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How to Budget When You Don’t Make Enough Money

When you barely make ends meet, budgeting can feel very defeating. Here are tips on how to budget when you don’t make enough money.

When Finances Are Uncomfortable

I used to think that I could afford anything if I really wanted or needed it. Like if I was pretty tight on money, but I really wanted to shop for some new clothes that fit my postpartum body, the money would somehow be provided. I used to think that God would always give me enough money to be comfortable. But recently, I’ve learned differently.

Recently, I’ve gone through a few moments where I had to face the hard truth: I don’t make enough money. That doesn’t mean that God isn’t in control and providing for all of my needs still. But that does mean that my list of needs doesn’t include being comfortable or having any excess money.

I started my financial/budgeting journey almost two years ago, but I am just starting to unearth the layers of my unhealthy relationship with money and rebuild my foundation.

My former money mentality was a bad habit of sacrificing healthy choices for unhealthy choices. I would give up saving for spending and figured that those other financial needs would be taken care of somehow as well.

Becoming Aware

Events over the past couple of months have shown me that we do not always have enough money, so I should stop fooling myself.

This awareness has made budgeting an anxiety-inducing event. I know I need to budget, but I hate facing the numbers that just don’t add up. What will I have to sacrifice this month to make ends meet? Or how much will I have to put on the credit card?

I am still very much in a place of privilege because I am able to say that my family has a consistent income and we are able to pay for all of our essential bills every month. What we don’t have enough money for is eating out, shopping, thrifting, investing, saving, and paying extra towards debt (or at least all of them at the same time).

It can be very straining to live on a tight budget in which you never have extra wiggle room. Sometimes, I really just want to buy my kids a new toy or get myself a cute shirt. It’s tough when you don’t even have $10 to go to a resale shop.

How to Budget When You Don’t Make Enough Money

I hate being in a place of conflict, so this month, I was determined to change my scarcity mindset. Constantly thinking I don’t make enough money is a gloomy way to live.

Let me share how I figured out how to budget a low income effectively and hopefully leave you with a little encouragement:

  1. Pull out a piece of paper and pen.
  2. Make a list of what NEEDS to be paid this month. List bills that are actually DUE, like a medical bill or minimum credit card payment. List any expenses that will negatively affect your credit score or finances in a major way. Don’t forget basic groceries and transportation costs.
  3. Make a list of extra things that you do not have to allocate money towards this month, but you would like to. Here I listed spending money, extra money towards debt, home repairs, investments, and savings.
  4. If you don’t make enough money to pay bills that are due, see if you can set up a payment plan or put any extra money towards it to get rid of it ASAP. You want to get all of your monthly bills to fit into your budget.
  5. Once all of your essentials fit into your monthly budget, figure out a plan for any extra money. Look at your list of “extras,” and decide which goal to tackle first, even if it’s just $10 at a time. Also, if you can at all manage it, set aside a little fun money in the budget (more on this later).

Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Doing this simple exercise really helped me calm down and remember that I don’t have to put extra money towards debt this month. I hope to increase our income eventually and be able to pay off debt more quickly in the future, but feeling anxious about it right now won’t help our situation.

I have been so caught up in the desire to live a financially healthy life (e.g., getting out of debt quickly, building up our savings, and investing early) that I forgot that we currently live paycheck to paycheck.

We have to stop stressing about things that are out of our control and focus on what we CAN accomplish! We have to change our mindset to think positively about what we are able to afford.

Don’t Compare Your Journey with Others

My husband and I don’t make enough money to smash our financial goals, but we can take a small step each month. We may not be able to put hundreds of extra dollars towards debt every month like some people can, but we can pay the minimum payment!

Only paying the minimum payment might not be a huge accomplishment to Dave Ramsey or some rich Susan on Instagram, but if that’s what you can manage, then that’s fabulous. Gaining acceptance of what you can afford is the first step in feeling at peace.

It’s so easy to compare our financial situations to those online who seem to be making big moves! If you follow the financial community on YouTube or Instagram, it feels like all you see are people throwing hundreds if not thousands of dollars toward their goals every month. That is why I wanted to share some honesty about my own broke struggle and shed some light on the reality of many families.

Leave a Little Wiggle Room When You Can

As much as I respect Dave Ramsey and believe that his plan works, I personally cannot follow it very faithfully in our current season. My family is currently living paycheck to paycheck, and we would have to give up all the small pleasures in order to barely scratch the surface of our debt. I am realizing that as a pregnant mom of two young children, my husband and I need to prioritize self-care a little more strongly in this present season. If that means we put $50 towards a little fun money instead of a chip in our debt, then I think it’s worth it.

Again, making more income in the future to get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle is always the goal, but I encourage you to assess your budget realistically and set aside a little fun money, too, no matter how tight your budget is! Don’t get so obsessed with unrealistic goals that you set yourself up for failure. Although sometimes you can’t help it, living too frugally is also unhealthy.

If you feel like you will never make enough money, I want to encourage you that you have the skills to work and profit from home! Here are some side hustle ideas for stay-at-home moms.

Thanks for reading, and if this post resonated with you at all, I would love to hear from you in the comments!

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