Reader Testimonial: How I Stopped Living Paycheque to Paycheque

Here's an inspiring story on how one family stopped living paycheck to paycheck. Full of practical tips to help you out.

The following is a Financial success testimonial from Alison!  Enjoy!

This year I had a goal of depositing two full paychecks directly into my savings account on top of my regular monthly 10% savings. I was discussing my budgeting and savings plans with a credit counselor and she told me she had never known someone to be successful at what I was planning…challenge accepted! This past month I was able to successfully do this and wanted to share with other frugal minded individuals how I did it so you can too.

My employer pays me bi-weekly, which means I receive two paychecks every month except for two wonderful months of the year when I receive three paychecks.  At first this provided an interesting budgeting challenge because there are a few ways to calculate a monthly salary:

1.   Take the overall yearly salary and divide it by 12 months.
For example, if I made $39,000 per year and divided that by 12 months, I would get a monthly salary of $3,250. This number is valuable for certain financial situations, but unrealistic for my monthly budgeting.

2.   Add up the paychecks received in a month.
In this scenario, if I made $39,000/year, 10 months of the year I would be paid $3,000 and the other two months of the year I would be paid $4,500.

When creating a budget, what was I supposed to do with these three different amounts: $3250, $3000, and $4500? I started by making a decision:  I do not want to live paycheck to paycheck.  I wanted to create a system that always had me ahead of the game.  I also decided to live off the amount of money I am paid for those 10 months of the year involving two paychecks and was determined to put those additional two paychecks, in their entirety, directly into my savings account.  Saving 10% of my regular monthly salary is great, but I wanted a better security net.

Here’s what I did:

  • Took my lowest monthly income number to create a realistic budget.
  • Used helpful tools such as “Budgeting Basics – How to Get Started” found on Simply Frugal and tracked my expenses to determine what was sustainable.
  • Created an overall budget that allotted every dollar of my two paychecks per month.
  • Determined what money I would need as cash on hand during a month and what I could leave in a separate bank account. For example, grocery money is cash I need to take out of the bank. Gift purchases or dental appointments, while budgeted for, are not necessarily money spent every month. I’ll call these my “planning ahead expenses.”
  • Once the budget was nailed down, I totaled all my “planning ahead expenses” and my savings, then divided those numbers in half. This is what I transfer out of my main chequing account every paycheck into sub-accounts. For example, $20 per month is budgeted for gifts, of which $10 is transferred every paycheck to a “Gifts Account.”
  • Leave the rest of the money needed for cash on hand or for bills directly debited out of my chequing account to build up my monthly float. My monthly float is every dollar that I will spend during the next month.

Through the month as I deposit each paycheck, I transfer out all of my “planning ahead expenses” and let the rest remain to build up for the next month. Because each paycheck that I deposit into my account is not needed for any immediate expenses, I am released from my dependence on it. When I deposit a paycheck, I have no thought of spending it because I know I do not need it for the current month. This freedom is essential because when one of those three paycheck months comes along, I treat the first two checks just like any other normal month by transferring out my “plan aheads” and building up my float. Those two checks set me up for the next month and that third one can go straight into my savings account without a second thought.

Using this system of building up a float is how I stay away from living paycheck to paycheck. I did sacrifice a bit of savings to set myself up in this way, but the benefits are worth it:

  • Eliminated the stress of relying on my next immediate paycheck.
  • An extra month’s cushion of money if I lost my job, in addition to my emergency fund.
  • At the end of every month, I have exactly the amount of money I need in my account to pay my bills and variable expenses for the coming month.

Sticking to this takes planning and discipline, but it is worth it when I see the big jump in savings a couple times a year! It is also worth it to know that being frugal and wise with my money allows me to do something that someone in the financial world thought wasn’t possible.

About Alison:  I am a lover of coupons and good deals; I believe in saving money where I can so I can spend it on what really matters. I am currently exploring my childhood dream of being a writer through internet ramblings on my blog: http://theconvertedagnostic.wordpress.com

Do you have a financial success story you’d love to share to help inspire others?  Send your stories to me here.



Comments

  1. Carrie Dodd says:

    That’s harder to do with bi-weekly mortgage as you never have the extra full paycheques!

  2. Any tips on how to live more efficiently when your income fluctuates greatly from year to year and paycheques are sporadic? DH is a realtor and last year he had an awesome year and we bought a house and renovated. We put 25% down and paid for all the renos out of our savings – we were doing great. Now, he hasn’t had a paycheque since November and though he has $30,000 coming within the next 45 days, it’s already spoken for with taxes and bills that we ended up putting on our line of credit to get this far.

  3. Lisa Paquette says:

    Awesomely done! 🙂

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