Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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

3 Ways to Budget for Your Multigenerational Household

BudgetingForMultigenerationalFamilyThese days, it’s not uncommon for an elderly parent or adult child to share their home. But no matter how much you may love your family, having extra bodies in the house likely means other factors to include in your personal financial situation.

“Finances can be a huge source of stress [in multigenerational households],” says Amy Goyer, Aging, Home & Family expert with the AARP.

The more mouths there are to feed, the harder it is to make your money go the distance. While it’s great to lend extra support to your elderly parents or grown children, if you’re going to make your multigenerational household work you’re probably going to need to make some budget considerations.

1. Evaluate the needs of your new household

Before you can plan a new budget, you’ll need to establish the financial needs of the new household. You probably already have an idea of how much money you’ll need to pay each month to cover rent or mortgage payments and any HOA or insurance fees you may owe. These costs probably won’t change much regardless of the number of people living under your roof, but your monthly utility and grocery bills might. Do your best to estimate the total of your monthly expenses and compare these costs against the amount of money coming into the house each month so you can get an idea of how much your relatives might need to contribute.

When asking relatives to pitch-in to the new budget for your new living situation, you may want to determine the reasons why your relatives need assistance and how their current situation may reflect what they’ll be able to contribute. Can they support their personal financial needs? Or do they need additional help and care?

Elderly relatives may be financially sound and willing to contribute to household finances, but it may be difficult for them to help out in labor-intensive chores that keep the house running. In other cases, they may have a need for medical supplies, home-care devices, or related late-life care that makes it difficult to contribute to the household budget.

Adult children, on the other hand, may be physically fit but financially less stable as they find themselves facing large student loan payments or a disappointing job market. They may be able to contribute to the physical upkeep for the house but be unable—or unwilling—to contribute much money to the household budget.

Knowing the individual situations of your relatives will help you better determine how they can contribute to household finances

2. Set clear responsibilities

When tallying up your household expenses vs. your household income, you’ll want to be honest about who can contribute and be clear about the amounts to be paid. You might even consider coming to some sort of agreement to make this process easier.

For example, maybe your child is living with you to save money on rent and put it toward their loans. But they might be able to pay the grocery bill, or perhaps pay a smaller amount of rent If your adult child is still covered by your insurance plans, you might consider having them apply for their own coverage, if they’re able.

An older relative might be receiving a stipend of sorts for their housing, which may not have been enough for them to live alone but can contribute to your current shared housing bills.

Or, according to Goyer, if family members are unable to make monetary contributions to the household, you could have them takeover household tasks, like cleaning, yard work, or simple home repairs, in order to contribute to the overall wellbeing of the home.

According to Goyer, these agreements can be a verbal or written, and while they may feel like something you’d do with roommate rather than relatives, it can be helpful to talk through everyone’s expected contributions and responsibilities to avoid later conflict.

If you will be handling the budget by yourself, you might begin to feel overwhelmed or face difficulties in prioritizing the household’s bills. For example, where do your parent’s medication costs or your child’s next loan payment rank next to your mortgage payment? Goyer says it’s important to keep your own financial matters stable before offering help to others.

“You won’t be much help to other family members if your own financial security is threatened,” she says.

While it can feel overwhelming to take on these additional responsibilities, keep your loved ones in mind and be honest about your own needs. The more help you can get from the household, the better prepared you may be to ensure everyone’s financial needs are met.

3. Reimagine your budget

When you finally have an idea of the shape your new household will take, and an estimate of how much your relatives may be able to contribute, you can begin to reinvent your budget. A good first step, according to Goyer, is to make a distinction between the money you designate for communal expenses and the money that is solely your own use.

“You’ll need to create a shared budget, as well as your own personal budget,” she says.

Get a rough estimate of what your new household expenses will look like month to month with the added bodies, then compare that to the combined amount each family member will be contributing to the household. If you see that your combined contributions are still lacking, re-evaluate the expenses that each family member is able to tackle. Be honest with your family members about what you are able to provide, and don’t be afraid to take more than one crack at compiling a budget.

