It’s the American dream, right. Get married. Buy a house. Have a few kids. Go on an annual vacation and enjoy putting your children through activities and sports.
That sounds great, but for many, that seems impossible or out of reach if you’re living on a small income.
According to a Career Builder survey, 78% of US workers are living paycheck to paycheck. That’s most of us. How in the heck can you get ahead when you are already having challenges financially?
You don’t have money at the end of the month, so how is it possible to save what you don’t have?
Check out a few tips below to save money fast on a low income. But honestly, these tips could work for anyone regardless of income. Plenty of high earners also have no savings.
Yes, you’ll be challenged to make changes to your spending habits if you want to save money fast on a low income. But the savings will be worth it!
If you’re ready to look in the mirror and get serious about making financial changes to improve your future, check out the tips below! Make today the day you make changes and start saving more!
1. Take action
The first step to saving money is to stop talking about it and do it. You need to make a choice and commit to saving money, regardless of your income. Don’t use your income as an excuse not to save something.
Believe in yourself and your dreams enough to become more financially stable. Then act. The first step may be to save one dollar. So, do it! And then set your next small achievable goal and so on. Acting is the only way to start saving money.
2. Create a budget
I recommend a zero-based budget. Estimate all your expenses for the month. Use real numbers if you have them or estimates if you don’t. Over time you can adjust. It’s difficult to find places to trim and cut back if you aren’t sure exactly where the money is going today.
Creating a budget and using it for a few months and adjusting is a great first step in finding where you can save money.
3. Cut down on your largest expenses
So, you just created a budget and should have some sense of the money that is coming and going each month. What are your largest expenses? What can you do to trim them down?
That may be refinancing your home and looking at your insurance premiums. Look at all expenses to see where you can trim. The biggest financial impact will be with the largest expenses and making a dent in them.
If there isn’t one thing you think you could trim that would give you decent savings, consider trimming every category by a smaller amount. For example, look at every line item in your budget and aim to reduce it by 10%.
I understand for things like your mortgage you can’t magically reduce it. But for utilities, gas, groceries, kid’s expenses, entertainment, vices, etc. are all categories you can control and spend less in if you work at it.
4. Keep housing costs as low as you can
If you have a mortgage this might be more difficult. For most of us, housing takes up the largest part of our budgets. And if we bit off more than we can chew with housing, we become house poor. So much money is going into the mortgage, interest, taxes, etc. we barely have any money left over to live.
Look into refinancing. It’s possible you could refinance and end up paying significantly less than you do now depending on interest rates in your area.
If you are renting, could you consider moving? Yes, it’s drastic but if you could save a few hundred dollars each month, those dollars will add up over time.
5. Rent a room/find a roommate
Even if just temporarily, finding a roommate to pay part of your mortgage or apartment costs could pay off over the long term. You’d be doing them a favor by letting them stay at your place. They’d be doing you a favor and chipping in toward housing costs.
6. Save money on transportation
This may mean selling your current vehicle and buying a more practical one. Perhaps a cheaper vehicle or one with better gas mileage.
Along with the vehicle itself, focus on spending as little as possible on gas. Use a website like gasbuddy.com to find the cheapest gas on your commute to save every time you pump.
Also, aim to combine trips. Before you just hop in the car to go and run an errand, are there any other errands you need to make on that side of town? If not, do you have to run this errand right now?
7. Save for an emergency fund
I understand when you’re already in over your head and can barely make ends meet that saving for an unknown emergency may seem out of reach. But it’s so important to be ready if the time comes. It’ll prevent you from going into debt further!
Emergencies are stressful enough. Adding in additional stress when you can’t pay for them, for example, when your car breaks down, can cause even more stress.
Try to put some money away each month to go toward an emergency fund. This is in case you lose your job; you must take time off of work, have a medical emergency or need significant car repairs. It’s hard to prioritize saving when you’re trying to pay off debt but do it.
Even if you’re not a Dave Ramsey fan, take advice from someone who knows. His first “Baby Step” toward getting your financial life together is getting $1,000 in an emergency fund. He prioritizes that even over getting out of debt. Act today and start saving toward an emergency fund!
8. Rethink childcare
After the cost of childcare in your 2-income house, is there enough left over to make a difference financially? If you feel you’re only working to pay for childcare, perhaps you could swing staying at home with your child. It would provide a great opportunity to watch another child in your home and earn income.
9. Watch your entertainment costs
This could be everything from cable and internet to trips out. If you need some entertainment, try Groupon or StubHub to get your tickets cheaper. I’m not saying you can never afford to do anything ever.
I’m suggesting this is one area you could scale back on temporarily, as you work toward stockpiling some savings. Check out a few of our favorite date nights in for inspiration on cheap entertainment at home.
10. Only spend cash
Withdraw a weekly allowance and aim to only spend the cash in your wallet. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If you have the discipline to do this, it’s effective. You can’t spend what you don’t have.
Plus, you can save your change. Any coins you receive as you pay with cash over the week, put in a jar somewhere. At the end of the month, cash the jar in and put that money toward your emergency fund. Every little bit helps!
