The Ultimate Guide to Not to Going Crazy on Payday

We all know how it is: you get your paycheck on Friday (usually every other week) and BAM!  Your money is gone before Monday.


Never fails, right?  I mean, we all have bills to pay, and things to buy, as living paycheck to paycheck means that you are going without necessities for days on end before the next payday.  As of writing this, I literally used to the last roll of toilet paper (I mean the last sheets on the last roll) the morning of the day we last got paid.  That's sure coasting on fumes!

And now we have two weeks to stretch out $158 (we paid rent so we're playing the "half of the month direly poor game").  I am lucky it's Sunday and we still have that much money.  Plenty of times I've blown ALL of that "after rent" cash before the weekend's over.  But now that we have NO backup at all, we have had to play it super safe and be very careful with what's left.

So, how do we do it?

Here are 5 ways not to go crazy on payday:

  1. Those of us who live the P2P Life (paycheck to paycheck) are constantly living in starvation mode.  We are not only (sometimes) starving for food, but also starving for our bills to be paid, for gas in our cars, and for a general sense of security.  So when we get paid on Friday, we go into panic mode and fill ourselves up to the brim in order to get rid of our financial hunger.  And this is usually how we go broke before Monday. 

    To combat this, we need to learn to fill our cups slowly.  Thinks of getting frostbite--our body parts being frozen in the snow.  To thaw our extremities back to normal (and to not kill our flesh), we need warm up slowly, little by little.  Pouring straight up hot water on them will damage it.  As will pouring oodles of money all at once onto our starving souls.  It won't hurt our soul as much as it will send us straight back into financial starvation mode.  Although it will hurt our soul because it teaches us improper spending habits which can end up staying with us all of our adult lives.  So the first trick is to ONLY buy exactly what we need in order to live on payday.  No going out to eat for dinner (unless you absolutely have to). No spending sprees at Walmart (my ex and I used to get paid and go directly to Walmart every single week--wow, were we crazy!).  No "Well, look at all this money that's on my check! I can afford my entire shopping basket on Amazon!"  You will regret this when later in the week you realize, after paying your bills, that you have nothing left (and sometimes not even enough to pay your bills with). 

    So step one is: on pay day, only buy exactly what you need to survive.  That's it.  Nothing more.

  2. Now it's Saturday.  So, let's make a couple lists.  What do you need?  Get a sheet of paper and write down these headlines of things you need to spend your money on: Bills, Household, Pets, Outdoors, Car, Entertainment, Other, all the names of the people in your house, and any other subjects that apply to your life.   Some may fall under two headlines, but at it's core it will be only one (like a car payment would go under Bills).  For bills, write the dates they are due.  Now, organize these things into these three categories: HAVE2 (have to get done), CPO (can put off), LIKE2 (not necessary, but would like to get done).  What items do you HAVE2 pay right away?  Which things CPO until a later date?  And which items would you LIKE2 do, but don't necessarily have to?  Once they are all organized, take the HAVE2 list and add them up and see if you have enough money to pay them.  If so, then we'll try to get them paid with this check (make a note if they can be paid online or on the phone, or if they have to be paid in person).  The things that can be put off, we'll hold on to those to see if we can afford them with this check.  If not, push them to next check.  The things that you'd like to do, we'll keep those on the back burner to see what we can afford and when. 

    Now, you need to make a grocery list. 

    I like to plan out my meals ahead of time with FlyLady's "Saving Dinner" series of books.  They are really, really awesome.  And the recipes are cheap as you know what 😮 Once you learn to make your grocery lists in the way they do in the "Saving Dinner" books, you can then use that for any cook book.  The point is: you save oodles of money by planning your meals TODAY (or earlier in the week, if you're not a procrastinator like me!).  You don't wait until the day of, and then wonder "What will I made for dinner today?".

    After you make your list, pick a day to go shopping.  I have even gone to the trouble of figuring how much it costs for each item so I know how much money I'll be spending (you do this by recording the prices on your shopping list as you go and bringing a calculator--then you bring those written prices home to make a price book).  You could go shopping for groceries before you pay your bills, which is a good idea, as the need to eat will beat paying your car payment any day. 

