Stop Living Paycheck To Paycheck

paycheck to paycheckI ran across a great article written by Mary Beth Storjohann at Workable Wealth, about breaking the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck.  In the article, an estimated 1/3 of all US households are living paycheck to paycheck.  It’s pretty scary, but very easy to see and/or understand why.

People, especially middle-class workers, continue to live right up to their means.  What’s worse is, most also continue to rack up debt in the process.  Once the debt overcomes them, they have an incredibly hard time ever getting ahead.

I remember these days myself and that’s why I enjoyed reading her article because it reminded me of all the things I actually did right to get myself out of the hole and ahead for good.  Take a look at her article HERE.  Follow these simple, easy to understand guidelines and stop living paycheck to paycheck for good!

Check out other related blogs on my site at Middleclasssuccess.com

 

 

 

 

10 Steps To Get Ahead And Create Long-Term Wealth, Part 1

In my blogs I’ve discussed a lot of ideas on ways to get ahead.  For most of us working-class folk, we need to look for easy, creative ways to squeeze out extra money from our paychecks and find a way to build some wealth.  When you’re strapped for cash, it’s incredibly hard to find a way to get ahead of the game and get out of that financial rut that everyone seems to find themselves caught up in.  This website is dedicated to help people find ways to get ahead and break out of the “blue-collar” mindset that seems to keep working class people locked in to unending debt and a feeling of hopelessness of ever creating any wealth.

I want you to understand that you can get ahead, and you can create wealth a little at a time.  You have to be patient and you have to be persistent.  More than anything you have to change the way you think about money and your spending.

I was fortunate enough to make an acquaintance with a co-worker that actually changed the way I think about money for good.  This guy is truly the “millionaire next door” or in this case the “millionaire in the next cubicle”, I call him.   I never imagined a guy like this ever had any money.  He drove an old, beat up car, didn’t dress fancy, and didn’t look or act like he had any money at all.  After I really started to get to know him and he opened up about money and how to actually use it to make make more money, I really started to understand.  He truly changed my prospective on money for good.  Since meeting him and really starting to understand money and how to manage it, my finances have turned completely around and are heading in an upward trend month over month, year over year.

It’s truly amazing how much you can accomplish when you have a different mindset about something and really focus on your goals.  This applies to really anything in life, but for me it was all about my financial future and setting the stage for long-term success.  Now I know that it is possible for any working class stiff like myself to create an environment for financial success.

Below are some of the steps I’ve learned that can help you find a way to get ahead for good.  Remember, stay focused and keep your sights set for long-term success.  One step at a time, little by little, you will succeed.  Here are the simple but effective steps to take control of your financial future:

Step #1:  Set your financial goals

You need to set some financial goals and make yourself accountable to stay on track.   As I mentioned, It’s all about changing your mindset regarding spending and saving.  Your goals will help you stay focused and help you make financial decisions as they arise.  Your goals should be really personal and mean something to you, so you really keep locked-in on them.  I make a point to create goals every New Year’s Eve and write them down on a piece of paper.  I stick the paper in a jar and stash it away, so at the end of that year I go through all my goals and see what my progress was.  It’s amazing how much you actually accomplish when you set your mind to it.  It’s also fun to look back and see how things change in just one year.  I now have my wife and kids doing the same thing.  It’s a fun family activity to look at all our goals every New Year.   Just make sure you make realistic financial goals….don’t shoot for the moon.  Make goals that you really think you can accomplish, you will be surprised how good it makes you feel to make and/or exceed each goal.

Step #2:  Set a budget and track every dollar you spend

As I’ve mentioned in some of my other blog posts, you can’t possibly get ahead if you don’t know where your money is going.  Some people don’t even really know how much money they have coming in!   It’s really important to know what you have coming in and what you have going out.  I like to use a free online budgeting program called Mint.com.  This program is very easy to use and you really can track your money coming in and going out, as well as your spending trends of all your accounts.  You must set a budget or you will never be able to accomplish your goals.  If you don’t want to use a program like Mint.com, then you can simply create a budget on a pad of paper.   You just need to start with your gross (take-home) pay, then track each and every expense so you can account for every dollar you spend.  Then you will truly understand what you have left over.  The bottom line is, you ultimately need to spend less than you earn.  Spending less than you earn is the only way you will be able to free up some extra cash to start building wealth and/or pay down your debt.

Step#3:  Eliminate debt

Once you have your budget tweaked correctly and you know exactly how much money you have left over after paying all your expenses, start paying down your debt.  The best way to get ahead and stay ahead is by not having any debt. Eliminating debt gives you the cushion you need to cover any unexpected plans or life changing events.  Life is so much easier and less stressful without debt, so this is a high priority on your list.  Eliminate all debt!  Start with credit cards or small loans.  Pay off the smallest or highest interest debt first.  Put a large portion of your resources towards this task.  Once you eliminate the first one, take the money you saved from that payment and put it towards the next debt to knock that one down.  Keep going with this routine until you have eliminated all small loans and credit cards.  Keep one credit card for emergencies only and don’t get in the habit of ever using it for any other reason. Now start new goals for bigger loans, like car payments or a home mortgage for example.

