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How to Stretch Your Budget When You Live Paycheck to Paycheck

stretch your budgetIt can seem hard to take control of your budget and finances when you live paycheck to paycheck. So how do you stretch your budget and break the cycle of paycheck to paycheck without becoming a millionaire overnight? Let me assure you, there is a way.

How to Stretch Your Budget When You Live Paycheck to Paycheck

This post has been written by our amazing staff writer, Kimberly Studdard.

There’s two days left in the month and you’re wondering where the heck all your money went again.

  • The dog needed shots,
  • You probably went out to eat too many times,
  • And who knows about the other few hundred that you figured you’d have left…

It has happened over and over again. You know it’s got to stop, but you’re just not sure how to break the cycle.

The time is now, and the method is right here. Keep reading and actually implement what you learn this time. You won’t regret it.

1) Look At Your Expenses

You may think that you’re living paycheck to paycheck, when in reality you’re just spending too much money on things you really don’t need.

  • Do you eat out often out of convenience? (even McDonald’s can add up!)
  • Do you pay for cable?
  • Is a $2 coffee part of your daily drive into work?

By looking at your expenses, you can decide if your spending is necessary or if some items in your budget can be eliminated. If you can survive on just Netflix, there is no sense in having Amazon Video and Hulu too, especially when trying to stretch your budget.

2) Write Down Your Budget

Another great way to stretch your budget is to know your budget in the first place! Even if your expenses are pretty minimal, sometimes things catch us by surprise. One month you may have to renew your tags, and the next you may have your annual doctors visit that you have a co-pay for. By writing down your budget, and updating regularly (at least every month), you can avoid surprises, and start planning your incoming money more wisely.

3) Save Money (No Matter How Much)

I get that it’s hard to save money when you’re living paycheck to paycheck. However, having a savings account can help you stretch your budget should an unexpected expense arise. Now, this isn’t to say that you have to save thousands of dollars every single month, but saving just a few dollars every paycheck can make a huge difference.

You could also use tools like Chime or Qapital to help you start saving money. Both of these options have a “round up” feature, which means every time you spend money, your change is put into savings. That way, you don’t even have to think about saving money, it just happens! Plus, chances are you won’t really miss a few coins here and there.

4) Use Resources

If you’re really in a difficult money situation, remember that it’s okay to seek help.

  • Apply for food stamps,
  • visit a food pantry,
  • apply for housing assistance…

…whatever it is that you need to do to get back on your feet. There is nothing wrong with using these resources temporarily while you’re in search of a better financial future. That’s what the resources are there for! If you qualify, you can then focus on spending your money on the things that are going to better your future, so you won’t always have to rely on help. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help and tools that will guide you into becoming a better you.

5) Side Hustle

One of the best ways to stretch your budget is to not stretch your budget at all, but increase it instead. Having a side hustle can give you some extra money in your pocket for saving, paying off debt, paying bills, and more! And your side hustle doesn’t have to be complicated either. It can be as simple as mowing someone’s yard, or even something like freelance writing.

Freelance writing was actually my side hustle for a long time, and I was able to juggle that with college, a full-time job, and a baby! Your side hustle can be as time consuming as you choose for it to be. If you only have a few hours every week to spare, that’s okay. If you can only dedicate one Saturday a month to donating plasma for cash, that’s okay too. Whatever you can do to bring in some extra cash is a great step, because that just means more money in your pocket to be flexible with.

Related: Start Your Own Blog

6) Avoid Debt (When You Can)

It’s hard to stretch your budget when you owe everyone money. To avoid having a lot of your money taken away from you, avoid debt as much as you can. Sometimes things happen and you can’t avoid debt (like if your car is totaled and you can’t afford to replace it without a loan). However, it’s important to decide if what you need is really an emergency and if you can get by without it for a while, so you can save up money and avoid paying high interest rates to own it.

Here’s how you know if it’s a necessity or not. If you don’t buy something and you won’t die, it’s not a necessity. 🙂

7) Take Your Time

If you only make $30,000 a year and have $100,000 in debt, you can’t expect to pay that all off in less than a year (unless you become a millionaire overnight…not likely). And if you live in a high-cost area, it may be hard to live on half of your income like some people do. The best way to break the paycheck to paycheck cycle is to take one step at a time that will allow you the opportunity to stretch your budget. It doesn’t all have to happen overnight. However, those small changes can eventually make a big impact on your finances, and that’s what’s most important!

So can you stretch your budget when you live paycheck to paycheck?


Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and using these tips will certainly help.

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My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. Good advice here. “Look at your expenses” – that helped me cut my spending in half since last year. I only needed to install an app on my phone and insert there every expense I was making. After the first 2 months, my spending was already 30% down, and 6 months later I was spending half of what I did before, and I didn’t feel like I was missing any of the things I was buying before.

    • Very cool. Once you become aware, it’s crazy how little you really need and how much you can easily say “no” to.

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