How to Stop Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck

How to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck will take time, sacrifice, and patience. The solution won’t be easy, and it might be counter intuitive. It will focus primarily on lifestyle choices, not on strategies to get more money.

How to Stop Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck

How to Stop Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck and be free
How to Stop Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck and be free

Since the apparent problem is a lack of money, logically, it would seem more money will solve it. But, it won’t. Money isn’t the obstacle. It’s your choices that led to debt. Money is the symptom.

For a short-term fix, you could try to change income or expenses. But for the long-term, first you should accept the principle to live on no more than current income. So, you need to look at ways to lower expenses. This starts with deciding to review your attitude toward money—what you believe about money.

Your attitude decides your behaviour. And your attitude and behaviour results in specific consequences (a+b=c). You might think your income is low, but that’s relative. The key issue is to accept who you are, where you are, and what you have (Hebrews 13:5, 2 Kings 4:1-7) as the basis to build and move on.

We can learn much from Oseola McCarty. I encourage you to take a moment to read about Oseola McCarty. Her story will encourage and bless you.

Sometimes we are so preoccupied trying to change our circumstances, we miss many opportunities God brings to us (2 Kings 6:17). Then again, what we think is essential to life might not be necessary and we may have to forgo it for a while. This is difficult to accept because, often it could mean a temporary lowering of standard of living.

Check Your ABCs to Stop Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck?

How to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck? Reflect on these matters about your attitude toward money:

  1. How do you view a credit card? Do you believe it is an income supplement? It’s not! Use it only when you have funds to pay the balance in full. Otherwise, get rid of it.
  2. Have you reviewed each expense element to determine how to adjust your behaviour to lower or eliminate it so you will spend no more than your current income? Lowering expenses usually means changing your lifestyle. Look at these items for opportunities to lower expenses: Eating out, telephone extras, Internet, cable TV, satellite, transport, housing, entertainment, vacation, consumer items.
  3. Do you believe God owns everything (Psalm 24:1-2) and you are His manager charged with maximizing what He keeps in His Kingdom, and minimizing what you spend?
  4. Do yo believe you should live consistently in your income? Only by spending less than you earn, and keeping your level of spending constant when income rises, will you be able to generate savings to allow you to buy items for cash and not on credit. Buying items using your credit card and paying interest on outstanding balances will keep you living pay check to paycheck.

You Need Help with the Unexpected

I realize that sometimes unexpected medical bills and other major expenses confront you. These are tough times. If you follow Jesus, these are times when you turn to Him. These are times you can grow closer to Him. Don’t turn to the credit card. Lean on Him, ask Him to show you how to deal with these matters. Talk with your pastor. Ask Him and your congregation to pray with you. The Lord has promised that when you seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, He will take care of your needs. So, examine your life, and ask Him to show you where you need to change. Meanwhile, talk with your creditors and tell them about your journey. The Lord will never leave you or forsake you (Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 11:28).

Key Questions to Ponder

After reflecting on your attitude, answer these questions:

  1. Does your expenses include credit card debt payments?
  2. Are you spending more than 70% of your expenses on food, clothing, transport, shelter, and taxes?
  3. Are you spending more than 35% of your expenses on housing expenses?
  4. If you got more money now, do you think you will increase monthly spending?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, normally there is scope to lower expenses.

How to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck? Some folks will suggest you get more income, but while this may be an attractive short-term alternative, it’s essential you go through the above procedure and learn to live within present income, otherwise your mind-set will look to borrowing to maintain a standard of living you cannot afford.

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I assure you from Scripture (Matthew 6:33), Jesus will provide for your needs. But it’s essential you understand needs from Jesus’ perspective. Jesus calls us to love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds. This means we should seek to know His will and let our spending reflect it. Often, we doubt He will provide, so we confuse our wants and needs, and borrow funds and plunge deep in debt. If you don’t know Jesus, I encourage you to go to the Special Invitation From the Shepherd section of this site now.

Use a Spending Plan

Many folks do not use a spending plan and they get “lost” just as if they tried to travel to an unknown destination without a road map. Use a GPS Money Guide. Start by tracking how, when, why, and for what you spend. Decide on a spending decision procedure. Before spending, check your spending plan and follow your spending decision procedure. For major items such as a car or furniture, use the Capital Fund.

How to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck? Go on a spending fast for at least one month to help you decide between wants and needs. If needed, extend this to three months. During a spending fast you spend only on items legally, morally, and ethically needed, and on food to maintain life. You would not spend on discretionary items such as movies or eating out. During this time, you should question why you spend every dollar. Cling to the Lord; He will never leave you.

© 2016, Michel A. Bell

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Michel A. Bell

Michel A. Bell is a former senior business executive, author of six books (including Business Simplified released in 2018), speaker, and adjunct professor of business administration at Briercrest College and Seminary. Michel is a Fellow of the Chartered Certified Accountants (UK), holds a Masters of Science in management degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Doctor of Business Administration honoris causa from Briercrest College and Seminary. He is founder and president of Managing God's Money.

2 thoughts to “How to Stop Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck”

  1. Great words brother Michel…I’m a pastor and have not walked in financial discipline. I am currently in the processing of reversing this terrible trend. In addition, I’ve also began teaching these kingdom principles on finances and getting out of debt God’s way, to God’s church of which I’m a servant leader of. I appreciate your story of how you came to believe and the subsequent work that came as a result of God’s grace.

    It seems I’m heading down the same path regarding teaching faith and finances and it’s real comforting seeing what the road can possibly look like through your life’s work.

    Blessings on your ministry!

    Pastor Sean

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