Earning just minimum wage can be a bummer. It can be a limiting experience, especially as you may find it hard to make ends meet. This is considering that the average costs of living keeps increasing too. Also, housing costs show no signs of declining, and there are scarcely ways of making extra money. So, what do you do?
Because of all this, it is important to discover how to make ends meet with the minimum wage you currently have. Of course, it may not be an easy change. In fact, the tips that will help you save might actually demand that you cut off some things you consider essential. However, with commitment, perseverance, and discipline, everything is achievable.
So, want to learn how to save money on minimum wage? Let’s dive in!
How Much Do You Earn A Year On Minimum Wage?
Generally, there is no universally accepted measure of the minimum wage. However, there have been attempts by organizations such as the International Labor Organization (ILO) to standardize the wage made per hour. However, this has proved futile in a vast majority of cases, and This is because the economic powers of various countries differ. Thus, the countries can only create minimum wage laws based on what they can reasonably pay.
In the United States, most of the 50 states have a state minimum wage law. The federal legislation also provides minimum wage compensation for employees, although a worker is subject both to state and federal laws. The minimum wage cap for states ranges from $7 to $15. In some cases, this is hardly sufficient, especially considering housing costs. The stipulation by the federal legislation is at $7.5. You can find provisions relating to the minimum wage in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Remarkably, the FLSA does not provide for collection procedures. It also does not provide a means of redress if a worker is unfairly paid. This is a blindspot that state legislations try to handle. Hence, a worker who has complaints about unfair wages can have recourse under the applicable wage laws of that state.
How To Save Money On Minimum Wage
There are ways you can make sure that you save money even with a low income. Several of them involve making changes to your lifestyle. This includes modifying where you get food, how you go about your grocery shopping, and even your attitude towards your emergency fund. However, these changes will not cause an upheaval in your life. They are easy to implement. Here they are:
Avoid Any Debt
Anyone making minimum wage has no business going into debt. Hence, you must do all within your power to avoid or get out of any debt you find yourself in. Naturally, this might not come easily. Some debts seem unavoidable. This is especially when you consider that your take-home per month may barely cover your needs. However, in the vast majority of cases, people get mired in debt because of their spending habits. Thus, if you can identify the services and products you spend the most on, you can cut out the non-essential ones.
Here are some creative ways to save money and avoid debt when working for minimum wage:
- Budget: Create a strict budget to understand where your money is going. Prioritize necessities like rent, utilities, food, and transportation.
- Track Spending: Write down every purchase you make to see where your money is really going. You might find areas where you can cut back.
- Limit Credit Card Use: It can be easy to rack up credit card debt, so try to use them sparingly and pay off your balance in full each month if you can.
- Save: Even if it’s just a small amount each month, having savings can help you cover unexpected expenses instead of going into debt.
- Avoid Unnecessary Expenses: Cut back on non-essentials like eating out, entertainment, and shopping for items not absolutely necessary.
- Buy Secondhand: Purchase used items instead of new ones when possible. This can apply to clothes, furniture, appliances, etc.
- Cook at Home: Eating out can be expensive. Cooking at home is usually cheaper and healthier.
- Use Public Transportation: If possible, use public transportation, carpool, bike, or walk instead of owning and maintaining a car.
- Find a Roommate: Sharing rent and utilities with a roommate can make housing more affordable.
- Negotiate Bills: Some companies may lower your bill if you ask or if you qualify for low-income programs.
- Pay Bills on Time: Late fees can add up. Try to pay all your bills on time to avoid extra charges.
- Utilize Free Entertainment: Take advantage of free community events, outdoor activities, and public libraries for entertainment.
- Increase Your Income: Look for side gigs, part-time jobs, or sell unused items for extra cash.
- Educate Yourself Financially: Learning more about personal finance can give you the tools to better manage your money.
- Use Community Resources: Check if you qualify for food banks, healthcare aids, or other local government or non-profit resources.
Be Careful With The Windfall
If you are in the low-income bracket, you should be careful with your windfalls, too. This is one of the ways to hit your savings goals faster. When you get a sudden gift, a tax refund, or free services, invest the windfall.
