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How to live on one cheque a month

Updated on April 1, 2013


If you're like me, you need to plan out your expenses for at least 3 weeks at a time, because you only get paid once a month. To many, the thought of being paid once a month is unbelievable, undesirable, and impossible.

The truth of the matter is, that it is quite easy to get along being paid once a month. In fact, I've found this to be more beneficial to me, as I don't spend nearly as much as I used to when I was being paid every two weeks. You really learn to budget, and only purchase what you need, instead of what you want.

Now I'll admit, the first cheque I received at my job was pretty awesome (because you only get paid once a month, it's a bigger amount), and I may have gone a little overboard with it when I shouldn't have. I continued to live as I was before, only now I had more money to spend than usual. It wasn't until the start of the 3rd week when I checked my bank account and realized that there was a lot less money than usual, that I learned that I needed to make a serious change now that I'm only being paid once a month.

Step One: Make a budget

When I was paid every two weeks, it was much easier to count on money being in the bank when I needed it. If I overspent one week, I just had to wait another week and there would be more money. Now that I'm only getting paid once a month, if I overspend, chances are I'm going to cause a lot more problems for myself than in the past. This is where a good budget comes in.

Making a budget is fairly simple and straightforward. I like to use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets because it does quick calculations and you can set it up to allow you to make changes as needed (I think we all know that nothing stays the same forever). The included screenshot is the exact same format I use to manage the budget for my fiancee and I.

What you want to do, is enter your net monthly income (The amount you have left AFTER tax) rounded down to the next multiple of 5 (I like to use rounded numbers as this makes estimating a bit easier.). If you are wondering why we round down instead of up, it's simple. Rounding down ensures the amount you have entered is an amount you actually receive and worst-case-scenario planning, which I find works better for financial planning.

Now make a list of all of your monthly expenses such as a student loan, car loan, rent or mortgage payment, phone or cable bill, and enter the amount rounded up to the next multiple of 5. We round this up, to give us a better idea of how much money we have left after all of these expenses are paid.

Next add any expenses you have on a semi regular basis, but average out the cost and round up. For example, say you have a particular medication that you take. You need to purchase a refill every 3 months. That purchase costs you $85. To average this to a monthly cost, simply divide 85 by 3. To ensure it fits with the scheme we have been using for everything else, round it up to the next multiple of 5. This means that we need to save $30 every month for this medication. Doing this prevents the need to take one large chunk out of the money we get paid when we need it.

It's a good idea to include expenses that vary each month such as gas for your car, food, or entertainment. Make an estimate on how much you spend for each and add it to your list. If you are unsure, I recommend online banking, as it can help you keep track of your expenses.

We're almost done, we just need to total our expenses and then subtract it from our income to see how much we'll have left each month. It's optimal for your monthly expenses to use 40% or less of your monthly income, but it is possible to live with a higher percentage. To figure out what percentage of your monthly income is used up by expenses, simply divide your total monthly expenses by your monthly income, and then multiply that by 100. If your percentage is 90 or over, you may need to sacrifice some luxuries such as cable, Internet, or going out to eat, or you'll be up to eyeballs in debt in a year's time!

It's ALWAYS possible to prevent debt, you just need to be willing to find money elsewhere by giving up some things, or getting another job to help pay for things.

What do you find is using your money the most?

See results

Step Two: Prioritize

Now that you've put together a budget (Good Job!), it's time to sort out what is more important to you. Chances are, if you've just started a job where you only get paid once a month (or you've been there a while and just can't seem to get the hang of being paid once a month), your expenses to income percentage may be much higher than you like. Not to worry, there's a proven strategy to bringing it down, you just have to be willing to work on it.

Prioritization is making a conscious decision to value something more than another. For example, my fiancee and I want to travel the world but we are getting married next year. The world is going to be here after we get married (as far as we know anyway), so saving for our wedding is more important.

It is up to you to look at your own life and what you want to achieve, and prioritize your goals. You don't have to plan out exactly how you want your life to go (because if I've learned anything in life, it's that nothing, and I mean nothing, ever goes exactly to plan). You just need to make a sort of outline as to what you want to do, and the order you think you'd like to do it in.

Say you want to get your degree, get married, get a job in your field, travel the world and have kids. These are all admirable goals. If I were to prioritize how I like it would be like this:

  1. Get my degree
  2. Get a job in my field
  3. Get married
  4. Have kids
  5. Travel the world after the kids have grown up and moved out

Now that you've got a plan (or outline), this next step is the most important part.

Right now, what is your first goal in life?

