How to Live on a Once a Month Paycheck

It was a shock to our budget when Blake started working in public education and payday only came once a month. The paycheck was automatically deposited into our account on the first of the month. We had to have our ducks in a row to make it through the entire month!

10 Ways to Live on a Once A Month Paycheck

How to Live on a Once a Month Paycheck

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1) The Ledger System

The ledger makes it super simple to see at a glance which bills will be coming in for the month.

  • Purchase a 12 column ledger – These can be found in office supply or even drug stores. You can also purchase one here. I prefer the ledger simply because it lasts many years and is easy to keep track of, however, I have created simple PDF files for you to download if you prefer. You will find them on the How To STAY Debt Free post!
  • On the first two page spread, head it ‘Accounts Payable – year’
  • Write normal monthly expenses in the left column
  • Head the additional 12 columns January – December
  • Turn the page and head it ‘Accounts Receivable – year’
  • Head the additional 12 columns January – December
  • Write in every source of income in the left column – This may include the IRS if you usually receive a refund.

2) Record Income

Record the amount of your paycheck in the corresponding month of your ledger AND in your checkbook register.

3) Pay Current Bills

Pay the bills you have received and write them in your check register AND in the ledger.

4) Pay bills that are the same amount each month

Your car payment may not be due until the 20th but you know the amount. Go ahead and pay it or at least schedule it in your online banking. Record in your check register AND ledger.

5) Check ledger for incoming bills

You probably have an idea of how much your incoming bills will be. Add up those amounts and subract it from the amount in your checkbook register (no need to write it in) to see what’s left.

6) Write a check to cash for allowances and expendables

It will take some practice making sure your grocery money lasts throughout the month. One way to do this is to split up your expendable cash and put it in envelopes for each week. We tend to shop heavy at the beginning of the month and then maintenance shop the rest.

7) Add to Savings

Ideally, there will be enough left to add to your emergency fund, Roth IRA, etc. Hopefully you have already invested in your retirement program through work.

8) Leave a Cushion

Of course it isn’t best practice to take your checking account down to zero. We like to leave a $1,000 emergency fund in our checking account to avoid any issues. I ‘hide’ that money in my checkbook register so it doesn’t look like we have it. It’s a mind game!

9) The checking account is closed for business

Don’t use money from your checking account for anything other than the bills you know will be arriving. If you don’t like using a cash system for groceries, etc., it may be good to open a separate account just for those items!

10) End of Month

At the end of the month, add your payable column and write your total expenses for the month at the bottom. Do the same for receivables. Did you live within your means this month?



Sixteen years later, I couldn’t imagine payday being any other way. I must admit, the end of the month can still be challenging to stay on budget but I love the once a month paycheck! I can sit down and pay the bills all at once (except for the few stragglers) and I know exactly what we have to deal with. It is a simple, straight forward process!


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28 comments… add one
  • Alexis Oct 10, 2014, 11:53 am

    I receive paychecks bi weekly, but since I have 2 jobs I get 2 paychecks every 2 weeks. It’s pretty convenient. I used to get paid every week and wasn’t a huge fan of that.

  • How Do The Jones Do It Oct 10, 2014, 11:57 am

    Holy Cow! That’s awesome Alexis! Sounds like you are working super hard!

  • SavvyJames Oct 10, 2014, 1:19 pm

    Having some type of system – you mention a ledger – that allows you to track and adjust, is a must. Great point. The only difference for me is number seven (Add to Savings) would be number two.

    “How many paychecks do we receive each month?” Between my active duty retirement check and our current jobs, which pay every two weeks – 26 times a year – it works out to five times 10 months of the year and seven times the other two months.

  • Victoria @thefrugaltrial Oct 10, 2014, 2:39 pm

    I have noticed from reading American blogs that bi-weekly is the norm for payment. In the UK, most people are paid monthly and most bills (rent/utilities) are monthly. Automated payments (direct debts/standing orders) is the way to go.

  • Sarah @ Oct 10, 2014, 7:49 pm

    I’ve always thought a monthly paycheck would be so much more simple than biweekly for these same reasons!

  • How Do The Jones Do It Oct 11, 2014, 1:29 pm

    That’s a whole lotta paychecks! You sound like you’re rolling in the dough which makes it super easy to make ‘add to savings’ #2;0) We do invest 10% (with match) in the hubster’s work plan before we even see the check which helps! Building the emergency fund needs to start moving but it’s hard to think about saving money when you’re paying interest on credit.

  • How Do The Jones Do It Oct 11, 2014, 1:32 pm

    You are right Victoria! Bi-weekly is the norm … it’s interesting to hear how things are done in the UK! Our rent/utilities are also monthly. I don’t do much automated unless it is through credit … like the security system. I’m not quite ready to give up that control;0) I do pay bills online though which is super convenient!

