55% of Gig Workers Live Paycheck to Paycheck. Here’s Why That’s Dangerous

55% of Gig Workers Live Paycheck to Paycheck. Here’s Why That’s Dangerous

A person flips through papers at a home desk with a phone and laptop.

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Now that’s a cycle worth breaking.

Key points

  • Relying on your next payday to cover your bills is a precarious way to exist.
  • It’s even more problematic if you’re a gig worker without a steady income.
  • Getting paid late even once can mean you end up behind on your bills and having to go into debt.

There are pros and cons to being a gig worker. One plus is getting to set your own hours and enjoy a more flexible work schedule. Another is potentially getting to do your job from anywhere and not being tied to a specific office or geographic location. 

But there are downsides to being a gig worker, too, and one of them is a lack of a steady paycheck. When you’re a salaried employee, you might see the same amount of money show up in your checking account every two weeks like clockwork. When you’re a gig worker, you might earn $3,000 one month and just $800 the month after that, and those payments might arrive at different intervals during the month. 

That’s why it’s particularly scary to learn that 55% of gig workers live paycheck to paycheck, according to a recent Wonolo survey. What this means is that more than half of gig workers need to wait for their next payday to cover a new bill because they don’t have money in a savings account to fall back on. 

If you’re a gig worker living paycheck to paycheck, it’s imperative you do what you can to bust out of that cycle. Here’s why.

One late payment could drive you into debt

Another downside of being a gig worker is not always getting paid on time. You might do a large amount of work for a client and send an invoice that, once paid, will be enough to cover your next month of bills. But if that client takes their time paying that invoice, you could wind up having to charge expenses on a credit card and carry that balance forward, thereby accruing costly interest in the process. And that’s far from ideal.

What’s more, you never know when a client might refuse to pay an invoice on the basis of being dissatisfied with your work. Ideally, that’s a situation you’ll either avoid in the first place or do your best to make right for your client. But either way, it could result in an extended delay in payment. And that could leave you struggling to pay your basic expenses while things are being sorted out.

That’s why it’s so important to build yourself some savings. That way, if you experience a lag in getting paid, you’ll have some breathing room. 

How to build savings

Building savings as a gig worker isn’t always easy, especially if your income is far from steady and predictable. But one thing you can do is take advantage of those periods where your earnings increase and stick all of that extra money in the bank. 

At the same time, you can examine your current spending and seek to reduce it to a reasonable degree. That could mean dining out less frequently or being more judicious about paying for luxuries you can enjoy for free (for example, you may want to ditch your $50-a-month gym membership and just exercise in your home or outdoors until you’ve managed to build up some savings).

Living paycheck to paycheck isn’t a great situation for anyone. But it can be especially dangerous when you don’t get paid on a regular basis. So if that’s the boat you’re in, do your best to break that cycle as soon as you can.

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