I hear this 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 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 electric bill fluctuates month-to-month, as does your phone bill, probably. In these cases, 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 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. Find something more productive to do with your time — like thinking of ways to make extra money (imagine that)! 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 should only be touched in extreme emergencies. I funnel money to that account consistently. All my monthly expenses are paid first. I leave a bit extra in my budget to do things I like, such as going to the movies or hanging 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. Do it 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 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. Those are folks who can’t 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, seems to always be 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 includes lots of little side gigs. I do additional writing work, rent my homes out on Airbnb; dog sit via Rover.com; and shop and deliver 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 non-essential? 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 on TV. I bet there’s at least one, or maybe even a couple ways you can shave some money off your monthly expenses. Take a good look at what you’re paying for and start making a changes.
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. This habit is wrong on a few levels. If this is your routine it’s absolutely the reason you can’t get on the other side of broke and why you’re likely not very happy with yourself as a result. Rein in this nasty habit. 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
Do 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 we 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 you’ll be perceived by those around 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 care 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. It’s nothing about which to be ashamed. But your debt should not be ignored. It won’t go away — unless you declare bankruptcy. And 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. He spends his time writing from the Jersey Shore with his dog Jaxon. Connect with Mikey on Twitter @mikeyrox.