The Family Budget - How to not live paycheck to paycheck?

According to a recent Career Builder study, 78% of U.S. workers are living paycheck to paycheck. That is nearly 8 out of 10 working adults who can't pay their bills beyond their next paycheck.

When it comes to a family budget there are only TWO ways to put yourself in a better position so you are not living paycheck to paycheck. You can either cut expenses or increase your paychecks. For many people, cutting expenses are hard not because we can't cut expenses, but because we don't want to give something up. I am not about to give up my $0.86 Polar Pop from Circle K in the morning even though it's probably doing horrible things to my body. But if I cut that out, I'd save about $600 - $700 a year (I pretty much go twice a day...everyday). You might be in a situation where the expense you can cut isn't easily cuttable. I just signed a lease for my second year at my apartment. $1,296 down the drain each month for the next year. If I all of a sudden had this feeling to cut my expenses, I can't just go up to my leasing agent and cancel my lease or renegotiate it.

So if cutting your expenses doesn't work, then increasing your paycheck might be the other option. Here are three ways you can increase your paycheck:

Negotiate for a Raise

For many people, this is the hardest option of the three. Negotiating a raise can often be difficult to do, however, there are a few things you need to know when it comes to asking for a raise:

1) What type of job are doing you doing?

Jobs that are easily replaceable have a harder time negotiating than a job that requires very technical skills that not everyone can perform. For instance, a fast food worker can be replaced faster than a neurologist. A neurologist isn’t someone you can find off the street (if you can, well, I’m wrong). Neurologists are highly trained individuals and have a lot of knowledge to perform their job. A fast-food worker can have a week of training and do a decent job at their task.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for a raise, it just means that it would be harder for management to be okay with it when they can easily replace you with someone else.

2) What is your work performance against the (1) standard or (2) everyone else?

Every job has a “standard” in which must be met. For instance, if you drive for FedEx the standard may be 22 packages delivered per hour (not saying that it is, just saying it). Well if we know the standard is 22 packages per hour, are you hitting 22 packages per hour or are you hitting less than 22 packages an hour? If you’re able to do 35 packages per hour, you are not only saving your company money because you’re almost delivering double the standard but are performing well above management’s expectation. This may be a great reason you deserve a raise. (Consistency is the key here, you can’t just deliver 35 packages an hour in one day and then ask for a raise the next time you see your boss).

What about your performance against everyone else in similar roles? If there are three drivers and you’re hitting 33, but everyone else is hitting 30 - 35, then it isn’t impressive. But if you are hitting 33 and your co-workers are hitting 22 under similar conditions, then you’re making yourself more valuable to an organization and have a case for a raise.

3) How are you paid against your similar peers?

If everything is similar in nature, then how does your pay match that of other co-workers? Are you underpaid against someone else or are you properly paid. What is your argument that you get paid more than the next guy? One of the mistakes a worker makes is staying with a company for X amount of years and just because how raises go, you are making $32,000 a year after 8 years of service, but someone who is new is starting at $30,000 a year. There is a problem here. One would argue that you should be paid way more than someone starting new, like $35,000 - $38,000. What the company is saying is that your loyalty is only worth $2,000. This might be a great case of why you should be paid more.

At the end of the day, you have to arm yourself with a compelling reason why they need to keep you around and why they need to pay you more. This does mean that you might have to walk away from your job to get the higher salary (see my comment below about finding a new job).

