Disturbing isn’t it?
You’re 5 days away from the end of the month, and you’re already beginning to feel anxious about all those bills.
What makes this month any different from the past?
You’re doing all the same things. Working hard during the day, maintaining the same lifestyle, all while ignoring your finances – sound familiar?
At the end of the day, you’re back to square one. You’re wondering yet again, what went wrong?
The problem is, you don’t really know.
Most of the time, you feel like you’re wobbling along in the dark. You can’t figure out how to solve this big financial puzzle. It feels like guesswork at this point.
Maybe you’re here looking for answers – the secret that will finally fix your finances. You’re hoping that I’ll tell you the secret sauce.
But I won’t.
Not because I don’t want to, but because sometimes it helps to know what NOT to do, before exploring what you do need to do.
So let’s do that.
Here’s a big list of habits that keep you living paycheck to paycheck.
Top 20 Habits That Keep You Living Paycheck to Paycheck
How many are you guilty of?
1) IGNORE YOUR BANK ACCOUNT BALANCES
Here’s your thinking: You don’t really need to check your account balance because you’re pretty good at mentally tracking where your money is. Once you “feel” that your account is getting low, you’ll check it.
No doubt your mental math is great, but guessing you have around $300, and actually having $110 in your checking account is a huge difference.
2) HAVE NO FINANCIAL GOALS
You’ve heard this before – if you shoot at nothing, you’ll hit it every single time. Here’s why: having no goals, is worse than having goals and failing to reach them, because when you have zero goals, you’re guaranteed you’ll be in the same spot next month.
Not everyone dreams of being a millionaire, but having a list of goals you’re working towards will make a world of a difference.
3) RUN HUGE BALANCES ON YOUR CREDIT CARD
Do you regularly put your shopping items on your credit card? Or worse, do you put items on your credit card because you don’t have money to pay for them?
Well, newsflash: once you start down the slippery slope of putting things on your credit card when you can’t afford them, the cycle can easily continue until you find yourself having maxed out your credit cards.
4) MAINTAIN THE SAME LIFESTYLE
Your friends are planning a get together you just can’t miss. It’s been ages since you’ve seen them. And really, a girl’s gotta live right?
Social activity is important. Meet with friends. Spend time with family. But dropping dollars here and there, when you’re already not making a lot of money, is a recipe for staying on the paycheck to paycheck treadmill.
To everything there is a season, and thinking creatively about no-spend ways to enjoy your social life, will open you up to new adventures while keeping your wallet happy.
5) GIVE NOTHING AWAY
Having little to live on can get stressful. But you know what else it can do? It can cause us to become very focused on our own challenges and on wanting to keep more for ourselves.
A great way to beat this is to become a giver. Giving is a proven principal, both for Christians and for others at large. It takes the focus off our problems and helps us to see others in need.
It frees us from the anxiety and stress that can come with living paycheck to paycheck. And it comes with a promise of provision for your needs, such as the one in Proverbs that says that the liberal soul shall be made fat, and whoever refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
6) THINK MORE MONEY IS THE SOLUTION
If only you could make a few thousand more each month, life would be so much easier right?
Not so fast.
Living paycheck to paycheck has nothing to do with how much you earn each month. There are many folks out there making above average salaries who still live paycheck to paycheck.
Money is not the solution. It’s what you do with it that counts.
Related: How to Live on $700/month
7) USE YOUR SAVINGS ACCOUNT FOR EVERYDAY EXPENSES
Have you ever held both your checking and savings account with the same bank? You log in to your bank account and have easy access to both of them.
You commit to saving away your golden number each month, and you can do so with just a few clicks from your phone.
And then it happens.
Life, that is.
You come up short one month, and each time you log into your bank account, there sit your savings dollars waiting to be used. And very soon, they’re history.
Bottom line: keep your savings account with a separate bank.
8) HAVE NO EMERGENCY FUND
It’s the same issue as having no savings account. If you’re spending savings or emergency funds on everyday items, you could find yourself stuck when a real emergency arises.
9) BASE YOUR BUYING DECISIONS ON WHETHER OR NOT YOUR BANK RECEIPT SHOWS MONEY IN YOUR ACCOUNT
Its only logical right? Your bank account is showing a positive balance so you’re good to go on your shopping trip.
