Life Style

14 Tips For Getting Out Of The Paycheck To Paycheck Cycle

Posted on Apr 15, 2021

These 14 Tips Helped Me Stop Living Paycheck To Paycheck And I Don’t Know Where I’d Be Without Them

It’s not easy, but you can break the cycle..

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A few years ago, I was living paycheck to paycheck and was constantly stressed about my finances.

"Help me, I'm poor"

Bridesmaids / Via Giphy /

One day, I got an email that I was gonna have to start paying down my student loans. I freaked out ’cause there was no way I had enough to cover the $300–$400/month it was going to cost.

I realized I needed to gain some control of my finances and change my spending habits.

Through a bunch of confusion, trial and error, and money mistakes, I managed to crawl my way out of the cycle.

These tips helped me stop living paycheck to paycheck, become debt-free, and build savings!

Keep in mind these are just what helped me and they may not work for you. Money is personal, so always take your own needs and situation into account and do what makes the most sense for you.


I checked in with the emotions that were stopping me from getting started.


Then I audited my past spending to ~stop the bleeding~ by figuring out where my money was really going.

Person with bandages on their face

Hopeless Records / Via

If you accidentally cut yourself and start to bleed, your body doesn’t usually just hope the bleeding eventually stops. It immediately jumps into action to stop the bleeding as fast as it can.

It’s the same with your spending. Your bank account isn’t draining without a cause so it’s really important to figure out where that money is actually going.

Review your past expenses by looking at your old statements. It may be anxiety-inducing, but this tip is super important and worth it. If you’re extra ambitious, write out each expense and categorize it. I promise that when you see your spending habits laid out this way, you’ll find some surprising realizations.


Next, I took my past spending into account to make a budget that helps me save money.

Someone cutting up money on a cutting board like it's a carrot

Brikk / Via Giphy /

Once you know how much you’ve been spending, you can use that information to make a budget that will help you save more and spend less.

Now, keep in mind: There’s no right way to budget. Just do what works for you! For example:

• Make your budget super simple by literally just writing out your monthly income and expenses on a memo pad.

• Use Excel to write out your nonnegotiables (rent, car insurance) in one column and fluctuating costs (groceries, clothes) in another.

• Use an app like Mint that links to all your accounts and automatically tracks and categorizes your spending.

It doesn’t really matter which budgeting method you choose as long as it helps you spend less than you earn. This is key to getting out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle.


And I cut down on my regular expenses to make a little more room in my budget.

*Holds up credit card* "I'll take everything you got"

The Simpsons / Via Giphy /

You might be spending money on things that you can really easily live without. Like your subscriptions. Do you really need all the streaming services?

Or maybe you can find services you genuinely need at a cheaper rate by negotiating with your current provider or switching to a new one. For example, I used to pay almost $100/month just for my phone plan. I decided to shop around and found Mint Mobile, so now I only pay $15/month.

If this sounds like a good idea, you might wanna check out more everyday things I used to overspend on and what I do now instead.


I try to keep a little cushion in my checking account so I don’t have to live in fear of overdraft fees.

Twitter: @ItsGirllCode

Instead of letting your account get down to zero, save up an extra $100 or so and try to use that as the new baseline for your balance. That way, you’re not sweating every penny (or worried about dreadful overdraft charges) right before payday.


And I started an emergency fund so I have savings to help out when surprise bills appear.

Sailor Moon breaking her piggy bank and counting the coins

Sailor Moon / Via Giphy /

Knowing that you have some cash set aside in case random bills pop up can help save you from taking on new debt ~and~ give you some much-needed financial peace of mind.

Finance pros often recommend saving up three to six months’ worth of your expenses. If that sounds like a lot of money (’cause it is), try to start by saving up $500 first or setting aside $5 or $10 a week. If seeing the money makes you wanna spend it, you can hide it from yourself by setting up automatic deposits to a savings account at a different bank that you don’t see or use often.


I got in the habit of using my budget to plan my spending, especially in areas like grocery shopping that can add up fast.

Grocery shopping list written out on a piece of paper in front of a bowl of oranges and bananas

Grocery shopping list written out on a piece of paper in front of a bowl of oranges and bananas

Isabel Pavia / Getty Images

Failing to plan: the ruiner of budgets.