Side Hustle

In today’s economy, there isn’t really a reason you CAN’T make more money (minus the time you have, I guess). Let me list out some apps that you can make a few bucks now:

  • Favor - Food Delivery

  • Market Force - Secret Shopping

  • Grub Hub - Food Delivery

  • Postmates - Food Delivery

  • Jyve - Restocking of Grocery Shelves

  • Spin - Recharging Scooter

  • Bird - Recharging Scooter

  • Door Dash - Food Delivery

  • Instacart - Grocery Delivery

  • Wag - Dog Walking

  • Uber - Transportation Services

  • Lyft - Transportation Services

  • Uber Eats - Food Delivery

  • Shipt - Grocery Delivery

These are not all of them of course, but as you can see there are many ways you can make money now. Granted, if you read reviews for all of these apps, there are going to be pros and cons to each one and that doesn’t take away from the fact that your time might be worth more than the $6 deliver of Taco Bell to the other side of town 20 minutes away and $3.25 in gas money. It happens! You’re still positive $2.75. Shoot, I have orders that I’ve done where I’ve lost money and time, but after you get the hang of it and know what you are looking for, they become less and less or maybe you need to take a loss to have a bigger gain later.

One thing to really note about these side hustles, most of them don’t have a minimum requirement to stay on the app. So for instance, I have at least 6 of these apps registered and I can sign-on if I have free time and make a few bucks with my time. I really only use like two of them, maybe a third if I am not getting anything on the other two, but this helps to make sure I stay pretty busy. I found this really cool video on YouTube of someone who did these gigs for 24 hours straight I am going to link it here, but the purpose of sharing this video is not for you to do 24 hours, but to see how he uses different apps to ensure he was busy most or all of the time. Also, don’t take the word of someone on YouTube or some blog on how much they made using a particular app. It doesn’t mean you will make the same or you can’t make more. For instance, in this video (above) he makes $283.24 prior to expenses for working 21 hours, but if I do one of my apps right, I can make close to that in 13 hours on a weekend day (it usually is really tough to do that level of income during the week on any of the apps - at least for me).

The cool thing about a side hustle is that you can do it when you have free time and not do it when you don’t want to.

change employers

This can be controversial for people because there are so many reasons why one doesn’t WANT to do it:

  • I don’t know where I would go next

  • I don’t want to interview and do all of that crap

  • I don’t want to start at the bottom

  • It doesn’t make sense to change companies

  • My spouse works there too

  • I like the people I work with

  • I’ve been with them for X amount of years

  • It’s close to my home

  • I can grow here

  • They have a free snack area for employees

Whatever your reasons for not wanting to chance employers are probably valid reasons, but the real question is what are you looking for when you are reading a blog post like this one? If you’re looking to increase your financial wealth and increase your income and the other options are not options, then switching jobs might be the thing you need to do. Sure, nobody likes change, but it can help you advance your family financials.

In 2018 I made that change. I was at my previous employer for 5 years, I felt like I was going to stay around for a few more years shoot, I even bought a house. You should check out that house in my rental property reports (shameless plug here). During that year, I decided to see what I was worth in the market because I was getting 0% raise that year and 1% raise the prior year before and the economy was on FIRE (no connection to the FIRE movement - Financial Independence, Retire Early). I found this job in San Antonio and after my interviews and doing a little bit of negotiating, my base salary jumped 28.9% which basically was the cost of living adjustment considering the cost difference between living in Kansas and living in Texas increased by 28.4% (according to a calculation on bestplaces.net). You might look at that and go, that doesn’t make sense, you’re basically equal, but you had to move.

The move gave me more opportunities which helped with my financial well being. Currently, my overall income will jump about 52.12% due to the ability to teach summer school (which I couldn’t do at my last job) and I can now do side gigs since I am in a major metropolitan city. I am estimating that my next tax return will show an income almost double that the year before. Which is way more than the increase in the cost of living.

So sometimes changing jobs (and in this case location too) may increase your ability to bring more revenues into the household. Your situation doesn’t have to be this drastic because you can look for another employer in the area where your skills will be valued and see if you can get hired there that pays more. There is nothing wrong with that. For someone making $50,000, a $3,000 increase in salary means that you have effectively given yourself 6% raise which is sometimes unheard of when it comes to annual raises.

However you decide to increase your income, the important take away is finding other opportunities that allow you to increase your income so that you don’t have to decrease your expenses. That’s the goal and any one of these tips might be your answer to increasing your income each and every paycheck.