Money issues are still likely to come up with more people sharing your home, but creating two budgets may help you maintain your own bills and sense of financial independence while still providing for the household at large.

What works best for you and your family will depend on your individual situation and what your relatives are capable of contributing, but the more you can whittle down your expenses, the easier it may be to make sure your bills get paid on time and your multigenerational household keeps running smoothly.

Financial Infidelity: What You Should Know

FinancialinfidelityWhen you share your finances with a spouse or partner, every purchase has the potential to spark a discussion—which may explain why some people keep financial secrets, otherwise known as “financial infidelity.”

According to a recent user survey from, financial infidelity in a relationship may be more common than most people think. Approximately 13 million Americans admitted to keeping a secret credit card or bank account without their partner’s knowledge. Dr. Terri Orbuch, relationship expert and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great, agrees that these secrets can lead to feelings of mistrust or betrayal difficult to repair.

“[Money] is the No. 1 source of conflict for couples,” she says.

If you find yourself faced with financial infidelity in your own relationship, it may not be too late to recover and make positive changes to your joint money habits.

The source of financial infidelity

When most people think of infidelity, they imagine a third person, but financial infidelity has nothing to do with secret trysts. It simply means spending large amounts of money without your partner’s knowledge or consent. cites a secret purchase of $500 as large enough to qualify as financial infidelity, but this amount may vary based on the situation and frequency of spending. In some cases, the real issue at hand may be that the spending is hidden at all.

“Any big secret is a problem for a relationship,” Dr. Orbuch says.

Secret spending may stem from misunderstandings in money management. Dr. Orbuch adds that money often means different things to each partner—for example, something to be saved for the future vs. something to be spent when available—and those different points of view may translate into resentment if one partner is unable to spend money in the way they feel is best.

“For some people, it can mean security. For some people it can mean love. And it can mean control, as well,” she says.

A strict budget might make you feel more secure, but if your partner isn’t used to living thrifty, they might hide their own purchases as a way to feel more in control of their money. These habits might seem harmless, but could eventually impact the relationship if left unchecked.

Potential consequences

Couples with joint finances are likely to have combined budget or money goals, like contributing to savings or paying off debt. Combining finances makes teamwork a necessary skill to ensure the bills get paid and you aren’t spending more money separately than you earn combined.

But if money is consistently spent without the knowledge of both partners, it raises the chance of throwing this balance off. Whether it’s one partner’s credit card debt or secret checking account, Dr. Orbuch says that hiding these habits breaks the expectations you had as a couple.

“When those expectations aren’t met, we feel hurt, and we feel betrayed,” she says.

Imagine the additional stress you’d feel if you’d just discovered a large debt your partner has accrued without your knowledge. Financial infidelity can cause not only financial problems, but anxiety for the relationship itself.

Recovering together

These mistakes don’t have to be the end of the relationship, but it may take some serious work to reverse bad spending habits and rebuild lost trust.

“You want to sit down and try to hear each other,” says Dr. Orbuch, pointing out that it’s especially important to hear why one partner felt the need to hide their money habits in the first place. “You want to then identify the underlying meaning of money and your expectations of money [in the relationship].”

Once you better understand each other’s individual money perspectives, you can move forward as a couple by talking regularly about money, sharing financial responsibilities, and setting hard rules and limits, Dr. Orbuch says.

In some cases, couples may find it easier to maintain separate personal accounts or credit cards, but these accounts should still not be a secret. If you or your spouse feel more comfortable keeping some spending private, you don’t have to divulge every purchase, but consider setting a limit of, for example, $250, where any purchase over that amount has to be mutually agreeable.

Finding a system that works for both of you, as with many aspects of a healthy relationship, probably won’t happen overnight, but that’s not a problem as long as you are open with each other and discuss issues when they do arise.

There are multiple methods for managing joint finances, “but none of that should be secret,” Dr. Orbuch says.

Test Out the 30-Day Delay: Limit Impulse Purchases

30DayDelayIf your trip to the grocery store ends with a candy bar at checkout and a bill $40 higher than you expected, you’re likely familiar with impulse purchases.

