As you can probably imagine, most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. This means they spend money as they earn it.
But, what if you could cover all your expenses at the start of the month – before you even get paid? Then, when you get paid, imagine how much more organized and financially prepared you’d feel. You wouldn’t actually need that money for another 30 days and it could sit in your bank account.
Getting one month ahead on your expenses is a cool concept. Here are 8 things you can do to make this happen.
1. Add Up All Your Monthly Expenses
First, you’ll want to get a good idea of how much your monthly expenses are. So, go through your budget and track your spending to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Be realistic about how much you comfortably spend in a given month. Sometimes, what you actually spend doesn’t match the amount you budgeted for. Make sure you go back to your budget and enter in how much things really cost. For example, once you know you’re spending a set amount per month, you’ll know how much you need to have in order to get one month ahead and save for the following month.
2. Use Lump Sum Payments and Windfalls
If you get windfalls like a tax refund, inheritance or a bonus at your job, you can use this money to cover your expenses for the month.
Then, you can save whatever you earn during this time for the following month. Before you know it, you’re one month ahead and no longer living paycheck to paycheck.
3. Give Up a Vacation
The average vacation can cost a family more than $1,000. It may be no fun to forego a trip, but doing so will allow you to save up the money you need – fast.
But you don’t have to sit home and do nothing. Consider taking a staycation and planning low-cost or free activities during your week home from work. Then, take all that money you would have spent traveling and sock it away into your bank account.
4. Eat Through Your Pantry
If you spend hundreds of dollars on groceries each month, see if you can challenge yourself to cut that amount in half.
This may be difficult, but you can do it by getting creative and encouraging your family to use up food in your pantry and freezer. You can also shop the sales at your local supermarket and buy generic brands. Then, eat at home for 30 days and see how much money you can save.
5. Cancel Subscriptions
Try cutting out subscriptions in order to temporarily save money. This can include things like your gym membership, cable, streaming services, subscription boxes and so on.
Consider cheaper alternatives or do without for a few weeks – or more. For example, you can likely exercise outside or at home without having a gym membership.
Once you get a month ahead on your expenses and you’re into a good rhythm of saving money, you can consider adding back in your favorite subscriptions.
6. Sell Stuff From Your Home
You may have a lot of unused items lying around your house. Stop telling yourself that you’re going to fix them or use them again someday. You know that’s probably not true.
7. Try Saving Half of Your Partner’s Income
If you have a two-income household, consider saving half of one of your incomes. This may sound like a stretch, especially if you’ve struggled with saving money in the past.
However, you can achieve this with dedication and the right plan. Start by committing to save half of the lower income in the family. For example, if your partner brings home $2,000 and you bring home $3,500 a month, commit to saving half of his income which would be $1,000/month.
You may have to make several cuts, like not dining out as much, finding free and cheap entertainment, reducing your utility use, driving less to save on gas, getting new quotes for lower insurance rates, and finding a cheaper phone company. Remember: All of these changes can be temporary.
8. Hustle Like Crazy
This is an option you can consider once you’d made a solid effort to reduce your expenses. Making extra money can help you meet your goals faster without sacrificing your lifestyle for an extended time.
For example, see if you can pick up more hours at work, get a part-time job or start a flexible side hustle. You can donate plasma, apply for focus groups and panel studies, walk dogs, babysit, edit resumes, clean cars, or offer your services as a graphic designer. The sky’s the limit.
Anything extra you can do to earn more money will get you closer to your savings goal.
Focus On Big Wins
Getting one month ahead on your expenses can be intimidating. So, try to focus on big wins and make sacrifices for a short period of time.
For instance, if you need to save up $4,000 to cover one months’ worth of expenses, setting aside only $50 per month will drag out the process and you can lose motivation before you reach your goal.
Instead, go after big wins that will allow you to save larger chunks of money in a shorter period of time. For example, cutting out four subscriptions, curbing your dining out habit, and not taking a summer vacation can result in thousands of freed up dollars over just a couple of months. From there, you’ll quickly get one month ahead, which will improve your cash flow and allow you to pay for surprise expenses.