A 2015 study by SunTrust Bank found that it’s not just those in a lower-income tax bracket that are living paycheck to paycheck. According to the online study, which was conducted by Harris Poll, nearly one-third of households earning $75,000 annually found themselves with more month than money. Perhaps even more worrisome, according to the study, a whopping 71 percent of millennials making $75,000 also had difficulties with their monthly spending.
One of the biggest factors to which these survey respondents attributed their spending problems wasn’t related to transportation or housing—or even medical expenses. More than two-thirds of retiree households earning $75,000 or more blamed their issues on dining out, and the same went for 70 percent of millennials making more than $75,000. Money spent on clothing, entertainment, and hobbies also made up a large portion of the drain on monthly cash flow.
If you’re finding that you don’t have as much left at the end of the month as you want, here are a few ideas to consider that may stretch your paycheck dollars further:
- Stop dining out as much.
You don’t have to be a financial expert to figure out that this approach can help put your spending on a diet, but the key phrase here is “as much.” You can still dine out, but instead of eating out every night, consider cutting back to once or twice a week. The same goes for weekends. Don’t go out on both Saturday and Sunday; instead, pick one day. The key is to go out less than you are now because a restaurant meal usually costs significantly more when compared to going to the grocery store and then fixing a meal at home.
- Spend less when eating out.
If you enjoy adult beverages consider switching to water. Not only will you leave the restaurant with more money in your wallet but also your body will likely appreciate it because you will be ingesting fewer calories. You can also consider ordering lower-cost lunch or appetizer portions instead of the larger dinner portions or splitting a meal with your friend or significant other. Finally, consider order desserts for special occasions only.
- Be smarter when clothes shopping.
Even though you may have been out of school for many years, you can still take advantage of a tax-free weekend in the dog days of summer. Depending on your state, sales tax is usually not collected on selected items, such as clothing, typically the weekend or a few days just before school starts. You may also want to consider other clothing options such as consignment stores, which often offer budget-friendly options.
- Find alternatives for entertainment and travel.
Instead of paying the big bucks watching professional sports at an overpriced stadium, consider visiting a local minor league, college, or high school football or basketball game. Tickets can be substantially cheaper or even free, as are the items at the concession stand. If you like traveling and consider yourself a little adventurous, take a train trip. Trains can be comfortable, you can see the sights, and the trips usually won’t be too hard on your pocketbook. If you like reading or watching movies, check out your local library. Find your nearest beauty school for a discounted haircut, manicure, or perhaps even a massage.
- Make hobbies pay.
If you’re retired and you have more time than money, consider turning a hobby into a fun side job. For example, if you enjoy home renovations, woodworking, painting, or do-it-yourself activities, you might be able to turn those hobbies into some extra money from your friends and neighbors. If you have a talent in stained glass, jewelry making, sewing, or knitting, you may be able to sell your unique goods to local craft stores or online using marketplaces like Etsy.
If you enjoy an expensive hobby like golf, you might consider exploring a cheaper alternative, such as biking, swimming, or tennis. You could take up chess or cards and join a local group, or you may want to try bird watching and nature walks, which usually don’t cost a thing. Whether you are retired or are just starting out your career, living on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!
Steve Repak is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, CFP® Board Ambassador, and financial literacy speaker. He is also an Army veteran and the author of 6 Week Money Challenge: For Your Personal Finances. Follow him on Twitter: @SteveRepak