Why Don’t I Have Any Money Left at the End of the Month?

It’s not you, it’s me. Well, not really “me” – it’s the world. All the Frugal Freddy stuff aside, the reason you are out of money by the end of every month is not because you bought too many lattes. It’s because you – and the majority of us – aren’t paid enough. What's going on and what can you do to fix it?


Let’s break it down (see tables at the end for details). For most of us, our incomes stay the same each month. The salary we earn, however, is not the salary that actually appears in our paychecks. After federal income taxes, state income taxes, Social Security taxes, and Medicare taxes (the last two are called FICA taxes) come out, your pay is much lower. To some degree, you can adjust the amount of income taxes that are taken out each month, giving yourself a lower refund at tax return time, but the FICA taxes are set by the government.


So that’s what comes IN. Now for what goes out and out and out…. You have expenses that you know you’ll have to pay every month – rent, utilities, car payment, student loan, etc. Those are called fixed expenses and, unless you move, negotiate a better deal, or pay off a loan, they aren’t going to change. Then you have those pesky “variable” expenses – the ones that change all the time (usually upwards, rarely down) and that seem to be the culprits for monthly budget busting: tuxedo rental for friend’s wedding + all the travel costs; CV joints on truck; a Disney+ subscription; replacement of phone your 2-year-old nephew threw in the toilet; cases of Gatorade when you got the flu, etcetera, etcetera. Stuff never stops happening, and it all costs money. And it usually costs money you don’t have.


This article is not about people in poverty who are barely managing; my heart goes out to those who are in this difficult situation. This article is about you – a college grad or highly tech-trained worker who followed the rules, did the right education courses, and nailed a supposed “good-paying job.” So why isn’t it working out?

Our Charlotte, NC- based example employee earns $57,500 a year – she just got a 3 percent raise from about $55,800, thus earning slightly higher than the average Charlotte salary. Her salary says $57,500 but after taxes and a 3 percent contribution to her company’s 401(k), her annual take home pay is actually $44,240, far short of that $57K. Ouch. Her paychecks come every two weeks, or 26 times a year, which means that in two months of the year, she’ll get three paychecks that month rather than the usual two. The biweekly amount she has to spend is $1,701.54 and the average monthly amount if you spread those 26 paychecks evenly over 12 months is $3,686.67.

When she adds up her fixed expenses there in Charlotte with $1,200 in rent, normal utility costs, and loans for car and school (fixed expenses of $2,130 or $25,560 per year), that leaves her $1,556 per month or $18,680 for year