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20 Aug 2004

Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

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by Jesse Mecham

Only 30% of Americans have stopped living paycheck to paycheck. The other 70% of Americans are one paycheck away from financial disaster. I’m reminded of the movie “It Could Happen to You” (starring Nicholas Cage) when I see this statistic. I think we all know I’m not talking about the fact that this 70% also plays the lottery and just might win it big next Tuesday night.

I just don’t think it’s smart to play financial Russian roulette.

So what is holding you back from being able to stop living paycheck to paycheck? Why aren’t you a part of that same 30% that can sleep at night and keep their food down? Don’t delay any longer. Don’t keep playing this game. You owe it to yourself to get a good night’s rest and stash away some cash for a financial crisis. If you’re reading this, you’ll have a crisis eventually – everyone does.

So how can you break free of this vicious cycle and stop living paycheck to paycheck? Stop spending everything you earn! Live within your means! YNAB promotes delaying spending your money for one month and it has seemed to work well for me and my wife. I’ve mentioned this before on the site, but I’ll mention it again because it makes up part of the foundation for financial security.

What you make in January, spend in February. During February, you’ll be making February’s income, you’ll have reserves built up from your Anticipatory Budgeting, and you’ll be spending January’s money. It’s a beautiful thing.

Don’t fret if you don’t have enough money lying around in your checking account to go an entire month without touching a new paycheck. That’s the whole reason I wrote this article. There’s a 70% chance that you don’t have this type of money and can’t stop living paycheck to paycheck. Well stop the nonsense! Start selling some things, lots of things if you have to, take an extra job for a little while, get crazy about scraping by for exactly 30 days — just enough to eke through the month without touching any of that month’s paychecks.

Start tracking what you spend!

Start budgeting!

That alone will save you 10-20% each month. Write down a month in the not-too-distant future where you’ll be able to say, “I lived the entire month of [insert month] without touching any of my paycheck(s).”

Even if you sold some of your most prized possessions, the financial security you would feel from having a one-month buffer built in to your financial system would be worth it. Don’t stand teetering on the edge of financial ruin. You owe it to yourself to get out of this trap–stop living paycheck to paycheck now!

Your Next Step

Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)


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