Money Savings

How to Get a Month Ahead on Little Income

March 14, 2016
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Get a month ahead – do you think it’s possible?

Do you want to get a month ahead of your expenses so you can stop living paycheck to paycheck? In this article, you will find a scenario and helpful tips to help you defeat this cycle. Grab a notebook and pen and take notes on how to get a month ahead on little income.



Are you sick of living paycheck to paycheck? If so, come see how you can get a month ahead on little income. It is possible!



Why would someone want to get a month ahead?

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, saving a month’s worth of income will alleviate the burden of waiting for each paycheck to come before determining your budget for the month.

You wouldn’t nervously have to wait on your paycheck to hit your account so you could pay your car note.

Matter of fact, you would be putting yourself in a position to forget all about payday because each month you would create a budget based on the amount you earned last month.


Related Reading: Earn More Cash: 21+ Ways to Add $150 to Your Budget


I like telling stories, so let me introduce you to Terri.

Terri is a single thirty-year-old mother of two. Her monthly take-home income (after taxes, insurance, and retirement) is $2,100 a month and she is paid on the 1st and the 15th.

This means twice a month Teri brings home $1,050. She waits on pins and needles for payday to come because she has to pay her $700 rent out of her 15th paycheck so it will be paid on time.

This leaves her with $250 until the first, and this is easily spent on food and utilities. She has no car payment; however, her car is in need of repairs. She wants to set money aside for the expense, but she has to pay childcare.

Here is how her budget works out:

Paycheck 1:  $1,050


Phone bill – $50

Childcare $600

Gas – $75

Car repairs – $0.00

Student Loan Payment – $300

Misc – $25


Paycheck 2: $1,050


Rent payment: $700

Electricity: $100

Groceries: $200

Water: $50


Total: $2,100


As you can see, Teri only has $25.00 left over each month for miscellaneous expenses. If one of her boys were to get sick and needed to go to the doctor, a $10 co-pay would eat up a portion of what’s left over.

If he has to go to the doctor, he’s probably going to need medicine. This would leave her without any money for the remainder of the month.

Teri can’t afford to have a sick child, her car break down, or a higher than usual electricity bill. These types of setbacks are what cause people to go into debt.

I’m pretty sure there are plenty of credit card offers filling up her mailbox and a payday or title loan is probably located nearby.  This is not a recipe for success.

How can someone get a month ahead on little income?  

If you are barely making enough to keep the lights on and food on the table, I understand how it could be tough to think about getting ahead.

A paycheck to paycheck life is vicious and don’t think I haven’t walked a mile or two in these shoes before. It’s tough, but simple changes can create big results!

Let’s continue using Terri as an example. There are some positive things that happen for her each month financially,  so let’s explore them.


Savings on Gas

Terri knows her car could die at any moment. To make sure she’s prepared, she’s already researched alternative (and affordable) ways to get to work every day.

Even though she budgets $75.00 for gas each month, sometimes she doesn’t need that much. She and a co-worker agreed to split carpooling together to extend the life of their vehicles since they live in the same complex.



If one of their cars die, she is prepared to take city transportation and her co-worker has other arrangements. Every other day she takes her co-worker to work and the co-worker returns the favor.

They both realize their situation could change at any moment. Therefore, they use this opportunity to pocket the money they are saving on gas.

Terri ends up using an average $50 to $65 of her gas each month so she saves the $10 to $25 savings. For this example, let’s say for the next six months Terri is able to save $120.  

It might not seem like much, but she has the right mindset.She is saving something no matter how small it is.


Savings on Electricity and Food

Terri also focuses on ways to lower her electricity bill. She unplugs all unused items and adjusts her thermostat for maximum savings.

She creates meal plans and prepares her family’s lunches every day. Again, the savings seem small; however, they are huge wins for her.


Extra Income

Last, Terri babysits her brother’s children on the weekends while he works. Her brother pays her $75 per week and sends food for his kids so he won’t add to her expenses. This brings in an additional $300 per month.