    You have different stores to shop at?  Go on different days.  The point is to spread that money out. 

    Now, only spend the money today that you HAVE to spend if you're not going shopping or paying bills today.  Sit on your cash as long as you can.  Barring some special occasion, like a birthday or a special day you have planned, try to spend the very least you have to. 

  3.  Hey!  You're back!  It's Sunday now, and you still have some money left.  Unless you spent all your money on groceries and bills.  What do you have to do today?  Laundry?  Spiritual stuff?  Pick cheap and free things to today.  Work out in your yard (right now I should probably be shoveling), or some other thing that costs your family nothing to do.  Teach your kids to cook, play some board games, do something fun.  But get into the habit of making Sunday a "homebody" day.  Stay home and get housework done, or rearrange your house.  Anything to keep everyone busy doing free stuff :)

  4.  It's Monday! Hooray!  You're not broke!  So, today I'd like you to head out to your bank or your bank's ATM and grab $20.  And then I want you to put that $20 somewhere at home you WILL NOT touch it.  The ONLY way you can touch this $20 bill is if you go broke.  This will be your Magic Money.  If you can get away with not spending that money until next paycheck, I then want you to move that $20 bill to another, more secure place.  And leave it.  This will become your emergency fund.  If you go super broke, and need $40, then you may possibly have it with this technique.  This money is NOT for spending on coffee, getting your nails done, or anything else you can do without.  This money is for emergencies ONLY.  If you want a Fun Fund, start that somewhere else with different money, in smaller denominations.  But emergency money comes first.  $20 can buy a family of four dinner and then some. 

    I also suggest getting something to use as a bank to save change in that you keep in a cabinet.  Out of sight, out of mind--you won't think of touching it until you have more change to put into it.  This can be for anything you want.  Keeping every single penny of change you find or have in your pockets is a great way to find hidden money you never even knew you had (and you don't usually miss your change). 

    Did you pick today as your grocery day?  Then go shopping.  If not, I want you to do what you have to do (go to work, get the kids to school, appointments, etc.) and not spend a dime (unless you need gas) until you get groceries.  If you need something, commit to ONLY buying what you need, and nothing extra.  Not ONE thing. 
  5. Day five!! You're doing good!  It's Tuesday.  Get your groceries if you haven't already.  Make sure those HAVE2 bills are paid (to your best ability).  Do you have enough money to pay something on your CPO list?  Yes?  Find something on the list you can afford.  If not, then wait until you can.  Anything on your H2 list that you have to put off?  Make the necessary calls today.  Mondays suck for getting through to people, so today is a good day.  Call your landlord, gas or electric company, or whoever.  See if you can get an extension.  Life works easier when you call and keep on top of your bills, even if you can't pay them on time.  Work out payment arrangements.  Do what you have to do. Keep a list so you can a) keep track of what you've done and b) you don't forget. 

    Got all that done?  So reward yourself (cheaply)!  Get yourself a small flavored coffee or whatever you like--just keep it to a couple bucks.  Don't deny yourself, you've worked hard to get yourself to this place.  You deserve a treat (when you can get yourself to see these things as "treats" and not daily things, you'll really start seeing the $$ add up in your bank account).
If you've pushed your money out until Tuesday, then you're doing excellent.  If you've done what you're supposed to do (pay bills, get groceries, buy necessities), and you still have money?  Sit on it.  Only buy the little things you NEED.  No spending sprees at the craft store or the home improvement store.  Just sit on your money, until you can't. 

If you've done what you're supposed to and have nothing left?  Then you're not making enough money.  I know, because we're in that boat right now.  So consider applying for public aid (food stamps, medical, etc.).  If you have public aid and you still are struggling, then check out some ways to make money online.  They may not bring in tons of money, but sometimes $5 can mean your family can eat dinner that day (I know, because I've been there, too many times to count).

Here is a great list brought to you by the magnificent Penny Hoarder site (which I highly suggest you peruse at your leisure--so many wonderful ideas!)

Let's recap:

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