What Living Paycheck-To-Paycheck Is Really Like, According To Millennial Women
Money is a feminist issue — and yet, women are still reluctant to talk about it. According to a recent Bustle survey of more than 1,000 millennial women, more than 50 percent of people said they never discuss personal finances with friends, even though 28 percent reported feeling stressed out about money every single day. Bustle's Get Money series gets real about what millennial women are doing with their money, and why — because managing your finances should feel empowering, not intimidating.
At some point in your life, you may live paycheck-to-paycheck, meaning you're just making ends meet and can barely save money (if at all). Even though it may not be preferable, living paycheck-to-paycheck tends to happen to many people sometime or another.
"The fact that 54 percent of Millennial women live paycheck-to-paycheck, according to a 2016 Wells Fargo Millennial Survey of over 1,000 U.S. adults between the ages of 22 and 35, sheds light on a perfect storm of issues and realities that young women face," Danielle YB Vason, Founder & Writer, shemakescents.com, tells Bustle. "... In addition to paying more due to the 'pink tax' on everyday items, more Millennial women are graduating college than men, which means that, along with the degree, they get the $30,000+ debt that comes along with it. Then, when the first job comes, women are paid 20 percent less than their male counterparts. It is not just a financial issue, but a feminist one, as well."
This may be the reason side hustles are so popular right now. "I believe that is why there's been a recent spike in female entrepreneurs who are looking to side hustles to help them tackle their financial hurdles," she says. "Even with the 'pink tax,' rising student loan debt, and gender pay inequality, it is our responsibility as women to make financial planning just as important as planning for a vacation, sticking to a budget, and staying focused on our larger money goals."
Vason and Wells Fargo's survey highlight interesting points about Millennial women's earnings. Here's what some young women had to say about living paycheck-to-paycheck.
"I am a PR professional living in San Francisco, so yes, I work paycheck-to-paycheck. Here's how. Don't check your bank accounts too frequently — I am terrified of my bank account. That said, I know what my budget is without checking too often, so I save myself the pain and check only about 1-2 times a week. Payment plans for everything — I recently purchased a laptop and even though I had the savings money to front it, I wanted to save that and just do the payment plan. Lower credit card allowance — my allowance is only $2,500 so that I don't overbuy and don't dig myself into a hole of debt. Side hustles — I've had a few short-term social media contracts, and I've worked a few events in the city to make a few extra dollars on the side. Live by Goodwill and thrift stores — living in San Francisco, I have the luxury of living by very wealthy people that don't worry about selling their nice clothes. I've purchased so many designer shirts and jackets for less than $10, it's insane! Not everyone can afford the time for a side hustle, though, depending on your work hours. Food takes the fall — unfortunately, I'm not able to eat out as much as I'd like to. I'd rather allocate what limited funds I have for concerts and going out with my friends."
"Up until recently, I was a Millennial with no savings, and my husband and I were living paycheck-to-paycheck. We did have about $5,000 in savings in 2015, but it was wiped out due to medical debt. A tip for living paycheck-to-paycheck would be making sure to pay all your bills up front so you know how much other money you have to use for the rest of the time until your next paycheck. I had started a side hustle to make ends meet. I do career consulting and help people find their dream jobs through The Color Coded Life. I also do freelance writing."
"I was working as a reporter in New York at my first full-time job, and given the high price of rent, I really struggled to save money. I lived for a year from paycheck-to-paycheck and made ends meet by picking up side hustles — freelance writing jobs, walking dogs through Wag!, and selling clothes on Poshmark and eBay for extra cash. It was always so scary to have zero savings, but I realized that I needed a better paying job to really make ends meet. I worked hard to 1) eat the food I already had in my pantry and 2) keep fitness classes free by taking advantage of all the freebies New York offers. These two things made the experience so much better than expected.
I think one thing that was hard was that I didn't expect my salary to leave me in the position of living paycheck-to-paycheck. When I actually accepted it, I was able to make major changes that helped me start saving. I was working full-time and barely making it. I now work at a higher-paying job that allows me to save money. Before, it was SO difficult to save, and this is all part of why I started my website, She Spends. I found that money conversations were so hard to have, but when I started talking about all of these problems, I couldn't shut up."
"My salary is pretty solid, but only gets me through my rent each month — 1-bedroom in the East Village — and then food and day-to-day expenses. Saving hasn't been possible living in NYC yet, but hoping to get there before 30. Some tips I'd share are: 1) Identify where your money weaknesses are and change them. Ex: My drunk alter ego believes I'm a billionaire who should buy shots for everyone on my credit card… I've learned to bring just cash out whenever possible so I have a limit; 2) Never be afraid of a side hustle, and always be interviewing to see what's out there. I hear Fiverr is a good app to pick up odd jobs, but I haven't done it; 3) Get the right apartment. Especially in NYC, that's seriously the first step, money-wise; otherwise, you're setting yourself up for serious hardships day-to-day; 4) Choose happy hour over dinner; the deals are better; and 5) Remind yourself that it's temporary, as long as you keep making moves and moving forward. Independence is empowering."
"I've been with my husband for 11 years and I've followed him around as he has built his career. I attended college, but was in and out of the workforce because I had to accommodate his job and our son! I am just now entering the workforce full-time and have nothing saved, and chances are I will barely be able to after I pay student loans. If anything ever happened to us, I would be screwed because I don't make enough money and, again, have nothing saved."
"It's tough, but not too rare in New York! I meal prep in the beginning of the week, so I always bring my lunch and have food ready for dinner and I'm not tempted to do takeout or go out to eat, which saves me a lot. I also do freelance writing on the side and when times are really tough, I'll sell my clothes to consignment stores!"
"I hate to admit that I live paycheck–to-paycheck, but I'm all about living in the moment. I know saving is important, especially for emergencies or sudden medical expenses, but then you see all the people who save and save and then die of a heart attack when they're 50. For now, I'd rather live this way — if nothing else, it teaches you how to manage your money, even if it's not a lot. I figure I can always pick up a side hustle if need be."
There Are Actually Some Benefits To Living Paycheck-To-Paycheck
I know you may be wondering: What benefits could there possibly be from living paycheck-to-paycheck? Jeff White, Financial Analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com, has some ideas. "They're making it," he tells Bustle. "I know that seems pretty to the point, but it's true. Living paycheck-to-paycheck is better than not having a paycheck at all, or not making it. It shows that many Millennials are resourceful even though they haven't had as many job or career opportunities as other generations. They keep fighting, and they find a way to get by."
White also says those who live paycheck-to-paycheck are actually building for the future. "While past generations lived by the mantra of getting a job and staying there as long as you can, Millennials live by building something for themselves," he says. "So if they're living paycheck-to-paycheck because they're spending some of their income on building a side gig or a long-lasting business, then it could pay off in the long haul."
Lastly, those who live paycheck-to-paycheck are saving in other ways. "While they might be living paycheck-to-paycheck now, Millennials have saved more money by investing it than their parents or their grandparents did," White says. "This is another example of why living paycheck-to-paycheck isn't a bad thing, because you're investing money so that you'll be able to live later."
All in all, as someone who's been there, I know living paycheck-to-paycheck is a challenge. But, like some of the women above said, I agree: It's temporary — hopefully. With all the side hustles out there, and perhaps some creativity (i.e., your passions, and brainstorming how they can bring in extra income), there's bound to be a way to get out of living paycheck-to-paycheck mode, even if it's making an extra $50 a week. Something's better than nothing!