After doing this for a few months, she has saved enough for her expected car repairs and is well on her way to creating a buffer that will eventually become a month’s worth of income.

This is how Terri plans to stop living paycheck to paycheck.  She keeps her expenses low, lives frugally, and brings in whatever extra income to help her get ahead.

Related Reading: 80+ Ways to Make Extra Money




Here are some additional things you may want to check out to save more money:

  • Stop buying bottled water and get you a plain ole water bottle and fill it up.
  • If student loan refinancing is suitable for your situation, check out LendEdu and fill out their quick questionnaire and compare up to 12 different lenders.
  • Sign up for Swagbucks and refer everyone! You even get Swagbucks for their Swagbucks (if that makes any sense).


Related Reading:

How to Save Money Living Paycheck to Paycheck,

Ibotta Review: Save and Earn Money W/ This App

 resources to help you make sense of your student loans

Does getting a month ahead replace your emergency fund?

Absolutely not.

Getting a month ahead only creates a mini emergency fund in your checking or savings account so you won’t continue to live paycheck to paycheck.

However, you still need an emergency fund because regardless of being a month ahead, a serious emergency could still cause you to go into debt.

Consider this…

After six months, Terri has managed to gather $1,800 from watching her nieces and she’s saved $120 in gas costs.

This gives her a total savings of $1,920. She went ahead and had the necessary repairs made on her car which cost a total of $700. This brings her savings down to $1,220.

She continues to save her babysitting money for another two months ($600), saves on gas ($40), and saves from her reduced electricity bill ($150). This leaves her with $2,010. She’s only $90 away from being one month ahead.

This is great, but what if Terri got hurt at work and was disabled for four weeks? Her disability insurance would only provide her with half of her income, $1050.

This means she would have to live on the amount she saved just to meet her expenses for the following month. If she had an emergency fund, she wouldn’t have anything to worry about.

Basically, regardless of being a month ahead, an emergency fund will keep you from going back to living paycheck to paycheck.

Terri should continue to save so she will have a healthy emergency fund and still be able to be a month ahead on her expenses. Her buffer is simply a starting point.

Related Reading: 12 Ways to Build Your Emergency Savings Fast


Which one should I save up for first? Emergency fund or a buffer?

Honestly, it doesn’t matter. They both are essentially the same thing! Your buffer is simply a mini emergency fund that you keep nearby so you can pay this month’s expenses off of last month’s income.

Of course, if you had a true emergency, using the money in your buffer account would be better than going into debt. Therefore, the buffer is an emergency fund of sorts.

I’m encouraging you to go a bit further, though. As mentioned previously, with Terri’s situation, she is still only one paycheck from being right back where she started.

This is even with the month’s worth of income she’s managed to save. Being out of work or becoming unemployed would result in her starting from square one. 

For more info about emergency funds,  you’ll want to check out Emergency Fund: What You Need to Know.


hustle report pic

What tools can I use to track my progress?

An easy way to determine if you’re making progress towards getting ahead is to use a budgeting and expense software. If you don’t like using those, pen and paper would be fine too.  

Here is how I was able to determine we had a decent sized buffer in our checking account:

  1. I kept a list of all of our expenses.
  2. I totaled the amount we brought home each month.
  3. Once all of our bills were paid for the month, I looked at the remaining balance (before the next paycheck arrived). This was the amount of our buffer (month ahead fund).

Once all of our bills were paid, we were left with $1,300 one month.

This is not an entire month’s worth of expenses for us; however, it let me know we were headed in the right direction of living off of income we earned during the previous month.

To further track my progress I tried EveryDollar during their 15 day trial period to see if it would be easier to keep up with the amount of our buffer.

I simply put in our monthly household budget and linked up our household bank account. EveryDollar tracked all the expenses coming from our account and we tracked bills as they were paid.

Ultimately, I decided not to pay for a year’s service on this software, but it did affirm my belief that we were indeed staying on track to getting a month ahead.

I still use the free version to keep an electronic version of our budget and it’s pretty easy to use if you want to check it out.

