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Cut Spending When Living Paycheck to Paycheck

making a purchase online with a credit card

It's important to cut expenses in as many areas of life as possible when you have an unexpected change in income or get in over your head financially.Get serious about what you need and want and use these tips to spend less at home, on your car and at work.


Examine your income and expenses to create a spending plan. Could you cut costs in any of these areas?

Phone service.

Review your cellphone plan and research alternative, less expensive carriers.

TV entertainment.

Consider what you and your family could live without, if even for awhile. Many TV shows are available online for free. Research inexpensive movie and sports streaming options.


Cancel non-essential online accounts, memberships, and subscriptions.


Create a meal plan and use coupons to cook the majority of your meals at home. Cut your grocery bill with some meatless meals and casual dinners to save on overall costs.

Extra vehicles.

Research the market value of boats, ATVs, recreational vehicles or extra cars and trucks that you could sell. The savings in maintenance costs, storage and insurance, plus the money you’ll receive from the sale, could be significant.


If you or your children are involved in activities that cost money, consider taking a break from them for a season, or until you are financially stable again.

Health insurance.

It is important to have health insurance no matter what your financial situation. Avoiding health insurance will cause you to have bigger bills down the road.


Multiple vehicles.

If you have more than one car, can you get by with a single vehicle? Consider carefully which car would be the better one to keep and which one to sell.

Drive less.

Group all car trips by geography so you’re driving less — and using less gas.

Service your vehicles.

Although it seems counterintuitive when you’re trying to cut expenses invest the money to keep up with regular, preventive maintenance on your car such as oil changes. Doing so helps your car run efficiently and can help prevent unexpected, more costly repairs.


Raise the deductible on your insurance policies to lower your monthly premiums. But be prepared to pay the deductible if an emergency does happen.


Eat in.

Skip restaurant lunches and pack your lunch. Even saving $15-25 per work week can add up to savings of $750-$1,250 if you work 50 weeks a year.


Skip the expensive breaks by bringing your own. Plan ahead and purchase the soda from the grocery store or a wholesaler and store it at work or bring it in daily. If coffee drinks are your vice, consider buying them in packages at the grocery store and make it yourself, or limit to once a week.

Review credit reports.

You can order your free credit report every year from each of the three main credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) through Examine the reports and alert the agencies if you find errors. Follow each agency’s instructions for clearing up mistakes. It can take a while for the errors to be corrected.

Alternative transportation.

Consider using public transportation, walking or riding a bike to and from work. While it is often more convenient to drive, the extra time could save you money.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by National Endowment for Financial Education.]