Every Penny Counts
As someone making minimum wage, this should be your personal mantra. Instead of spending the loose change on cookies or the likes, you could save them. Some people have jars in their homes where they store these small denominations; you may want to adopt this, too. Keep the jar somewhere easily accessible, maybe your kitchen counter or dresser. You can put your change directly into the jar when you empty your pockets. You can get your family to imbibe this habit also. Ignore how much you have. Just keep storing them away. This tip is for the long term. At the end of a period, perhaps a year, you would be surprised at how much you would have saved.
Here are some additional ways to start saving money a little bit at a time:
- Make Your Own Meals and Snacks: Eating out or buying convenience foods can eat into your budget quickly. Making your own meals is typically much cheaper, and you can prepare them in bulk to save time.
- DIY Projects: From home repairs to making your own clothes or gifts, doing it yourself can often save money.
- Barter and Trade: Exchange skills or items with friends or within your community. You might be surprised at what you can get without spending a dime.
- Start a Small Garden: Growing your own vegetables and herbs can save a significant amount of money over time.
- Use the Library: Libraries are a treasure trove of free entertainment. From books and movies to classes and events, there’s much to take advantage of.
- Automate Savings: Even a tiny amount can add up over time. Automate your savings so a small percentage of your income goes directly into a savings account.
- Utilize Free Fitness Options: Instead of an expensive gym membership, take advantage of free workouts online, go for a run, or join community sports groups.
- Make the Most of Leftovers: Plan meals so that leftovers from dinner can be taken as lunch the next day. This saves both money and time.
- Shop Thrift Stores and Yard Sales: You can find everything from clothing to furniture to appliances, often in good condition and for a fraction of the original price.
- Create a No-Spend Challenge: Designate certain days (or even a week or month) where you don’t spend any money aside from necessities.
- Earn Extra Cash Online: Participate in paid surveys, sign up for freelance gigs, or sell handmade products online for extra income.
- Practice Preventative Care: Taking care of your health with regular exercise, a good diet, and regular check-ups can help prevent expensive medical bills later.
- Carpool or Use Public Transportation: If possible, share rides to work or use public transportation to save on gas and vehicle maintenance costs.
- Learn Basic Home and Car Maintenance: This can help you avoid expensive repair costs.
- Reuse and Repurpose: Before throwing something out, consider if it can be used in another way.
Cook Your Food
Eating out can be just easier. You would not have to deal with the stress of going through the process of planning, cooking, and cleaning up afterward. Diners take this burden in exchange for pay. Also, buying food is more convenient. From your place of work, you could walk into an outlet and have a meal. Super convenient. However, this is quite expensive in the long term. When you calculate all of the money you spend buying already packaged food, you would be shocked at how much of your wage goes down that rabbit hole. If you have a low income, you have no business eating out. Instead, you should take the time to prepare your food yourself. Create a food budget and stick to it. You could even institute that rule in your home. When everyone eats at home, it creates a time for bonding for your family.
Here are some healthy and affordable food options to consider:
- Rice and Beans: This classic meal is filling, nutritious, and incredibly cheap. You can vary it with different types of beans, rice, and spices.
- Lentil Soup: Lentils are packed with protein and fiber, and they’re very affordable. A simple lentil soup can be made with lentils, carrots, celery, onion, and spices.
- Eggs and Toast: Eggs are an excellent source of protein and are quite affordable. Serve them with whole grain toast for a balanced meal.
- Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry: Buy chicken thighs or drumsticks, which are often cheaper than breast meat. Stir fry with a mix of fresh or frozen vegetables.
- Homemade Pizza: Make a pizza at home using a simple dough of flour, yeast, and water, then top it with tomato sauce, a sprinkle of cheese, and any affordable veggies you like.
- Oatmeal: Oats are very cheap and high in fiber. Cook with water or milk, and top with a banana or other cheap fruit.
- Pasta with Tomato Sauce: You can make a simple tomato sauce with canned tomatoes, garlic, and some dried herbs. Serve over pasta with a sprinkle of cheese.
- Baked Potatoes: Potatoes are very filling and contain important nutrients. Bake and serve with a bit of cheese, beans, or any other cheap toppings you like.
- Tuna Salad: Canned tuna is a cheap source of protein. Mix with mayo or yogurt, add some chopped celery or onion, and serve on whole grain bread.
