I hear this complaint all the time: “I never have enough money.” The 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 many reasons. What are they? Find out where you fit.
1. You’re Not Budgeting Properly
The sole purpose of budgeting is so you can keep track of exactly how much money is coming in and going out of your bank account every month. For this system to work, you must follow your finances accurately before 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 these expenses to the cent so you can decide where to make changes, like cutting back on recreational activities, picking up a part-time job, or other solutions to ensure that you have enough money (and a little excess) in your budget each 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 one month, don’t tempt yourself. Find something more productive to do with your time — possibly thinking of ways to make extra money (imagine that!) — so you don’t fall prey to shopping with money you don’t have.
3. You’re Neglecting Your Savings Account
I treat my savings as an account that I touch only in extreme emergencies. I funnel money to that account consistently, considering that all my monthly expenses are paid first. And I leave a bit extra in my budget to do things I like. For instance, I like to go to the movies or hang out with friends on the weekends, but generally, 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 facing a significant expense that could put you deeper into debt for years to come.
4. You’re Being Lazy
This may sound harsh, but I believe that 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 barely make ends meet; those folks know how real the struggle is, and they’re always 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 little tolerance for these people. I try to make an extra buck everywhere I can so I can enjoy the life I have. That includes a lot of little side gigs, like additional writing work, renting my homes out on Airbnb, dog sitting via Rover.com, and shopping for and delivering groceries using Instacart. These are things that almost anyone can do. To be in the red financially because you’re 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, an inundation of invitations to weddings, birthday parties, baby showers, and more is highly likely — and these events can be costly. There are times, of course, when you can’t get out of it, 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 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 or maybe even a couple ways 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 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. The habit is wrong on a few levels, and if this is a routine, it’s absolutely the reason you can’t get on the other side of broke and likely not happy with yourself as a result. Rein in this nasty habit and take stock of what really matters to you.
8. You’re Living Beyond Your Means
You make $60,000 a year, but you’re spending $80,000; even someone without a personal finance background can tell you those numbers don’t add up. Yet, many of us consciously go into debt to keep up appearances or treat ourselves to things we think we deserve despite not having 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 people will perceive you.
But let me offer a slice of advice — who gives a flying fuck? Are they 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 about which to be ashamed. 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 money you owe to creditors. The process won’t be quick or easy, but people have overcome far worse. You will survive.
Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. He spends his time writing from the beach with his dog Jaxon. Connect with Mikey on Twitter @mikeyrox.