If you’re living paycheck to paycheck and have no savings, you’re not alone. I lived paycheck to paycheck for many many years for one simple reason. I didn’t know how to do things any differently. Here’s how I broke the cycle and became Debt Free… and you can too.
Paying off Debt is not an easy task.
We have limited income and sometimes our debts can seem like mountains. It takes time and even though it can feel like forever, you CAN get out of debt. It doesn’t have to take you as long as it took me to get on the right track. A debt free lifestyle is within reach.
First, I evaluated our income vs our monthly expenses and on paper, there was enough.
In fact, I should have had a little bit left over to move to savings every month. But I didn’t. So I started budgeting. But Murphy’s Law seemed to be taking up residence in our house at the time. Something seemed to come up every single month and we were always broke by the next paycheck. Even when I was able to put away a couple hundred, we usually dipped into it the very next month. It felt like getting out of debt was beyond our reach. And I knew we had to re-evaluate our plan.
Just knowing what you can afford isn’t enough.
As we continued to struggle and our rent was due to increase yet again, we knew it was time for drastic change. So we took the leap. We downsized. We moved from a 1700 square foot home with more space than we needed to an 1100 square foot apartment. This saved us a full $300 per month. With such a change in the size of our space, we had plenty of furniture and “stuff” that we needed to part with so we covered all of our moving expenses by having a garage sale before we moved.
Once we settled into our new space, we committed to paying off all of our debt. We made some drastic changes in our spending habits so that we could go from living paycheck to paycheck all the way to Debt Free.
We shut off the cable and just kept the cheapest internet option available. The cable company tried to tell me that with only 15 mbps, we would only be able to read email and standard websites. Not true. At only $35 per month, we stream everything on our measly 15 mbps without any issues. Boom! The cable bill went from $145 per month to $35.
We had our cellular plan re-evaluated. And we actually ended up on a plan that was $25 less per month than we were currently paying.
I stopped getting my nails done. Why? 15 or 20 bucks every couple weeks is nothing, right? Wrong. When combined with everything else, it adds up.
I stopped going to Starbucks. I didn’t go every day anyway so I really wasn’t spending much but nonetheless, I brewed my own.
We stopped eating out completely for quite a while. I started planning at least a few meals every time I shopped that don’t take a lot of effort. Because most of the time, eating out happened when I didn’t feel like cooking what was at home.
I started meal planning every two weeks.
I planned super cheap meals and shopped online for two weeks at a time, I ordered online because it ended the impulse purchases and hungry shopping. My grocery budget for 3 people for two weeks was $150-$200 and that included toiletries and cleaning products. We still had produce and we still had meat and fish. We were not eating bad at all. This in itself has saved so much more money than almost everything else. I can do this even cheaper if we go meatless a few days a week.
Decluttering our living space brought in extra money.
I started cutting down on our belongings even more. I declutter pretty much on an ongoing basis now. Because our space is smaller now, we have less room to store things, a smaller kitchen, smaller bathrooms, etc… And we don’t need all of our gadgets and things that we don’t use regularly. I sell our decluttered items on Facebook garage sale groups or on eBay.
You get the gist. We stopped spending on anything that we didn’t need to survive to the next paycheck and we made extra money by selling our unneeded “stuff”.
Things finally started to take a turn.
Gradually, we started to feel a little richer. We budgeted our savings and paid ourselves first and we were actually able to keep it instead of dipping into it. Once we had a little cushion, we started paying down our car, furniture, credit cards, tuition, etc… We didn’t use the snowball method as I hadn’t heard of it at that time yet. We actually tackled everything at once giving extra to something every pay period while still adding a little to savings.
Our debt was being eliminated.
Surprisingly, everything was actually paid off within a few months of each other. And because our cars were no longer financed, we got to choose our insurance coverage instead of maintaining the limits that the lien holder wanted us to have. That saved a couple hundred as well. And with everything happening so fast, we suddenly found ourselves with over $1,000 per month that we could dump into savings too!
Next we increased our 401k contribution and started saving more than ever before. Well, Murphy’s Law stepped in again and cost us quite a bit recently. While it seemed like a kick in the teeth at the time, I know that we can recover. If it had happened a few years back, it might have left us with no hope of ever recovering. But I’ve learned something very valuable over the last year or two.
What I’ve learned is that a budget is nothing without a spending plan for our income.
Without a spending plan, our paycheck ends up going to impulse buys, meals out, and other unnecessary things. I’ve designed a system for spending that has helped me keep it all under control every single month and I’m giving it away to anyone who wants it. Because the feeling I get from being debt free is not something I want to keep to myself.
If you want to learn how to organize your own spending plan, Sign up now for my FREE 5-Day Budget Makeover Challenge!
And it’s only the beginning. I plan on sharing all of the resources I use to stay on track and I’ll be developing some new stuff too. Money used to be a source of discomfort for me. Bill paying day was so miserable. But now? I’m excited about payday again! Not because I’m going to run out and spend it, I’m excited to see my savings continue to grow and I know that I can survive the bumps in life while remaining debt free.
You can totally do this. I swear I used to be the most disorganized person I know and I did it anyway. That’s why I know anyone else can do it too. So click the link and sign up because not only is the challenge free, you will also get 5 free printables to get you organized too. Leave a comment below and tell me what challenges you’re facing with becoming debt free…
Related: One Year Spending Freeze: 5 Things I Learned
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