Living paycheck to paycheck is stressful.
The concept brings to mind a tightrope walker wobbling on the high wire. Unfortunately, it’s a reality for many Americans. A USAA study last year revealed a third of our members are walking that tightrope. Are you?
Whether you’re making $30,000 or $300,000, it’s easy to fall into the trap of living paycheck to paycheck. And the scary thing is you may not even realize it.
Here are seven signs that you’re teetering on a financial tightrope and how to get back on solid ground:
1. You’ve got no cushion.
Forget having that ideal three to six months’ worth of expenses in a savings account. You don’t even have a few hundred dollars to spare for an emergency. That means, if you suddenly needed new tires for your car, you’d have to charge it to a credit card because your cash stash is zero.
The way out: Set up an allotment or have extra money in your bank accounts automatically put toward savings through the USAA Savings Booster. Even $500 or $1,000 can be enough to get out of most scrapes.
2. There’s more month than money.
If you find yourself glancing at the calendar daily, trying to will the next payday to get here sooner, you might have a budgeting problem.
The way out: Look for ways to cut back to stretch your dollars. Focus on one or two specific areas — eating out, for example — and make headway there first. Look for money-making opportunities that can extend the reach of your finances. Part-time work, sharing-economy opportunities like driving, shopping or delivering groceries for others all come to mind. Got some extra space? It might just work as a short-term rental. Be creative.
3. You’re living too much in the moment.
If all of your income (and then some) is dedicated to surviving — or maybe even putting on the appearance of thriving — in the here and now, you could be in some trouble.
The way out: Give yourself some inspiration and motivation to save. Put your goals front and center in your daily routine. Screensavers, photos and even sticky notes to remind you of what you’re saving for can help spur you to action.