How to Save Money Living Paycheck to Paycheck

August 3, 2016
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Living paycheck to paycheck is no fun. Trying to save while living paycheck to paycheck is no walk in the park either. But yet, the only way to defeat living in this abusive cycle is to get ahead to the best of your ability.

This is why it’s so incredibly important to take the first step and save your first dollar. Saving while living paycheck to paycheck shouldn’t be optional. It’s a given if you truly want to overcome it.

I’ve been listening to the people (you) and one of my most popular articles here at LAAB is How to Get a Month Ahead on Little Income. In this article, I’ve given you an example of how Terri was able to get a month ahead, despite having little income.

Today I want to provide more helpful ways on how you can save money while living paycheck to paycheck. I understand this is no easy task, but again, this isn’t optional!  Start small and take baby steps. Before you know it you’ll be ahead and living paycheck to paycheck will be a thing of yesterday.



There is no way around budgeting!  If you want to get your finances together, save more money, and overcome paycheck to paycheck living, it all starts with having a plan for your money. However, before you create your plan, you need to know what you’re spending your money on.

Further Reading: How to Create a Simple, Easy Budget for Beginners

If you’ve never tracked expenses before, this is where you need to start. Tracking your expenses allows you to get an overall picture of your spending habits. It will help you learn what you need to cut back on and will tell you where you may actually need to spend more money.



Create a Savings Goal

Once you’ve tracked your expenses and created a budget, now it’s time to determine your savings goal. Let’s focus on one important savings goal that will help you defeat a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle – an emergency fund.

If you’re currently in debt, set a minimum savings goal of $1,000. I elected to save a minimum of $3,500. It’s best to have emergency savings to maintain a bare-bones budget in the event of a medical emergency or job loss.

So if your savings goal is $1,000, you simply need to divide this by the number of paychecks you will receive during any given timeframe.

Let’s say your goal is to save $1,000 in a year and you’re paid bi-weekly. Divide $1,000 by 26 (number of paychecks) and you will need to save roughly $40 per pay period.

Further Reading: Emergency Funds 101


Open an Online Savings Account

Why an online savings account? Discipline.

Many of us lack the discipline needed to keep our little fingers out of our emergency fund. See a sale at Macy’s this weekend on kid’s clothes and all of a sudden you think you’ve got yourself an emergency. Nah. Hands off, friends!

I like to keep my emergency fund with Capital One 360.

The interest rates are competitive and it takes 2 to 3 business days to transfer it to my checking account. By the time 2 to 3 days pass, the Macy’s emergency sale is long over and my money is still intact.


If looking for an account with no fees and one that rewards you for saving, I recommend Chime. With Chime, you will have your own spending account and savings account!

Also, if you sign up for auto-save, anytime you spend money, your purchases will be rounded up and you can save money. Plus, if you sign up for direct deposit, you will get your paycheck 2 days early! Learn more about the benefits of using Chime here.


Related Reading: 11 Things to Sell to Make Extra Money, 12 Ways to Build Your Emergency Savings Fast


Set up Automatic Deposit

After you’ve opened up your account with Capital One 360, get the routing and account number. Use these numbers to set up auto deposits from your paycheck. 

Even if you can’t afford the amount required to meet whatever goal you have for yourself, setting up an auto-deposit of $5 is better than saving nothing at all.

Once your auto deposit is set up, create a goal in your new savings account and it will applaud you when you reach certain milestones (50 percent of goal saved, etc).

Related Reading: Automated Savings Challenge: Save $1,000 or More


Accelerate Your Savings

Now, if you can only afford the $5.00 a month, you can always accelerate your savings by hustling for some extra cash. Everyone can hustle for more money and get to their savings goals quicker. Here’s what you gotta do…


1) Take surveys.

Stop whining, they aren’t that bad and there are a lot of reputable companies that will pay you.

Here are a few to consider: American Consumer Panel, Vindale Research, Pinecone Research, Swagbucks, Earning StationMyPoints, Opinion Outpost, and Digital Voice, Product Report Card, Clear Voice,  VIP Voice,  Shop Tracker, and Harris Poll Online.

Note: If these companies pay out in the form of gift cards, simply use the gift card to purchase normal household items you would normally buy and put the cash you would spend into your savings account.


2) Save money grocery shopping using Ibotta.

I’ve written a detailed review here if you want to read it, but the short story is you can save on items like bread, milk, and eggs. Just unlock the rebates on the Ibotta app and save. Plus, if you’re a new user, you can score a $10.00 just for trying the app using this link.

Once you reach $20, you can cash out using PayPal or via gift card.


3)  No Spend Days.

Each week, designate a few days where you will spend no money. No dining out, no nothing!  It doesn’t matter if you have money in the budget for eating out.

If eating out falls on one of your designated no spend days, don’t go!  

Find something in the house to eat and take the money you would have spent on dining out and put that cash into your savings account. Don’t cry, there’s always next week:)


4)   Meal Plan.  

Ain’t gonna lie, I hate grocery shopping and I hate meal planning. However, they are two necessary evils.

You have to eat and meal planning helps you stay in control of that wallet. I like to create master meal plans and grocery lists (list and plans that I can reuse over and over without recreating a meal plan each week) to save on time.

Related Reading: How to Break an Eating Out Habit, 11 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons


5)   Get some new insurance.

If you’ve been with that local auto insurance dealer for the last 6 years, don’t you think it’s time to do a little shopping around? A lot can change in 6 years!  

Folks earn points back toward their license. Driving records improve. You get older and insurance rates change right along with your age. Insurance companies reward older and wiser drivers.

A good tool to use to use is Policy Genius. You can get great competitive quotes and lower your insurance today, so check them out!


6)  Call and negotiate better deals or rates on subscriptions or monthly bills.  

I’ll do you one even better – cancel some of those subscriptions. For example, cable! Cable is so 90’s.

Yeah, I said it (lol). Seriously, we’ve been without cable for 5 years and you won’t miss it and your bank account will smile.  

Besides, it’s only temporary until you get your finances in order. If you’re an OWN, Showtime, or sports fan, life will carry on.  (And for all of you Power fanatics, did you know that you can get a Showtime subscription if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber?)

If you’re interested in ending your relationship with Time Warner Cable, Comcast, or whoever, you do still have options for entertainment.

You can use the following to keep up with the good stuff on television: a digital antenna, an Amazon Firestick, and a Roku device. Once you’ve scored those devices, subscribe to Hulu and Netflix and you’re all set.

If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you can forgo Netflix altogether (since they are practically the same thing). That is unless you’re an Orange is The New Black junkie like your’s truly (and I’m still grieving last season’s finale, so no, let’s not talk about it).

Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial


Further Reading: 12 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Saving More Money


Wrapping Thangs Up

Punching the paycheck to paycheck cycle in the throat won’t be easy, but dang it, it’s possible and you’re going to get through this!  Just follow the steps above and get ready to see the magic happen.

Your budget is going to tell you where to send your money. Your savings goal is going to give you a vision and your new savings account is going to hold all of your paper.

Accelerate your savings goals using some of the tactics mentioned and get ready to enjoy what it feels like to finally get ahead financially.

All of my month ahead folks, any sound wisdom to offer on saving while living paycheck to paycheck? If so, drop some knowledge in the comments.



It's hard trying to save money when you're already living paycheck to paycheck. This article provides reasonable solutions to help you overcome the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. Read and save for reference. You'll be glad you did.

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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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  • Colin Ashby August 4, 2016 at 6:28 am

    Periodically negotiate your bills! I was able to lower my internet and cell phone bills by checking up on the latest deals and calling in. Ended up saving $25 a month in the process! Woooo! People are capable of saving more than they realize.
    Colin Ashby recently posted…Is Retirement Harder for Millennials?My Profile

    • Latoya Scott August 4, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      I know right! I just did this a few months ago. Luckily internet is paid by my employer since I work from home. I just had to get new prices on my cell and our insurance. I think I might try life insurance next:)

  • Harmony@CreatingMyKaleidoscope August 4, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Great, actionable advice! In addition to meal planning, it’s helpful to make larger batches of food, so you can eat leftovers. Also, question everything. We took another look at our monthly expenses and found we were paying far too much money on whole term life insurance. By switching to term insurance, we lowered our monthly bills and got a cash payout for the accrued value of the policy – going straight to our credit cards, but helping us get closer to being able to save more money.
    Harmony@CreatingMyKaleidoscope recently posted…A Day In The Life: How A Full-Time Working Mom Finds Time To Side Hustle Her Way Out Of DebtMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott August 4, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      Woo! That’s great, Harmony! Yeah, I’ve always been against whole insurance (little insider knowledge from working in insurance industry). However, I am willing to see if we can get better rates on our term insurance;)

  • Carissa December 5, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    This is good stuff!!! REALLY GOOD…and I cant wait to share it with my husband! We just had a conversation about saving and our spending habits!

    • Latoya Scott December 5, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      Thanks, Carissa! I’m glad you found it helpful and I hope you and your husband will find it useful in your planning!

  • Stacie December 5, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    I sort of live like this on purpose. I keep to a strick budget this way and I’m able to save money along the way.
    Stacie recently posted…Festive Accessories That Compliment Your Holiday OufitsMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott December 5, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      That’s the best way to go. No lifestyle inflation will help you keep up with economic uncertainty for sure.

  • Mimi Green December 5, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    I do auto deposits for my savings account and the kids college funds. I try to meal plan and when I get it right it is good. I’ve been living by an Excel budget for 12 years. Best financial decision ever.

  • Shana December 5, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    Great tips for those saving for a vacation! Staying focused helps as well. A night out with the girls can really set you back. Lol!

  • Tretre Mac December 5, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    These are all wonderful strategies that if doe constantly will produce real results. Bless you for sharing your insight with others.

  • Ty December 6, 2016 at 12:23 am

    These are all great tips. I have got to do better. I am currently doing do spend days and I like the idea of a savings goal. I am going to start that asap. Thanks for the tips.

  • Kim December 6, 2016 at 1:43 am

    These are great tips to put into place now and to keep in rotation. I used a lot of these same strategies when we were saving to buy our home.
    Kim recently posted…Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for Mom Under $100My Profile

  • Tanya December 6, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    We are so here right now. We are even working together in getting our lunches made.
    Tanya recently posted…We Will Forgo a Christmas Tree This YearMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott December 7, 2016 at 11:08 pm

      That’s great, Tanya!

  • Thirty30Courtney December 7, 2016 at 1:21 am

    Once again, you’re reminding me that I need to get it together and research online banks so I am ready to go for my next pay cycle! Definitely a reality check. I’m also going to start -writing- down my financial goals since usually writing things down.

    • Latoya Scott December 7, 2016 at 11:08 pm

      Awesome, Courtney!

  • Kimberly December 7, 2016 at 3:02 am

    One of my goals for the new year is to budget more effectively. These are all great tips!

  • Ashlee December 7, 2016 at 4:13 am

    This is some great info. Every time I read about budgeting I feel guilty. I stay on track most of the time but sometimes have my down moments. I purchased a budget book from michaels for about 4 bucks, it’s great but we have a love hate relationship. Haven’t used that thing in months! Time to crack it open so I can start tracking these expenses again.

    • Latoya Scott December 7, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      No worries, I have those same problems. I actually try to avoid spending money because I don’t like tracking expenses. I usually don’t buy anything that’s outside of my normal spending because my normal spending is already accounted for in the way my automatic payments and savings are set up. I do want to start tracking my grocery expenses though and see if I can’t work on those things!

  • Michelle Malone December 7, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    LaToya, I love reading your posts. I have an account that I don’t touch. I started that one a couple years ago, and there’s comfort in knowing I have a little cushion there. P.S. We have both Amazon Prime and Netflix, but we don’t have much time for either. 🙁 First world problems, right?

    • Latoya Scott December 7, 2016 at 11:05 pm

      Thanks, Michelle! Those are good problems to have!:)

  • Joyce Brewer December 8, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    It takes determination to really get spending under control. My husband and I recently moved to cut our monthly rent. But I still feel like there’s more ways for us to cut the budget.
    Joyce Brewer recently posted…Holiday Home Cleaning: 8 Reasons to Book ItMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott December 9, 2016 at 1:16 am

      Hi Joyce, that’s a start! That’s a hard step to take.

  • TAmandalynnT December 25, 2016 at 2:57 am

    Just a tip. Netflix let’s you share with family members, Amazon Prime also has a family system now as well as Apple. Split the cost of the already cheaper than cable options by joining up with your family to subscribe. 😉

  • BreAnna Rood March 1, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    Last year my husband and I switched our banking to Capital One 360 and LOVE it! We’ve actually made some money on our savings accounts, as opposed to the pennies we’d made from our previous bank. We also have their Quicksilver credit card because it’s got such great cash back rewards! It’s like getting free money every month. 🙂

    • Latoya Scott March 1, 2017 at 11:13 pm

      That’s awesome, BreAnna! I haven’t tried their Quicksilver card yet. Thanks for the heads up!