Bills and paying them are a natural part of life now. What is worrisome is when your bills start exceeding your income. You can end up in a hole due to financial choices or circumstances outside your control. Or you could lose your job.
There could be an emergency expense. You could experience lifestyle creep, where your expensive tastes start to exceed your income.
Want to stop living paycheck to paycheck?
Here are 10 ways to be more aware of your bills, how to lower them, and how to gain more money.
1. Assess and Break Down Your Finances
When you are trying to keep your bills from exceeding your income, the first thing to do is sit down and take stock of your financial situation.
- Examine your net worth. Subtract your debt from your assets to get a good idea of where you stand. Then, figure out your cash flow.
- This means determining how much money you have coming in each month. Then, compare how much you have going out in bills each month.
- Once you have figured out how much money you have coming in versus how much money you have going out, breaking these big numbers into different categories can help you control your spending.
For instance, determine how much you spend on food, gas, utilities, rent or mortgage payments, credit card debt, clothing, student loans, car notes, personal loans, insurance, personal care, vacations, and entertainment.
2. Write Down a Budget
It is hard to keep track of your financial health if you are going by memory.
One of the best ways to visualize your spending and saving is to have an online app or physical planner where you write down how you will spend your money.
If you want to increase your spending, you can commit to avoiding personal impulse buying by putting a miscellaneous spending category on the budget. For example, you can buy clothing or tools out of this budgeted section without guilt or overspending if your other expenses are covered.
3. Slash Discretionary Spending
It is easy to go out to eat every week or get caught up in an impulsive Amazon spending habit. If you do not need it to live (rent, mortgage, food, or loans), then cut it out. If you have credit card debt, this is a contractual obligation that you need to pay.
Taking control of your financial wellbeing and reining in your bills requires determination. No excuses. This means that you may want to cook at home when you do not feel like it. Cutting out the fat can mean downsizing, cutting out fancy vacations, or canceling extra subscriptions.
Although it is hard to cut discretionary spending, taking this step is enough for most people to get their budget back on track. Even though it can hurt, cutting out unnecessary expenditures can put more money in the bank and help you sleep better at night.
4. Prioritize Your Bills
Sometimes, trimming the fat from your expenses is enough to keep your head above water.
If you are trying to maximize your savings, you need to organize your debts. This can mean making hard decisions about which bills to pay first.
- First, look over your secured debts. These are things like your car loan or mortgage. If you fail to pay these bills, you could lose valuable assets like your house or vehicle.
- Next, make sure you budget enough to pay for your utilities and insurance each month. You do not want to drive uninsured or have your power cut off.
- Finally, review your unsecured credit card debt. While you want to pay these bills on time to avoid credit issues, you might need to put these payments on the back burner if you cannot keep up with your secured bills.
Keep track of your prioritized bills by using a good spreadsheet. When you have money left after paying essential bills, put that money towards paying down credit card debt. You can also carry forward any savings to your next pay period.
5. Set Aside Money in Separate Accounts
As you create your budget, put aside money for recurrent bills each month. It helps accumulate cash to pay large, annual, or expected bills in a separate account.
In addition, putting this money into a different account will help keep you from siphoning off money that you need for upcoming bills.
6. Centralize Your Bills
Are you always stacking bills on tables or stuffing them in drawers? It is easy to overlook bills and skip due dates this way.
One good method to ensure that you do not miss any bills is to organize them in a central spot.
Organizing your bills all in one place can be as simple as buying a basic letter carrier box. Hang it up and pigeonhole your bills in it when they arrive. You can stick each envelope in a numbered slot.
Putting the due date even a day earlier than the bill’s actual due date can help you pay bills on time.
7. Pare Down Essentials
If you are desperate to escape living paycheck to paycheck and restore equilibrium to your monthly balance, there are extra things that you can do to tighten your belt.
Tweaking your lifestyle at home can help you save some extra money each month.
While you do not need to shiver in the cold darkness, you could reduce your cooling or heating costs. Consider turning up the thermostat when you leave for work in the summer.
Then, you can turn it back down when you come home to feel comfortable. In addition, you can cut down on your utility bill by not blasting cold air on high while you’re not home.
The same thing applies to heating costs. So, grab a sweater or an extra blanket and get cozy.
Even if it is not your favorite way to live, for now, things like reducing your power bill by turning off lights, doing laundry on a cold cycle, taking shorter or cooler showers, and switching off ceiling fans if you are away can all help keep your bills from exceeding your income.
You can also get your family involved in saving money together by watching TV together in the same room instead of having separate TVs in each room.
See if you can live with basic cable or a streaming service option instead of the more expensive digital TV.
8. Pack a Lunch
One of the fastest ways to keep down bills is by cooking at home. Instead of grabbing lunch on the go or ordering takeout, buy meat, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Make your own.
Meal planning can save you money every day. However, you can also create healthier options. For example, take your lunch to the park or create a fun dinner date to spice up an everyday lunch.
You can also avoid spending too much on spontaneous dining with friends and family by avoiding going out at mealtimes.
If you do not know how to meal prep or want some fresh recipe ideas, many cooking tutorials and tasty meal ideas are available online.
9. Get a Good Deal from Your Billing Company
Save even when you’re paying the bills by asking for options. If you have a good record with the company, their representatives are more likely to work with you if you have fallen on hard times.
Communication is everything.
For example, if you need to push off a bill this month, ask to switch your billing date. Some companies may let you set up a payment plan instead of paying in full. You might even be able to cancel extra features that you do not need but might end up paying for if you don’t ask.
10. Pick Up Extra Work
There is only so much fat that you can trim when it comes down to it.
Sometimes, balancing your bills and income means you might need to start a side hustle or pick up an extra job. Even if you do not plan to have a food service, retail, or hospitality career, seasonal, temp, or part-time work can help pay the bills.
Keep in mind that saving money can put you in a better financial situation for the future. However, just because you might have to make radical changes now doesn’t mean this will last forever.
Image credit: [Aajan]