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If you feel like your income barely stretches from one paycheck to the next, you are not alone. A recent Harris Poll found that three out of four workers live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet, and having a high salary doesn’t necessarily make you immune. Nearly 10% of those with incomes of $100,000 or more say they can’t make ends meet on their salaries. The good news is there are steps you can take to stretch your available dollars, and even start setting some aside. Here are three of them.
Set Goals and Pay Yourself FirstScaling back today for something you really want down the road makes the sacrifice easier. Set goals for six months, one year, five years — and work toward those. Perhaps your goal is a short trip in six months or a house in five years. Having a wish list to work toward will help you think twice about making unnecessary purchases now. With your wish list in hand, pay yourself first. Set an automatic transfer to your savings account for whatever you can afford. Starting with a manageable amount like $25 per pay period is a great way to build new habits. Even if you only start with $50 per month, that would be an annual savings of $600!
Know Where Your Money Is GoingMany people don’t like the idea of committing to a budget. They might believe they have a good handle on what they’re spending without one. Before you can decide where to cut expenses, however, you need to know how much you’re spending and where you’re spending it. Start by writing down all your recurring household expenses like electricity, water, internet, car payment, mortgage or rent, credit card payments, and so on. Then keep a daily log for one month tracking all other expenditures (groceries, movies, happy hours with friends, convenience store quick stops, fast food trips, you name it. Be honest. No fudging!) After one month, assess how much you actually spent and on what. You might be surprised.
Scale Back on Non-EssentialsWe all want some entertainment and fun in our lives, but cutting back just a little can add up to significant savings. That is more than the amount nearly half of millennials are setting aside for retirement, according to a recent Money Matters study.
While you might not be willing to give up eating out completely, scaling back to one restaurant experience per week can add up to hundreds of dollars saved monthly. Could you eliminate an expensive gym membership and work out at home instead? How about carpooling to work, or using the bus or train instead of driving? Are you really watching all those streaming services, or could you make do with just one?
Think about what non-essentials you can realistically live without, or live with less of, and make a commitment to put that money into your bank account instead. The monthly tracking you did will come in handy in helping to identify small tweaks that still let you enjoy life, but more responsibly.