Are you behind in your bills or barely making it paycheck-to-paycheck? Here’s how to get a month ahead on your bills!
To get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, you want to spend this month what you earned last month.
As a fairly new single mom, I know how hard this is. I have 2 little kids to take care of and never-ending payments for things (rent, gas, food, etc.)!
Even so, there are steps you can take to get ahead on your bills.
Does this seem impossible? Here’s how:
How can you get a month ahead on bills?
1.The first thing you need to do is budget your money.
If you are struggling to get a month ahead on your bills then you MUST create a budget. I know, it seems that so many people hate the idea of budgeting. I get it! I hated it too.
But…if you don’t know how much money is coming in or how much you are spending every month, then how can you get ahead?
Write it down.
If this seems daunting, the simplest way to start is to get a notebook and use one sheet per month. Make 2 columns and list your income in one column and your expenses in the other.
At the end of the month, add the columns up and figure out the difference. Ideally, you want to have fewer expenses than income so that you have extra money to save in the bank!
Unless you work multiple jobs or have erratic income each month, the hardest part will be keeping track of your expenses.
I started by keeping all the receipts from each day and entering the amounts in my budget notebook at night.
Your financial situation won’t improve unless you actually see your total income each month and your spending habits and make some changes.
2. Find ways to reduce spending/cut expenses
Once you are able to see the amount of money coming in each month AND the amount your spend then you can start making some changes!
When I first became a single mom, I had to take a good look at my budget and see what to do as my monthly income was greatly reduced (I had a part-time job at the time and was managing that plus child support).
I was so used to “treating” myself here and there with a snack or a coffee or a “small” item I wanted. When I actually took the time to write these purchases down each month, I could see that they added up quickly!
Find ways to reduce or eliminate expenses! If you eat out for lunch each day, plan ahead and bring lunch at least 2-3 days a week. You’d be surprised at how much you can save.
One thing you can do is look at your biggest expenses each month (for example, rent, groceries, gas) and make an effort to reduce spending in one or more of these categories.
For me, since rent was my largest expense, I diligently searched for a cheaper place during my divorce. This ended up saving me quite a bit of money each month.
Here are some ideas for things you can do to reduce your expenses:
- switch phone plans
- negotiate car insurance
- get rid of cable
- try public transportation
- take lunch to work (instead of eating out)
- make coffee at home (instead of going to Starbucks)
Even a small savings of $5-10 a month adds up to $60-120 a year!
If you can cut your spending each month and put the extra in savings, then you can slowly build up to be a month ahead on your bills.
Related: Easy meal planning tips
Related: Things we quit buying to save money
3. Keep all extra money
When you receive extra money, I know how tempting it is to splurge and buy something new and exciting or get a treat for yourself!
The best way to get a month ahead on your bills is to continue living on your “normal” income and put all extra money away in a savings account!
If you do this, you will get ahead fast!
Don’t overlook extra money you might get from:
- a bonus
- tax refunds
- extra paychecks
- a raise
- extra money from a side gig
- a gift for your birthday
- an inheritance
This takes discipline! You can do it!
4. Find a side gig
Sometimes if you are struggling to get ahead on your finances, you need to build up enough money to create a buffer.
A simple way to do this is by getting a side job. This won’t have to be forever – just until you can get ahead.
There are thousands of side-gig options that you can try. Here are some things I’ve done:
- child care
- house/pet sit
- sell items on Ebay or Craigslist
- do temporary work (I’ve used Upwork)
- take a seasonal job
I have a friend who finds side jobs on Craigslist. One time she handwrote a bunch of envelopes for a set price. Another time she drove someone who had eye surgery to the hospital, waited and then drove them home.
It might take only a few months of you working a side job to get enough in the bank to get a month ahead on your bills. A small sacrifice for peace of mind!
5. Make a plan to get rid of debt
If you have any debt, you need to make a serious plan to get rid of all of it (and stay away from it in the future).
The faster you can get out of debt, the more money you will have to put in savings and retirement accounts and the easier it will be to get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.
Related: Tips for Getting Rid of Debt Fast!
6. Build an emergency fund
Once you have a plan to tackle debt, make sure you set up an emergency fund. Having an emergency fund is key to keeping you out of debt and staying ahead on paying your bills!
When you have an unexpected expense (car repairs, medical emergency) you can use the money from your emergency fund instead of paying from this month’s paycheck or using a credit card to go into debt.
7. Make changes to the way you manage money
Finally, one of the biggest ways to get ahead on your bills is to make changes to the way you manage money.
Take a good, honest look at your bank and credit card statements.
Are you racking up fees because of late payments? Write a schedule and start budgeting your money.
Does your bank charge fees for every little thing? Hunt around for a new fee-free bank.
Do you pay for things you aren’t using much? (Newspaper/magazine subscriptions, cable or Netflix, gym memberships). Get rid of them!
Do you spend a lot on groceries (and maybe notice that you throw away a lot of food as well)? Start meal planning. (It will save you money and time!)
Make sure to help your kids get a head start on their finances by teaching them these tips before they become independent adults.
Related: Teach teens about money
Related: 5 Easy tips to teach teens budgeting
8. Have a goal
Finally, if you have a savings goal to work toward, then you have more motivation to hustle it and get a month ahead on your bills.
Maybe you want to
- buy a car
- have a downpayment to buy a house
- save for retirement
- finish your degree
Keeping this goal in mind will help you move ahead!
Is it possible to get a month ahead on bills? Absolutely! As a single mom, I can tell you that one of my top concerns is my finances. But, if I can get a handle on my bills and be a month ahead, so can you! Please share your tips for breaking out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle!