The generations that came before us could do amazing things, often on one income. They could buy homes, raise families, send kids to college, and even sometimes have a little saved up for a rainy day. In contrast, these days, more and more families are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and the numbers are alarming.
Over Half Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck
According to a 2022 survey, 64% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, with 48% of those surveyed making more than $100,000 a year. We’ve already seen how inflation impacts corporations; the cost of everything has inflated, with some alleging that profits are at an all-time high. Customer service has become less accommodating for the customer, and everyone seems to be short-staffed. With all these obvious and large-scale challenges, it’s not unusual to wonder how this will trickle down to average citizens and families. “The effects of inflation are eating into every American’s wallet and as the Fed’s efforts to curb inflation drive up the cost of debt, we are seeing near record numbers of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck,” explains Anuj Nayar, financial health officer.
One Family’s Story
Living paycheck-to-paycheck has become so common that families have become experts at cutting costs. That once meant something as simple as cutting costs on luxuries like bringing your own snacks to the movies. In contrast, families are trying to cut corners for everyday needs like groceries and generic medications. 37-year-old Lauren Wellbank shared her story with HuffPost, disclosing her own families’ experiences. Over two years ago, she and her partner had a small savings, in addition to little credit card debt.
However, due to mishap and after mishap, the pair are now living with their two children, paycheck-to-paycheck. Wellbank also shares that both adults have an income, which always gave them enough cushion until they had some costly plumbing issues. Shortly after, another tragedy happened when they lived on one income because her husband took some time off work for medical issues.
Wellbank explains that as a contracted writer, there are times when she gets paid late. While an inconvenience at the very least, the snowball effect can become greater until there is no way to recover. With that realization, Lauren realized a much harsher reality.
Inflation and Costly Living Expenses
The cost of living has never been higher. Banks charge an overdraft fee whenever you don’t have the funds to cover a utility bill. After that, the utility company will likely also take a late payment fee. When someone in Lauren’s position doesn’t get paid on time, every day that goes by adds more to the fees, sometimes becoming so large that they eat into the majority of a family’s income.
Double Edged Swords
Another example of how much more costly it is to have limited financial resources are credit cards. Back in the 1920’s credit cards were created for wealthy patrons of department stores because they preferred not to use cash. However, after WW2, and the Great Depression, credit cards went more mainstream in order to help boost the economy. While they were designed to help, they’ve since become another costly reminder of how expensive life is. A family living paycheck-to-paycheck may use a credit card to cover a costly emergency and may take a year to pay it off. In that time, the balance will have increased significantly due to interest rates. Eventually, creating an obstacle to be able to eventually pay the card off and get out of debt.
A frustrated Lauren expressed she can’t help but wonder what will happen to her family if they have another emergency. Her previous career experience in finance taught her exactly what her family needed to be doing to fix their situation. However, through these struggles, she learned another invaluable lesson. “What you should be doing and what you can do are two different things.”
Others Struggling Too
Wellbank and her family aren’t the only people living paycheck-to-paycheck. Many Americans living in a 2-income household, with one partner making $100,000 or more per year, are also seeing financial hardships. Inflation has caused a severe rent increase, with more than double the monthly cost in some places. As of January 2023, more than 70% of American families reported falling behind.
Overcoming Life Paycheck-to-Paycheck
For many Americans, another source of income may be a solution. However, many Americans are already stretched so thin, and taking on another job just isn’t an option. When this is the case, some things may just help you get through a few months of living paycheck-to-paycheck. Furthermore, maybe even pulling yourself out of debt.
- Ted Jenkin, CEO and Co-Founder of Oxygen Financial, is a member of the Financial Advisor Council for CNBC. He advises cutting spending however possible.
- He also suggests boosting savings however possible.
- Applying for low-interest credit cards or those without annual membership fees. That way, you’ll always have a safety net, but you won’t have to pay for something you already use.
- Saving your change. It seems silly, but every cent adds up. Moreover, there’s always a chance that you end up with one of those old-time pure copper cents worth far more than a penny.
- Saving coupons and downloading apps. Many grocery stores have incentive programs where you can sign up for deals and promotions, sometimes getting coupons sent directly to your phone.
Although things don’t seem like they’ll get better soon, small solutions exist to avoid living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Keep Reading: A Teacher Who Quit and Took a Job at Costco Says Life is Much Better now — She Has a Life, Can Pay Her Bills and Finally Sleeps at Night
- “64% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck – here’s how to keep your budget in check.” CNBC. Jessica Dickler. January 31, 2023.
- “Even on $100K plus, more Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck.” BNN. Alex Tanzi. January 30, 2023.
- “I Am 37 Years Old And I Live Paycheck To Paycheck” Huff Post. January 26, 2021.