- Chili: A simple chili can be made with ground meat (or extra beans for a vegetarian version), canned tomatoes, beans, and chili seasoning. It can be made in bulk and freezes well.
- Vegetable Fried Rice: Use leftover rice to make a quick fried rice dish with whatever vegetables you have on hand. Add scrambled eggs or tofu for protein.
- Pancakes: Pancakes can be made with just a few basic and cheap ingredients like flour, milk, and eggs. Serve with a bit of fruit or a smear of peanut butter.
- Stuffed Bell Peppers: Stuff bell peppers with a mixture of rice, beans or ground meat, and some spices, then bake until the peppers are tender.
- Homemade Vegetable Soup: Make a big batch of vegetable soup with a mix of fresh or frozen vegetables and some vegetable broth.
- Banana Smoothies: Blend a banana with a spoonful of peanut butter and some milk for a cheap, nutritious smoothie.
Find A Roommate
As a minimum wage worker, one of the ways of saving money is through sharing accommodation/lodgings. Affordable housing is becoming increasingly scarce. Generally, if what you pay for your house is more than 30 percent of your income, it is no longer affordable housing. In such a scenario, you may want to share. Of course, this works best if you do not have a partner.
Sharing accommodations will necessarily mean that you get to split the incidental living expenses. This could help you get to your savings goals faster. Getting a roommate these days is incredibly easy. You could put out the information on websites that specialize in connecting roommates. You could then look at the offers you have and settle for the most likely candidate.
You may also want to consider renting out your house to lodgers if you are taking a vacation or going out of the country for a while. All of these will increase the money you have at the end of the month.
Increase Your Income
While looking for ways to make do with what you currently have, it might be great to look for ways to increase your income. If you have a full-time job, you would need to find some kind of side hustle for extra money. The internet has made it easy to offer goods and services from the comfort of your home. With your cell phone, you can reach thousands of people looking for your services. Thus, the important thing is to discover what you can offer. Do you bake cookies, do you write, can you type, can you use your car for Uber or DoorDash on the weekends? Any of these could be a job you can do on the side.
If you do not have any job currently, you may want to get one. You could be able to find openings in non-traditional spaces. For instance, you could consider working as a caregiver for an older person or even do online tutoring.
Here are some more examples:
- Freelance Work: Use your skills to freelance on the side. Platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, or Freelancer connect freelancers with clients who need services ranging from graphic design to writing to coding.
- Online Tutoring: If you excel in a particular subject, consider offering tutoring services online. Many students need help in subjects like math, English, science, or languages.
- Sell Handmade Goods or Art: If you’re crafty, consider selling handmade items on platforms like Etsy.
- Rent Out Space: If you have a spare room or if your place is free when you’re on vacation, consider renting it out on Airbnb.
- Start a Blog or YouTube Channel: If you have a unique hobby, talent, or area of expertise, consider starting a blog or YouTube channel. It might take time to build an audience, but you could eventually make money through advertising, sponsored posts, or affiliate marketing.
- Offer Pet Services: If you love animals, consider offering services like pet sitting, dog walking, or dog training.
- Drive for a Rideshare Service: If you have a reliable vehicle and free time, consider driving for a service like Uber or Lyft.
- Delivery Services: Deliver food or groceries through services like Postmates, Instacart, or Uber Eats.
- Task Services: Sign up for a task service like TaskRabbit, where people pay for help with everything from moving to assembling furniture.
- Sell Unused Items: Declutter your home and sell clothes, furniture, electronics, or other items you no longer need on platforms like eBay or Facebook Marketplace.
- Micro Jobs: Websites like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk offer micro jobs – small online tasks for which you get paid.
- Participate in Online Surveys or Market Research: Companies like Swagbucks, Survey Junkie, or Vindale Research will pay for your opinion on certain topics or products.
- Become a Virtual Assistant: Many businesses hire virtual assistants to help with administrative tasks, scheduling, social media, and more.
- Teach a Skill: Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, a foreign language, or cooking, there are people willing to pay to learn new skills.
- Stock Photography: If you’re good at photography, consider selling your photos to stock photography websites like Shutterstock or Adobe Stock.
