How many of you are in regular work, and yet you find yourself struggling to stay afloat financially? Do you dream of living beyond your next pay check and having money at the end of the month?
So-called ‘in-work poverty’ is a growing problem for many. According to the experts at JRC, the number of working people living in poverty has grown by a million. It’s a shocking stat, that has its roots in the growth of low-paid jobs with few prospects. It leaves you feeling trapped in an endless cycle of barely earning enough to survive each month.
We’re not going to try and offer any solutions to that far larger challenge of low-paid jobs and in-work poverty here. But we do want to suggest a few ways we can all begin to live beyond the cycle of simply surviving pay check to pay check. Want to have money left over at the end of each month? Here are just a few ideas.
To have money at the end of the month, first review all your fixed costs
These fall into a couple of categories. Firstly there are the fixed monthly outgoings that are essential to you. This includes things like the mortgage payments, or your car tax. They are the areas of your spending that you are unlikely to be able to change much.
Of course, there is always some potential room for manoeuvre – by moving to a smaller house, or scrapping your car, for example. But the chances are that tweaking these kinds of essential fixed costs will involve some major lifestyle changes.
So, our tip is to look at those other, less critical fixed costs that you can influence and change. Broadband and utility providers constantly put prices up for existing customers while offering deals for new ones, so it always pays to shop around.
Also, review all your subscriptions. Modern life offers subscriptions to everything now – whether it is streaming music and TV or getting a box of cosmetics or fresh veg delivered to your door.
So take a long hard look at what you’ve signed up for, and assess what you actually use. If it’s not necessary, it might be time to cancel that subscription.
Pay into your savings first
Saving for the future might seem like a distant dream when you’re struggling to afford to live now. But there are a couple of ways to begin to do it.
The first is simply to automate your savings. You might want to use an app like Acorns, or an online-only bank like Starling to round up your purchases and squirrel away the difference, how ever small. You’ll be surprised how quickly it builds up. Or, it might simply be a matter of setting up a regular direct debit into a savings account.
Whatever you do, the second point is equally important: put your money into savings first, before you spend on anything else. Anyone who has ever tried to save knows that if you leave saving until you have spent the rest of the money on everything else, there won’t be anything left to put away.
Begin to pay off any debts
However small your contributions, and however slowly you do it, crushing your debts is key. Why? Because if you don’t, they will cost you a fortune in the long run.
The whole model of mortgages, loans, credit cards and overdrafts is predicated on the idea that you pay back far more than you borrow. The longer it takes you to pay it back, the more you pay. And if you’re borrowing without arranging it first, or you’re late, then you’ll pay even more in fees.
So, focus on clearing your debts, even before you begin to try and save. Beyond paying too much for things you don’t really need, and failing to chase the best deals for regular fixed costs, it represents the biggest factor that is locking you into that cycle of living pay check to pay check.
And the secret formula to breaking that cycle? Once again: clear your debts, cut your costs and begin to save for the future, even if it is just a little at a time.