I honestly don’t know why I continue to bring my headphones into the gym with me. The conversations I hear when I’m in there working out alone are enough to make me want to leave my music off and be a nosy neighbor, and I don’t even think I feel that bad about it. This morning was a huge eye-opener for me; and it was also the moment when I think I developed a bit of a girl crush on a woman I don’t even know based solely on her blatant honesty. I want to be her friend. Imagine me there on the elliptical working on 17 minutes, sweating to death (kidding, it turns out no matter what I do in life I don’t actually sweat from my face or head) and accidentally unplugging my headphones. I stopped to put them back in when I decided not to turn the music back on.
“It’s your own fault, and you aren’t getting any sympathy from me,” is what I hear the woman next to me say to her friend. I was intrigued, and kind of assumed it had something to do with some sort of relationship in the other woman’s life. When she followed it up with, “You make enough of a good living not to live paycheck to paycheck, but you make stupid decisions. You have to get it together. If it was really that important to you, you’d make it happen. End of discussion. I love you, but I’m tired of listening to you complain about something that is so easily fixable,” and that was that.
The other woman was not even trying to argue with her friend. She wasn’t rude, but she was firm. She wanted her friend to know that her financial issues are all her own creating and that the world is not working against her to make it difficult for her to get by. In fact, the world is just fine and her friend merely makes poor decisions and feels entitled. I liked this woman’s honesty and her blunt nature. It also got me thinking; she’s right. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, as so many people do, chances are good that it’s your own fault and that you can get yourself out of that rut with a few very simple practices.
Stop Spending What You Don’t Have
Every year at my daughter’s school I organize a full week of teacher appreciation gifts for all the teachers the week of Teacher Appreciation week. I seek out volunteers to make small goodies for the teachers throughout the week and donations to help cater a large and delicious lunch for the teachers on the final day of the week. This year I had a mother donate a $10 check to me, but she asked me not to cash it until Thursday since she gets paid on Friday and that would be a good buffer for her to ensure it didn’t bounce. My first thought was sadness for someone who doesn’t even have $10 to give, and my second thought was that she shouldn’t be writing checks she cannot afford to cash.
If you don’t spend what you don’t have, you’ll actually have a paycheck hit the bank when you get paid. That means you’ll have more money to make last all week or two weeks or however long you have to wait until your next paycheck comes along.
Sell Things You Don’t Need or Want
The simplest thing you can do to create a buffer and add a little income to your bank account so that you’re not living paycheck to paycheck is to sell things you no longer want or need. Host a yard sale, post things on the internet to sell or go to a consignment shop to seek out help in the manner you deem fit. It’s a relatively simple process, but it’s not something you can ignore doing when you need additional cash.
Cut the Things You Don’t Need
You don’t need unlimited data and text messages on your cell phone plan. You don’t need cable television. You don’t need to buy fresh flowers for the kitchen or drink a glass of wine with dinner every night. You don’t need to buy coffee every morning or stop for the kids to get a donut on Fridays. You can cut those things right out of your budget and save a bundle; that might help with the paycheck to paycheck living.
Downsize or Downgrade
I have told this story about a half dozen times, and I’ll tell it again. I’ll never forget the time an acquaintance told us (and it was so not any of our business and we still cannot figure out why she thought she should talk to us about this) that she had something like $7 in her bank account until she got paid again and she couldn’t even afford toilet paper and had to borrow it from her mom that day (borrow? Have…). The very next day she posted a photo of her brand new car – and not a cheap one, either – on social media.
If you can’t afford toilet paper, you cannot afford a new car payment. How about downsizing that expensive car, selling your house if it’s too expensive and buying something smaller, moving somewhere with a low cost of living or doing anything you can do to afford what you have? It’s a novel concept.
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