How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

*This post may contain affiliate links, please see my disclosure

Money. Is. Stressful.

Can any of you relate?

A recent poll by VARO determined that 85% of Americans experience financial stress, including 30% who “feel stressed out about money constantly.”

Another study by Careerbuilder in 2017 showed that nearly 80% of America is living Paycheck to Paycheck.

That means most of you are stuck.

  • Stuck in a cycle of never-ending debt
  • Stuck working without saving anything
  • Stuck with the stress of juggling monthly bill due dates
  • Stuck just one “emergency event” away from financial ruin

But there is hope.

I’ll show you STEP BY STEP how to stop living paycheck to paycheck, eliminating your money stress and putting you on the path toward financial freedom!

WARNING: This strategy only works if you COMMIT to making the changes detailed below. If you TRULY want to stop living paycheck to paycheck, follow ALL of the below steps, and experience a taste of what Financial Freedom feels like!

Stop Living Paycheck To Paycheck

Track Your Income

The first step to getting ahead with your money is knowing how much is coming in, and when.

Create a list of the next few months’ paychecks, including the amount and when they will be deposited (you can pull out a calendar if that helps). This will help you visualize your money, and plan your expenses around it.


Paycheck Date Amount
May 3 $2,800
May 17 $2,800
May 31 $2,800
June 14 $2,800
June 28 $2,800

Track Your Expenses

Next, you need to find out how much money you are spending.

If you’ve walked through my steps on How To Start A Budget, you already have this written down. If not, just take it already, here’s a quick summary of what you need to do:

  1. Download and print out all credit card and bank statements for the past 2 months
  2. Categorize EVERY transaction
  3. Total up spending in each category

This will paint a picture of your typical monthly spending, and allow you to see the money coming in AND going out.


Category Total
Rent/Mortgage $1,600
Groceries $800
Restaurants $400
Auto/Transportation $900
Monthly Bills $600
Debt $400
Other Stuff $500

Change Your Monthly Billing Due Dates

When Michelle and I first got married, we constantly stressed about WHEN I got paid and WHEN our bills were due. It seemed like we were ALWAYS anticipating the next paycheck, only to have a bill take all the money away!

It was maddening!

That was until we learned that we could actually CONTROL when our bills were due!

Hint: This is the KEY to stopping the madness of your paycheck to paycheck lifestyle!

For every monthly bill, do the following steps:

  1. Call up the billing department (or log in online), and find out when the bill is due.
  2. Write this down on the same calendar that you input your paycheck amounts
  3. Write down the TYPICAL BILL AMOUNT on that due date


Bill Amount Due Date
Rent $    1,200.00 1st
Electric  $         50.00 8th
Water/Sewer  $         40.00 26th
Garbage  $         25.00 28th
Internet  $         40.00 10th
Car Insurance  $         80.00 5th
Cell Phone  $         55.00 16th

How does it look so far? You may find that your bills are WAY MORE at the beginning of the month (usually because that’s when Rent/Mortgage payments are due).

If your bills are too heavy at the beginning or end of the month, you CAN CHANGE THIS. Follow the below steps to adjust the due dates AND automate payments.

  • Call up the billing department, and ask them to CHANGE the due date of the bill
    1. You may need to pay a small pro-rated amount to adjust the billing cycle
  • Make sure you balance your bills based on your calendar.
    1. The goal here is to split up the load so you have the SAME amount of money (after paying bills) for each paycheck.
    2. For example: If your $1,200 rent is due on the 1st, move your utilities, phone bill, internet bill, etc to the 16th of the month (or whenever your next paycheck typically arrives). This helps you “survive” until your next paycheck, without borrowing to bridge the gap.
  • Once you have adjusted the schedule, AUTOMATE your payments.
    1. You can do this over the phone or online.
    2. Input your bank account or Debit Card info (stay away from credit cards at this point), and ensure your payment goes through on your newly revised due dates.
    3. This will take away the stress of remembering WHEN your bills are due, and help create a habit of always paying on time without having to stress about it.


