Break Out of the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Rut

Sarah W. Caron
April 3, 2013



Living check to check stinks! And it can be a vicious circle as you try to get out of debt but keep making the same financial mistakes. So, how do you free yourself from the rut and end your paycheck to paycheck days?

Start Budgeting

You know there’s a problem. Somehow you end up burning through every dollar you earn – never quite figuring out how to save some of that cash. And maybe it’s even okay – for now, at least. But what happens when something unexpected happens? Without any savings, you’ll be in a big bind.

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“As a Financial Advisor who has counseled with many people living paycheck to paycheck, the commonality amongst 90% of them are they don’t have a clear understanding of where the money is going,” says Carla J. Cargle, leading financial advisor and author of “The Financial Truth” ™ book series and the National Urban League’s nationally acclaimed Economic Empowerment program entitled, “Know Your Money.”

It’s time to figure out where your money is going and start controlling it. David Bakke, editor at Money Crashers Personal Finance, says that breaking out of the rut begins with a personal budget. “One of the best ways to escape the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck is to put yourself on a budget. Compose a list of all your monthly expenses and compare it to your income, and then find ways to keep your spending level as far below your income as possible,” says Bakke.

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Save Money

Ultimately, the key to stopping the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle is to build a savings for backup and consistently add to it. Bakke suggests looking for wherever you can save money in your life – such as by clipping coupons for groceries or bundling monthly TV, internet and phone services to cut back.

Additionally, consider what you can live without. Perhaps it’s time to forgo the morning latte or spending less on entertainment.

Also, it can help to boost your income with extra work in your spare time, says Bakke. “Fill out paid surveys on the Internet, or sell your unneeded items such as cell phones and digital cameras on eBay or Amazon. Put that money you earn toward your bills,” says Bakke. “Channel one of your talents into a small business venture and really start to make some extra cash.”

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Fix Your Mindset

The most essential component to getting out of the paycheck to paycheck rut is changing your mindset. Stop thinking about your paycheck as a magic number to subtract from until you’ve used it all. Instead, factor in the amount you want to set aside along with budgeting your money for expenses. “Unless the mindset is transformed to manage the cash flow, establish a sound budget, and opt for financial peace of mind, then the living paycheck to paycheck cycle will continue no matter how many jobs a person holds,” says Cargle.

Sarah W. Caron is a freelance writer, editor and recipe developer. Learn more about her at

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