How to Save Money When You Live Paycheck-to-Paycheck – No frilly examples or nonsense expenses to cut. Just the best ways to save money when you live paycheck-to-paycheck from someone who’s been there, too!
I came across a post recently about how people need to stop telling everyone to save money when they don’t have any. The post went on to say how telling these people to “stop going to Starbucks” was silly because they didn’t even have that kind of money.
The people in the post and in the comments section were breaking my heart. I’ve even written some of those posts! In reality, I’ve also been there. My family has been through the hand-to-mouth living, paycheck-to-paycheck with nothing left in between. We lived on $17,000/year as a family of 4.
No, I won’t tell you to cut out the Starbucks. Don’t worry. But I will tell you all of the ways that you can save when you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Related post: 10 Habits of Highly Frugal People
1. Negotiate bills.
As a people pleaser and a rule follower, trying to tell someone “no, I’m not paying the full price for your stupid internet that was down for more than 10% of the month” seemed like the worst thing ever. Especially since it tiptoes the line of trying to be firm and getting what you want, and being too firm and making the representative angry and then getting nowhere.
But there is great power in negotiating your bills!
Here’s what I did:
I called all of the places that sent me monthly bills (electric, gas, internet, security system, etc.) and told them that I was having trouble paying their bill at the end of the month. I said “I’d like to continue using your service, but I know that I can either get it for less elsewhere and just cancel it altogether.”
You will be shocked at the amount of discounts and help you will get! Our electric company even sent out a winterizing specialist to our house to set up winterizing for free. We had a security system through a local company before moving to ADT (because they refused to lower their prices), but I still get letters and emails from them basically telling me that my monthly rate would be $5/month instead of $50!
It’s shocking how many discounts are available if you ask.
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2. Shop around for new companies.
There are a few places that just won’t budge on their monthly bills. That’s when you need to take the time to be an informed consumer and to shop around for better rates.
We had Comcast for years because there was nothing else available for our internet provider. The service was poor, the customer service was poor, and the price was outrageous. I did some digging and found out that there was a new fiber optic internet provider coming into the area. You’d better believe I signed up for their service ASAP. They even gave me 3 free months, a new high-speed modem, and free installation. And once I do need to start paying for their service, it’s $10 less than Comcast for internet that’s 5 times faster (no, that’s not an exaggeration).
Before you go and say “that’ll never happen for me,” I’m the same way; but you never know if you don’t try!
The same can be said for gas and power companies. I know in Pennsylvania where I live, they made it so that we can select our electric provider. This saved us a ton of money (plus, now I get to choose to have a renewable energy electric provider! Hippie win!).
Again, you never know if you don’t try! 🙂
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3. Look for a smaller place.
When we were living paycheck-to-paycheck, I dreaded paying our rent. Our second apartment was just too big; it was 1,000 square feet, $850/month, and it was just unnecessary. Admittedly, we got really lucky
Admittedly, we got really “lucky” with this one. Our landlord was awful, our neighbors were awful, and because the landlord didn’t take action against the awful neighbors after the cops were called 20 times (that’s not an exaggeration), we were able to get out of our lease after a strongly-worded, very technical and legal sounding letter was sent to their company headquarters.
This is another place where you’re saying “I can’t do that.” Don’t try to make up an excuse that isn’t legitimate. If you have a safe, clean house, don’t try to screw over your landlord. But if you have constant plumbing issues or maintenance issues that always go unfixed, you could have a reason to get out of your lease. Read over your lease that was signed and see if you can find anything that was broken by the landlord. If that’s the case, you might have a reason to get out of it. (Side note: I’m not a lawyer! I’m not giving out legal advice here. Just suggesting to make sure that you go over your leases carefully if you feel that you’ve been wronged in some way.)
If none of that applies to you, check to see what your landlord’s policy is for moving. Do they need a 60-day notice? Are you still locked in until the end of your lease term?
Downsizing in an apartment or a rental home is a huge way to lower your monthly payments to free up space to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. Here are some quick ways to look to downsize:
- Cut down on square footage.
- Cut down on bedrooms (do you really need the guest room or will a pull-out sofa work just as well and save you $100+/month)
- Stick with 1 bathroom
- Search a little bit further away from where you are now to see if it’s any less expensive.
- Ask around to friends, family, church members, moms group members… everyone to see if they know someone who has a house for rent. You get a lot more bang for your buck with a private rental than with an apartment complex.
4. Think about passive ways to make money.
Living paycheck-to-paycheck is painfully stressful. Especially if everyone in the family is working. That’s why you don’t need me to tell you to make more money (because you’d want to slap me). But making more money will help give you some wiggle room.
That’s why I want to talk to you about passive income. That means that it’s ways that you make money without trying or doing anything.
Some ideas that come to mind are:
- Renting out your shed or garage (this is super easy and can bring in $100-300/month depending on the size of your garage).
- Renting out your car so that others can use it when you aren’t (this one is a bit trickier, but I’ve heard great things).
- Cashback sites for things that you buy (Ebates is my favorite for online and Ibotta is the best in-store).
- Selling stock photos.
I have a whole free e-course just for my side hustles that work to help make extra money with minimal effort.
5. Check your finances.
I know that this is the one you don’t want to hear about. It’s hard, boring, depressing, and it just stinks. But the reality is that once you know where your struggle with your budget, you will be able to work on it.
More often than not, it’s not the biggest expenses that will drain your budget it’s all of the little expenses that slowly eat away at it.
Related post: What Do You Do When There’s No Money For the Bills
So Starbucks isn’t your weakness. What is? We’ve all got one!
For me, it’s sweets. I know, how ridiculous is that! But pastries, donuts, ice cream, cookies… they’re my weakness. For my husband, it’s convenience food. For my best friend, it’s costume jewelry. Another friend’s weakness is organizational tools and planners. For my brother, it’s video games.
I could go on and on about what weaknesses we all have. All of us use the same excuse: “it’s just [$1, $5, $10, $15…]!” Don’t worry, you’re not alone!
But the important thing is to look really hard at your budget at see what it is that is draining your bank account a few dollars at a time. Print out your bank statement and see where your money is going.
It could be that you don’t have anything because all of your money is getting spent on credit card interest. Dave Ramsey is the debt-reducing master. His books and programs are incredible for helping eliminate debt, even when you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck!
It’s important to remember that living paycheck-to-paycheck is temporary. There are some people who truly work their whole lives without ever getting out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
I know it’s tough. I really do. And I’m sending you all of the hugs and prayers that I can!
But know that if I can claw my way out of living paycheck-to-paycheck with 4 other people (one of whom is a compulsive spender), you can too!
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