You’ve worked hard. You’ve hit your career goals. Your salary has never been higher. Still, at the end of the every month, you break into a cold sweat worrying if there’s enough money to go around. Why, at this point in your life, does bill paying still feel like a painful game of financial Twister? It’s time to get to the root of the problem. Here are six reasons you’re still struggling to pay bills.
1. You don’t have a budget
Budgets are how people anticipate their expenses and allocate their spending. Without this essential framework, your financial life will look a lot like the Wild West — filled with drama and boom and bust cycles (and probably too many saloon scenes). If you’re making late payments or missing payments altogether, it’s time to build your first budget, cowboy.
2. You have too much credit card debt
With astronomical interest charges, late fees, and other penalties, credit card debt leaves millions of families strapped for cash year after year. If you’re struggling to pay your bills each month, take a hard look at your credit habits. How much of your income is devoted to servicing debt? Are you barely covering the minimum payments or racking up new charges? If so, grab a shovel. It’s time to dig yourself out of high-interest credit card debt. (See also: The Fastest Way to Pay Off $10,000 in Credit Card Debt)
3. You’re house poor
If your mortgage consumes more than 25 percent of your income, you may be house poor. For many, that single payment is simply too steep and leaves little money leftover for bills and other budget essentials. Think you may be house poor? Explore refinance options, rent out a spare bedroom, or consider selling and moving into a more affordable home. (See also: How to Make Ends Meet When You’re House Poor)
4. You can’t stop impulse buying
We all fall prey to impulse buys every now and then. But if off-budget spending has become a way of life, you’re probably broke by bill-paying day. Examine why impulse buying is so attractive. Is it a way of relieving stress? Is it a reward for working long hours at a job you don’t like? How could you rearrange your life and take control of your spending? (See also: 9 Simple Ways to Stop Impulse Buying)
5. You’re too focused on keeping up with the Joneses
Trying to keep up with the Joneses can exhaust you mentally, emotionally, and financially. If you’re constantly struggling to pay your bills, ask yourself: “To what degree is my spending influenced by the spending habits of others? Am I trying to project an image I can’t afford?” Since paying your monthly bills doesn’t give you much “image bang” for your buck, you may simply be prioritizing status over solvency. (See also: 4 Money Lessons You Can Learn From the Joneses)
6. Someone’s draining your income
If you’re always behind the eight ball with your bills, maybe the problem isn’t something, but someone. Is your BFF always “a little strapped for cash?” Are you supporting a chronically unmotivated spouse, sibling, or adult child? Practice a little tough love (and self-care); use your cash to cover your own bills, protect your own credit, and keep your lights on. (See also: 4 Things You Should Make Your Adult Child Pay For)