If it feels like your paycheck is spent before it even hits your bank account, you’re in good company – over 60% of people in the US live payday-to-payday. And though wages are rising nationwide, they’ve been outpaced by inflation and climbing costs of living.
All this makes it difficult to get and stay ahead, but it’s still possible. These tips will show you how to gain financial stability on a tight budget.
It’s easy to fixate on “getting out” when you’re experiencing financial instability. Out from under your monthly expenses, out of the cycle of debt, and out of survival mode. But it’s tough to get away from something if you’re not sure where you’re headed.
What are your long-term financial goals? Maybe you’d like to purchase your first home, zero out your debts, or buy a Tesla. Defining your goals (even if they feel like dreams) provides direction, motivation, and a way to chart your progress.
Taking inventory of your finances can be scary, especially if you’re hovering in the red. But if you want to learn how to gain financial stability, you need to understand your financial landscape.
Start by assessing your money pipeline. Where is your money coming from, and where is it going? Does your spending outweigh your monthly income?
Review your transaction history and identify the expenses you can’t (or don’t want to) change, and those that could be reduced or eliminated. Tackle the latter to find more room in your monthly budget.
Decrease your monthly expenses where you can. This can look like: switching insurance policies; canceling unused memberships and subscriptions; or working with loan services to identify the most affordable repayment plans.
Use the money you save to improve your financial situation – like growing your emergency savings or paying down a high-interest credit card.
Budgets help you get more out of your money, even if there’s not much left after your monthly expenses. Crunch the numbers and determine which bills you’ll pay with which paycheck, set reasonable spending limits, and allocate a specific amount each month towards your financial goals.
Tight budgets leave little room for unexpected expenses. Having some money in savings can keep you from falling behind. Even a small rainy day fund can relieve financial pressure when life throws a curveball – like a blown tire, insurance co-payment, or impound fee.
Allocate a specific, manageable amount for your savings from each paycheck. If you have an online account, you can even set up auto-withdrawal so you don’t even have to think about the transaction.
After you’ve built up your rainy day fund, it’s time to tackle your debts. If you carry high credit card balances and only pay your monthly minimum, you’re not alone – but it could be costing you thousands each year in interest.
Start paying extra on your lowest-balance credit card (even a small amount helps!). Once you’ve paid that off, roll that amount over to the card with the next lowest balance. Rinse, wash, and repeat until you’ve paid off all your debt. This might take time, but it’s how you gain financial stability.
Learn more: 6 Mistakes to Avoid While Paying Down Debt
Don’t forget your future self! Thanks to compound interest, retirement investments become more valuable over time. That’s why it’s never too early to start contributing to a retirement account, especially if your employer matches.
If you don’t have an employer-sponsored option, look into Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).
Even the best plans hit speed bumps along the way. It’s okay to fall short of your monthly goals if you encounter a surprise expense or accidentally overspend.
Learning how to gain financial stability is a process, and missteps don’t mean you should quit. Be gentle with yourself, track your progress, and keep your sights on the future.
Poor credit impacts your ability to gain financial stability more than you think. You’ll pay higher interest rates, which means larger monthly payments. In many states, poor credit equals higher home and auto insurance premiums. You might even get passed over for career opportunities that would increase your salary.
You don’t have to take on more debt to build credit. With StellarFi, you can build a positive credit history with rent payments, utilities bills, and even gym memberships. You pay all these bills every month, you should get some credit for it!
Getting started is easy. The more bills you link, the more you’ll affect your credit score. Ready to give it a try?
StellarFinance, Inc. and its affiliates do not provide financial, tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own financial, tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.
With StellarFi, your bills are paid on time and reported to Experian® and Equifax®.