4 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Paycheck

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TaxCredits.net/Flickr

TaxCredits.net/Flickr

Ah, glorious payday. Whether it’s weekly, semi-weekly or once a month, few things feel quite as good as that paycheck or direct deposit. You’ve got clear eyes, a full wallet, and no way to lose.

Except once the weekend is over.

It’s almost like as soon as that check comes, you’re back to square one: ramen and cereal for another week while you squeeze by until that next payday. So how do you stop the madness? When does this horrible cycle come to a screeching halt and Monday stop being so depressing?

One hint: you don’t necessarily need a better paying job to make a paycheck less disappointing. In fact, no matter what size paycheck you get, that habit remains the same unless you make some serious personal changes of your own.

So whether you’re sitting below the poverty line or at a desk on Wall St., here are some ways that you can redeem your payday, and make the most out of every drop of that glorious check.

Understand How You Spend & Learn How To Control It

For one thing, it’s hard to always know where your money is going. One night out with your friends can seem like it might cost only $25-30, but in reality you’re reaching closer into triple digits. Whether it’s covers, gas, or that extra cup of coffee here and there, money can disappear quickly if you’re not on top of your spending.

That’s where apps come in (no, not the half-priced ones at Applebee’s). In this beautiful, digital age we live, there are some great resources for analyzing your spending habits, tracking transactions, and even creating self-regulating budgets that can help you stay on top of those pricey nights out.

For starters, try Mint. Mint is the gold standard for this sort of application. Without giving it the ability to process transactions, you can use Mint to track your payments, from which it will automatically categorize each expenditure and create a very analyzable graph. From there you can set budgets an alerts to keep from going over.

Next, there’s Checkbook. Much like Mint, it can help you to analyze and keep on top of spending habits. But it can also let you quickly transfer money, giving it more of an appeal for people who like a single app for all of their finances.

Finally, there’s BillGuard. With the imminent reality of electronic theft, it’s good to have a watchdog for all of those small, incremental payments that thieves usually deduct before a more noticeable withdrawal. Don’t let yourself be a victim.

Set Aside Cash For your Spending Money

Another way to take control of your spending is simply to limit yourself: create a cutoff. With nearly every vendor out there now taking credit cards, few places are going to stop you from spending everything you have. If you’ve got cash drawn for the weeks “fun money,” then you don’t have to worry about going over.

Have the discipline to plan for how much you want to spend this week, and be able to say “I’m done,” when you’re… well, out of cash.

Not to mention, setting aside cash will help you to keep from being that person when it’s a cash-only bar, or you have to split a bill. It never hurts to plan ahead.

Frontload Your Biggest Expenses

There’s no reason to let yourself sweat come rent-time. Instead of spending money each week and then hoping you’ve got enough left over by week three, try skimming your rent money off the top. Divide your checks by an equal portion and determine how much you need each week to have rent by the end of the month.

By taking out your bill money from the start, you’re removing that need from the equation later on. If all of the necessary stuff is taken care of, theoretically, you’ve got no reason to be worried for the rest of it. Just have fun with what you can!

Save More Than You Need To

That said, it’s always better to over-save than over-spend. While it’s great to have money every week to go out and blow off steam, or treat yourself to that velvet/suede/velvet outfit combo, sometimes being frugal has a reward of its own.

That reward: not being screwed when inevitable expense rolls in. For whatever reason, it seems like life’s price tags decide to visit us when it’s least convenient.

Whether it’s an unexpected trip, tragedy, or taxes, there’s almost always going to be a cost that you didn’t plan for—having that money in the bank will be more of a load off your shoulders than you can ever imagine.

On that note, don’t try and game the IRS. While it’s nice to keep every dollar that’s definitely yours, cutting it close on your taxes is never worth it. Surprises happen, and you may end up owing more than you thought next April. If you opt to have the maximum withholding on each check, you’ll be more than likely getting a refund rather than another bill.

And that refund check just feels oh, so good.

Money is always going to be a source of stress, but you’re in full control of just how high that stress is. It’s going to take some humility and frugality, but if you’re smart, you can make even the smallest paycheck go much longer than just this weekend.

 

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