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Strategies to Save

11 Tips for Budgeting Monthly Bills on a Weekly Paycheck

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

While Chelsea Jackson finished her Early Childhood Education degree at Georgia Gwinnett College in 2016, she took a job as a cashier at a local grocery store. The 23-year-old earned $9.25 an hour and was paid on a weekly basis, bringing in about $250 with each paycheck.

Getting paid on a weekly basis, she says, came with its own set of challenges. She needed to figure out how to save enough from each paycheck to cover bills due later in the month while also meeting her immediate needs (food, gas, etc.) at the same time.

“When you get paid weekly you don’t really have a snapshot of what your true income is because it’s gone so fast,” says Jackson, who now works as a first grade teacher. “It’s such a little amount, you really don’t see how much you make until the end of the month when you add up your paychecks.”

More than 30% of U.S. businesses pay workers on a weekly basis, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cashing a paycheck every week might sound like a great deal, but it can actually make budgeting for bills more challenging.

Exacerbating matters is the fact that workers who are paid weekly are already at a financial disadvantage, as they are more likely to earn less than their counterparts who are paid biweekly or monthly. Employees on weekly pay schedules earn an average of $18.62 per hour versus $24.81 (workers paid biweekly) and $28.45 (workers paid monthly), according to the BLS.

There are ways to adjust to a weekly pay schedule and still meet your financial obligations at the same time.

Here are some tips:

Change your bill due dates if you can

If you can, ask whatever entity is sending you a bill each month if you can move your due date to one that’s more convenient for your budgeting purposes.

“You kind of have to have one thing pushed back so it doesn’t hit you all at once,” says Shannon Arthur, 22, who receives a weekly paycheck as the assistant manager for a department store in Suwanee, Ga.

Arthur says her credit card bill comes during the second week on purpose. She called her credit card company to change the bill’s due date to better fit her payment schedule.

Work with your lenders when you can’t meet your due dates

If two bills overlap and there isn’t enough money in the bank for both, workers are left with a hard choice. Arthur found herself in that situation, and she knew she was going to be late paying her phone bill. She found that honesty worked in her favor.

“I just explained to [T-mobile] my situation,” she says. They allowed her to pay $20 of the bill that week, then pay the remainder the following week.

But she stresses making a good-faith effort to pay your bill on time if you’re going to ask for extra time as you’ll likely need to show you have a good payment history or the company may not allow you to pay later.

Save your “extra” check

When you’re paid weekly, you’ll have some months when you’ll receive five paychecks instead of four. “Those months should be used strategically,” says behavioral economist Richard Thaler.

He advises workers to budget based on receiving four paychecks each month and then use the fifth, or “extra” paycheck to boost or address your financial goals.

“When it comes around, or if, perish the thought, there are outstanding credit card bills, pay them down,” says Thaler.

Chart your cash flow

Know exactly what money you have coming in and how much you have going out each month. Lauren J. Bauer, a financial adviser based in Greensboro, N.C., recommends creating a list of all of your bills. From there, calculate how much you need to withhold from each paycheck in order to cover those bills by their due date.

“It makes it easier than just writing down a total for all your bills and trying to get them paid when you think about it,” says Bauer. She says the chart makes it easy to see what you’ll spend by check, so that you know how much money you’ll have coming in and what you’re able to pay for that week.

Set aside money to cover bills in advance

“If you’re getting paid weekly, you need to develop a discipline to save for things that you pay for on a monthly basis,” says Peter Credon, a New York, N.Y.-based financial planner.

Jackson says she relied on a simple strategy to make sure her bills were paid on time. She strove to save up three months’ worth of expenses. Once her savings fund goal was met, rather than paying her bills with a bit of each paycheck, she used her savings to pay bills as they came. Then, she replenished some of the funds each time she was paid.

This strategy is all about taking back control of your budget.

“If you have enough money [set aside], you can prefund things in many aspects and have control,” Credon says. “You’re controlling your finances and how you spend your money.”

Set aside funds for emergency expenses

No matter how often you’re paid, you should build an emergency fund that holds enough money to cover about three to six months’ worth of your fixed expenses. It can help cover irregular or unexpected bills that don’t line up with your pay schedule, like an emergency dentist visit or a trip to the auto shop.

“The emergency fund helps keep you out of long-term debt,” says Credon. “Focus on building up a little more cash on the side to get yourself through the tougher times. He says you may even want to save a little more if you’re a shift worker and your hours fluctuate.

