7 in 10 Americans Worry About Paying Their Bills -- But You Don't Have To

by Kailey Hagen | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on Feb. 18, 2020

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Use these tips to get your budget back on track and keep it there.

Use these tips to get your budget back on track and keep it there.

Being alive is expensive. You have to pay for your necessities such as food, healthcare, and shelter. Then there are peripheral costs, like cooking utensils, insurance, and utility bills. You likely also have savings goals, such as retiring or buying a home, that you have to budget for. And you probably want to have a little fun once in a while, too. 

With so many expenses, it's no wonder that so many people feel financially insecure. The Ascent's recent survey of nearly 500 people with side hustles found that seven in 10 of them admitted to worrying about paying their bills every month. Breaking out of that cycle of worry isn't always easy, but it's doable if you've got the right systems in place and the discipline to stick to them. Here are a few things you can try to improve your financial well-being and quit worrying about money.

Create a budget

A budget is the centerpiece of your financial plan. It helps you decide where to allocate your funds so that you can meet all your monthly obligations and goals. Creating one can go a long way toward easing your stress around money.

Make a list of all your monthly expenses, including housing, food, insurance, utilities, subscriptions, and transportation costs. Next, make a list of all the irregular expenses you expect this year. This includes things like vacations, quarterly or annual fees, and wedding or holiday presents. Comb back through your last year of credit card or bank account statements to make sure you haven't missed any irregular expenses. Plan to save some money each month for these expenses so you can pay for them as they arise.

Don't forget about your financial goals, too. Make a list of all the goals you'd like to save for and decide how much you'd like to allocate to each one. If a goal has a deadline, divide the total amount you need to save by the number of months or weeks you have left to figure out how much you must save per month or per week to hit your goal.

Once you have all this information, compare it to your monthly income. Subtract the money you need for your basic living expenses first. Then, subtract the money you plan to set aside every month for your savings goals. The remainder is money you can spend on whatever you want.

Cut costs

You might have to make some changes to your budget if you find that your monthly income does not cover all of your expenses. Cutting costs is one way to do this. Look for areas where you're spending more than you need to and see if you can reduce or eliminate your spending in these categories. Try canceling subscriptions you don't use, making coffee at home instead of hitting up a coffee shop, and having friends over instead of going out to the bars.

Housing is most people's largest expense, so you can free up quite a bit of cash if you can reduce how much you're paying for your home or apartment. Downsizing is one option if you are in the market for a new place. You could also choose to move to a more affordable neighborhood. Those with existing mortgages can refinance to find a better interest rate. If you have extra space in your home, you could also try renting it out, either to a long-term renter or to people passing through town, to earn some extra cash.

Boost your income

Paring down your expenses is a good start, but when you can't cut any more costs to balance your budget, you'll have to explore other ways to increase your income. Consider working overtime at your existing job or negotiating a pay raise. You could also consider finding a new employer or taking professional development courses to increase your odds of getting a promotion. 

Side hustles give you the flexibility to work when and as often as you choose while also adding more variety to your day. Think about what you're good at, particularly any rare skills that you have that few others possess, and how you could monetize those skills. Market your services to your friends through your social media networks or on online marketplaces and job boards where others interested in the type of work that you do can find you. Commit to a regular schedule so that you can build up a successful business and better predict how much income you can expect from your side hustle.

Having a financial plan in place, being frugal, and seeking out new opportunities to increase your income can help improve your financial security over time. Take the above three steps today if you haven't tried them out already to see what kind of a difference they can make for you.

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