10 Practical Ways to Stop Running Out of Money Before Your Next Paycheck

Inflation is still hitting Americans’ wallets hard at the end of the year, but you can take these steps to make your paycheck last.
Last updated Dec. 7, 2022 | By Michelle Smith | Edited By Rachel Siegel
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This year’s inflation was the highest in four decades, and Americans’ budgets are feeling the stress. While prices have been dropping gradually month over month, many financial experts agree that inflation will stick with us at least through next year, if not longer. 

That’s bad news for the roughly one-third of Americans who report that they struggle to make each paycheck last until the next payday.

Still, there are ways to make your paycheck stretch as far as possible, even when you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Check out our ten tips below to get your budget back on track.

Reevaluate your budget

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Budgeting in times of low inflation is much different than budgeting in times of high inflation. If you’re relying on your pre-2022 budget to make your purchasing decisions, that could explain why your once-perfect budget no longer works for you.

Pull up your bank statements from the last few months and try to figure out where your money is going now compared to where it went this time last year, then adjust your budget as needed. 

Budget for today’s prices, not last year’s prices, and you might find there’s more room in your paycheck than you thought.

Trim down your entertainment subscriptions

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In easier financial times, your budget might have had the space for some extra monthly subscriptions on top of your basic Hulu or Netflix account. 

But while subscriptions to AMC+, HBO Max, or Cinemark’s movie reward club might have been affordable when grocery prices were lower, they’re probably putting too much strain on your budget now.

Can you downgrade your Spotify family account to the free version, for now if not forever? Are there other entertainment subscriptions you can cut back on for the time being? 

Giving yourself back that extra $10 or $15 a month adds up over the year and provides your budget with a cushion.

Change where you shop

Dragana Gordic/Adobe woman shopping in a grocery store supermarket

Old spending habits die hard, including habitually shopping at the same stores even when cheaper options exist. 

Grab the weekly bargain newsletters at each grocery store in your area, not just the store you’ve always gone to, and compare them to find the best prices. 

Look at each gas station within a few miles to determine which one costs the least. You could find that your current habits really are the most affordable ones — or you might find a new favorite shopping spot that saves you even more money.

Don’t make impulse purchases

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If you find yourself tempted by an out-of-budget purchase — say, a new book release from your favorite author or a cute coat that’s more of a want than a need — hit pause. 

Instead of adding it to your cart and checking out immediately, give yourself at least a few hours (or, better, a few days) to sit on it. 

If the item still feels necessary and you can find room for it in your budget, you might be able to make the purchase. If it doesn’t, you’ll have saved yourself some wasted money on an impulse buy.

Carefully balance saving with spending

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When you’re struggling to afford necessities now, saving for the future feels like less of a priority. And it’s definitely true that you shouldn’t be saving so much that you can’t afford life now. 

Instead, while you might need to cut back the amount of money you put in your savings account with each paycheck, do what you can to put at least something away.

Plus, saving during times of high inflation can pay off in a few unique ways. Whether it takes months or years, inflation will eventually go back down. Your dollar won’t go as far now as it will in the future — so the amount you put away now will probably go further in a few years.

Reduce your energy use wherever possible

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Back in August, one out of every six American households was already behind on their monthly utility payments. That number will likely grow during the winter as energy costs remain high and Americans try to keep the cold at bay.

You can’t turn off your heat entirely, but you can take steps to reduce your energy use in other ways and keep costs low. 

Rely on natural light whenever possible, and always make sure the lights are off when you leave the room. Replace old, energy-wasting light bulbs with more efficient lights. 

These smaller money-saving measures won’t entirely compensate for higher energy costs, but they definitely won’t hurt.

Reevaluate your paycheck deductions

Stephanie Frey/Adobe macro of deductions on a paycheck

Some automatic paycheck deductions, including contributions to your 401(k) account or HSA/FSA account, are pre-tax deductions, meaning they lower your taxable income. 

You might find upping your 401(k) contributions or switching to an insurance plan with an HSA saves you money on taxes at the end of the year.

Typically, you can only make changes to your health insurance or 401(k) contributions during an open enrollment period, which happens annually in the fall or whenever you switch employers or experience a major life event. 

Even if you can’t change any of your paycheck deductions right now, it could be worth meeting with a financial advisor who can explain your options. 

You can apply their advice during your next open enrollment period to help you save come tax time.

Make sure you’re investing wisely

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Speaking of your 401(k), it’s important to review your current investments during unusual financial times. Your portfolio should be diverse enough that the bulk of your investments can support you even if the bottom falls out of one industry. 

If you’re struggling to find the balance between high-risk, high-reward investments and stable investments with a reliable return, a financial advisor can help.

Avoid credit card debt as much as possible

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Credit cards can be a welcome source of relief when you’re fighting to make ends meet, but you should be wary of relying on them too much. If you can’t pay off the balance right now, interest payments will only make your debt harder to pay off down the road.

Already have quite a bit of credit card debt? Consider turning off the card and making (at least) the minimum payments each month until the economy evens out. The last thing you want to do is reach retirement age with a chunk of outstanding consumer debt.

Make your credit card work for you

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If you need a card, do your best to find one with a low starting APR, low credit limit (so you don’t overspend), and good perks. 

For example, if you travel frequently, search for a credit card with air mileage rewards or cash back for gas. Or, if you’re having a hard time affording groceries, prioritize cards that include cash back for food. 

Just be sure you only use your credit card when you need to, that is, as a convenience, and not as a replacement for a solid budget.

Bottom line

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Trying to stop living paycheck to paycheck isn’t easy, and the current inflation crisis has made budgeting between pay periods harder than ever. 

But staying afloat can be easier if you know how to make each paycheck stretch — and these ten tips will help you do just that.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.