4 rules for getting out of the paycheck cycle

Are you tired of living paycheck to paycheck? Yeah, me too. That is why I finally got serious about creating a budget we could actually live by and wouldn’t restrict us from living our lives.
While we live on a pretty extreme budget, we still have fun. On any given day in the summer you will probably find us heading to the beach for some fun in the sun. And I am sorry, but the Motel 6 just doesn’t cut it with kids. We need someplace with a pool and a full hot breakfast.
Having said that, however, here are four sure-fire, easy-to-implement ways you can jump out of the vicious paycheck to paycheck cycle and actually enjoy your life. Cuz being broke ain’t fun.


First of all, let’s get on the same page of: what the heck this whole “paycheck to paycheck” thing even is. Interestingly, there isn’t one set definition of ‘living paycheck to paycheck’ and many Americans today feel they are in this cycle regardless of their actual income level. According to, Investopedia, the definition of living in the paycheck to paycheck cycle is:  “an individual who would be unable to meet financial obligations if unemployed because his or her salary is predominantly devoted to expenses.”
Do you need your entire paycheck to cover your monthly expenses? Then you too, friend, are in the paycheck to paycheck cycle. One phenomenon that I ran into a few years ago was the realization that I was actually worse off then the proverbial “paycheck to paycheck” cycle. The first time I read Dave Ramsey I thought “I’m not that bad, I could cut back a few things and really amp up our savings.” So I set about trying to accomplish this, I cut the cord (this was the first time, you can read about my second and final time here) and cut out going out to eat.
I figured it would only take a few months to put the money that would have been spent on those two things and quickly build our savings. Had I truly been paycheck to paycheck, this would have been true. But what I didn’t realize was how many things I used our credit cards for each month. I really didn’t think about it, Ramsey said to cut the cards so I did, not realizing how many times I whipped out those bad boys at the grocery store, gas station, and other day to day necessities. I wasn’t blowing hundreds of dollars at the mall, but rather, these were just your average expenses. And so, here I was trying to live without the aid of my credit cards.
What a wake up call that was. Here I was living on a cash only basis, I had already cut out the two extravagant expenses that were easy cuts, and yet I was still unable to build up any substantial savings.
How had this happened? Not only was I stuck in this paycheck to paycheck cycle, but I was actually worse off! I was now paycheck to 3-days-before-paycheck. Yikes! Talk about a dose of reality.
Over the course of the next few years, we continued to cut the budget to be able to live on a cash only basis. We have had to do without a few fun trips we really wanted to do, because we didn’t want to take on the debt. If we couldn’t pay for it in full, in advance, we didn’t do it. Ramsey says if your friends don’t think you are crazy then you aren’t doing it right. And trust me, there have been multiple times we have had to swallow our pride along this crazy cash only journey.
So how does this apply to you? And how can you learn the lessons from me instead of having to live through the painful process yourself? That is what I am going to try to sum up in the remainder of this article.

4 rules for getting out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle

  1. Money blueprint
    • mindset is not woo-woo! Your money blueprint is very real. This includes how you were raised and the words you heard when you were a kid. You don’t need to follow blindly in your generational cycle, but rather make your own decisions. When was the last time you read a financial advice book?
    • These 3 are my favorite authors and ones I highly recommend you check out. But at the end of the day, they all make one really big assumption. And that is that we all make enough money to cover all our monthly expenses, and then some. But reality is very different, right? ….and we all know what happens when we make assumptions!
    • Read a financial book, or two. Find an author you resonate with and read everything they have. Knowledge is power, friend.
  2. Hustle
    • they say J.O.B. stands for Just Over Broke. Meaning that as long as you are solely reliant on one source of income from one job you will always make just the minimum amount to get by. If you want to start digging out of debt, saving for the future, or just have a little fun every now and then – then you will need to hustle!
    • You can’t rely on sheer will power, or the idea that you are going to just buckle down and live on less than you make. If it was that easy, we would all be rich! The fact of the matter is that there will always be more month than money, and getting a side hustle allows you to “blow the log jam” so speak!
  3. Meal Planning
    • When I first read Dave Ramsey, it was before kids. And before I learned my way around a kitchen 🙂 . When he would talk about a “rice and beans” budget, I had no idea what he was talking about. It seemed like an old cliche, and not an actual way to cook. As a mom who wants to keep our budget down as low as possible, I can honestly say I have learned how to cook on a rice and beans budget. This has been a major factor allowing us to continue to live on one income, and isn’t something I plan to change anytime soon.
    • You can feed a family of four with 2 chicken breasts with this great recipe. It is super easy to make, even I can do it!
    • This is another feel-good, home-cooking standby that I make way too often. Cheeseburger casserole is so cheap and so easy to make, it is on regular rotation in my kitchen.
    • MYO Rotisserie chicken – I love the convenience of buying the rotisserie chicken, but whole chicken is less than a dollar a pound at my grocery store. Don’t pay top dollar for convenience. Check out this blog post here where I show how to make 3 dinners from one chicken. Cook once, and feed the family 3 times? Yes please!
  4. Sell stuff!
    • Dave Ramsey says to sell so much stuff the kids will worry they are next! Gary Vee says every American has at least $500 sitting in their garage. I would bet I have more! You can read about my attempt to see if this is accurate here, where I talk about selling all those old textbooks. If you are really tight and barely squeaking by, then Dave Ramsey’s first step of saving $500-$1,000 can seem very daunting. Keep working, keep paying your bills, and then spend a few weekends cleaning out your garage. See if Gary Vee is right or wrong about your garage! Don’t stop until you have reached your $500, and put a little cushion between you and Uncle Murphy (you know the one who always shows up with something wrong just as soon as you think you are starting to “make it”).
These 4 ideas are not new, they are certainly not unique to me. But these are the lessons that I have learned the hard way over the years. Hopefully, by mapping it all out for you, I  can spare you the years of learning it the hard way. So get out there, read a good book, get your hustle on, cook some comfort food, and clean out your garage! It won’t happen over night, but slowly over time you will start to work your way out of the living in the paycheck to paycheck nightmare.