When you want to stop living pay cheque to pay cheque, before you create a budget, you need to take steps to break the cycle so that you can create a fresh start. A divorce or separation, unexpected car repairs or figuring out how to live on less household income are big adjustments. No one plans to live pay cheque to pay cheque; for most people it just seems to happen. Often it isn\u2019t until we get far enough through our difficult situation that we can muster the energy to deal with the financial fallout.\r\n\r\nHow Shifting Your Attitude, Tracking Your Spending & Using Cash Will Help You Get Back in Control of Your Pay Cheques\r\nWhen you pay with cash and consider each purchase through the lens of what\u2019s important to you, spending decisions become much clearer. Suddenly tracking becomes a way of looking at your goals and figuring out how to get more of what you want, rather than worrying about what you can\u2019t afford to buy.\r\n\r\nHere are 3 things you can do to break the cycle of living pay cheque to pay cheque:\r\n\r\n1: Think About Money as a Tool\r\nWhen you\u2019re trying to make ends meet, you don\u2019t think of money as a tool. An attitude shift is important if you want to turn this around and take back control of your pay checks. If thinking about money is stressful, to turn your situation around think about the role money plays in your life. What does it allow you to do? What does having too much debt or too many bills hold you back from?\r\n\r\nAsk yourself what is truly important to you. Maybe it\u2019s your house because you love having a home for your family and friends. Maybe you value experiences and going out and doing things either with friends or with your kids, e.g. taking in events, attending concerts or going on vacations.\r\n\r\nLet go of the \u201cshould\u201d and \u201cshould haves\u201d you are burdening yourself with and any guilty feelings you may have. Allow what\u2019s truly important to you to guide your spending decisions.\r\n\r\n2: Track Your Spending \u2013 Find a System That Works for You\r\nEach year non-profit credit counsellors across Canada counsel thousands of individuals and families about how to budget and manage their money better. When they suggest to someone to track their spending so that they can base a budget on accurate numbers, they often hear some excuses. Three popular ones (and why they don\u2019t work), in no particular order, are:\r\n\r\nI have it all on my credit card or bank statements, so that should be good enough. (Keeping receipts is record keeping, not tracking.)\r\nI know where my money goes so writing it down is a waste of time. (Some expenses don\u2019t need to be written down, but many do.)\r\nSure, I\u2019ve thought of doing that before\u2026. (As they say, the proof is in the pudding.)\r\nTracking is an absolutely necessary step in regaining control of your money and finances, and it can be done in a number of ways. What works for one person might not work for another.\r\n\r\n5 Steps to Help Track Your Spending\r\n\r\nDecide if you want to stick with pencil and paper, jotting down what you spend in a notebook. Maybe you\u2019re better with an app or a spreadsheet. You know yourself best, so get yourself organized with whatever will work for you.\r\n\r\nDetermine What You Will Track\r\n\r\nJotting down or recording all of your regular bills makes little sense to begin with; you know what those costs are. You need to keep track of the rest of your expenses, e.g. eating out, buying snacks, schools fundraisers, trips to big-box-buy-everything-stores, buying things to spruce up your home, and the list goes on.\r\n\r\nFor some people it\u2019s easier to keep track of everything they spend for a few weeks; for others it\u2019s easier to record their spending by where it\u2019s done, e.g. the type of store or restaurant (e.g. take-out). If you shop at big box-type stores, you likely buy your groceries, household goods and personal care items all on one receipt. (That\u2019s why keeping receipts is only the first step in tracking what you spend your money on.)\r\n\r\nDo what helps you identify where your money is actually going. That\u2019s the ultimate goal of expense tracking.\r\n\r\n3: Put Your Credit Cards Away \u2013 Temporarily Stop Using Credit\r\nPutting credit cards away includes taking your line of credit off of your debit card and removing all other easy access to credit. Yes, that includes your overdraft. You want to stop yourself from being able to \u201ccharge it\u201d when your bank account runs dry.\r\n\r\nMany people use credit as their safety net, but when a reliance on credit accumulates debt that you can\u2019t afford to repay, it\u2019s time to cut yourself off before your creditors do. Only paying with cash really forces you to think about each and every purchase, because once the money is gone, it\u2019s gone.\r\n\r\nWhat to Do Next \u2013 Create a Budget, Pay Off Debt, Start Saving for Emergencies\r\nYou probably already know what you should do to manage your money better, so once you\u2019ve got your spending aligned with your values, it\u2019s time to tackle the next step of creating a balanced personal budget:\r\n\r\nCreate a realistic household budget that includes debt payments and emergency savings\r\nTrack where you spend your money to identify costly spending patterns and habits\r\nLook for ways to decrease your expenses or increase your income\r\nKeep working on balancing your budget and paying off your debts\r\nGet professional budgeting and debt help if you can\u2019t do it on your own\r\nYou\u2019ll need to make some tough decisions and be patient because it does take time. However, follow through with your commitment to yourself. Tell your family and friends what you\u2019re doing and ask for their support and encouragement. Work with a partner if you have one; it\u2019s much easier than fighting all the time. There will be times you can\u2019t spend like you used to, but a healthy financial future is worth the effort!\r\n\r\nStop Living Pay Cheque to Pay Cheque and Get Rid of Debt Stress & Financial Worries\r\nDebt, stress about money and financial worries take their toll, so if you need help to stop living pay cheque to pay cheque, get it sooner than later. We\u2019ve become so accustomed to relying on credit and accepting debt as the new normal, you might say red is the new black. But it doesn\u2019t have to be that way. Don\u2019t let debt be your normal \u2013 take back control of your finances, learn new money skills and build a strong financial future.