Making ends meet can be a battle. Your monthly paycheck only stretches so far to cover your expenses. Those who earn higher salaries may find themselves in the same boat each month, wondering where all of their money has gone. At times life may seem easier with more money, but more money isn’t always the answer.
What many people fail to realize is that earning more often equals spending more. So, what is the real issue? Do you need to get your spending under control through budgeting to reduce expenditures, or do you find yourself cutting back more and more and still not having enough money to support yourself?
Let me help you determine whether you have a spending problem or an income problem and provide you with some tips to help solve it.
What Kind of Problem Do You Have?
Take a good look at your habits and reflect on what is happening with your money. Think about these points:
- Are you earning more money than you were five years ago? (If so, by how much: 5%, 10%, 20%, or more?)
- When you get a raise or bonus, do you go out and spend it right away? Would you call shopping a hobby?
- Do you lease a new car every couple of years? Or buy the latest electronics as soon as they come out?
- Do you take vacations often, whether you have saved for them or not?
- Do you go out to eat or meet your friends at Happy Hour three times a week or more?
- Do you have trouble tracking your expenses or sticking to a monthly budget?
If you find yourself answering yes to these questions, then you probably have a spending problem rather than an income problem. The truth is, just because you make more money, doesn’t mean you need to spend more money. If you want to acquire wealth, think of your bank account like taking a bath: turning on the faucet will not fill up the bathtub unless you stop up the drain.
How to Fix a Spending Problem
Fixing your spending problem can be very simple once you identify the causes of it. Understanding where you are spending your money will help you determine how to cut your expenses. Categorize your spending to identify the problem areas. To track my expenditures, I use Mint.com, a free, comprehensive money-managing tool that helps you budget, set up a savings plan, and track your investments. I highly recommend it!
Be Better at Managing Your Money
After speaking to many friends about how they manage their finances, I realized that the problem often isn’t having the right tools, but using them. It doesn’t matter which method or financial app you use to sift through your finances; the key is setting a schedule and doing it! I set a reminder on my phone to go through the past week’s transactions every Tuesday at 1:31 P.M. (an odd time, I know, but hey, it works for me!). Find a time that works for you and stick to it.
Reduce Your Bills
Once you have a clear picture of where your money is going, start cutting back. In my post, “Why You Are Still Broke,” I help you identify your spending problems, and “20 Ways to Save Money” guides you through reducing your monthly outgoings.
If you are diligent about budgeting and consciously “cutting” coupons, and have found ways to scale back as much as you can and still enjoy your life, then you likely have an income problem. Don’t live paycheck to paycheck searching for ways to save without taking a serious look at how to put yourself in a better financial position.
How to Fix an Income Problem
Determining that you have an income problem is not the end of the world! There is a clear-cut solution: just make more money, right? I know the answer is not as simple as it seems. A close relative of mine has been working the past five years trying to do just that. In her current position as a teacher, she has experienced salary reductions, higher healthcare premiums, and increased work hours. Her efforts to combat this problem by working summer school, getting a part-time job, and doing some consulting work has left her stressed and burned out, without much to show for it.
Ask for a Raise
So what do you do to solve an income problem? First, consider asking for a raise. Raises are often issued at the end of the year, but if you have been working hard and have concrete results to show for your efforts, then make a plan to ask for one sooner than later. Prepare the justification for your case, gather all the relevant materials, and present them along with comparable salaries of your position (www.glassdoor.com is a good resource).
Get a Side Hustle
If a raise is not an option, you can generate income in several other ways. Market your skills or professional services and become a freelancer on Fiverr.com for some extra money. You can also try TaskRabbit.com, which allows you to place bids on job offerings, from making travel reservations to running errands. Side jobs can be an excellent way to utilize your spare time to earn extra money at your leisure.
Find a New Job
But if you are busy like me and you don’t have much spare time to earn extra cash, then considering a career change might be the best option. According to Forbes.com, switching companies can lead to an average of 10–20% increase in salary vs. the normal 2.1% annual increase received by staying at your current firm.
Start Your Own Business
Finally, consider stepping away from your current job and taking a leap of faith to venture out on your own. Stick with your current skill set and start your company, or go an entirely different direction by following your dream and fulfilling your passion. Trust me; it does not happen overnight. But if you choose to tap into your inner entrepreneur, check out my post on “Turning Your Hobby Into a Career,” which can help you set the foundation for your future.￼
The bottom line is this: whether you have a spending problem or an income problem, you need to start implementing serious changes to the way you handle your incomings and outgoings. Taking care of the problem now will only help you achieve greater financial success in the future.