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12 Ways You Can Save Money While Living Paycheck to Paycheck

It's hard to save money while living paycheck to paycheck, but not impossible. Are you willing to learn some financial discipline?

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Trying to save money while living paycheck to paycheck can feel futile because it seems like you're leaner and leaner every month—and honestly, that's somewhat true. Give it a month or two, however, and your finances even out gradually but steadily. You have to cut corners. More than that, you have to deny yourself items and opportunities that you desperately want, but you can't indulge. That's often the most challenging aspect of learning how to stop living paycheck to paycheck. Nobody wants to give up their wants, but the sacrifice is worth it once you're no longer down to the bare bones at the end of each pay cycle.

Budget to save money while living paycheck to paycheck.

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Sitting down to make a budget stinks, and keeping to it is even worse. However, it's the only way to make sure your money goes to necessary expenditures. To stop living paycheck to paycheck, you can't spend willy-nilly. To successfully save money, the first step is to budget for the bills you have to pay, including utilities and credit card debt. From important bills, making and using a grocery budget, and money for gas and more, a budget can help you get realistic about what you have to spend and what you have leftover.

Scale back on the wants.

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Separate the things you want from what you need. The needs of you and/or your family should always come first, whether you're a up and coming millionaire or trying to learn how to save money making less than $1000 per month. Every month, you have to pay the household bills, the mortgage or the rent, and your car payment. You need electricity, a roof over your head, and a means of transportation. You don't need Starbucks every day, a manicure every week, or a new video game every month. To break the paycheck to paycheck cycle, it's imperative to change the spending habits that got you into this rut in the first place.

Track your purchases.

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Tracking your spending can also help you save money. It isn't enough to monitor the bills coming out of your bank account. Consider setting up an automatic transfer for each bill. The money left in your account is the “extra.” Spend a week or two tracking your spending habits. Where does that money go? On what do you spend it? How much is left by the time you receive your next check?

Snowball your debt.

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You know that old chestnut that insists you have to spend money to make money? It's counter-intuitive, but mostly true. Sometimes, you also have to spend money to save it, particularly in the case of credit cards and similar debts. If you have several of them then it's almost impossible to save money while living paycheck to paycheck, even when you only pay the minimums. In a way, that's even worse—nothing ever goes toward the principle, so you're stuck with your debt forever.

The snowball approach can help. Pay off your smallest card as quickly as possible while continuing to pay the minimum amounts on your other cards. Choose the card with the least amount or the lowest interest rate. For a while, nearly everything extra will go to your debt, which means you may need to adjust your budget and dole out your paycheck according to your new necessary expenses. That's okay. No one ever regrets successfully paying off their plastic.

Quit the credit cards—but don't cut them.

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Getting rid of credit card debt is a critical step in the path to financial independence. Once you begin the payoff process, don't give in to the temptation to use those empty cards again. Lock away your store cards and major credit cards. Use them occasionally for small purchases, but pay off the balance immediately. Pay for big ticket items as long as you have the cash to cover it. Cancelling cards doesn't reflect well on your credit score, but semi-regular purchases that you pay off right away are ideal.

Say “Please” to waive fees.

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Everyone charges fees. Doctors and vendors charge cancellation fees. Cable and Internet companies ask for a variety of fees when they have to visit your home. The bank is famous for fees. Ask for them to be waived. Maintain a cordial attitude and ask politely. What's the worst that can happen? Just a “no.” At best, you have a little bit of extra money to put back that you would've otherwise lost.

Discover your side hustle.

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Know what can aid you in your goal to save money while living paycheck to paycheck? Earn more of it. This isn't about finding another full-time job. You can make money with a hobby. Consider freelance writing, bake cakes for special occasions, help your neighbors with their taxes if you're good at math. Are you skilled at a particular art or craft? Create items in your free time and sell them on an Etsy store. Look into opening an online account and place your extra income in it.

Use your gift cards.

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Not only can you use your gift cards at the restaurants or stores they're meant for, but you can also sell them. Check online and on social media to find gift card groups. You might even trade the random cards you acquire for gift cards belonging to vendors that you actually like.

Ask for a better rate.

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It never hurts to ask for a lower rate—from anyone. Talk to the gas company, the electric company, and the folks who supply your Internet; there are plenty of ways to save money around the house. Be honest about your goal of saving more money. Let them know, in particular, that you're trying to save money while living paycheck to paycheck. Your utility companies might be able to offer a monthly budget plan. Other companies are generally open to honest requests and will do their best to help even if it means changing your account.

Save your windfalls.

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Do you get bonuses at work? What do you do with your tax returns each year? Have you ever won a sum in the lottery? Ask your job to cut a check for your bonuses instead of sending through a direct deposit. Extra money ought to go into savings, not your checking account. 

Set back something each month.

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You've finally started to save money. What should you do with the small amounts of extra money trickling in each month? Start saving it. Again, think about opening an online bank account just for the money you put back each month.

Stick it in a savings account.

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Whatever bank you choose, open a savings account so that you can accrue interest. Use it as an emergency fund, a fall-back fund, or a cushion. Once you start to save money while living paycheck to paycheck, you need to keep saving. Don't stop just because your head's above water.

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