It was $99 for one year (the main reason I decided not to keep the full version). There are other free versions such as Mint.


Strategies to help you get a month ahead

A few strategies to help you get a month ahead of your expenses: 

  1. Use Ebay or Craigslist to sell unwanted items.
  2. Learn how to become a seller on Amazon.
  3. Take surveys.
  4. Barter (exchange services or skills you possess for other services or products you may need).
  5. Pick up a seasonal job, part-time work, or one day gig.
  6. Sell old broken jewelry for cash.
  7. If you’re single and have the opportunity to house sit for extended periods of time, ditch your rent!
  8. Use public transportation.
  9. Tutor online or in-person.
  10. Freelance offline or online (graphic design, writing, social media management, virtual assistant etc).
  11. Save your tax refund.
  12. Save your work bonuses.
  13. If you are paid bi-weekly, this means you receive two extra checks per year if you use a bi-weekly budget. Use it wisely.


Need ideas to earn extra cash? Check out the following:

How to Earn More Money

4 Simple Ways to Save More Money,

7 Free Online Survey Sites to Join For Extra Cash,

and Make Money From Home Using Amazon FBA.


Wrapping Thangs Up

Getting a month ahead while living paycheck to paycheck is not an easy thing to do, but with determination and the right mindset, it is possible. Now it’s all on you.

Figure out a strategy that will help you get a month ahead and put it into action. After you get a month ahead and you’re no longer living paycheck to paycheck, you’ll be happy you made the effort.


Are any of you living off last month’s income? If so, what strategies did you implement to get a month ahead?




Here are a few more ways to jumpstart your month ahead funds! If you’ve never considered signing up for surveys, I think you will find it easy to earn a few extra bucks just for answering questions. There are reputable survey sites, you know! Try some of these:

Vindale Research – I’ve been sleeping on this company and I’ve got to get with it, but their payouts are AWESOME! Earn up to $100 on some surveys if you’re lucky. $5, $10, $15 wouldn’t hurt either. Of course, once you earn enough you redeem for rewards. Sign up for Vindale Research here.

Swagbucks – Get your swag on with Swagbucks. I’ve probably been with this site the longest and you can earn swagbucks many different ways. You can earn by taking surveys, watching videos, doing internet searches, and finding swag codes. Redeem your swagbucks for gift cards and thangs. Sign up for Swagbucks here.

Harris Poll Online – You will earn points for every survey you take and you even earn for surveys you aren’t qualified for. Once you’ve accumulated enough points, simply redeem! Sign up for Harris Poll Online here!

American Consumer Opinion – This company is another reputable company that allows you to earn for every survey you take. The more surveys you take, the more you earn. Don’t think you have time? Take them while you binge watch Netflix. No excuses. Sign up for American Consumer Opinion here.

Opinion Outpost – Opinion Outpost is very straightforward. You take surveys and you earn points. Once you’ve reached a certain amount of points, you can redeem those for cash paid out via PayPal or gift cards from Amazon and other vendors. Sign up for Opinion Outpost here. 


*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, Disease Called Debt and DIY Jahn*



Latoya Scott
CFEI/Social Entrepreneur
Latoya Scott is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and personal finance writer with a mission to help millennials learn how to stop living paycheck to paycheck so they can become financially carefree.

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  • Chonce March 15, 2016 at 11:54 am

    I’ve always been interested in getting one month ahead as well. For now I’ve decided to work on beefing up my emergency fund and paying off debt, then I really want to try to start living on the previous months’ income at minimum. It’s hard to do this when you don’t make a ton of money though so these are all great ideas.

    • Latoya S March 15, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      It really is a challenge, but I often find myself giving this advice to those who are struggling to get ahead. The first thing they always say, if I could just get ahead of my bills, I’d be alright. I totally agree with their sentiments and understand the struggle that comes with it. But logically, when you’re in that situation it seems that’s the only way to to get ahead. Other ways to get ahead of your expenses is by budgeting your tax refund for the month when you receive it. That way all income you receive during the current month can go towards next month’s expenses. Hopefully, we’ll get ahead and can use zero-sum budgeting by mid next year.

