Sometimes, military paydays can come pretty far apart. Paydays are regularly on the 15th and 1st of the month, but are bumped to the business day prior if the 15th or 1st fall on a weekend or holiday. This means that paydays can come as far as 19 days apart. We're just headed into one of those super-long pay periods right now. If you got paid yesterday or today, it will be 19 days until your next paycheck. If your bank or credit union deposits on the actual payday, Monday, you'll have 17 days until your next pay deposit.
If you're living paycheck-to-paycheck, and counting on a new deposit every 14 or 15 days, a few extra days can be trouble. Here are eight ways to get through if you don't have any cash buffer:
Eat Out Of Your PantryMost of us have some food lurking in the back of cupboards or freezers. Get creative to use those items, and lower the amount of groceries you need to buy. This is usually the single easiest way to slash your spending for a short period of time. Depending on the size of your stash, you may be able to go two or three weeks without buying more than milk, bread and bananas.
Change Up Your Entertainment and Social PlansGoing out can take up a huge amount of your budget, and there's no reason you have to go out to have fun. Invite friends over for game night, watch a movie at home with your sweetie, or take your kids to the neighborhood park instead of the amusement park.
Have A Yard SaleEven if you only make $20 or $30, a yard sale can make a few dollars to tide you over until payday. I've never been amazing at holding yard sales; I know some people can make hundreds of dollars.
Pack Lunches and SnacksWith busy lives spent away from home, it's easy to spend a lot on lunches and snacks. Even the dollar menu adds up, and those dollars can help if you're really stretched. Pack a lunch and snacks to help you avoid the drive-through, the convenience store, and the vending machines.
Eat CheapBeans and rice can be made a million different ways, and they'll fill you up without breaking the bank. An internet search for frugal meals will turn up pages of websites. My family favorites include baked potato bar, eggs and potatoes for dinner (but not if you call it a frittata, because children make no sense,) or pasta with butter and black pepper. Eliminating meat is always a money saver, or serving dishes where the meat is just one component, such as stir-fry, casseroles, and salads.
Find A Little Extra IncomeWhat can you do to make a little extra money? Many side-hustles pay in cash or near-cash. Delivering pizzas, babysitting, driving for Uber, selling stuff on Ebay - there are many ways to earn a few dollars fast.
Pay Your Bills StrategicallyThis isn't the best option, but sometimes you can strategically pay one of your bills a couple of days later than you usually would. It helps if you know the last date by which you can pay each bill without a penalty. For example, most rent is due on the 1st but not late until the 5th or the 6th. If you usually pay on the 30th or 31st, maybe wait until the 1st or 2nd. This practice can be dicey and should only be used with extreme caution, because you don't want to get behind overall.
Build Up An Emergency FundNot actually a way to get through this pay period, but a way to prevent long pay periods from being a problem in the future: build up your emergency fund. Start with a goal of $1000, or whatever number is reasonable for your situation. The average calendar year has three military pay periods more than 16 days; these long pay periods should not catch you by surprise.
It can be challenging to stretch your budget a little more than usual, but it can also be a great learning experience. You might discover that your kids love beans and rice, or that you enjoy watching movies at home just as much as going to the movie theater. This kind of information is great for making long-term changes that can have a real impact on your overall financial situation. So take this challenge and embrace it!