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What does "paycheck to paycheck" mean to you?

Just watched this twit babbling on and on about generic financial advice that about as in-depth as you find in the average in-flight magazine. At one point she said "70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck." That seems a bit high to me, but then it gets better. She says "they need to cut back on their spending and start saving more, because you can't retire if you live that way."

(this was on Today, there will probably be a video of it online later at their site)

IMO, saying you're "paycheck to paycheck" doesn't mean you pay your bills and blow the rest on fun stuff, it means your check only covers your basic bills and there's nothing left to blow on fun stuff. In other words, you can't really cut back spending and increase savings short of changing your phone provider or setting your thermostat lower to try and save $10 a month. This is also why I question her 70% number.

Is someone who blows all their money on frivolous things really living "paycheck to paycheck"? Or is that a term more descriptive of people barely making enough money to get by?

Answer Question

Asked by NotPanicking at 10:21 AM on Mar. 28, 2011 in Politics & Current Events

Level 51 (421,174 Credits)
Answers (43)
  • What it means to me:

    By the time you get your paycheck, you have already spent all the money from your previous paycheck. And by the time you get your next paycheck, you have already spent the money from that paycheck. So forth and so on.

    Answer by AllAboutKeeley at 10:23 AM on Mar. 28, 2011

  • paycheck to paycheck is what I live like daily. we have food that can barley make it to the next payday, we pray that the bank hasn't cashed that check we wrote when we needed diapers. I work 3part time jobs he works 1 full time job... it sucks.

    Answer by zoejains_momma at 10:23 AM on Mar. 28, 2011

  • To me it means every paycheck goes to essentials and MAYBE leaves about $20 left over for non-essentials

    Answer by butterflyblue19 at 10:24 AM on Mar. 28, 2011

  • I think you could use the term for both. Regardless of their spending habits, they are still paycheck to paycheck. One not by choice, the other by choice.

    Answer by Musicmom80 at 10:24 AM on Mar. 28, 2011

  • Most of the people I know living paycheck to paycheck have just enough to cover bills.Frivilous spending to them would be spending extra gas money to go to a different grocery store. They are also one paycheck away from losing everything. Finding an extra buck a week to set back to save is not an option for them.

    Answer by pookiekins34 at 10:24 AM on Mar. 28, 2011

  • Doesn't mean anything to me.
    It's all relative I guess on how they perceive their wants vs needs, I've known poor millionaires and the rich who were bankrupt

    Answer by jewjewbee at 10:25 AM on Mar. 28, 2011

  • Paycheck to Paycheck is for essentials only. NO room for fun. Meaning nothing to cut back on.
    After Essentials the end of the week I am left with $3-$5 until my next check. I live paycheck to paycheck.. :(

    Answer by Wish2Be at 10:25 AM on Mar. 28, 2011

  • To me it means bearly making it from check to check.

    Answer by ambr2006 at 10:26 AM on Mar. 28, 2011

  • For me living "paycheck to paycheck" is when your checks are just covering your basic bills.

    Answer by jnb71584 at 10:27 AM on Mar. 28, 2011

  • personally, P2P means running out of money before your next check comes, whether you spent every $ on your bills or blew it on crap. it would also mean NOT budgeting some for savings/investments/retirement..because it was all spent on other 'necessities'. the subjectivity comes into play when you decide what is necessary and what is not. KWIM?
    if you're "just making enough money to live by'', you aren't investing in the future. i can fully understand her reasoning, as i agree most people do not plan for their future..they take care of present business, thinking they will have money coming in (in some form or another) until they die.

    Answer by dullscissors at 10:28 AM on Mar. 28, 2011

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