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READY TO STOP LIVING PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK? TWO STEPS YOU CAN TAKE NOW.

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The dollars in your account are ticking down, down, down. And you’re not sure you can stretch your paycheck until payday. That is one bad feeling! But don’t let it make you feel bad about yourself! Because you are not alone. Every month there are 38 million households in the U.S. in your shoes. And most of them aren’t technically poor; they just have a hard time managing their money.1 (Sound familiar?).

Start here: Get in the right mindset about your money.

Make a conscious decision to take control. You probably didn’t just get here—you made choices that brought you here. Do you spend money to fit in? For comfort?  To avoid confrontation? Figure out what’s behind your spending and give yourself permission to take charge.

Know what you’re spending your money on. And we mean every penny. Write it down and track it. Look for trends and opportunities. Sure, we all need the occasional coffee shop latte—we hear you!—but is an everyday fix or too much retail therapy jeopardizing your budget?

Get your family on board. Got a partner, spouse or kids? Then you know your best-laid plans can collapse because of their needs and choices. Help everyone understand the pain living paycheck-to-paycheck is causing, the benefits of better financial management and how they can help make it happen.

Set financial goals and create a plan. Decide what’s important and write down the steps to get there. Be realistic and patient: It takes time to change. This can be a good time to work with Summit. We’ve helped thousands of people get on a better financial track and we’d like to help you too.

Then add this: Mindful choices.

Ask yourself: Do I need this or do I want this? About to buy? Back away from the credit card and consider why you’re about to part with your hard-earned dollars. Is this a short-term thrill to make up for a bad day? Or a purchase that matches up with your financial goals?

Just say “no”—sometimes. Your kids want to see a movie. Your friends want to check out that tapas place. Your sister hopes you’ll split a vacation rental. Do you have to swear off fun? Of course not! But make sure your choices match up with your financial goals. Don’t feel pressured to do things you can’t afford, and be prepared to offer alternatives.

Pay yourself first. Sure, this is an oldie, but there’s a reason: It works! Set up separate accounts for longer-term goals like school and rainy day funds and make automatic deposits with every paycheck. Some experts suggest setting up those accounts at a different institution so it’s harder to dip in for everyday expenses.

You can break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle! And Summit can help. Good luck!

1 “The Wealthy-Hand-to-Mouth,” authors Greg Kaplan of Princeton University, Giovanni Violante of New York University and Justin Weidner of Princeton University cited by the Brookings Institute http://www.brookings.edu/about/projects/bpea/papers/2014/wealthy-hand-to-mouth