  • How Do The Jones Do It Oct 11, 2014, 1:34 pm

    It is super simple Sarah! We just have to plan ahead so we can buy groceries at the end of the month without charging! I listened to your interview this morning! You did awesome! What a great opportunity!!!

  • SavvyJames Oct 11, 2014, 10:23 pm

    True, a significant income makes it somewhat easier to save. However, I’m a firm believer in the maxim, “It isn’t what you make, it’s what you do with it.” It is all about habits. Even if someone does not have a significant salary, they should develop the habit of paying themselves first, even if it is only $25/month. Better to have entrenched habits once you do make more money vice trying to learn at that point.

    “…it’s hard to think about saving money when you’re paying interest on credit.” Absolutely! Credit, and the debt that is often the result, is pure evil.

  • SavvyJames Oct 11, 2014, 10:26 pm

    I’ve experienced both; monthly for the 21 years I spent in the Army and bi-weekly for the last 9 years. I prefer bi-weekly.

  • How Do The Jones Do It Oct 11, 2014, 10:45 pm

    Right now, I agree credit is pure evil! I do enjoy the perks when we can pay it off though. Somehow, about once a year, we tend to get behind which negates those perks.

    It’s true … anyone can save $25/month!

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer Oct 12, 2014, 5:21 am

    I’m always impressed by those living on a once a month paycheck. We do something similar as far as tracking with an Excel spreadsheet. Seeing what’s due and when at a simple glance really does help for better accounting.

  • How Do The Jones Do It Oct 12, 2014, 1:20 pm

    Isn’t it great it can be so simple to budget instead of some huge elaborate system?! I just love simplicity! It makes it easy to see when tabs will be due, etc.! Thank you so much for stopping by Laurie! I enjoyed learning more about you on the ‘crush’ post;0)

  • Kim Oct 12, 2014, 4:09 pm

    I’ve always been paid bi weekly, but Jim has a monthly paycheck. I think regardless of when you get paid, as long as you track your expenses and don’t go hog wild when the check comes in, you’ll do fine. I imagine it would be hard to go from bi weekly to monthly at first, but OK once you get used to it.

  • How Do The Jones Do It Oct 12, 2014, 5:56 pm

    It sounds like you have the best of both worlds Kim! That’s awesome! It was a little hard adjusting to one paycheck at first but we really like it now!

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods Oct 13, 2014, 5:47 pm

    Mr. Frugalwoods and I are both paid bi-weekly and always have been, so, we’ve grown pretty accustomed to it. We both have our paychecks direct deposited into the same account, which makes bill paying fairly straightforward.

  • How Do The Jones Do It Oct 13, 2014, 8:32 pm

    Direct deposit is so efficient! I guess we’ve had it so long, it’s hard to imagine a paper check … do people still get those?! It sounds like The Frugalwoods have an awesome system set up! I knew you would;0) I’ve been enjoying your blog!!!

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde Oct 14, 2014, 5:02 pm

    My hubby actually gets paid once a month and it took a few months to get used to it since he gets paid mid month and most bills are due at the beginning, but now we love it because it seems so much easier to manage with a budget.

  • Sarah Oct 14, 2014, 6:14 pm

    Wow!!! I would LOVE to adapt this system as I feel like I spend way to much time trying to manage money that comes in and goes out. Unfortunately, my husband works for himself and gets paid as he finishes jobs – anywhere from multiple times per week to once every three weeks!

  • How Do The Jones Do It Oct 14, 2014, 6:54 pm

    That is interesting to be paid mid-month with a once a month paycheck. It must take some self control! I totally agree … it makes managing the budget much easier!

  • How Do The Jones Do It Oct 14, 2014, 6:57 pm

    Holy Cow! That must take some real practice to figure out Sarah! This system is super simple and straight forward!

  • Janell Oct 15, 2014, 1:59 pm

    I found this post by visiting the Frugal Friday Link Up Party. My husband receives one disability check every month and I get paid bi-weekly. It sucks we never have any money. 🙁 Thanks for a great post!

  • How Do The Jones Do It Oct 15, 2014, 9:55 pm

    Oh, Janell … I hope things start looking up! It sounds like you have quite a few checks coming in! I’m so glad you found us through Frugal Friday!

  • Shelly Oct 16, 2014, 2:44 pm

    Payday comes once a month at our house and I find it is so much easier than when my husband got paid twice a month. We have been budgeting this way for about 20 years now and it so much easier.

    I so agree with having a cushion of those unexpected bills that can come up. Great Post!

  • How Do The Jones Do It Oct 16, 2014, 4:15 pm

    Sounds like we’ve both been in the same boat for a while now Shelly! I agree … once a month paychecks simplify the budget! Thank you so much for stopping by!

