How We Stopped Living Paycheck to Paycheck


A few weeks ago, we shared an Atlantic article about middle-class Americans (nearly half!) living paycheck to paycheck. It exposed the hard reality and shame of so many—you, your friends and neighbors and colleagues—living so close to the edge. It was particularly poignant when the author admitted he, himself, was one of them—an fully-employed, adult who would be hard-pressed to come up with $400 in the event of an emergency.

I hate that statistics like this are true. And that the shame and fear and stress of living paycheck to paycheck consumes the lives of so many.

The good news is that living paycheck to paycheck isn’t a death sentence. It isn’t a curse or a disease. It isn’t final. You can learn to be in control of your money. You can budget your way far, far away from the edge.

You can learn to be in control of your money. You can budget your way far, far away from the edge.

You Aren’t Alone

Ryan and Megan Fluetsch (and their four kids!) have been budgeting for some time, but they were still falling short of their goals. And still bogged down with debt.

They doubled down in 2016, and made this the year of committing whole-heartedly to complete and total awareness (and thus, as the story would go, control).

Hopefully, their story (in Ryan’s own words) will provide some inspiration:

Being Stuck is No Fun

“When Megan and I found YNAB it had been after many years of failed attempts at budgeting. We had tried half a dozen different systems. But with YNAB, I caught the vision—total awareness was possible for me and my family—and I believed that I could govern my family without financial fear and cycles of drama.

Fast forward a couple of years (and a couple of YNAB budget fresh starts) to December 2015. It was at this point that I accepted that we would, once again, not reach our debt reduction goals.

I was disappointed. But what was most frustrating was that I didn’t feel like I knew why. I had to get real with myself. Despite all the years of budgeting, and all the benefits, we still didn’t have complete awareness of our money.

Obsessed (In A Good Way)

So, this became my number one focus. I declared 2016 the year of awareness. 2016 would be wholly focused on building a culture of total financial awareness in myself and with my wife in our marriage. All other goals became secondary. Removing debt was secondary. Saving money was secondary.

We were progressing really well. We started and maintained a weekly financial meeting. We were encountering true union and were able to both speak from a place of awareness about our real financial position, and not from hype, idealism or emotionalism that allows one of us to push the unaware spouse into a spending decision.

Partners Who Budget Together…

There were true checks and balances. By February, I could already tell a huge difference, we were making strong progress. We were saving for expenses coming in the summer, for a couple of small family trips with our big family, for tabs for the car, for the annual zoo membership, etc. We were dreaming together about what we’d do with the tax return—because we always get a large tax return.

Expect the Unexpected

But, of course, this year we did not get a tax return and instead, we owed more than $1,000. There was not a clear way to pay it without going into more debt.

This is where I saw the power of our joint awareness come to life. My wife, God bless her, had real faith. She knew the numbers—all of them. It was not a warm-and-fuzzy faith but a sincere belief that the money we had socked away for other things might bring us really close. I saw it too.

Together, we saw that we could do it. Again, not a wishful idealism but out of a lifestyle of a total awareness that put us in a position to choose the best option and to allocate our resources wisely like budgeting champs.

With a month to act, we trimmed our food budget (which with our four young children is one of our largest expenses) and other smaller categories, sold a jogging stroller, and adjusted some fixed expenses (internet and phone) to cheaper plans to lower our monthly costs and inject some immediate breathing room into our ever-tightening budget.

Total Control is Totally Awesome

Cutting some costs helped, sure. But the biggest factor was my wife and I sitting down together at our weekly financial meeting and taking the funds allocated to other categories and allocating it toward our taxes. We did this together. We did this in agreement. We did this without arguing and we did it without pointing fingers.

And on April 17, with great joy, we wrote a check to pay our taxes, from a place of total control. We did not go any further into debt. We won.

For the Fluetsch family, this obstacle revealed something wonderful. It revealed that the goal of “total awareness” of our finances is real, obtainable and transformational. And, now, it is our new normal.”

This family of 6 broke the paycheck to paycheck cycle with awareness + budgeting!

Gain Total Control of Your Money

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