Find Alternative Means Of Entertainment
You may be surprised at how much people pay to be entertained. People often feel the need to indulge, especially when they feel low. This is the reason the movie industry waxes stronger by the day. People often do not realize how much of their money goes into staying entertained. This is quite regrettable, especially considering that entertainment and how much you spend on it is one area you are totally in control of. Thus, you can totally decide how much you spend on it and how much you want to save. For instance, instead of going to the movies, you could stay in and play a game instead.
Here are some free forms of entertainment:
- Public Libraries: Libraries aren’t just for books. They often host free events, clubs, and classes. They also typically have movies, music, and magazines available for borrowing.
- Outdoor Activities: Going for a hike, bike ride, or walk in your local park or trail system is a great way to spend a day. You can also have picnics, go birdwatching, or play sports.
- Community Events: Many communities host free events like outdoor movie nights, concerts in the park, art walks, festivals, and parades.
- Online Entertainment: From free YouTube videos and podcasts to free trial periods on streaming platforms, there’s plenty of entertainment online.
- Home Workout: Instead of a gym membership, follow free workout videos online or go for a run in your neighborhood.
- Museums and Art Galleries: Some have certain days or hours when entrance is free or “pay what you can”. Check the websites of local museums and galleries.
- Volunteering: Although this is unpaid work, it can also be a fulfilling and fun way to spend your time, meet new people, and give back to your community.
- Gardening: If you have outdoor space, consider starting a garden. Seeds can often be obtained for free or very cheaply, and gardening can be a relaxing hobby.
- Learning New Skills: Websites like Khan Academy, Codecademy, or Duolingo offer free resources to learn new skills from coding to a new language.
- Book Clubs or Meetups: Joining local clubs or meetups can be a great way to socialize and enjoy new experiences without having to spend a lot of money.
- Star Gazing: If you’re in a place with low light pollution, looking up at the stars can be a fascinating pastime. There are free apps that can help you identify different celestial bodies.
- Explore Your City: Act like a tourist in your own city and visit local landmarks, historic sites, or new neighborhoods.
- Cooking or Baking: While you do have to buy the ingredients, cooking or baking can be a fun, creative, and rewarding way to spend time.
- Swap Party: Organize a clothing, book, or DVD swap party with your friends. It’s a free and fun way to get ‘new’ items.
- Meditation and Yoga: Many free resources online offer guided meditations or yoga classes.
How To Save Money If You Live Paycheck To Paycheck
When you make minimum wage, you probably would be living from paycheck to paycheck. However, it might be possible that you are living below the minimum wage, and your situation is quite dire. The tips here are all-encompassing. They will help you stay afloat regardless of the amount of money you make. Following these tips, you may not even need to make more money. Also, if you have any debt to pay, you may be able to pay those off in no time. Here are the tips:
Make A Budget
Keeping a budget is an indispensable tip for anyone living one paycheck to the other and looking to save money. A budget tells you how much your income is, the amount in your savings, what you can spend, and otherwise. When you create a budget, the first thing to do is provide necessities. Then, you can cut down on unnecessary spending and save money from what is left.
Here are some tips for making your first budget:
- Track Your Income: Make a note of all sources of income you receive each month, such as wages, tips, or any side gigs.
- Identify Fixed Expenses: These are expenses that are the same each month, like rent, car payments, or student loans. These should be the first things you budget for each month.
- Track Your Spending: Before creating your budget, spend a month or so tracking all of your expenses. This will give you an idea of where your money is currently going and where you might be able to cut back.
- Set Financial Goals: Whether it’s saving for an emergency fund, paying off debt, or saving for a future expense, having clear financial goals can help guide your budgeting.
- Create Categories: Divide your spending into categories such as housing, food, transportation, utilities, healthcare, entertainment, savings, etc.
- Allocate Your Money: Once you know where your money is going, allocate your income to each category. Be realistic about your spending, but try to keep your expenses lower than your income.
- Prioritize Needs Over Wants: It’s crucial to differentiate between what you want and what you need. Prioritize necessities such as food, housing, utilities, and transportation over non-essential expenses like entertainment or dining out.
- Include Savings: Even if it’s just a small amount, try to include savings in your budget. Over time, even a few dollars a week can add up.
- Use Budgeting Tools: There are many free budgeting apps and websites that can help you track your income and expenses. Some popular ones include Mint, YNAB (You Need a Budget), and PocketGuard.
