We all know the term "living from paycheck to paycheck." Some of us (a whopping 45 percent of Americans) know it better than others. The burning question is, how do we get out of this endless paycheck cycle and move into financial bliss?
Easily, says Michael B. Rubin, author of "Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck." Rubin says most young adults want to improve their financial futures, despite the appearance of poor habits and a sense of indifference.
In his book, Rubin, also a CFP, CPA and founder of Total Candor, a financial planning education company, offers 10 easy strategies to increase your savings level without becoming cheap. Here’s how:
- Don’t become emotionally separated from your money. "Try using cash instead of credit cards for awhile. Keep track for a couple of months and see if your expenses decrease. Handing over six hard-earned twenties is far more difficult than charging $119.40 on a credit card."
- Understand and be honest about expense classifications. "Think of discretionary expenses as ‘wants’ and non discretionary expenses as ‘needs.’ Think about decisions you make everyday. Are the bulk of your purchases legitimately needs, or do you just view them that way? Eating is a need. Eating out is a want."
- The time to lower your "needs" spending was yesterday. "It is you who must care enough to review your spending priorities before you make a commitment to an apartment lease, mortgage, or car. Just because someone will sell you something doesn’t mean you can actually afford it."
- Enjoy free stuff. "Many people think they can’t have a good time unless they spend a fair amount of money. But that belief is based on what has been successful for them in their recent past, not on reality." Try reading a book, lying on the beach or playing sports with friends without spending a dime.
- Major on the major. "Don’t spend much time evaluating minor expenses, such as where to buy pizza. Rather, put major focus on major purchases… A good rule of thumb is to treat anything you can’t pay for entirely when you buy it as major."
- Enjoy being with people you like. "Your friends make the evening enjoyable – not the menu design or the lighting where you meet. When a few friends suggest meeting for dinner, it’s perfectly fine to suggest a place you loved when you had less money. Don’t be surprised if one or two of your friends thank you for your suggestion – in private."
- Don’t blow off the recurring minor. "Small recurring expenses aren’t truly minor. Examples include your cable bill, your cell phone plan, and your morning coffee. Estimate the cost of such expenses for a full year. Are you comfortable with that level of spending? Regardless, don’t try to change all your habits at once, but see if you can find at least one minor recurring expense to cut."
- Spend with comfort on items or experiences you value highly. "As with time management, you cannot prioritize all financial desires as ‘highly important.’ A better approach is to prioritize your desires. When you know what you truly value, you can spend on those things with no guilt. Sacrifice what is not important to you."
- You won’t spend what you don’t see. "If you spend the money you have available (but not more), you quickly learn to spend less. You must, because the missing 10 percent isn’t sitting in your checking account."
- Constant budgeting isn’t required. The task is too inflexible to deal with life’s spontaneity, says Rubin. "Evaluate what you can afford based on your income level and spending history."