This doesn’t mean you all of a sudden have to be a list person. It just means you’re giving yourself some guidelines with your spending. Because a budget’s great and all, but if you set aside $200/month for groceries and end up spending $400/month, then the budget wasn’t really effective.

So for example, if you wanna save money on your grocery shopping trips, you CAN make a list or you can just tell yourself ahead of time that you’re not gonna buy every fun thing in sight. Either way, just be sure to go into the store knowing *exactly* how much you want to spend every time and find a budgeting strategy that helps you stick to that amount.


I’ve also tried out using a bare-bones budget for a month or two to reset my spending habits.

Bare-bones budget listing rent and utilities, groceries, medical, transportation, and a $100 fun budget

Bare-bones budget listing rent and utilities, groceries, medical, transportation, and a $100 fun budget

Charis Barg

It’s drastic, but restricting your spending to needs only (or close to it) can free up more money for saving and paying down debt, which could help you finally get off of the paycheck-to-paycheck treadmill.

I did this by writing out all the things I need to spend money on, which basically were rent, groceries, and any health/car expenses that came up (plus some fun money so I wouldn’t feel too deprived). By sticking to that list, I realized that there were a lot of times when I was spending money I didn’t really need to spend. And by not spending money frivolously, I had more cash for the stuff that’s really important to me.

Plus, after a month or two, or whenever you’ve met your goals, you can readjust your budget to something a little more normal for you. It’s kinda like a spending cleanse.


When budgeting isn’t enough, I look for ways to increase my income.

"I'll take all of your shifts. I need the money"

Starz / Via

A lot of people think that increasing their income will fix their financial situation, but this might not always be the case. What often happens is that your standard of living increases WITH the increase in income — and the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle continues.

However, there are some situations where an increase in income will help, especially if you’re struggling to meet your expenses or have a lot of debt. In those cases, requesting a raise, overtime, extra shifts, or even taking on another job or side hustle could help you find a little more financial stability.

I try to minimize the amount I work so I know this sounds awful, but keep in mind: It doesn’t have to be forever.


And I used a payoff plan to wipe out my high-interest debt.


I make time to learn about finances every week.

"All I require is to sit in the sun and read my book. Alone"

CBS / Via

There are 168 hours every week, so odds are you can find 15 to 20 minutes in there to check your balances and expand your financial knowledge. That could mean checking a finance news site in the morning, listening to a podcast when you’re stuck in traffic, following reputable finance experts on social media, or sitting down to read a chapter of a book about money management. The more you learn about finance, the easier it’ll become to make positive choices and adopt healthier habits.

I mean, I waste 20 minutes every hour and I don’t even bat an eye ¯_(ツ)_/¯. So it wasn’t too painful for me to find some time to keep learning more about money.


I accepted that I sometimes have to make some sacrifices.

"Perhaps the best things in this world require the biggest sacrifice"

Fox TV / Wayward Pines / Via Giphy /

Getting out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle probably means you can’t buy everything your heart desires.

And you know what? That’s okay!

It doesn’t mean you’ll never do fun things again EVER. It just means evaluating what’s worth spending money on and what isn’t.


And to keep my motivation up, I remind myself to think about the big picture.

Notebook with "2021" on top, then checked boxes next to "goal," "plan," and "action"

Notebook with "2021" on top, then checked boxes next to "goal," "plan," and "action"

Nora Carol Photography / Getty Images

Which situation would you rather be in?

Putting in effort over the next year or so to learn more about financial wellness and healthy money habits?


Keep guessing what to do financially for the next 30–60 years and hoping it’ll work out?

Both situations probably will make you uncomfortable. I mean, learning something new, especially finances, isn’t easy. Trust me, I learned the hard way. But I’d still rather take the temporary discomfort of learning new skills over a lifetime of anxiety.

Getting out of the cycle isn’t easy but it IS achievable.

"Nothing stops this train"

Breaking Bad / Via Giphy /

All you have to do is get started. Just keep taking small steps and chipping away at your goals.

Now that you’ve read these tips, what’s one thing that you can do today to get started? Share your plan in the comments!

And for more money tips and tricks, check out the rest of our personal finance posts.

Source: 14 Tips For Getting Out Of The Paycheck To Paycheck Cycle

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