Keep your spending money in a separate account

An easy self-hack that helps combat overspending is to transfer funds you need to cover your expenses for the month to a designated checking account and restrict yourself to using only those funds each month. Automatically transfer the amount you wish to save to a separate savings account, so you’ll be less likely to spend it.

Putting the extra money in savings can help prevent you from getting used to a larger budget. It stops you from seeing you have more money in your budget for the next week and thinking you can overspend. You take that money out of the equation to keep your spending habits tamed.

Make partial bill payments with every paycheck

If you know the date and amount of an upcoming bill, you can get ready for the payment ahead of time to lessen your financial burden during the week when the bill arrives.

For example, let’s say your rent payment is $700 per month, but you receive only $400 per week. Each week, set aside $175 for your rent and reserve the leftover funds for other expenses.

This way, a large, recurring bill like a mortgage or student loan payment won’t eat up the majority of your paycheck the week the bill becomes due. Plus, you’ll already know you have the money to cover the bill.

Try not to splurge

When you’re paid weekly, you’re paid quite frequently, so it can be easy to feel like your next payday is right around the corner. But you may run out of money faster than you imagine. When Jackson was paid weekly, she was forced to be strict with herself because she wasn’t paid that much at a time.

“There were definitely weeks or months when I would splurge,” says Jackson. “Those six days [till the next paycheck] can feel like a really long time.”

Use apps to track your spending and saving

You can set bill reminders on your banking or budgeting applications to remind you when a bill will be due in the coming week or set alerts to let you know when you’re overspending in a category you’ve budgeted a limit for.

Jackson says she used the budgeting app Mint to reign in her spending on food since she realized she was overspending at the grocery store.

Don’t forget to check your credit report from time to time if you use credit cards or have loans you’re paying off. “If you’re paying your bills on time and promptly, you’re also building your credit score,” says Credon.

Keep your goals in mind

Admittedly, if you’re already struggling to live paycheck-to-paycheck, saving up can be tough, but it’s not impossible.

“Watching a budget isn’t fun because most people want to be able to do what they want when they want to,” adds Credon. He suggests building in some rewards — like getting to go on a date night once a month — to help stay on course. He says to think of longer-term goals to keep you going, like the ability to buy your own place or take a trip for a few weeks overseas.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at [email protected]

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Strategies to Save

The Best Places for Raising a Family as a Single Parent

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Being a single parent is a challenge. Not only must single parents manage debt and other financial priorities, they must balance work and time spent with their children. Unfortunately, single-parent households are more likely to be impoverished, and not all states offer the same workplace benefits for parents. That could make raising children harder.

To determine where single parents may fare best, we scored the 100 largest metros on four key indicators:

  • Income score, including median income; the percentage of households living below the poverty line; and the percentage difference between median single-parent households and all households.
  • Affordability score, which considers regional price parity; income limits for in-state child care assistance; the percentage difference between single-parent household median income; and income limits for child care assistance.
  • Time score, which includes the average commute and the average number of hours worked per week.
  • Workplace protection score, which considers statewide paid family leave insurance and protected time off for school events.

Here’s what we found.

Key findings

  • Single parents in Springfield, Mass. came first in our rankings, with a score of 65.2. The city had an especially high time score and workplace protection score.
  • Sacramento, Calif. and Buffalo, N.Y. followed Springfield, with final scores of 62.2 and 61.5, respectively.
  • In McAllen, Texas, a whooping 60.8% of single parents live below the federal poverty line. Honolulu had the lowest incidence of single parents living below the poverty line, at 24.9%.
  • Houston, Texas had the lowest score among the 100 metros we studied. Its final score was 26.7. Notably, the difference between the median income of single parents and all households was -51.4%.
  • Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala., which were No. 99 and No. 98 in our rankings, didn’t fare much better, with final scores of 27.7 and 28.1, respectively.
  • So-called “blue states” tended to dominate the top of the list, thanks mostly to strong workplace protection laws for parents and generous childcare subsidies.
  • On average and across all metros, 39.2% single parents are living below the federal poverty line.

Children aren’t cheap, and raising them is hard. This map highlights locations where being a single parent may be easier or more affordable. Hover your cursor over the dots on the map to review how each metro fared across our key indicators and overall.

10 best places to live as a single parent

This table outlines the 10 best places for single parents to live from a financial perspective. California and New York parents are in luck. Three of the top 10 locations were California-based and four were New York-based. The combination of their high income, affordability, time and workplace protection scores helped determine these locations rankings.