  • Shirria March 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    I used to live a month ahead, but since the separation and then getting back together, we’ve just focused on the current month and becoming debt free. Living on half income was a true struggle.

    • Latoya S March 15, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      I understand, it’s all a matter of preference if you ask me. It just helps me sleep better at night knowing we are working on getting a month ahead because it’s easier to know where you stand when your money is already in the bank vs awaiting deposit.

  • Allan @ The Practical Saver March 15, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    I can attest on how good it feels to live a month ahead or months ahead.

    I’ve been in situations where my family lived paycheck to paycheck and it didn’t feel good at all. During those times, I didn’t know how I would pay our pending bills because my pay wasn’t going to come out until the next week. I felt hopeless because I couldn’t do anything but to wait. I didn’t want to take out loans because I knew I was getting paid the next week and I dreaded interest payments when it’s only a week apart. The only good thing about being in such situations was I was able to communicate with the vendors to give me extension. Many allowed me to do that but some didn’t.

    Having said that, the best that came out from that phase of our lives was our ability to squeeze our budget and find things to cut out. Because of that, we were able to get back on track and have been able to live months ahead and not worry if I have or don’t have money to pay the bills before the paycheck comes in.

  • Aliyyah @RichAndHappyBlog March 15, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Getting a month ahead is a goal of mine. I save aggressively for my other goals that I almost end up living paycheck to paycheck. This post has a lot of great ideas for creating a buffer.

    • Latoya S March 15, 2016 at 11:00 pm

      Thanks, Aliyyah:) Hope some of them help you obtain your goal of getting a month ahead!

  • Catherine Alford March 16, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Building a buffer is something I’ve done whenever I earn more income with my business than what I need for that month. This has really helped me in months that are slim so I have something extra to draw from if I need it.

    • Latoya S March 16, 2016 at 9:58 pm

      Fist bumps!

  • Sarah Noelle @ The Yachtless March 19, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    This is a timely article for me, as I have just realized that I don’t have enough money to pay my credit card bill and won’t for two more paychecks. The reason I got into this situation is that I was unemployed for 2 months and used up the majority of my emergency fund during that time, and then when I finally got a job I got a little careless and made a huge student loan payment (far above the minimum payment) without checking my credit card balance first (oops). In other words, this situation is totally my fault and could easily have been avoided if I had been more careful.

    As long as I’m careful I can get back on track in a few months, and I don’t have kids to feed. But this has been a good reminder that even though I owe a huge amount in student loans and am working hard to pay them off, I can’t prioritize making extra student loan payments over having a buffer or emergency fund. I may need to just make minimum payments on the loans for a month or two while I build my emergency fund back up. Thanks for these tips.

    • Latoya Scott March 19, 2016 at 10:02 pm

      Hi Sarah!

      Yes, I think it is equally important to make sure you have some type of buffer to fall on before aggressively paying back debt. You have the right mindset and you’re on the right path. I have no doubt you’ll bounce back! Thanks for reading:)

  • Mel @ brokeGIRLrich March 21, 2016 at 2:41 am

    I think a buffer month is the perfect first step into an emergency savings account. You also feel so good knowing you have that buffer, it motivates you to save even more!

    • Latoya April 6, 2016 at 8:58 pm

      Hey Mel, doesn’t it?! It feels pretty good knowing you’re making some progress:)
      Latoya recently posted…Hustle Away Debt: A ReviewMy Profile

  • Christine @ The (mostly) Simple Life April 6, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    We do this and it’s awesome! Paying the bills is no big deal because the money is already there for the whole month. I don’t really consider it as any part of our emergency fund though. All month long we just put what we make in our savings account and don’t touch it because it’s next month’s money. Then around the first of the month I transfer it all to checking to pay bills and such. It really takes away a lot of “money stress”.
    Christine @ The (mostly) Simple Life recently posted…How To Achieve What You Want In LifeMy Profile

  • Latoya April 6, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    Yes, it is really a stress free strategy. You’re able to plan and overcome any challenges that arise. I’m hoping to achieve a full buffer soon so that we can budget off last month’s income rather than the bi-weekly budget.
    Latoya recently posted…Hustle Away Debt: A ReviewMy Profile

  • Anitra June 15, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    Great article. I know what it feels like not to have money in the bank. If you save just 25 dollars a month in one year you will have three hundred dollars. Setting a goal is the key .