Bill Amount Due Date
Rent $    1,200.00 1st
Electric  $         50.00 16th
Water/Sewer  $         40.00 16th
Garbage  $         25.00 16th
Internet  $         40.00 16th
Car Insurance  $         80.00 16th
Cell Phone  $         55.00 16th

Now you can breathe a little easier, and move on to the next step of getting out the paycheck to paycheck cycle FOR GOOD.

Save Your Way To Freedom (Automagically)!

Now that you’ve setup your bills to work on YOUR schedule, it’s time to get yourself ahead with a “Paycheck Buffer” savings account. This is a place to start depositing money that will EVENTUALLY get you ahead of your paychecks!

I recommend using a CapitalOne 360 Savings Account. This is what I personally use for ALL our “Savings Buckets”, and is the simplest way to start building your “Paycheck Buffer” savings.

p.s. You can use my referral link below for a FREE $25 when you sign up for a Capital One 360 Account and deposit just $250! Sign up below:

  1. To setup your AUTOMATIC savings, simply log into your account, select the “Paycheck Buffer” savings account, and select “Transfer.”
  2. Here are the options to set up:
    1. Transfer From: Select your linked bank account, where your paychecks are deposited
    2. Transfer To: Select your “Paycheck Buffer” savings account
    3. Frequency: Select your pay cycle.
      1. For example: Bi-Weekly paycheck will select “Every Other Week”
    4. Start Date: Select the DAY AFTER you get paid
    5. End Date: Don’t need one as you will save until you are a full paycheck ahead

Your goal here is to automatically save each paycheck to start building a savings toward getting ahead of your paychecks. Adjust the amount as necessary, but the goal here is to save the money WITHOUT thinking about it!

Hint: This is how I recommend saving for ALL goals!

Find More Money!

Now that you have started saving some money each paycheck, it’s time to tackle your expenses and find MORE ways to save money and make money. This can really accelerate your savings goal of getting one paycheck ahead.

First, I recommend going through my article on 18+ Ways To Save BIG Money, that details a bunch of ways to slash your monthly budget right away. You can literally save HUNDREDS per month just following that one simple cheat sheet.

Next, it’s time to find EXTRA money to boost your savings. Here are a few quick ways to add to your savings this month:

Sell Stuff

This may seem like a hassle, but with the invention of Facebook Marketplace, selling stuff you don’t need is a quick way to make some real cash.

My wife and I sold over $7,000 worth of our stuff in 6 months when preparing for our year-long RV Trip, and most of it was sold through Facebook Marketplace, with minimal issue.

We also held a few successful garage sales. While these sometimes seem like a waste, we were able to make a few hundred dollars each time. Just make sure you OPEN EARLY, and start on FRIDAY (high time for garage sale buyers).

Side Jobs

There are a TON of ways to make some extra money, so why not do something to add a few dollars each month toward your goal of getting ahead on your paychecks?

Side hustles are my favorite way of accelerating my goals! So turn off Netflix and get to making some cold, hard cash!

Use Your Tax Return

If you are still saving toward this goal at tax time, why not use your tax return to INSTANTLY boost your savings and possibly put you over the top?! Big screen TV’s are the most popular place people spend their tax return, but how about a lifetime of STRESS FREE MONEY instead?

Sound like a good trade-off?

SHORT CUT: Don’t Forget Your Extra Paycheck!

The magic of the bi-weekly paycheck is that twice a year, you get an EXTRA PAYCHECK! Since your budget is based on TWO paychecks per month, when you have a “3 paycheck month“, you can FULLY deposit that extra paycheck into your savings account.

Using this shortcut, you will AUTOMATICALLY BE ONE PAYCHECK AHEAD!

You Are No Longer A Statistic!

Once you are at least ONE PAYCHECK ahead, you are no longer stuck. You have put in the work and now you are paying your bills with your previous check, and not counting down the days until payday!

You will no longer be a statistic, and can now join the 22% of America that is no longer living paycheck to paycheck.


p.s. The Ultimate Goal is to live on last month’s money, or being “one month ahead”. You can use this same formula to continue saving until you have reached that goal, and will TRULY experience Financial Freedom in your life.

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

Leave a Comment