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How To Save Money on a Low Income: 8 Practical Tips

Wondering how to save money on a low income? This article is the answer to your question. Find out all the ways you can build a savings account, even when you earn little money.

When your income isn’t too high to begin with, it can be a struggle to figure out how you can generate any savings at all. Those living paycheck to paycheck may wonder what they can realistically set aside when all of their money seems to go into sustaining the essential parts of their lives.

Image of 4 jars with money in them, inserted in a post about how to save money on a low income.

But in fact, you’d be surprised to see just how much you could still save, even when having a low income. There are several areas in our lives in which we habitually spend lots of money, often without even realizing it. In today’s post, we’ll be looking at how to save money on a low income.

Saving Money on a Low Income: Top Tips

1. Scrutinize and Analyze Your Finances

The first step has to be to get a full rundown on where your money is going every month. As we said in the introduction, when you ask people living tightly within their means, they will often tell you that all of their money is going towards essentials like rent and utilities.

While they are undoubtedly paying for those things, it’s easy for people not to realize just how much they spend in other areas of their lives.

Now that we often pay for things digitally or with bank cards, we can easily see where our money is going simply by getting a bank statement or transaction history from any other online payment platforms such as PayPal. When it’s all laid out in front of you, you’ll finally be able to start seeing where cuts can be made and/or just how much you’re wasting on certain things.

2. Cancel Streaming and Other Subscriptions

One area in which people spend more than they realize is on streaming services and other online subscriptions. It’s very easy to compartmentalize these things and only see them as individual payments of $5-$10 a month, but when you add all of them up you see just how much you’re spending on them (and it might be quite a lot)

  • Netflix – $8.99
  • Amazon Prime Video – $8.99
  • Disney+ – $7.99
  • YouTube Premium – $9.99
  • HBO Max – $14.99

And then add to these any console or magazine subscriptions you have, and you can really start to see the final figure adding up. When times are tough and you want to make savings, then there are some tough decisions to be made. And that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of all of them!

But do you really use all of them that much? Which streaming services and other subscriptions can you do without? Take YouTube, for instance: could you put up with the ads in exchange for $120 or so per year? If you were wondering how to save money fast on a low income, this is the way.

3. Plan Meals and Cook at Home

Meal planning is one of the easiest ways to save money on  a low income.

We live in an age of convenience eating, where people are working hard, getting home late, and sleeping in on weekends. The thought of grocery shopping and meal planning doesn’t enter into people’s minds.

People think they just pay a little more for convenience, but it’s simply not the case. Convenience is a premium that you can’t really afford, especially if you’re trying to figure out how to save money with a low-income budget.

Through 2020, the cost of preparing meals outside the home rose by more than 3 percent, whereas the cost of groceries only increased by about 1 percent. The average cost of a meal you prepare at home is $4.31, compared to $20.37 when prepared outside.

In short, there’s no way you can have savings if you’re relying too much on outside sources for meal preparation. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you look for how to save money with a 20 000 salary, a 50 000 or only a couple thousand: eating out will always cut back your savings capability.

So, what should you do? Start by cutting out the food delivery services, and instead get online to find some fun, creative and easy recipes that you can prepare one night and eat for 2-3 nights. This not only helps stretch your budget, but also cuts down on cooking and cleaning time, so double win!

A large baking dish full of lasagna with 10 servings will cost you around $15 to make in total. That’s even cheaper than apparently “budget-friendly” frozen lasagna. Need me to say anything more?

4. Get Rid of Your Car (If Possible)

This point is only an if possible because it’s understandable that some people do rely on a car to get where they need to go. A car costs you in all sorts of ways [registration, cleaning, maintenance, property taxes in some states, emissions testing, breakdown coverage, insurance and more] and will make you no money unless you happen to drive for Uber or Lyft.

If you can get rid of the car, do it. When there are buses aplenty, or a subway or other mass transit system, switch to that because you’ll save a bundle. On those occasions where a car is needed, you can use the aforementioned Uber, Lyft, or an alternative. 

If the car is a must, then consider trading it in for something more economical, with better gas mileage, greater reliability (and therefore lower maintenance costs). A lower overall value will also bring down insurance. You can channel all the money you save directly into your savings pot.

5. Buy Second-Hand Goods

The marketplace for second-hand goods has exploded since the likes of Facebook have started creating community selling spaces for people to enjoy. You can find great bargains in your own neighborhood and save yourself a lot of money in the process.

Many goods are fine to purchase second-hand, including furniture, books, toys and games for the kids, clothes, kitchen supplies and more.

There are some things you can draw the line on, such as underwear and socks, and by all means this is not how you’ll manage to save money for a house on a low income, but you’ll be amazed how much you can actually save when you shift your buying habit to focus more on second-hand goods. Remember that every saved coin matters!

6. Use Cashback Apps

How to save money each month without cutting back on your shopping? With cashback! Cashback apps are a neat way of getting small rebates and coupons when you make certain purchases. Whichever way you use them, they are helping you to get the most out of every transaction and every penny that you spend in your life.

Examples of popular cashback apps include Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, RetailMeNot, GetUpside, Coupons.com, and Dosh.

Most of these apps work by you uploading pictures of your receipt to receive back offers, coupons, and rebates from those stores or related enterprises. It’s an increasingly popular idea that many are getting into, and a great solution for how to save on a low income.

7. Get a Side Hustle

A good way to save money on a tight budget…is by increasing that budget, so besides reducing your expenditure, you can also try to increase your income. To do that you can get a side job doing things like freelance writing and editing, online tutoring, affiliate marketing, babysitting, and many more.

You might even think about starting a little online business where you can make use of one of your hobbies or talents to increase your salary.

If your main job and lifestyle is tiring enough, then getting a second job is probably going to be a last resort. The thing is, however, that getting a second job doesn’t always mean taking the night shift at some convenience store anymore.

You can do many second jobs online from home, meaning you don’t have to spend time away from home, and can often work flexibly according to your own rest time and when you have the energy to do things. If you need help saving money on low income, getting some extra dollars each month can give you the boost you were looking for.

8. Deposit Savings Before You Budget

How can I save money with a low income to buy a house or a car? That’s a good question, and the answer is none other than consistency.

To build a big sum of money will take you some time, and the key to achieve it is to be persistent and make any budget plans based on a level of income that is calculated after having set aside some savings.

If you are earning $1,800 a month, then you could set 10 percent ($180) aside, and then base the rest of your budget on the remaining income of $1,620.

It’s a tougher approach and takes commitment and discipline, but over time the results start to speak for themselves. 

There’s Always a Path to Savings

In just about every situation, there are things you can give up to help you save money even on a minimum wage.

Regardless of which of the above or other methods you use to try and start saving money, remember that it all starts with first getting a firm grip and understanding on what you are currently spending your money on. If you skip that step, you’ll lack the perspective you need to make the choices and the sacrifices needed to reach your financial goals.

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[…] By tracking your spending you might even find monthly subscriptions that you’re paying and totally forgot about, as well as other small expenses that you can easily get rid of – it’s often the 5 dollars or under purchases that add up and don’t allow you to save money on a low income. […]