Impulse purchases are products—food, clothing, entertainment-related items, and the like—that you don’t plan to buy ahead of time but that you go home with anyway. While these small buys might seem harmless, if they’re a regular habit, they can eat up big parts of your budget that otherwise could go toward paying down debts or building up emergency savings. One solution is to declare a 30-day delay on all impulse purchases.

Here are some of the benefits of using a 30-day delay, how you can make it stick, and ways to repurpose the money you save with it.

Understanding the 30-day delay

Picture yourself in a department store looking for new pants to replace a pair you’ve worn out. You find the perfect pair, but then you see a jacket you like and decide, on a whim, to treat yourself to it as well. You may feel great about this until you get home and realize that your purchase was entirely unnecessary. This is where the 30-day delay comes into play.

The key is to recognize the jacket as an impulse, not a need, and to decide right then not to buy it. Instead, leave the store with only your original, intended purchase, and then wait 30 days to revisit the extra item. If, after a month, you still want it, then go ahead and buy it. But the odds are that you will have gotten over your initial desire and no longer see the point in buying it.

How to use a delay

Impulse purchases depend on catching you off guard, often with prominent displays or “can’t miss” sale prices. By walking away and waiting a month to consider buying something, you take the element of surprise out of the equation and give yourself a chance to make the best decision for yourself and your finances.

Often, an impulse purchase may be a product you like but don’t actually need, such as a new pair of headphones or a bottle of soda. Some, like snacks, are easy to forget, but others may linger in your mind even a month later. You may want to use the 30 days while you’re thinking about whether to make that purchase to read customer reviews or find a discount code to save more money.

To give yourself the best chance of success, limit the 30-day delay technique to impulse purchases only. Waiting to pay your mortgage or loan payments, or even putting off a necessary winter coat purchase in December, is not wise. Just remember, impulses are damaging because they are not planned. If you want to treat yourself to a nice dinner or small gift, then do so—but prep your finances for it first. If you can make this delay a habit, you may find yourself having more money in your bank account on a regular basis.

Make the most of your savings

To truly benefit from the 30-day delay technique, you’ll need to make use of the extra money you’ll accrue from avoiding impulse purchases. That money may not do much good if it just sits in your account. Consider that if you have student loans, a car loan, a mortgage, or other debts, you may want to put the money you’ve saved toward that instead. If you are debt-free, you can put the money into an emergency fund or retirement savings.

Once you’ve been able to stick with this technique for several months, check your credit report to see what effect your new habit might be having on your credit. If, as a result of following this delay, you owe less in loans and carry a lower balance on your credit cards, you might have a lower credit utilization ratio (the amount of credit you use compared to the total amount available to you), which can impact your overall credit score.

Keep this strategy in mind the next time you go to the store and see whether employing a 30-day delay can help you cut down on unnecessary impulse purchases.

What to Know About Extreme Couponing

ExtremeCouponingWhether you’ve never actually used a coupon or you clip them weekly, at some point, you might have wondered: Does extreme couponing really work?

Before you know if it works, you’ll want to understand how extreme couponing works. Extreme couponing is a concept that combines coupon cutting with grocery shopping in an attempt to save as much money as possible while accumulating the most groceries.

Buying groceries at an incredible discount usually takes significant effort, but an important factor to consider is whether it will work for you and your lifestyle. After all, the goal with all this couponing is to save money, but if you spend all of your free time preparing to do so, the benefits might not be apparent—or attractive.

Here are some details to consider before you decide to explore extreme couponing.

Discounts at any cost

Extreme couponing is much more than just getting a two-for-one deal on potato chips at the store, and it certainly isn’t all about savings. Much of this activity is devoted to planning and strategizing—so much so that it is frequently referred to as a part-time job. While the websites dedicated to couponing make it somewhat easier to find specific deals, a tremendous time commitment is still needed to save the money that extreme couponing may offer.