    Thanks for the advice.

    • Latoya Scott June 15, 2016 at 10:38 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Anitra! And yes, it doesn’t matter how small because we all have to start somewhere!

  • Maria Santiago July 9, 2016 at 2:21 am

    I was making 20 dollars an hour. I was set with the kids. Then my father ended up diagnosed with Lung Cancer, everything fell down the hill really fast! In one month my parents were taken to a nursing home, my ungrateful sister called the state and the state removed my parents from their home. In the nursing home after my father died my mother was being abused there so I took the case to court . I had to limit hours at work which no employer understand or even wants to hear it. The hours given to me were difficult for me to maintain the job. My mother has Alzheimer’s, she will wonder off the home at the time so I needed to be there 24/7, I ended my job. I quit the job to be able to stay home caring for my mother and for my brother. She was accepted on disability , my brother was born with Mental Retardation, he was accepted for disability as well. Their income did not cover rent , bills, etc. I had to hire a Nurse, That nurse was abusing my mother, I had to quit the new job to take care of my mother because I fired the nurse. I ended up hiring another nurse, I got another job, I ended up having to also quit that job because the nurse I hired was not on time and I was calling late to work too much. I was fired. It took me 4 years to find the right nurses and I had open my own cleaning business. My mother ended in the hospital with heart attacks every week, seizures every week, I had to quit my business. Now I am back home , rent is paid and no money at all for bills anymore. Now I look at the bills, I pull my hair, I cry get depressed then realize I cannot do a thing about it, I need light for mom, I need gas for mom. I cannot even do a thing about it.! I have siblings who refused to help or claim they are also in need, so I gave up asking, I have tried to sell cheesecakes and Flan, no one wants to buy, I tried making websites to earn was paying a website money I need to pay my rent with! So I canceled the site and my question is,
    How can one survive and pay all debt out of no income?

    • Latoya Scott July 10, 2016 at 6:33 pm

      Hi Maria,

      I wanted to wait a few days before I responded because I wanted to truly reflect on your situation. I think as a personal finance blogger, it’s easy for us to offer money advice, but it’s more important to understand that everyone has a unique situation and not all solutions are one size fits all. First, I would say that investing money in starting a website to generate income shouldn’t be a priority right now. I definitely don’t knock that hustle and I recommend it to those who have the money and time that’s needed to invest in making a profitable site; however, for now, I would encourage you to focus on doing things that will help increase your bottom line.

      Are there any groups, local organizations, government assistance, churches that you can reach out to that will offer you assistance in paying your light bill or providing groceries? For example, I know of a local church that provides food for seniors and your mother may qualify to receive this assistance. Seek assistance available to individuals with disabilities and seniors. To generate income, is there anything you could sell for extra cash in your home? Check the freebie section of Craigslist…some people give away clothes or furniture for free because they don’t want the hassle of selling them. You could sell those items! If your neighborhood has a local blood or plasma bank, you may qualify for that as well. No matter how small the income is, it may help you get ahead.

      As far as your debtors, if you have no income I would call them and see if there’s any way you can negotiate your minimum payments down to the bare minimum until you’re able to bring in decent income again. And I don’t recommend bankruptcy lightly; however, I encourage you to consider every available option to you. Right now I would focus solely on survival and if you have no income at all, unfortunately, debt wouldn’t be my first consideration.

  • Christie July 20, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    In your post, I like that the gal was making an extra $300 a month. This amount is “doable”. Making an extra $50 a week selling stuff on ebay is doable …. even with kids, family etc. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is $2,500 a year. Hello, Buffer !

