So you want to stop living paycheck to paycheck? Of course you do. Though a recent study found that 54 percent of “upper income Americans” live paycheck to paycheck—meaning they spend the vast majority of their paycheck before the next one comes in, relying on it to pay the bills—it’s undoubtedly a stressful and inefficient way to live.
While you may be able to pay your bills without racking up debt, managing your money this way doesn’t leave you with any (very necessary) wiggle room. What exactly do we mean by that? When you live paycheck to paycheck, you likely don’t have a proper emergency fund. What’s more, chances are you’re not adequately saving for retirement.
So what happens if something happens to you and you’re unable to work? What happens when you hit retirement age and you don’t have enough to cover the costs of living your life according to your standards?
Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that living paycheck to paycheck simply isn’t sustainable. The tricky part: figuring out how to break the cycle. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, the root cause can usually be attributed to one of three things: you’re not earning enough money, you’re spending too much money, or both.
Take a hard look at your earnings and your expenses. List everything out and categorize each item as essential or nonessential. Does your salary cover essential costs? What nonessentials can you cut?
Once you understand what’s going on, you can start taking steps to fix the problem, so you can stop living paycheck to paycheck. And if you need some help along the way? Here are some quick(ish) ways to earn an extra buck or two along the way. (Because, hey, every little bit helps!)
Sell your stuff
Don’t worry, we’re not talking about selling the things you need or want. If you take a hard look around, chances are you’ll find plenty of perfectly good, usable items your family has out-grown or simply never uses. Think: clothes, baby gear, sports equipment, or even furniture. List these items on sites like Facebook Marketplace or Poshmark, or bring them to local consignment shops. You’ll be surprised by how much money you can make off of things you already have around the house.
You can even sell any unused gift cards you have for cold hard cash. Though the services that buy gift cards—Card Cash, for example—take a small percentage in the form of their service fee, it’s a great option if the cards you have aren’t for stores you want to shop at.
You don’t have to hire a financial planner to put an investing strategy in place. Today, thetre are plenty of easy-to-use platforms. Take Acorns, for example. The app automatically rounds up any purchases you make on linked credit or debit cards to the nearest dollar. Then, you can save or invest that money. (You can also get cash back at over 350 retailers through the platform.)
There is a small service fee of $1 to $3, depending on the plan you choose, but it’s nothing compared to how fast those very painless incremental deposits add up. Another popular option? Robinhood, which makes it easy to buy and sell stocks, track the market, and read up on the latest news and trends.
Put your skills to work
Are you a great writer? Or maybe you love trying new products and giving your friends recommendations. Maybe you’re just really funny? Regardless of what your skill set is, you can use your talents to make a couple of extra bucks on the side. Start a paid newsletter on Substack, offer graphic design services on YouTube, host digital tutoring sessions, or start an instructional YouTube channel. You may not make a lot of money very quickly, but again, every little bit helps—and you never know, maybe you’ll strike gold!
Use cash back services
We’re not condoning shopping simply to earn cash back, but when you have to make purchases anyway—supplementing your wardrobe, buying Christmas presents, etc.—make sure you’re using a cash back browser extension like Rakuten. These services essentially pay you to shop. Here’s how it works: when you shop through these services, you can get cash back from a selection of stores. Those stores pay the platforms you’re shopping through a commission for the referral, then they share the commission with you in the form of cash back. It’s totally free and couldn’t be easier.
Consider renting out unused space
Do you have an extra room—or maybe even an in-law suite? Consider renting it out, whether to a long-term tenant or on a website like Airbnb. Even if you’re not comfortable living with someone else, you can rent out your space when you’re not home—times when you’re traveling to visit family during the holidays or if you frequently travel for work.