This year has been a little tighter than usual for us financially for a number of reasons. Things aren't at the point of desperation by any means, but we have had to answer some financial wake-up calls throughout the year. Not a full-out, kidney-stone-level emergency room visit, but more like acid indigestion. This appears in a few ways:
- We start asking when my paycheck will be deposited. Because, this month, it matters if I get a paycheck before our credit card bill is pulled out in one chunk. We have our automatic payment set to pay off the balance in full (as we should) but these two payments will pass each other closely enough to be called a near miss.
- We start shuffling around money from savings accounts. Savings accounts are meant to be cushions. We have cash and non-cash cushions, but lately we're getting to the end of some of our cash cushions. Next comes selling things that I don't necessarily want to sell right now.
- We start reining in some of our discretionary spending. Not that eating out less is the end of the world, but if we are used to having a lunch date with friends after church and need to hold off for a while to reduce the Visa bill, it's a sign.
- We pray that the rent check comes in. Even though we have not yet experienced a lapse in payments from any of our tenants, it becomes financially interesting if the rent check goes missing. Our mortgage payment is due regardless.
In other words, the outflows have begun to overtake our inflows. Put another way: we have been living paycheck to paycheck or even beyond it a bit.
The good news is that our family is enough in tune with how things should be going that we can recognize the need to buckle down. And, of course, buckling down at the first sign of turbulence is better than trying to buckle down when the plane is rolled upside-down.
Here are a few measures that can help to get the financial plane back on course if it looks too much like paycheck to paycheck:
- Take stock of savings accounts, if you have them. This will let you know how much cushion you have to work with.
- Take stock of when the big payments are coming out. This will let you know where the “big rocks” are.
- Institute a moratorium on certain kinds of spending. Stopping the spending that isn't deliberate can do a lot to rein in the problem.
- Shuffle the money around sooner rather than later. Transfers from bank accounts can take a few days, so get these in motion ASAP to improve the chances that the money will be there when the bill payments are posted.
- Consider (briefly) paying less than the full balance on credit cards. This incurs interest charges, but making at least the minimum payment will keep the credit card companies happy with you (as in, it's not a missed payment). But this is only meant as a brief measure! Bring the spending under control, and get rid of that balance as soon as possible before it becomes a mainstay.
Any other tricks for making the paycheck last a little longer each month?