Not so fast.
This is probably the fastest way to live paycheck to paycheck.
It’s so tempting.
It’s so easy.
And yet it’s so misleading.
If you truly want to be free from the paycheck to paycheck treadmill, don’t let your buying decisions be dictated by your bank account balance.
10) DECIDE ON YOUR GROCERY LIST AS YOU WALK THROUGH THE STORE AISLES
It’s not just me is it? You know how easy it is to do guesswork as you’re shopping. “I think we’re out of cereal,” only to get home and find an unopened box in the pantry.
11) KEEP BROWSING WEBSITES THAT YOU’RE KNOWN TO DROP MONEY ON
We all have them. Sites we just can’t resist to drop a dollar on. Mine is Amazon. Just bring up the books section, and the rest is history.
If you have sites that you’re notoriously bad with, stay as far away from them as you can!
12) KEEP UP WITH THE JONES’
In my opinion, its pretty much impossible to win in the comparison game. Yet we play the game constantly.
What may seem like innocent updates for friends and family, can quickly turn into a strong desire to portray an image or lifestyle you can barely afford in real life.
Social media has birthed a new era where shopping impulses are constantly thrown at us, but if we step back for a second, we realize that playing the game could keep us trapped financially for years.
13) REFUSE TO LOOK FOR ADDITIONAL WORK
Sometimes you’re doing everything you can. Your expenses are as low as possible. You have a great budget. You’re doing all the right things. But it’s just not enough.
At this point, it’s fair to say that you probably don’t have a savings problem, but rather an income problem, and it may be just the right time to find a second job, even if it’s temporary.
14) CONTINUE TO BE A “YES” PERSON TO EVERYONE
If you agonize over hurting people’s feelings, then this may be for you.
At some point, that needs to stop.
While it is good to care for others, it is equally important to establish boundaries to prevent you from over extending yourself financially.
15) EMBRACE FINANCIAL ANXIETY
The deeper you get in financial difficulty, the easier it can be to feel anxious about your situation.
It’s completely normal.
However, as much as possible, trying to find ways to beat financial anxiety will go a long way in getting off the paycheck to paycheck treadmill.
You see, when you’re anxious, you’re less likely to want to face your bills, or do up a budget because you already feel defeated before you start.
16) WAIT UNTIL YOU’RE TRULY READY TO BUDGET
This one is tempting. You’re feeling tired after a long week, and you promise yourself that you’ll get to it on Sunday.
Except that’s what you said last week too.
You’re procrastinating. You’re finding every excuse not to get your finances in order.
It’s understandable. But its not what people who are good with money do. Instead they make time, they plan, and they get their finances in order consistently.
17) CONTINUE EATING OUT
I get it. Sometimes after a long day at work, a quick meal is all you really want. And the thought of preparing a whole meal can feel exhausting. Takeout would be so much simpler.
In short, take out costs money, and could cost you some savings. Choose wisely.
Related: How to Save Money on Eating Out (when you do eat out, here’s how to save)
18) CONTINUE MAKING PURCHASES YOU HIDE FROM EVERYONE BECAUSE OF GUILT
That stings right?
You know you can’t justify the purchase, yet you still make it. You carefully hide the receipts or downplay the true value of the purchase.
Now, there is no shame in buying what you desire, but if you find yourself needing to hide it from others, it may be a good sign that the item is not a priority.
19) THRIVE ON THE HIGH YOU FEEL AFTER SHOPPING
We all have our “thing” that we love to do. For some, a hike does the trick, and for others, it’s shopping.
If this is you, and shopping brings on that extra dose of joy, then it’s probably a good idea to find a new extra-curricular activity that’s free, especially in this paycheck to paycheck season. It will save your wallet.
20) GIVE UP
After reading this list, you may feel as though you’re so far off, and that there’s no room for redemption.
But that shouldn’t be the case at all.
Why? Because we all struggle through certain seasons in life.
I’ve pretty much been this person above, and I’m still learning from these failures.
Even the greats like Dave Ramsey also had a rocky start to his financial journey when he had to file for bankruptcy.
No shame in the game.
It happens over and over and over again.
No one is born with their financial knowledge in tact, so the beauty is, it can be learned.