  • monica Apr 1, 2015, 7:42 am

    I get a paycheck once a month and have since I began getting a professional paycheck over 30 years ago. I am an academic scientist- when I finished college and went to grad school in 1981, I received my stipend monthly, and because I have stayed in a university/hospital academic setting that has been the way I have been paid ever since . I have never had an actual budget. I am just frugal by nature and never buy what I don’t really need or have enough disposable income for. I have money automatically put into saving (for an emergency fund as well as for my two kid’s college account) and retirement, and I have all my bills paid automatically from my bank account as well. I do check on the account now and then, but everything is pretty much on autopilot!

  • How Do The Jones Do It Apr 1, 2015, 9:59 am

    Wow! Sounds like you have an awesome system going, Monica! I’d like to do the automatic emergency fund and college account and I need to look into the bills being paid automatically. It makes me a tad nervous though. You have a very interesting job!

  • Blue May 15, 2017, 9:30 am

    Excellent ideas, thank you. My husband passed away a few months ago and with that his social security income ended as well. Our savings/investments were wiped out in the months preceding his passing attempting to save our daughters life. She passed on the day of my husband’s funeral.
    My social security is too little to cover my basic monthly needs, let alone food, medication, etc. To even consider $1.00 a month for savings is not an option. I have to alternate months to pay utilities, not pay property taxes in May (I use the refund check to pay half the year), and I am running out of things to sell.
    For the first time in my life I applied for benefits through the government, but sadly I make about $30.00 a month too much from social security so that was a no. I am sick and unable to work.
    I have to sell our home. We own it free and clear, but it needs so many repairs…I do not have the money. There is no one I can borrow, nor any programs available to help. I’ve exhausted every possible option. The only thing I can do is sell it as is, for a fraction of the value, and move into a rough area with inexpensive rent.
    I’ve worked hard my entire life, as did my late husband. Not once did we see any of this coming and truly believed our $600,000.00 retirement nest egg was enough. His passing was unexpected. I would do it over again 10 fold to attempt to save my daughter’s life. I am just unsure about what the future holds. I am unable to take my medications…have Medicare Part D so am not eligible for any programs to assist with medications required to maintain living with this disease.
    I am not looking for sympathy or suggestions. Trust me, raising 4 kids on minimal income, I’ve mastered the art of budgeting and getting by on minimal. For over 40 years, I am proud to say my children never went without. They may not have had the name brands, but the had nice, clean clothing, food, received an education, had shelter, lots of love, and were able to participate in sports, etc.
    The purpose of this post is to simply beg all of you to know life can throw you a curveball and there isn’t always a solution. Our government is not there to help, even though I paid in for many years.
    I will be selling my computer and giving up the Internet next. I can use the $150.00 for bills. I still owe roughly $14,000.00 for two funerals. I used the memorials to pay the other $10,000.00 due. Even though my daughter was receiving (periodic) benefits from the county at the time of her passing, what they covered was minimal. A county burial consisted of a cardboard casket (you can literally push on it), no sealed vault leaving her body open to all critters and elements, no flowers and very limited allowances for clergy and funeral home. Nothing else was allowed…even gifted by others. There was a $500.00 cap that could be spent towards clergy, etc. I understood this was her vessel and her spirit was no longer using it, but I gave birth to that vessel and could not subject it to the horrors that a county burial would provide. I cannot imagine any one of our government officials allowing someone they love to have to be buried like this. Shame on them for expecting it from us.
    Thanks for listening. I am hoping no one ever has to experience living like this. My personal hell is not my limited finances, but living without my husband of several decades and my daughter. I don’t care anymore about my needs. Our government doesn’t…clearly.
    Yes, I have three other children and I am thrilled to say one is loving and caring. If she knew how dire this was, she would move heaven and earth to help. She has young children of her own and a husband. I will NEVER be a burden to her. I am ashamed to say my older two are selfish and want nothing to do with me. They are my step children, whom I raised as my own from the time they were 8 and 9 years of age. They’ve stolen about everything they could have from both my husband and me, as well as my husband’s late parents. They are very good at lying and playing the victim role in that their childhood was rough (their mother was an addict and a manipulator who got everyone to pay for her needs (including us). These traits sadly have been passed on to her children as well. I will still do anything to help them should they need. I love them dearly, but have been told, by them, to leave them alone. They are planning on suing me for a portion of the house proceeds when it sells. My step daughter sued my husband for control over his parents estate after they passed. I know they will break in and try to steal whatever assets are left so I cannot leave my house for any length of time. They broke my husband’s heart and I truly believe they played a part in his early passing. The guilt they felt was obvious as we disconnected life support at the hospital. It hurt to see them in so much pain so I did what was possibly the wrong thing to do? I told them to forgive themselves and I lied, saying their dad forgave them. I do not want them to be miserable…although I don’t think either one is. That brings me some peace.

    Thanks for hearing me out…

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