Yahoo Finance: This Is How I Broke the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle

Yahoo Finance:  This Is How I Broke the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle
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Vijay talks to Jordan Rosenfeld

Mon, January 8, 2024 at 7:00 AM EST

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it’s easy to find yourself struggling and frustrated about your finances, wondering how you will ever get free of the cycle.

While getting a raise, a better job, or taking on a side hustle are potentially ways to break the cycle, poor money habits can put you right back in the same place, no matter how much you make.

GOBankingRates spoke to two experts who both once lived paycheck to paycheck but eventually broke free from the pattern: Altimese Nichole, CEO and founder of The Ezer Agency, and Vijay Moralia, co-founder of The Cash Square. Here are the strategies that worked for them, and tips that can help others stop living paycheck to paycheck.

Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Nichole had the advantage of a mother who worked in finance who gave her some key advice when she was about to graduate college, Nichole recounted. Her mother told her that the government would be taking much of her paycheck unless she was married, had a child, or owned a home. At age 22, Nichole didn’t have plans to settle down or have a baby, but she decided she would own a home.

However, just out of college, she was working three jobs, seven days a week, and facing down a mountain of school loans. Nonetheless, condos in her area were cheap, and thanks to her mother’s help in building her credit, her credit score was high enough to qualify for a mortgage.

Nichole took out a mortgage knowing that she would have to get very diligent about her finances.

Manage Your Money Well

“That season was really rough,” Nichole said. “I did live paycheck to paycheck, but I remember my mom telling me to budget well: she said it doesn’t matter how much you make, it matters how you manage the money.”

Nichole got in the habit of leaving credit and debit cards at home, and taking a small amount of cash with her when she went out.

“I did that for a good year while just getting used to having a mortgage, and the habit stuck with me,” she said.

Write Your Budget Down

For Nichole, trying to keep track of her finances in her head was a losing battle. “I know many people who formulate their budget in their minds, but it doesn’t make it real. Getting those numbers on paper is a reality check,” she explained.

Writing a budget down forces you to be truthful, she said. “When your expenses are over the money coming in you have to make some choices, maybe pick up a new job or cut some expenditures.”

Budget Not Just Monthly, but Per Paycheck

Instead of a monthly budget, Nichole broke down her budget by paycheck.

“If I got paid every two weeks, I would note which bills came out of which pay period, and see how much I was working with that pay period,” she said. This gave her a more realistic snapshot of her finances.

Don’t Rely On Autopay

Autopay is a way of setting up bills and subscriptions to take the money out of your checking account automatically. For Nichole, this is a problem, she said, “because you can easily forget when it’s supposed to come out.”

Though she called it “old school,” writing checks is still her favorite way to pay, or using online bill pay where she has to manage each payment each month.

“[Autopay] is like a credit card. You’re thinking ‘I have it’ but you may not have it,” she said.

She also puts reminders on Google Calendar for every bill she must pay. “If it’s not on my calendar it does not exist.”

Always Look To Cut Expenses

Even though she now runs a thriving business and doesn’t live paycheck to paycheck, Nichole doesn’t leave anything to chance. She reviews things like rates for auto insurance and other bills every year looking to cut costs.

When recently she purchased a new vehicle, raising the amount she’d been paying in an auto loan, she immediately went looking for expenses to slash at home. She was able to negotiate better rates on her phone bill and her internet bill to almost make up the difference.

Most importantly, she never stops using her financial tools even now. “All these skills I’ve used to stop living paycheck to paycheck I still use today,” she said.

Learn About Money

Vijay Marolia started out as a broker at Morgan Stanley but found he wasn’t great at the job, so he went on to get an MBA and become a certified financial planner.

During his years of living paycheck to paycheck, he realized that the more he learned about money, the more quickly he was able to break the cycle. Today he’s a partner in his firm.

“I read a lot, but you can also watch YouTube videos, or just learn by doing: start investing, open up a Roth account, put in a little bit every week. Listen to podcasts, attend conferences and workshops,” he said.


Leaving financial things up to chance is a recipe for failure, too, Marolia explained.

“If you don’t have a plan, you’re planning to fail,” Marolia said. “You have to have something concrete — your plan won’t matter unless you have a plan to progress, so it has to be specific.”

Seek a Mentor

“I heard somewhere that you become the average of the five people you spend most of your time with,” Marolia said. Thus, he urged, take a look at who is in your life, having an influence on you.

“If we are honest there’s going to be a couple of people not doing us or our future selves a favor. You don’t have to get rid of them, just bring in someone new who isn’t living paycheck to paycheck,” he suggested.

He said he was blessed with three great mentors — none of whom live paycheck to paycheck any longer.

Systematize it

Marolia pointed out that “willpower is a depletable resource” that you can’t always rely upon, and which can often work against you when it comes to how you spend.

“Think about how much you’re spending at the bar, or the last concert you went to, or the last date you were trying to impress. You’ll probably realize it was more than $50,” he said.

That $50 could go into a Roth IRA or a savings account, he suggested.

“Everybody has a starting point, and you can add zeros to it every year,” he said.


The turning point in breaking the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle for Marolia was when he decided to stop focusing on getting raises, and instead focused on owning something, aiming to be a partner in his firm.

“That’s when things got better for me,” he explained, suggesting that being intentional about your goals will help you create them.

Solve Problems

While adding a side hustle can generate extra cash, the secret to breaking a paycheck to paycheck cycle is not just taking on another side hustle, Marolia explained, but focusing on solving problems for other people.

“When you’re trying to do a side hustle, focus on solving problems for other people,” he said. “That’s your side hustle.”