live paycheck to paycheck

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Alternative forms[edit]


A paycheck from 1929

A reference to a person fully expending the entire earnings of their paycheck and not having anything left prior to receiving their next paycheck.



live paycheck to paycheck (third-person singular simple present lives paycheck to paycheck, present participle living paycheck to paycheck, simple past and past participle lived paycheck to paycheck)

  1. (US, idiomatic) To have the entirety of what one earns consumed by living expenses, thus having nothing left over to save; make just enough (money, etc.) to survive; to scratch by.
    • 1948, George Morris, How to Make Your Vote Count: The Communist Position on the Issues and Candidates in the 1948 Elections, New York, N.Y.: New Century Publishers, OCLC 11359119, page 4:
      But what does all this mean for the men and women who live from paycheck to paycheck? Prices have skyrocketed to boost the cost of living for the worker to about double the pre-war level.
    • 1954, Dissent, New York, N.Y.: Dissent Publishing Corporation, ISSN 0012-3846, OCLC 800304249, page 38, column 2:
      Hector, who has worked at the Miramar since he arrived from Mexico ten years ago, would like to own his own home someday. "It's my dream," he says. But he can't imagine how he'll ever get there when his family lives paycheck to paycheck and can't put anything away for savings.
    • 1995, Working Woman, volume 20, New York, N.Y.: MacDonald Communications Corporation, ISSN 0145-5761, OCLC 942690574, page 40:
      Nearly two-thirds of the women who responded to a working woman survey last year cited living from paycheck to paycheck as their most pressing financial concern.
    • 2006, Alicia Korten; Karen Dietz, “Who Said Money is Everything? Story is the New Currency in Financial Management”, in Lori L. Silverman, Wake me Up when the Data is Over: How Organizations Use Stories to Drive Results, San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass, John Wiley & Sons, →ISBN, part 1 (How Organizations are Using Stories in Day-to-day Operations), page 83:
      There was a low-income individual in class who never had any savings. He lived paycheck-to-paycheck. [After hearing the story], he said to them, 'You've inspired me. I've always had cable and decided to give it up. For the first time I have money in my savings account.'


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