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Paycheck to Paycheck

Get control of your finances with these steps.

Money problems are a leading cause of anxiety and marital conflict. Whether caused by a cut in pay, the absence of a budget, overspending, gambling, student loan debt, medical expenses, or a lack of communication, financial woes can weigh you down and ruin your quality of life. The good news is there are ways to dig yourself out of the hole you’re in. You may have a tiny shovel and a big hole, but don’t give up hope.

Begin these steps today to gain financial freedom.

Make a Commitment

Lasting change will only come with commitment. If you’re married, you and your spouse must commit to making the changes necessary to improve your finances. Since you will only commit to something you believe in, sit down and talk together about your financial goals. How much do you want in your bank account, how much do you need to save, how much debt do you need to pay off, when do you want to retire, how much do you want to be able to give? Discuss why you want these things. Is it so you’ll feel peace, so you can be generous, or so you can provide for your family? With these goals in mind, you can start making lasting changes that will get you in a better financial position in the future.

Set a Budget

At the end of each month you may wonder where all your money went. This is where a budget comes in handy. One of the best ways to gain control over your finances is to make a budget at the beginning of each month. Look at your income and break each expense down into a category. Housing, utilities, food, gas, clothing, entertainment, and more. Once you’ve made a budget, stick with it. If your monthly allowance for eating out is $50, then no more eating out once that budget is reached!

Building wealth is impossible if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Give every dollar a name before the month begins, and track your spending throughout the month. - Chris Hogan

Cut Back

As you see where each dollar goes, you can see where you need to cut back. Maybe it’s the amount you’re eating out, how much you’re spending on clothes, or your outrageous cell phone bill. The best way to stop spending money you don’t have is to cut up your credit cards. Start using cash or your debit card to pay for everything. Shop around for lower insurance rates, cell phone carriers, and internet service. Cancel unused memberships or subscriptions. As you cut back and live by your budget you should be able to save up a small emergency fund. Save up one thousand dollars (to be used for emergencies only) so you’re not tempted to use a credit card when things feel tight.

Pay Off Debt

Now, it’s time to tackle all debt, besides your mortgage. You can go about this in one of two ways. Either start paying off the smallest debt to the biggest or pay off the debts with the highest interest rates first. Choose a strategy and then get serious. All extra money should be put toward paying off debt. Don’t give up until it’s all paid off and then, no going back! From this day forward, the only time you should ever go into debt is when you buy a home. If you can save up enough to pay cash for that, that’s even better!

Set Aside Savings

Once debt is paid off, it’s time to start saving. Financially sound people are savers. They save for emergencies, retirement, Christmas, vacations, big purchases, and their children’s education. Once you have three to six months of expenses saved in case of an emergency, it’s time to put your attention toward other savings. Contribute to your employer’s 401(k) and take advantage of employer matching contributions. Then, start investing in a Roth IRA. Work with a financial advisor if you need guidance.


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