Paychecks come but they go even faster as expenses quickly mount. Though your pay may be limited, the ways you can creatively cut costs and maximize your money are not. If you need a little extra money, here are 24 ways to stretch your paycheck and make it bigger each month through a combination of cost-cutting ideas and methods to earn a little bit more money when you need it.
Last updated: Feb. 27, 2020
Put Your Budget in Writing
One of the best ways to squeeze more money out of your paycheck is to know what your current expenses are so you can decide where to trim your current spending. By writing down a budget, you give yourself a financial framework within which to work. If you can’t see what you’re spending, how can you know where to cut back?
Consolidate Your Debt
After looking at your finances, if you find that you have debt or bills, including higher-interest debt, that you can’t pay down or keep track of, with mounting interest, debt consolidation might be a solution for you. Debt consolidation consists of taking all bills and higher-interest debts with likely different interest rates and consolidating them into one monthly payment with a fixed interest rate. Many people use personal loans to consolidate their debt, where you can choose from loan amounts up to usually $35,000 and loan lengths from three to seven years from certain lenders. This simplifies your bills into one set monthly payment and could save you money on interest, keeping more of your paycheck for yourself. A personal loan interest rate can be lower than what you were paying on your revolving debt, according to Experian.
Ask For a Raise
Sometimes your paycheck can get a little bit bigger simply by asking for a raise. If you know you’re a solid, reliable employee, consider asking your employer to increase your wage. It’s a good idea to sit down and write out your value to the company, any achievements you think would contribute to the raise and practice what you’re going to say.
Sometimes, especially when you need some extra cash quickly, working overtime can be a quick way to bring in more money without vastly changing your lifestyle. Experts recommend you be careful not to do it too often because you want to avoid burnout and not start living as though that overtime pay is going to be a regular thing, but there’s no harm for a short stint.
Switch Service Providers
After you have a budget, you’ll know how much you’re spending on services such as your cellphone, internet and TV package. Are you getting the best deals? Call your service providers and find out if they have a cheaper package, and look at their competitors who want to woo you their way — they often have specials.
Sell Some Belongings
Old furniture, record collections, books, even dishes and clothes might just be taking up space in your home when they could be earning you money. Selling this stuff online can make it easy to get rid of your unwanted goods and take home a little cash, as well. But also don’t forget pawn shops, consignment shops and flea markets.
Take On a Side Gig
We’re living at the height of the gig economy — where people can earn money in hundreds of ways on the side of their regular jobs. From driving people around to managing a small business’ social media to freelance writing or tutoring, there are more ways to earn money than you’ve probably ever thought of.
Choose an Employer Who Pays All or Most of Your Healthcare
If you don’t have a job where your employer pays for most or all of your healthcare, you are losing a significant amount of money every year. Employers know that to attract the best talent they need to offer competitive health benefits packages — look for a company that will do the same for you.
Work From Home When Possible
In part due to the gig economy, more employers are offering telecommuting/work-at-home situations to meet the needs of a changing workforce. Career experts say that working from home can save you money on gas, car maintenance, lunch out, dry cleaning and also comes with tax write-offs. In the end, you’ll end up with more of your paycheck in your bank account.
Avoid Adding To Your Debt
One of the least thought of ways to save money is to avoid going into or increasing your debt, particularly credit cards or high-interest bills. Experts recommend you make a list of any and all debts you have and make a plan to pay them in full, on time every month to avoid extra fees and paying more interest than you already owe.
Refinance Your Mortgage
If you own a home, a refinance might be an opportunity for you to squeeze a little bit more money out of your paycheck by either lowering your monthly mortgage payment or reducing your interest rate, or both. There is a variety of refinance options, and they vary from year to year.
Pay In Cash Whenever Possible
Not only does paying in cash mean you’re not using credit — which accrues interest you’ll have to pay later — it’s a great way to budget. You can set aside a specific amount of cash for shopping trips and put back items once you go over your cash limit. This will ensure you’re not using more of your paycheck than you want, which will also keep you from falling further into debt.
Carpool to Work
Joining up with a colleague or a neighbor to carpool together to or near work can really add up. Miles can really add up over time to quite a lot of money thanks to gas and car maintenance. Riding together is a great way to keep more of your paycheck.
Turn Off the Lights
Depending on the type of light bulbs you have in use in your house, turning them off may save you some money, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The most expensive energy-wasting bulbs are the incandescent light bulbs, which give off almost 90% of their energy in the form of heat. Next up in energy waste are halogen light bulbs. You can also save money by switching to less energy-producing bulbs such as CFLs and LEDs.
Your appliances are still sucking up energy even when they’re turned off. This is especially true for bigger, more energy-using items like TVs and printers. So unplug and see more of your money staying with you.
Grow Your Own Produce
If you like to eat healthily but don’t want to spend a lot of your paycheck on high quality, healthy veggies, grow your own garden. Not only will it save you money at the grocery store, but you’ll also know exactly where your fruits and veggies are coming from.
Cook at Home
Eating out may be convenient and easy, but at the end of the day, you may be spending almost three times more money to do so than to cook food at home. Not only will you save money, but you may also get healthier in the process.
Buy Generic Groceries
Brand names may have your attention because they advertise more effectively, but if you want to make your paycheck go further, you’re better off buying generic options, often the grocery store brand. Check ingredients and you might find that the items are identical, but one is a fraction of the price of the name brand.
Reduce Your Thermostat
The cost of a heating or cooling bill may be eating away at any extra cash in your paycheck. The U.S. DOE recommends that you reduce your heating or cooling by 7 to 10 degrees lower than what you would normally use throughout the year, and you can save 10% in costs annually. Some people upgrade to a programmable thermostat for better control and cost savings. Keep your paycheck in your hands by not letting money slip away this way.
Shop Sales at Specific Times of the Year
You can almost guarantee that if you pay full price for an item brand new at a store, you’re paying too much. Every store – brick and mortar and online — has sales eventually, and you can make the most of these sales if you know when to shop. For instance, fitness equipment often goes on sale in January to support New Year’s resolutions and electronics often go on sale between Thanksgiving and Christmas in time for the holidays.
Sign Up for Rewards Programs
More businesses offer loyalty or rewards programs and cards that either offer personalized discounts to members or accumulate rewards you can spend over time. It’s worth asking anywhere you shop if they offer such a program to stretch your paycheck by saving when you shop there.
Use Mobile Payment Apps
You don’t have to wait for the old paper circulars to come with coupons anymore; now you can subscribe to a number of mobile apps that help you find coupons. With some you can even earn cash back. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can still visit websites from a computer to find deals on hundreds of items.
Find Free Activities
Not all of the finer things in life have to cost a lot — save money on entertainment by looking for free activities. There are free museum days and free national parks you can enjoy. It costs nothing to walk in nature or visit the library — which also has free entertainment and internet access, as well as books. By taking advantage of free activities, you’ll be able to keep the money you would have spent on movies out or other costly activities.
Save On Prescription Medications
Medications can take a huge bite out of your paycheck. To save, you can consider buying generic and maybe ask for a larger supply, like 90 days versus 30, to save on co-pays. And it could be worth it to shop around to see which pharmacy has the best prices.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 24 Ways To Maximize Your Paycheck This Year