10 worst places to live as a single parent

These locations had the lowest rankings due to their scores in our four key indicators. Single parenthood appears to be more challenging financially in Southern states, with locations in Texas, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina ranking in the 10 worst places to live as a single parent. Most notable are these 10 locations’ nonexistent (or very low, in the case of Chicago with a score of 10/100) workplace protection scores.

Understanding these rankings

In order to understand how we ranked these locations, it’s important to look at the four following categories that we scored. The average of the scores was individually calculated for each metric within each category and was used to determine the overall metro scores. Those sub-scores were calculated on a scale of 0 to 100, based on where each metro falls between the highest and lowest values among all the metros we reviewed.

The four key indicators that were scored and the metrics within each indicator are:

Income of single parents in the community

  • Median income of single parents.
  • The difference between the median earnings of single-parent households and the median income of all households. This gives us a sense of whether single parents are having a harder time earning money than other members of the community.
  • The percentage of single-parent households that fall below the federal poverty line.

Comparing the difference between incomes of single-parent household and all households gives us a sense of whether single parents have a harder time earning money than other members of the community.

Affordability of the community, particularly related to child care

  • The income limit for child care subsidy assistance from the state.
  • The difference between median earnings for single-parent households and the child care assistance income limit.
  • Regional price parity, which compares local costs – including housing, goods and services – to the nation as a whole. The regional price parity for the U.S. is set at 100, so a number lower than that means that costs are lower and a number above that means costs are higher.

Child care expenses are an absolute necessity for single working parents. So, we wanted to see whether or not a typical single-family household would qualify for assistance from its state, and how much below the qualifying line they fall. This is significant because many assistance programs offer graduated subsidies depending on family income.

However, some states have long waiting lists for assisted child care, so falling within the qualification limit for subsidies doesn’t necessarily mean that parents will actually get the child care they need to earn a living for their families.

Time devoted to work

  • Average commute time in minutes for the metro.
  • Average hours worked each week within the metro.

How much time a single parent spends working impacts their time spent with family and can increase the amount spent on child care costs, such as if the parent needs to put their child in day care while they are away at work or commuting.

Workplace protections for parents

  • The number of weeks under the Family and Medical Leave Act that a state will pay an employee from a state insurance program. Under federal law, workers of certain tenure can’t be reprised for taking up to 12 weeks of leave to care for themselves or close family members per year, however that time is unpaid, barring workplace policy or short-term disability insurance. A handful of states have created insurance programs, similar to unemployment insurance, to pay employees a portion of their usual earnings while they are on approved leave.
  • Protected time off for school events. Because participation in children’s schooling is so important, some states have passed laws to guarantee that parents can take a certain number of hours away from work to attend events and meetings related to their children’s schooling.

Parents in general, but especially single parents, can benefit from regulations that protect them when they take time off work due to family-related issues.

Full rankings: 100 best places for single parents

The following table breaks down the overall score for the 100 best locations as well as presents their subscores for each factor taken into consideration. Each column is sortable in either ascending or descending order. By sorting the chart, you’ll see how the different factors contribute to their scores.

Managing your finances as a single parent

Based off our findings and further research, there are a few ways single parents can better manage their finance on one income and with children.

Consider your debt relief options: If you’ve found yourself in debt and are struggling in repayment, you could review your debt relief options. Chapter 7 or 11 bankruptcy, debt settlement and debt management plans may be available to you. Learning how these options affect your credit score is something you should also research.

Review your personal loans options: Those with credit card debt or high-interest loans may want to consider refinancing or consolidating their debt into a personal loan with a lower interest rate. Doing so could reduce your overall costs for repayment. You could also extend your repayment term to reduce monthly payments, though this could increase how much total interest you pay on your loan.

Learn about government resources for parents: Single parents who are struggling financially may qualify for assistance through government or charitable programs, such as food banks. A 2017 study found that not all single parents were aware of the help that is provided at food banks or were not certain they were entitled to support.

Know your rights: Paid time off for sick children and protections against reprisal for going to parent-teacher conferences can make a big difference, although these policies may not be well enforced. Learn your rights regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act and any protected time off for school events you may be eligible for. Knowing what your rights are will help you protect yourself against employer repercussion.

Methodology

Limiting our research to the current 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”), we tracked each metro across four categories. The data was derived from the 2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate from the U.S. Census (“2017 ACS”), except where otherwise noted.

Each data series was scored relative to highest and lowest values across all metros. For each category, these scores were averaged for a highest possible category score of 100 and a lowest of 0. The four category scores were then averaged for a final score. The highest possible final score was 100 and the lowest was 0.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarco |

Jacqueline DeMarco is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jacqueline here

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