Step #4:  Build your savings up

You may have noticed in step #3 that I mentioned to put a large portion of your available resources towards debt.  I didn’t say put all your resources towards debt.  You absolutely need to create a savings account right along with paying down debt. This account is needed to cover any unexpected expenses at any given time.  Put whatever you can in your savings automatically every payday.  Always pay yourself first!  I learned this a long time ago and I never looked back.  Once I paid myself, I found ways to cover everything else and looked back to realize that my savings continued to grow month over month.  Make sure you put money into a bank that offers you easy access to your money 24/7.  This account needs to be liquid and fully accessible in case you have an emergency.   Build up your savings account to your own comfort level.  Financial experts recommend that you have at least three months of expenses saved up in your account.  That would be a great goal, but for now shoot for at least $1000.00 and keep building from there.

Step #5:  Review and analyze your expenses

Once you have your budget working well and know where all your money is actually going, start looking at each and every expense closely.  You need to decide if you really NEED that expense.  Obviously some things like utilities are a given (even though there are a lot of ways to save money on heating and electric bills), but look at extra things like our TV service.  Do you really need four high definition TV’s in your house?  Satellite TV service is really expensive!  Take a look at your programming, do you really need to have 250 channels including HBO or the NFL package?  These are obviously extra services you don’t NEED.  How about your home phone?  Do you have a cell phone, if so, why do you need a home phone?  Cut down on all these services and save hundreds of dollars each year!  Well, you get the point, take a look at each and every expense and see where you can cut corners to free up some extra cash.  You will be surprised how much you can save.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article for the rest of my tips on getting ahead for good.  It’s so important to start right now with these steps.  If you really focus on your goals and getting ahead, I know you will get there!

 

 

How Do You Measure Financial Success?

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Financial success could mean just about anything, if you ask any given person.  So ask yourself the question, what does financial success mean to you?   Is it reaching a certain level or amount of money?  Becoming debt free?  Having a few extra bucks in your pocket at the end of the month?

All of these examples could be good measures or goals of financial success.   For a lot of working-class people, just having extra money left over after bills and your financial obligations are paid every month, is truly success.   At this level, money left over is your way to start saving and investing in your future.  As you progress in this system of money management, your financial goals start to change to new levels or larger amounts incrementally.

Depending on what level you are at with your own finances, you should always have goals. Your first two goals should be:

1. Eliminate small debt.  Focus on credit cards or loans.  Pay them down, one at a time, and don’t use the credit cards again.

2. Create a security blanket savings account.   You must have an “emergency” savings account saved.   Shoot for a balance that gives you a comfort level to cover the majority of issues that arise, then continue to add whatever you can every paycheck.  I mentioned savings account, because this account has to be liquid or readily available to handle unexpected expenses.

These two goals actually work together, because as you pay down debt you will have extra money left over to increase your savings account.  Just make sure you stay disciplined and focused on stashing this extra money.  Eventually you will get to a comfort level in your savings account where you can easily handle any expenses outside of your normal budget and you won’t need to use any credit cards.  Once you get to this point, I would consider this a huge success for most people.

When it comes to credit cards, it’s a good idea to keep one credit card account open and available (once it’s paid off), to be used to handle emergency and/or unexpected costs that exceed your savings account level.   This card must only be used for this purpose!  Hopefully you will not run into this situation often, as it will unfortunately set you back.

So, what is your measure for financial success?  No matter where you are in your own  financial situation, there is always room for improvement.  Set goals and make your own measures.  Track them and stay focused.  Work on your monthly budgets, closely monitor your spending.  I suggest using a great budgeting tool called Mint.com, it’s free and really easy to use.  You can link this program to all your accounts, both savings & checking, and all debt accounts etc.  You can then setup each category of spending and input a budget amount.  Monitor the budget amount for each category monthly and adjust accordingly.  It will take a few months to really understand where your money is going.  Once you get this system tweaked, you will know exactly how much you are spending in each particular category.   It’s amazing once you actually see where your money is going, the realization sets in and you’ll know where you did well in your spending and where you went wrong (exceeded budget).

Stay focused on monitoring your budgets every money and you will be amazed how much progress you can make once you set you mind to this task.  You will know exactly where you can “tighten the belt” and cut back.  Evaluate each area closely and determine where you can save money.  Put anything you have left over in your savings account until you reach a good comfort level.  Once you made that level, it will be time to start finding other areas of investing to actually make money on your money.