- Adjust as Needed: Your budget isn’t set in stone. As your income, expenses, or goals change, adjust your budget to match.
- Avoid Impulse Purchases: Impulse buys can quickly derail your budget. Always take a moment to consider whether you really need the item and if it’s worth the cost.
- Automate Your Bills: If possible, automate your bill payments. This ensures they get paid on time, avoiding late fees and potential damage to your credit score.
- Seek Help If Needed: If you’re struggling with creating a budget, seek help. Non-profits like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling provide free or low-cost services.
- Limit Debt: Try to avoid incurring unnecessary debt, especially high-interest credit card debt. If you do use credit cards, aim to pay off the balance in full each month to avoid interest charges.
- Celebrate Small Victories: Budgeting, especially on a limited income, can be hard. So, when you hit a goal, even a small one, take a moment to celebrate your accomplishment.
Renegotiate Your Bills
Renegotiating bills is a great idea for those living from paycheck to paycheck. This is because it frees up money for you while also helping you achieve your savings goals. People often make the mistake of thinking that their bills are set in stone while, in truth, they are not. If you look through your monthly bills, you can definitely find what to cut and what you could renegotiate.
Thus, the first thing to do is keep track of your bills. Then, looking at your budget, you can estimate what you can afford and what you cannot. Eliminate every non-essential bill. There is no point in getting into any debt you could easily evade. Then, you could look to see if you could renegotiate for the ones you cannot get out of. Trying to save money this way is not often explored by people.
Here are some tips for renegotiating your bills:
- Do Your Research: Know what competitive prices are offered for services similar to yours. This information can be a powerful bargaining chip.
- Be Prepared: Have your account information and current bill on hand when you call. Also, jot down any issues you’ve experienced as these could help in your negotiation.
- Call Customer Service: Start by reaching out to customer service. Explain that you’re considering cancelling your service due to cost, and ask if there are any promotions or discounts available.
- Be Polite but Firm: Being polite, patient, and respectful can get you far in negotiations. But remember to remain firm on your need for a better rate.
- Escalate If Necessary: If the first representative you speak with can’t help, ask to speak with a supervisor or the retention department. They often have more power to alter your bill.
- Express Loyalty: If you’ve been with the company for a while, say so. Loyalty may give you leverage when negotiating.
- Bundle Services: If the company offers multiple services (like internet, TV, and phone), you might get a better deal by bundling these services together.
- Pay On Time: If you have a history of late payments, you’ll have less leverage. Consistently paying on time could give you more negotiating power.
- Threaten to Switch: Mention that you’ve considered switching to a competitor offering lower rates. Companies often have measures in place to retain existing customers.
- Ask about Hidden Fees: Sometimes, your bill might be high due to hidden or unnecessary fees. Check if any of these can be removed.
- Negotiate Payment Plans: If you’re dealing with debt, such as a credit card or medical bills, you might be able to negotiate a lower interest rate or a more manageable payment plan.
- Consider Downgrading: If you don’t use all the features of your service, consider downgrading to a cheaper plan.
- Review Your Bills Regularly: Make sure there aren’t any unnecessary charges and that you’re not paying for a service you’re no longer using.
- Don’t Accept the First Offer: If they offer you a small discount, don’t be afraid to push for a better deal.
- Take Notes: Write down who you spoke with, what they offered, and any changes they’re going to make. This can be helpful if there’s any dispute about the agreement later.
Take Things Slowly
People often get desperate when faced with the bleak prospects of living from paycheck to paycheck. This grows more and more as the pressure mounts or when they incur any debt. However, you must understand that patience plays a vital role when you’re living on the margins. Saving money will take a long time. Also, for the most part, the choices you make can boost your income, but your best efforts may still fall short. However, if you are deliberate and diligent with topping up your savings account each month, you will see the result in no time. The money may not swell up immediately, and your life will not get turned around at the snap of your fingers. However, you can rest assured that the trickles will transform into a flood with time.
You may find it frustrating having to scrimp and save to get by with your minimum wage job. Truly, what you make as a minimum wage worker may be insufficient to get you to your savings goals. However, moaning about it will hardly help. However, you can take active steps to ensure that you do more than survive on your minimum wage. It is possible to thrive, hitting your target without fail. Start by implementing the strategies here.