Let’s Dance! Who Knows the “Bill Shuffle”?

by Kevin on November 14, 2008

(Photo by Kretyen)

Come one, come all! Gather ’round, friends. Grab a partner, grab your bank statements, grab that unorganized stack of receipts, and get ready. Make sure you’ve got your stack of unpaid bills because It’s time for the Bill Shuffle!

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you are probably familiar with this trendy dance. You’ll need a calendar to start. Lay out all of your bills, and write down on the calendar when your paychecks should be coming in. You’ll need to track how much cash you’ve got, and how it is affected by paying your bills and getting paychecks.

Living Paycheck to Paycheck is Stressful

Constantly shuffling bills and paying off the company that is the most irritated with you is extremely stressful. I have to admit I’m not speaking from experience here. I’ve got most of our bills on automatic payment. Having one bill outstanding stresses me out… so having all of our bills piling up would drive me insane.

Yet I know a bunch of people that live life this way. Waiting on that next check so they can send off the minimum payment to the credit card company. Timing how late they can pay the utility bill to send payments to the other bills first. Very, very chaotic.

Signs You are Doing the Bill Shuffle

I’m sure there are lots of other ways to tell you’re in trouble with your bills, these are just off the top of my head.

  • You’ve turned off automatic bill pay on all of your bills.
  • You are behind on at least one bill.
  • You stress about when your direct deposit will show up in your account.
  • You have a large stack of unpaid bills sitting on your desk, waiting for money to come in.
  • You’re getting calls from companies asking where your payment is.
  • You have a big calendar with the dates of when late payments go into effect on your various accounts. You send in payments right before these dates come in.

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

I wrote about the financial concept that changed our financial life earlier this year. You need only one thing to stop living paycheck to paycheck. Surprisingly enough, it isn’t necessarily a larger paycheck.

To start the process of getting off of the paycheck to paycheck train, you need:

  • a budget — where is your money currently going? How much extra money should you have at the end of every month?

That’s it. It’s very basic. Income needs to be greater than expenses. Build up a “buffer” in your budget worth one month’s expenses. This is all detailed in the post I linked to above, but a quick example:

You earn $2,000 per month after taxes. Your expenses are $1,500 per month. You should have $500 at the end of every month. Now just hold onto that money and repeat the process for three months. Next thing you know you’ve got $1,500 in your account at all times — plus the income from the current month. Essentially you want to get to a point where you are living off of last month’s income. You will apply this month’s income to next month’s expenses.

This is the true way to get off of the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. Make some changes in your habits, track your spending, and use a budget.

Maybe then you could afford to go out and do some real dancing…

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Russell November 16, 2008 at 7:31 am

I used to be able to dance when I was younger. In the old days. When bank drafts were made with pieces of paper. I could mail my payment by paper check on Monday, it would reach the utility or credit card bank on Wednesday (due date), then travel back to my bank, not arriving before Friday (payday). Those were the days.

Now if I have lunch at Wendy’s and pay with a credit card, by the time I get home and turn on my computer, my accounting program will tell me the transaction has been withdrawn from my bank. Some places even using a paper check, it’s scanned and withdrawn before the end of the day.

Dancing sure has gotten harder over the years.

Redonno November 17, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Great post! I know from experience floating checks and doing the payment shuffle is frustrating and stressful. It’s funny what determination to pay off debt, a budget, and a new mindset on money and money behavior will do.

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