See results

Step Three: Stick with it

Now that you've got a budget and a plan (or outline), comes the most important, and often hardest part, sticking to it. Trust me on this one. I have no doubts that you will encounter some situations where the temptation to spend is almost impossible to resist, it's what we get for living in our consumer culture. Everywhere you look there's a reason to spend your hard-earned money. This is why this part is the hardest.

You need to increase self-control and remind yourself of your goals. Seriously think each potential purchase through and ask yourself:

Do I really need this?

I've found that asking myself this question before purchasing something helps a lot. You really begin to differentiate between things you need, such as food and a place to stay, and things you want, such as the newest video game or movie. I've also found that online banking helps tremendously.

If you are comfortable with the idea of online banking, sign up for it if you haven't already. If you have a smart phone, download the mobile app for your bank and check it regularly. Consistently seeing how much you have in the bank will really help you to monitor your habits.

Once you make a few small changes, the rest is cake and you're on your way to making a comfortable living only being paid once a month.

Final Thoughts

When I started getting paid once a month, I thought I'd never be able to do it, there were definitely days (weeks even!) where I just wanted to spend a little more, or buy something spontaneously because I "just HAD to have it", but I've been doing it for well over two years now, and I think I've done pretty well. I'm saving money for my wedding, and I've been able to put money aside for a vacation here and there, as well as spontaneous gifts for me and my fiancee once in a very long while.

It may be hard to do, but it's incredibly worth it. I've become very good with managing our money and I even have some friends asking me for advice.

As always, stay excellent.


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    • Anselome profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Anselmo 

      4 years ago from Thunder Bay

      You've got that right. Making the budget is fairly simple once you have the basic ideas down. The hardest part is self-control. Especially in today's day and age, advertising is everywhere and you never know when or where you'll see something you really like!

    • kerlund74 profile image


      4 years ago from Sweden

      This is a useful hub. I make a budget every month, but I think the hardest thing is to stick with it... Voted up and useful.

    • Anselome profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Anselmo 

      5 years ago from Thunder Bay

      Thank you. It is my hope that anyone who reads this will enjoy the article and maybe even use some of my advice to help them kick start or enhance their financial well-being.

      Stay Excellent!

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 

      5 years ago from East Coast

      These are useful tips that many people can easily understand. While it takes a great deal of effort to create and stick to a financial plan which encompasses everything from a budget to saving and investing, those that begin their efforts sooner will have more money when they retire and fewer financial worries in their golden years.

    • Anselome profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Anselmo 

      5 years ago from Thunder Bay

      Thank you for the kind words. I found this one out through experience and thought that me experience could benefit others. Impulse control is definitely something we all need to practice in order to budget well.

    • Anjili profile image


      5 years ago from planet earth, a humanoid

      You are absolutely right on budgeting after getting paid. This is mandatory whether you get paid frequently or not. Many youthful workers spend on impulse without realizing a few days have to go by before the next check comes along. It is important to plan ahead of spending. Good share voted up and useful.

    • Anselome profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Anselmo 

      5 years ago from Thunder Bay

      Thanks very much for the kind words. I'm glad you found it useful.

      Stay Excellent!

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 

      5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hi Anselome,

      You have put here very healthy tips, i like the idea of making a budget as one can plan what is most important and needed. Great information, voted up and useful.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      These are very good tips. I wish I had started paying more attention to budgeting earlier when I first got out on my own. I find it overwhelming, but you help make it simple and practical. Good job! Voting up and useful.

    • Anselome profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Anselmo 

      5 years ago from Thunder Bay

      @Elizabeth - Thank you very much. I'm glad you found it helpful. I don't think I've ever known a job to pay weekly. What's that like? lol

      @Colin - Thank you for the fan mail. If you would like to try again that's up to you. I've already said "your ticket your money" :P

      PS: I'm hoping to have a poem published this week sometime and I would really appreciate your input. It's not nearly your caliber but we all have to start somewhere. I'm going to check out some more of your poems and some of Elizabeth's Hubs.

      @bothofyou - Stay excellent!

    • epigramman profile image


      5 years ago

      Good afternoon Steve - I left you some fan mail.

      p.s. - No one won so the jackpot goes up to $43 million on Wednesday - we can try again if you want. Colin/1:05pm lake erie time

    • Elizabeth Mara profile image

      Elizabeth Mara 

      5 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thank you for a great hub; you share some wonderful tips for creating a budget that I find very helpful. A lot of my friends have found it challenging to shift from weekly to biweekly pay and I can't imagine getting only one pay check a month! Kudos to you!

