord, whether it was money, clothes given to us, etc. First on my list.

    I learned to can, including pressure canning. I buy meat on sale cheap, then can it, chicken, beef and pork, in canning jars. In fact, that’s what I ask for from everyone who I know is going to buy me birthday or Christmas presents — wide-mouth canning jars. Buy cheap cuts of beef, cold pack it, and not only have you saved money buy buying cheap (and, by the way, even arm and butt roasts pressure canned taste as good as any roast beef I’ve ever eaten), but you have the convenience of coming home after a hard day’s work, opening a jar of meat, and, voila, within a few minutes, you can prepare a meal fit for a king. Of course, I can everything I grow in my garden, also. I have a dozen hens. Fresh eggs for breakfast, but a fried egg sandwich for lunch or dinner is totally free, especially if your chicks free range. I bought a grain mill and buy wheat, corn, barley, rice, oats by the 25# or 50# bags from a food co-op and grind my own organic flour and make my own freshly flaked oatmeal. Homemade bread, Yum! Cornbread from organic corn, Yum. Freshly flaked oatmeal, double yum. For the cost of a few new fashionable pieces of wardrobe, you can buy this grain grinder. I’m the new “earth momma” in my family, but boy do they flock around for the fresh food. We love our little acreage that we sold everything we owned to purchase.

    One of my best money saving ideas I put together when my children were young and I was a single mother. I made recipes that called for meat, and I always halved the amount of meat and I made a double or triple batch, then froze the extra so I could set it out in the morning when I left for work and it was ready to go in the crock pot in the morning or in the oven when I got home in the evening. Having things almost prepared ahead of time gives a lot more time to take care of household duties and get to bed at a decent time.

  38. How do you make money with making a blog? That would be something I would like to do!

  39. *Network Marketing* guys (aka Direct Sales/MLM). Look it up, it´s the best way to do business, as it is the fairest and most moral system out there. Just find what product you are most comfortable talking about.

    • This just proves to me that they will do abtoulsely anything, ANYTHING, A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G!, to make the economy worse.How they think raising taxes on the middle class is a winning argument is beyond me.But I’m sure that Luntz and the Think Tanks will find a way.-Then Drudge will be given it.-The Right-wing bloggers will support it, and the commenters will tell everyone how Liberals suck, and need to die or be killed if they oppose this! And die or be killed even if they do support it! JUST DIE!!!-Rush and the RW radio yappers will bellow it, loud and proud.-FOX News will spin and spin.-The RW Pundits will chime in.Then the RW Wurlitzer will echo and re-echo the message.And in 2013, we’ll have President Perry, with VP Rubio by his side, proudly announcing that the new Republican House and Senate have just passed the largest Middle Class TAX INCREASES IN HISTORY!, and that he’ll sign them, to the HUZZAH’S! of the morons in the middle class who voted for them.HA!TAKE THAT!!!THAT’LL TEACH THEM LIBERALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fucking imbecile voters

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