As one of the millions of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested in not living paycheck to paycheck.
Here's what they had to say:
1. "I learned to fear debt. When I was young, if I wanted something and could borrow money to get it and manage minimal payments on everything, that is what I did. It took me a long time to unlearn that behavior and learn to delay gratification, but these days, if I can't afford something, the answer is no."
2. "I broke the cycle when met my husband. I had a great-paying job, yet was almost always close to broke because I wasn’t financially literate. I was so embarrassed by my financial situation that I started to save and pay off my debts instead of spending money on stupid stuff that I don’t even have anymore. Now, I have a banging credit score and less debt. Also, when I want to spend more than $50 on anything, I think about it hard, and I even ask my husband. Not for permission, but to get his opinion on whether or not said product is worth it. I almost always usually talk myself out of it."
3. "Honestly? The pandemic. I couldn't go out and spend on restaurants or shopping for non-essentials, commuting, etc. I was forced to stay home and luckily continue to work from home. I feel guilty for saying it because so many were devastated by the pandemic, but my finances actually improved."
4. "I moved in with my now husband. Same amount of bills, but double the income meant we could start saving. Within a year of moving in together, we could afford a down payment on a house (this was in 2019).
"If we were still single, we'd both be living paycheck to paycheck in overpriced apartments.
"Once we could afford a house, we started saving on housing. Our mortgage only is, like, $1,080 a month whereas we were spending $1,250 a month on apartment rent. The mortgage is fixed, but rent goes up every year."
5. "Started out with zero dollars to my name, cut out every single expense — paid my bills/rent, bought cheap basic groceries that I could live off, and didn't spend a cent over that until I had the first thousand in my savings, which then gave me something to build upon. I've managed to save $10K in a year now. Previously, my money went toward shopping, eating out, getting delivery, and going out to the pub. I now allow myself a bit of spending, but I've cut out a lot of indulgences."
6. "I quit teaching and got into tech. I make more in a week than I used to make in a month. But as a former teacher, this also infuriates me because I worked probably 50x as hard as a teacher. Society has its priorities backward."
7. "Go freelance with your skills if possible. Usually, you can charge a higher amount and generally pay less tax than working in full-time employment. This will give you a cash boost and a bit of a buffer if there's a month or two where you don't have a contract."
8. "I got lucky. The agency I worked for didn't get their contract renewed. The agency that got the new contract allowed me to stay on and then almost doubled everyone's pay. I went from paycheck to paycheck to making over $110,000 a year."
9. "I took free/cheap online courses in my desired field and added certifications to my résumé. Because a higher-paid, more experienced team member was promoted, I was able to be promoted to his old position. I was able to negotiate higher pay because of my new certification and pending offers from other interested companies!"
10. "Finally found a decent job as a paralegal. Had been working as a busser at a country club for a few months just as a placeholder because I was too depressed to change anything. Still took 63 applications to land one job that paid a living wage, and that's with my bachelor's from a top university. Things are still tight, but I remember literally crying when I realized I had a bit extra to actually put into savings at the end of the month."
11. "I created a budget spreadsheet so I could see where my money was going. You may think you know where your money goes, but until you see it in writing, it may not be so glaringly obvious. It helps put things in perspective and reprioritize your spending habits."
12. "I created an Excel spreadsheet — all of my bills are on the left, and my pay dates are along the top. I put in all the monthly payments starting with the things that were set amounts, like utilities, rent, insurance, etc., then added credit card bills. I 'targeted' credit cards based on small balance or high-interest rates and went after them one at a time. I left myself enough money each pay period for gas, groceries, and spending money, but I paid the bills first.
"Yeah, sometimes, I had to use a credit card for something, but I stuck to the payoff plan, and once you start getting rid of them, it becomes much easier to not keep using them. Also, helps if you can take advantage of 0% interest offers. Of course, it helped that I actually made enough to cover my bills, but planning is essential."
13. "I've tried budgeting apps before; I've tried to track my budget on my own with spreadsheets. Nothing worked until I tried You Need a Budget! Yes, it's a paid service (which, honestly, I would not have signed up for, but they give students a free year), but now, I GLADLY pay the fee every year! It really helps you see exactly where your money is going, but also how to save for the future! It's a zero-based budgeting app that operates on four rules — the most important is to give every dollar a job. Within a few months, my husband and I broke the cycle, and no longer panic when it comes time for big bills like property taxes!"
14. "What worked for me was doing the Zero Budgeting strategy — where every single one of your dollars is accounted for until you have zero dollars. Even if you're transferring money to a savings account or a few dollars to buy gum at the gas station.
"I budgeted in the past but always over drafted because I never accounted for those little purchases or shopping trips that would add up. Literally every dollar counts.
"If I for some reason have money left over that I didn't spend shopping, I either put it toward my bills or my savings."
15. "Stay IN. Leaving the house costs money no matter what. In my early 20s, I would have had enough money to live on modestly, but my car kept breaking down. It was at least $300 every time. I vowed to do nothing but go to work and come home for as long as it took to have $300 in savings AND a $300 buffer in checking (meaning, when my checking balance was at or near $300, in my mind that really meant $0). That way, if my car broke down, I could cover it with my savings and still have money to live on in checking. If my car didn't break down, I could keep adding to it and live more comfortably instead of just getting by — not extravagant, but comfortable."
16. "My husband and I keep separate accounts that are linked. He gets paid weekly, and I get paid every other week. I had my employer direct deposit into our money market account. I would then transfer no more than I needed to pay my car payment and our mortgage into my checking account and leave the rest in savings. Once money is in savings, we have a hard time taking it out, so it works for us. And since my husband is paid weekly, we use his paychecks to pay everything else, while still trying to pull a little money over to savings each week. He just deposits his checks into his account and transfers over a specific amount to my account each week.
"It won’t work for everyone, but I do also highly recommend it for couples who have different spending/monitoring habits. He uses his banking app to keep track of his checking balance, while I pay all the bills (some with checks), so I keep a checkbook ledger and balance it every month. Keeping separate but linked accounts allows us to transfer money to and from each other, to savings, and not have to worry about what the other one is spending. I hope this may help someone!"