    • Anselome profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Anselmo 

      5 years ago from Thunder Bay

      18? Wow! That is one healthy cat! You must take great care of them both! I'm sad to say I've never had a cat that lived past 13 :(

      That's awesome though. Gabriel Bin Laden is a very funny name, and I'm glad to hear you take him for walks, not many people do that with their cats. We don't bring Mittens outside anymore, she likes it inside much more, I don't really blame her though, our neighborhood is right along a main street and is very busy and can be very loud.

      I started writing a hub this afternoon that is a poem I wrote for a friend back in high school while he was stressed out.

      Wishing you the best on a snowy spring day!

      Stay excellent!

    • epigramman profile image


      5 years ago

      Good afternoon Steve - Little Miss Tiffy is 18 now and she was my mum's cat and Mister Gabriel is a domestic terrorist so I call him Gabriel Bin Laden (lol) ..... he is my adopted cat , all white but deaf and he loves knocking things over and going out on his leash for walks with me.

      I really think you should promote your creative writing here at the Hub because it's a good place to start. I love all kinds of music - classical music to start my day (always) and my rule of thumb - no Led Zeppelin before 12 noon (lol) unless the party is still on - I love writing to jazz and instrumental music but also love the silence of where I live - I take daily walks around the bay of my lake and I call them writer's walks - so I have a life of yin and yang.

      I will go uptown and play our numbers this afternoon.

      Sending you warm wishes on a sunny day but with a cool early April wind off the lake at 2:07pm

    • Anselome profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Anselmo 

      5 years ago from Thunder Bay

      Sounds good. I'm not going to hold you to that though :P You pay for the ticket that money should be yours.

      Pretty much anything, but I'm very fond of punk rock and techno. How about you?

      Tiffy and Gabriel? Those are cute names. How old are they? Mittens is a year and a half. She still gets into everything, it's like we have a toddler running around.

      I did have a good night, I hope you did too. I was actually considering doing some creative writing. I was writing science fiction stories in high school for fun, but I never finished them. Maybe I can turn them into a Hub series... What do you think?

      Have great day! Lake superior time 1:25pm

    • epigramman profile image


      5 years ago

      Okay buddy I will pick up our ticket tomorrow at the gas station in Selkirk (a 5 minute drive from the lake) and we split it evenly, okay.

      By the way what kind of music do you like?

      I am 54 years old and never been married with no children and have two cats, Tiffy and Gabriel.

      Have a good night and I would like to see you try some creative writing if you're up for it ......

      lake erie time 8:44pm

    • Anselome profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Anselmo 

      5 years ago from Thunder Bay

      Thanks Colin. I'm not actually a certified financial adviser or an accountant, I'm an IT who just has some experience in this area. But you saying that flatters me.

      I try a little harder with each hub. I enjoy writing them and I want everyone to get something out of it.

      Don't mention it. We're all in it to "Spread the Hub Love", and I definitely enjoy reading your poems. I've only read a few, but I'll definitely be a regular. They're well thought out, and you have a way with words that I think Shakespeare would be envious of.

      Splitting it sounds pretty good, but I'd let you take the majority of it. I would only want enough to pay my current debts (and my fiancee's), purchase a small home for my fiancee and myself (and our cat Mittens!), pay for our wedding, and put a small chunk towards retirement. I think I can fit all that in under $1 million. ;)

      I like 15-23-1 :P

      The weather up here has been a rollercoaster of beautiful rising temperatures with lovely breezes and sunshine, and a terrible downfall with snow and cold winds (gusts of almost 70km/h!). We've had worse though. Today was pretty good, warm with a nice breeze and not too many clouds.

      Here's to more great hubs from Canada at 8:31pm!

    • epigramman profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow Steve this is epic advice from an epic financial advisor.

      When I win the Lotto 649 on Saturday night (hopefully) I will make you my personal accountant.

      I was really impressed with the effort you put into this world class hub presentation. You have such a good head on your shoulders when it comes to this level of expertise.

      Also I would like to thank you for your wonderful comments at my humble little hubspace and coming from an esteemed fellow Canadian - that really means a lot.

      If you would like to split a ticket for Saturday night ($18 million each)

      I will put down 3 lucky numbers now: 7 - 13 - 21 and you can put down 3 numbers if you would like .....

      How is the weather up there? Down here by lake erie it's been a sunny day but with a cool wind off the lake .

      Sending you warm wishes from my warm little cottage at 8:17pm


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