11. Watch your bad habits
This could be anything from impulse shopping, to habitual spending, to vices such as drinking or smoking. In many cases, we spend out of habit, not because we need or truly want anything.
Also, watch emotionally charged purchases. You’re mad, so you buy something. You’re happy so you buy something. Someone pissed you off at work, so you head to the vending machine.
Watch your emotions and your ego. Try to avoid spending money emotionally.
12. Pay off debt
Okay, so this one seems obvious. But the quicker you can get out of debt, not only will you be able to save more money that’s not going toward debt, but the interest rate is probably eating up a lot of your money as well!
Tip: if you can’t get out of debt completely or are not sure where to begin? Either start with the bill that has the highest interest rate. Or, start with the one that is the smallest that you can knock out quickly.
With the highest interest rate, you’ll save money in the long run by getting that debt gone. With the smallest debt, you’ll see success and be motivated to continue. Either way, choose one and start hammering away at it!
According to WalletHub’s Credit Card Landscape Report, the average interest rate of a new credit card is 19.24%! That nearly one-fifth of everything you charge you’ll have to pay back in interest.
Thus, making everything you charge 20% more expensive. Stop racking up expenses on plastic if you cannot afford them! It’s costing you so much more money in the long run!
13. Negotiate open balances
Call your lenders and see if you can negotiate new terms. Maybe you can get a lower interest rate or loan forgiveness if you pay off a certain amount of money. Swallow your pride and call and explain your situation.
You may be surprised at how receptive your lenders are to customers who are working toward payments and not just stopping payments altogether.
14. Automate your savings
There are so many easy ways you can save money and not even realize it using automation. An easy way is with the Acorns app. Acorns digitally rounds up purchases made on select credit cards and debit cards and invests the money for you.
For example, I’m using Acorns right now to pay for a 40th birthday vacation. I’m a few years away and haven’t noticed the few dollars here and there is taken from my account. But, when it comes time to want to book a vacation, the money will be there when I’m ready.
Another easy way to automate your savings is to pay yourself first each month. Wire money from your checking account to a savings account. Most banks allow you to do this quite easily.
If the money never hits your checking account, to begin with, it makes it a lot harder to spend it.
15. Check to see if your employer offers a 401K match
This may seem out of reach if you haven’t started saving for retirement yet. But if your employer has a 401K match, try to do everything you can do meet the minimum to qualify. It’s free money you are just throwing away each month you can’t contribute.
You owe it to yourself and to your future to save for retirement. Loans can’t be taken out for retirement! You can finance your kids’ educations, you can’t take a loan out for retirement. Prioritize your future first.
16. Get your grocery bill under control
It is so easy to overspend at the grocery store. A few simple tips can help you lower your costs:
- Only go with a list
- Meal plan so you know what you need to buy.
- Write the list based on what you NEED and what is on sale
- Check the inventory of what you have on hand to make sure you only buy what you need to buy.
- Use coupons (printed or digitally) as you can to save even more!
- Upload receipts to apps like Ibotta or Fetch Rewards to earn more after the trip is over (Sign up with Fetch and enter my referral code M2CNU and you’ll get 2,000 Fetch Points ($2.00 in points) when you complete one receipt.
17. Only buy what you truly need
We live in a materialistic society. Amazon can get you nearly anything you want dropped to your doorstep in 24 hours or less. It’s crazy how easy it is to spend money. We get conditioned to spend it. Spending is a habit.
Check yourself before you click “buy” and ask yourself if you truly need what you’re about to buy. Odds are no, you don’t. If you do, buy it. If you don’t need it, try to talk yourself out of it.
You need the money in savings for an emergency more than you need that new shirt. Pause on the expense and put that money in savings.
18. Make some extra money (Side Hustle!)
If you don’t have enough money to go around, are there ways you can generate more? Try working a side hustle. Selling a few of your belongings. Leveraging a skill you have. There are countless ways you can make a few extra bucks fast.
Check out a list of 33+ ways to make $100 fast for ideas.
19. Sell unused items
Could you make some money selling this you no longer use? Examples would be gifts you received but have never used or worn. Gently used sports equipment, clothing, exercise equipment, etc.
Clear the clutter and make some cash. If it doesn’t have sentimental value and is worth something, AND you aren’t regularly using it, put it up for sale.
20. Shop Second Hand
Depending on what you need to buy, secondhand stores offer a plethora of options at greatly discounted prices. Maybe Goodwill isn’t your cup of tea. But places like Poshmark, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay are all great options to find gently used items for a phenomenal deal!
Also, check out local consignment shops in your area. They usually have a great selection of clothing, jewelry, home goods, etc. There are a few consignment shops near me specifically for kids. I shop there all the time for clothing, books, toys, etc.
Some look brand new and are being sold at a fraction of the retail price.
Saving money fast on a low income is not easy, but it is possible. First, you need to commit to taking action. Nothing will change for you financially until you decide you want to better your situation. Once you’ve committed to change, then find a few ways you can make a difference financially.
Vow to scale back on one bad habit. Stop eating out for a few weeks. Call your lenders and negotiate new rates. Swallow your pride and work toward creating a better financial future for your family, today.
What are your best tips to save money?