    • Latoya Scott July 20, 2016 at 11:46 pm

      Hi Christie! Exactly! It doesn’t take much and I think people get intimidated by numbers. Instead of focusing on how much farther you have to go, just take it step by step and start doing something and those little things will add up to big savings over time.

  • Sadie December 29, 2016 at 2:54 am

    I am a single mom, currently living with my mother, and I make $428/mo. I get paid biweekly and I think this is great advice! Every paycheck, I see what bills need to be paid before my next paycheck comes and I usually end up with only $10-20 to last me two weeks (including setting aside money for gas)! I’ve already been thinking of just putting that gas money aside so I can just grab from it when I need gas and then I can actually save what doesn’t get used (out of sight, out of mind). I can’t wait to start this!

    • Latoya Scott December 29, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      This is awesome, Sadie! I’m so glad you found it helpful. Feel free to keep me updated on your progress. I’d love to hear how things are working out for you!

  • AJMoneyMatters December 30, 2016 at 4:51 am

    Great article Latoya! Definitely just setting goals and keeping track of them is so important. I’ve been able to save so much just by mapping out my budget!

  • April March 13, 2017 at 9:48 am

    One of your examples in breaking down an income was not exactly correct. You indicated that the person was paid on the 1st of the month and the 15th of the month and then went on to break down the income in two equal numbers. When you get paid in this manner, your paychecks are not evenly distributed. Based on the calendar, despite the fact that you are paid on the 1st and the 15th, pay periods run from 11 days to 18 days; therefore, it is conceivable that none of your paychecks will equal the same. The way you broke it down, that’s an example of being paid every other week or 26 pay periods a year vs. 24 pay periods a year by being paid on the 1st and 15th of the month.

    • Latoya Scott March 13, 2017 at 11:25 am

      You’re right. However, the purpose of this post wasn’t really to be mathematically accurate with the numbers, the example was meant to give someone the idea of how to balance their pay to get ahead. It works, considering I used the same system with 26 pay periods at my previous job. Most of my paydays fell on or around the 1st or the 15th, but I think everyone gets the idea here. I would encourage you to focus on what’s important and that’s using what you’ve got to get where you want to go.

  • Denise Richie April 3, 2017 at 11:09 am

    I am a 56 year old woman with a lot of life experience and happy to say that I am financially secure. But it wasn’t always that way! I want to compliment you, Latoya, on explaining the concepts of how to budget and set aside emergency funds, a buffer, etc. I instinctively did a lot of these things (didnt have the internet for guidance back in those days!) but wasn’t eloquent enough to show and inspire my friends. You are absolutely right on with the first step: track every expense. It’s something no one else can do and gives the true picture of where your hard earned money is going. Even now when I have several real estate assets (paid) and $ in the bank I know by looking at my expenses that I could improve a lot in the grocery/dining out area. It’s shocking to see how much my husband and I spend on food each month!

    If I could make a suggestion it is to address the bills that come on a quarterly (car insurance) or annual (Christmas) basis. Also if anyone pays their property taxes independently from their mortgage that expense comes twice a year.

    We had a privately held mortgage when we were starting out. We bought a FSBO home because a bank wouldn’t approve us. I learned how to escrow for the taxes and annual homeowners insurance. I also had a Christmas Club through my employer to take care of Holiday expenses.

    As I approach senior citizen status I can’t emphasize enough the importance of preventative health and dental care. I had a dental implant a few years ago that cost as much as a good used car! In retrospect I’d tell young people that are struggling to use a vacation day for appointments if they have to and use their buffer to keep up on their oral health. And if someone literally has no resources they can still gargle with Listerine once a day after brushing. Work on being diligent about your health, no one else can do it for you.

    Congratulations on a well written article. I hope it inspires many people to take control of their own finances!

    • Latoya Scott April 3, 2017 at 11:31 am

      Wow, I love all these tidbits of information you’ve provided, Denise! Some of these are certainly things I never thought of, like escrowing your own taxes. I know one day that we will have to do that so I need to study up. And you’re so right about healthcare. Oral care is very important because it causes all sorts of other health problems.