Paycheck Cycles Survey: Paychecks Impact When Most Americans Can Shop

The amount of American workers who are living “paycheck to paycheck” has risen in recent years due to the economy and the tough job market. Those hardships have also led to difficulties for businesses, since those Americans have to cut down on their purchases and can only shop once they’ve received their most recent paycheck. How many Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck, and how does it impact their purchasing behaviors?

paycheck cycles

Paycheck to Paycheck

In Ask Your Target Market’s latest survey, 40% of US respondents said that they are definitely living paycheck to paycheck. Another 20% said they live paycheck to paycheck most of the time. 18% said they live paycheck to paycheck sometimes. And just 23% of Americans said they are not living paycheck to paycheck. Respondents between 35 and 54 were 7% more likely to live paycheck to paycheck. Of those with a household income of at least $75,000 annually, 61% said they still live paycheck to paycheck at least sometimes.

Of those who live paycheck to paycheck, 26% said they have been doing so for over 15 years. 14% said they have been living paycheck to paycheck for between 10 and 15 years. 9% said it has been 7 to 9 years. 16% said it has been 4 to 6 years. 23% said it has been 2 to 3 years. And 12% said it has been just a year or less.

Paycheck Cycles

Of those living paycheck to paycheck, 56% said that it very much impacts how and when they can buy things like gas and groceries. 35% said that their paycheck cycles somewhat impact when they can buy things like gas and groceries. And 9% said that their paycheck cycles don’t impact their buying habits at all.

In the event of an emergency, just 36% of overall respondents said they have “rainy day” savings. Another 16% said that though they don’t have their own savings, they do have access to funds in the event of an emergency. And 50% said they don’t have any access to emergency savings. Of those living paycheck to paycheck, just 27% said they have savings, and 20% said they have access to funds in the event of an emergency.


When asked to identify the most important uses for their paychecks, most respondents put having enough money for essentials like food and transportation above paying bills on time. Paying off debt or remaining debt free was generally the third most important. And saving money for emergencies was ranked higher than saving money for the future.

You can view the complete survey results in the widget below and be sure to click “Open Full Report” to take advantage of all the chart and filter options.

Photo Credit: River Island from Flickr

What do you want to know? If you need some consumer insights on a particular topic, let us know in the comments below and we’ll consider it for an upcoming survey post.

Results were collected on May 7 via AYTM’s online survey panel.

Anne Pilon brings 3 years experience to AYTM as a blogger and journalist. She has a degree in journalism and marketing communications from Columbia College in Chicago and enjoys writing about business, marketing, social media, and art.