I hear the same complaint all the time: “I never have enough money.”
Truth is, we’ve all been there, but while some of us choose to confront the situation head on to get out of that rut, others continue the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle for a number of reasons. What are they? Find out where you fit in here.
1. You’re Not Budgeting Properly.
The sole purpose of budgeting is so you can keep track of exactly how much money is coming into, and going out of, your bank account every month. For this system to work, you must track your finances accurately. Otherwise, it becomes a messy situation. For instance, your take-home pay generally stays the same, but that’s not always the case for your expenses (i.e., your bills) — your electricity bill especially fluctuates month to month, as does your phone bill, probably.
It’s important to follow those variable expenses to the cent so you can decide where to make changes, such as cutting back on recreational activities, picking up a part-time job, or other adjustments to ensure that you have enough money (and a little excess) in your budget every month.
2. You’re Shopping Frivolously.
It’s easy to go overboard when shopping, especially if you’re susceptible to impulse buying, so it’s important to keep your wallet in check when you go out. If you know you can’t afford anything extra this month, don’t tempt yourself by going shopping (or “browsing”). Find something more productive to do with your time — like thinking of ways to make extra money (imagine that!) — so you don’t fall prey to spending money you don’t have.
3. You’re Neglecting Your Savings Account.
I treat my savings account as a reserve that should only be touched in extreme emergencies. I funnel money to that account consistently, after all my monthly expenses have first been paid. I do include a bit of extra money in my budget to do things I like, like go to the movies or hang out with friends on the weekends. But after bills and regular expenses are paid, most of my leftover earnings go to savings.
If you’re in such a financial bind that you have neither funds in your checking account nor your savings, you need to reevaluate your priorities before you’re faced with a major expense that could put you deeply in debt for years to come.
4. You’re Being Lazy.
This may sound harsh, but I believe laziness is one of the most common problems among people who complain they don’t have enough money. Now, before you start sending nastygrams my way, I’m not talking about the hard-working Americans in unfortunate circumstances who can barely make ends meet; those folks know how real the struggle is, and they’re constantly working to correct the situation in most cases.
Instead, I’m referring to perfectly middle and lower-middle class folks who have just enough money to cover their expenses and more time than they know what to do with, which, coincidentally, is anything but work harder.
I have no sympathy and very little tolerance for these people. Personally, I try to make an extra buck everywhere I can, so I can enjoy the life I have. That means having lots of little side gigs: taking on additional writing work, renting out my homes on Airbnb, dog sitting via Rover.com, and shopping and delivering groceries using Instacart. These are things that almost anyone can do. To be in the red financially because you’re being lazy is no one’s fault but your own and — dare I say it? — probably well deserved.
5. You Have Too Many Costly Commitments in Your Life.
If you have a lot of friends and family, you’re probably inundated with invitations to weddings, birthday parties, baby showers, and more — and these events can be costly. There are times, of course, when you can’t get out of it (like when your sister is getting married), but if you’re tight on cash already and it’s not essential that you attend the party, you’re allowed to politely decline. There’s no shame in citing financial hardship either; most reasonable and caring people will totally understand your plight.
6. You’re Not Cutting Costs Where You Can.
Are there expenses in your life that are nonessential? Perhaps you can downgrade your mobile plan, cancel the gym membership you’re not using, or cut the cable in favor of cheaper streaming services if you don’t watch all that much TV. I bet there’s at least one way, or maybe even a couple, you can shave some money off your monthly expenses if you take a good look at what you’re paying for and start making a few phone calls.
7. You’re Making Poor Decisions on the Weekends.
Just like shopping frivolously, eating out and buying drinks on the weekends — you might even tell yourself it’s to take your mind off your money problems — is the exact opposite of what you should be doing. If you can’t afford a full fridge of healthy food, you can’t afford wings, beer, and shots either.
This habit is wrong on a few levels. And if this is your routine, it’s absolutely the reason you can’t get to the other side of broke — and why you’re likely not very happy with yourself as a result. Rein in this nasty habit and take stock of what really matters to you. If hitting the bar is more important than paying your bills, you’ve got a serious problem on your hands, and you may need professional help.
8. You’re Living Beyond Your Means.
You make $60,000 a year, but you’re spending $80,000; even someone without a background in personal finance can tell you those numbers don’t add up. Yet many of us consciously go into debt to keep up appearances or to treat ourselves to things we think we deserve — even when we don’t have the money to cover it.
The obvious solution here is to downsize, but I know that’s not always easy; it’s a blow to the ego, and you may be afraid of how you’ll be perceived by those around you. But let me offer a slice of advice — who gives a flying f*ck? Are these people paying your mortgage or your kids’ college tuition? No. And you shouldn’t feel a certain way about what somebody else thinks about your financial situation unless they’re sending you a check every month.
Worry about yourself and your financial health instead of what the people who probably aren’t your friends anyway think. You’ll get along much easier in life that way.
9. You’ve Accumulated Too Much Debt.
Hey, it happens — and it’s not always under your control. Perhaps you have school loans, or maybe you bought your dream home and lost your job. That’s life, and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. But your debt should not be ignored. It won’t go away — unless you declare bankruptcy, of course, but you don’t want to do that.
Instead, enact some of the previous tips, like downsizing, cutting losses, budgeting better, and creating a long-term plan to chip away at the debt you owe to creditors. The process won’t be quick or easy, but people have overcome far worse. You will survive.