To fully commit and get the maximum benefits that some people achieve from extreme couponing, you may have to visit several different grocery stores each week, stock up on goods you don’t necessarily need at the moment, and find room to store everything you buy. For example, if one store is having a sale on paper towels but another is having a great sale on canned vegetables, you’ll need to visit both and, for maximum savings, purchase plenty of cans and towels.

Maybe buying 100 rolls of paper towels sounds excessive, but if you’ll go through them eventually, then stocking up now could save you money in the long run. This is the idea behind extreme couponing: buying as much as you can with the least amount of money, whether it means doubling up on coupons or receiving store credit to use in the future. But while these techniques may actually get you items for free, unfortunately, they may also encourage habits you don’t need.

Your life as an extreme couponer

Shaving hundreds of dollars from your grocery bill might sound nice, but stuffing your pantry full of canned tomatoes or digging through dumpsters for coupons might be a big drawback.

Some former extreme couponers have since given up the lifestyle and claim it was hardly ever worth it at the time. The hours they spent finding and organizing coupons, forming a plan for how to most efficiently use them, and flooding their homes with items that take months to use up became a burden, especially when the couponers could have spent that same time working and earning more money.

You’ll have to consider whether you have the time to dedicate to extreme couponing and whether this is the best way to spend that time. For those people who have plenty of free time, the challenge of extreme couponing might be an appropriate life choice.

Consider the alternatives

The primary goal of extreme couponing is to cut your food bill, but there are other ways to achieve the same result. If you haven’t already, eliminating dining out can save you plenty, as can learning how to cook, knowing where to find recipes, and figuring out how to stretch a pantry full of essentials into an endless variety of meals.

After all, budgeting typically requires you to save in a variety of different ways. If dedicating your week to clipping and redeeming coupons from the newspaper doesn’t sound appealing, you may be better off trying some other strategies to save.

How to Help Your Teen Develop a Solid Understanding of Credit Before College

CollegeStudentBuilding a credit history is important for teenagers taking their first steps into financial adulthood. Good credit behavior is often required for many of life’s major financial milestones, including qualifying for a mortgage. What’s more, proof of responsible credit behavior may be required for some of life’s basics, such as opening utility accounts, and qualifying for insurance premiums.

Whitney Lee, a financial advisor with oXYGen Financial, an Atlanta-based financial consulting firm that targets Gen X and Gen Y, points out it’s never too early to teach your teen about responsible credit behavior.

Add your child as an authorized user on your credit card

The Credit Card Act of 2009 makes it more difficult for teens to acquire their own credit cards. Those under 21 either need to prove they have the means to repay their debt or they must have a co-signer who can handle repayment.

Because young adults may benefit from using a credit card responsibly, Lee recommends adding your child as an authorized user on your credit card. “If you both charge responsibly, and pay off your balances, both of you will see the benefits,” she says.

Consider a secured credit card

If you are concerned about your teen spending recklessly as an authorized user, Lee suggests getting a secured credit card. “You basically pre-pay the card with the security deposit, and your teen can start spending up to the limit,” she says. The low credit limit that often comes with a secured card can be a positive: Your child can start using credit and building a history but within manageable spending limits.

Co-sign on an installment loan

Installment loans diversify the types of credit you have. . If you want your teen to begin to manage multiple lines of credit, adding an installment loan may be a good step. In this situation, you can co-sign an auto or other personal loan with your teen, and then supervise the way in which the debt is repaid. Under your guidance, your teen may begin to establish a foundation of responsible credit behavior.

Teach responsible habits

If you are going to add your child as an authorized credit card user or co-sign on a loan, it’s important that you trust your teen. Teach him about budgeting and living within his means. Later, he will need to make on-time payments and avoid overspending. Lee points out that a teen’s credit worthiness may suffer if responsible habits aren’t established early.

“Encourage your child to make small purchases, like a Starbucks run, and pay off the full balance,” says Lee. “Get your teen used to planning ahead for spending and paying off the balance each month.”

Building your teen’s credit before college can be a great way to prepare him to live independently. Helping him allows you to better monitor habits and provide correction as needed. By the time he leaves for college, you will have helped him develop an understanding of how credit works backed by a solid financial foundation.