Do you have too much month at the end of your money?
How do you feel when you look at your checking account balance three or four days before payday?
Do you intentionally avoid balancing your checkbook because you fear what you are going to see?
Do you get a queasy feeling when you peer into your checking account and find it empty — and realize that payday isn't for several days?
You're suffering from paycheck-itis, a symptom of a greater illness called lack-of-good-budgetosis. This illness can affect anyone — regardless of income — who regularly runs short of money in the bank. Other symptoms include sleepless nights, high blood pressure, family disagreements, fits of guilt and denial.
The good news is there is a cure. The bad news is the cure isn't easy, and it can be bitter-tasting in the short-run.
Let's explore this illness and see how we can start feeling better:
1. Perform a self-evaluation
You'll never end the symptoms of paycheck-itis if expenses claim most of your income before you can even get it in the bank.
Determine where you are financially by adding up all your assets (time, energy and money), and subtracting what you owe. Remember to include both fixed expenses (those you have promised to pay on a specific date and in a specific amount) and flexible expenses such as food, clothing and personal care. This will determine how severe your paycheck-itis symptoms are.
2. Attack the underlying illness
Have you ever had a doctor tell you, "It's going to get worse before it gets better"? Before you can reclaim your money for yourself, you need to remedy your debt fevers. If you do not have enough to cover your expenses, some trimming is needed.
Put together a plan to pay off any debt that's too much of a burden as fast as realistically possible. Start trimming in areas where you can cut or postpone expenditures. You'll suffer a little more for a short while, but you'll feel better.
3. Stop the chance of reinfection by inoculating yourself for the "season"
When you have a virus, do you stop taking the medicine once you start feeling better? Don't give paycheck-itis a chance to reinfect you. Plan for seasonal or recurring expenses such as car insurance and holidays.
Since you know when these expenses are coming and how much they usually are, plan ahead by going through your checkbook and adding up those expenses. Now, divide that total by 12, and set aside that amount of money every month. Put this money into a separate account away from your everyday accounts. Use it only to pay for those "seasonal" expenses.
4. Take a regular dose of vitamin $$$
Even if you prepare for the major expenses you can anticipate, there will be something that you never see coming. To stop these surprises from turning you back into a paycheck-itis sufferer, set aside money every month in an emergency fund.
It is suggested that this fund hold three to six months worth of expenses. Eventually, you'll have a significant stash that will absorb your unexpected car repairs, appliance breakdowns and emergency travel.
5. Feel better
With your debts under control, your major expenses anticipated and your unanticipated expenses covered, you will start to feel those queasy feelings and nervous jitters go away.
You may even smile when you write a check because you know you do not have to worry. You may positively jump for joy when you deposit a paycheck and find that some of last month's money is still in the account.
Scott Taylor is the family and consumer sciences agent for the Hernando County Cooperative Extension Service. He works with financial management and sustainable housing programs. For more money management tips and other information, Taylor can be reached at (352) 754-4433 or at the extension office, 19490 Oliver St., Brooksville.