Everyone wants it, but it isn’t always that easy to come by. That’s why budgeting is SO important. It isn’t always easy to do though, so the best thing to do is start off slow- with minor cut backs, and increase your cut backs as you go.
1. Build a budget that works for you
Budgeting might sound like more trouble than its worth, but it can help you to build your savings. Unless you have a plan for your money, it can be extremely easy to spend it. With a budget, you can include your savings goals. Instead of aimlessly saving what’s leftover each month, you can meet your savings goals through careful budgeting.
2. Eliminate your debt
Debt can hold you back from achieving new financial goals. The constant strain on your budget can leave no room for savings at the end of the month. Make it a priority to pay off your debt. It will take commitment to erase your debts, but it can lead to an easier life. You’ll be able to put the money you were using for debt repayment towards your savings. If you want to take action today, then check out our debt repayment strategy course.
3. Be more mindful about food spending
Food spending can wreak havoc on any budget. With the constant temptation to eat prepared food at a restaurant, sticking to a food budget can feel like an impossible challenge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household spent over $3,000 on food away from home. Although you might not be spending that much on eating out, there is likely room for improvement. Look for ways to cut your restaurant spending. Also, home cooking can be healthier for you and your loved ones. One of the best ways to combat last-minute food purchases is through meal planning. If you already know what you are supposed to eat for dinner, it is easier to drive home without stopping at your favorite take out place. On Sunday, make it a habit of writing down meals for the week. Use your “Good and Cheap” cookbook (see your property manager if you do not have one, they are available in both English and Spanish) for inexpensive, healthy but filling meals. Finally, make sure that you aren’t overspending on groceries. Take a look at your pantry to see if you can make some meals with what you already have on hand.
4. Automate your savings goals
Making the choice to save money can be difficult. Forcing yourself to make that same choice many times each month can be unrealistic. You are more likely to spend all of the money in your checking account. Unless you move your savings automatically, you risk spending your intended savings. With each paycheck, set up an automatic transfer to your savings account. You’ll be able to breathe easy knowing that your savings are safely tucked away. You won’t regret putting your savings on autopilot.
5. Find free or affordable entertainment
One area of your budget that is entirely variable is your entertainment budget. You have the power to overspend in a big way with entertainment. On the flip side, some frugal fun can allow you to pad your savings without feeling deprived. We are very lucky to live in a beautiful state with so many natural wonders! You can have a beach day, or a mountain day. Even a desert day is accessible.
Here are a few of my favorite entertainment options that don’t break the budget:
- Matinee movies.
- Host dinner parties instead of going out.
- Go for a hike.
- Practice cooking with your significant other.
- Look for free museums or parks to explore.
- Do some research in your area to find the best frugal entertainment options.
6. Go to the library
The library can be a great source of free entertainment. But it offers so much more that it deserves its own mention. Of course, you can check out books, movies, and CDs. But most libraries often have many more. For example, there might be community events, free local attraction passes, seeds for your garden, and more. Talk to your local librarian to see what is available at your library. The library is my favorite frugal resource! Check out yours today. If you aren’t sure where to find yours, then find it on Overdrive. Once you get your library card, you can borrow books online via the Libby or Overdrive apps that connect directly to your local library.
7. Try the cash envelope method
If you struggle to keep track of your spending, then the cash envelope method could be a great option. The cash envelopes could help you realize how much you are spending. It might open your eyes to your harmful spending habits. Once you have a better understanding of what you like to spend money on, then you can work on adjusting those habits.
8. Find a fee-free bank
It is all too easy to get stuck paying unnecessary fees. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the median overdraft fee at banks is $34. That coupled with other banking fees can lead to a leeching effect on your financial situation. If you find that your bank is constantly charging fees, then it might be time to make a switch. There are many banks that advertise free accounts without any associated fees. Why not take advantage of that opportunity? It could help you avoid any unnecessary banking fees down the line.
9. Evaluate your car costs
A car can come with thousands of dollars of annual upkeep and maintenance each year. In addition to a car payment, you also have to contend with several other expenses. Car insurance and repairs are just the tip of the expensive iceberg.
A few ways to lower the cost:
- Use less fuel. Research before you buy (or lease), and go for the car that gets the most miles per gallon. You can also cut down on fuel costs by using public transportation or biking to work.
- Comparison shop for car insurance. You might be able to save hundreds of dollars each year by switching to a different insurance company.
- Eliminate your car payment. Try to pay off your car early. In the future, avoid financing a car when possible due to the high costs.
- DIY car repairs. Although you might not want to do major repairs, think about taking care of basic repairs yourself. You can save money while learning a new skill!
11. Take care of your health
Healthcare is expensive. Unfortunately, there are not too many ways to cut down on your healthcare insurance costs. However, a preventative attitude about medical problems can help you save money and enjoy a higher quality of life.
A few ways to practice preventative healthcare include:
- Eating right.
- Quit smoking.
- Sleep enough.
If you have healthcare insurance, then take advantage of what that plan offers. For example, if it includes annual doctor visits, then make time for a check-up.
12. Try couponing
Couponing can be your way to buy exactly what you want for less money. It is not too difficult to get started with couponing. Here are a few sites that offer help to get started:
Rakuten. You’ll be able to earn cashback from your everyday purchases. Many of their offers allow for between 1% and 12% cashback. That can add up quickly! Try Rakuten today. ( www.rakuten.com )
Ibotta. As you plan your grocery shopping, check out Ibotta for cashback deals in your area. ( home.ibotta.com )
BeFrugal. This app allows you to stay on budget while enjoying your shopping. You can earn cashback from over 5,000 stores. Plus, it will help you find coupons that apply to your purchase. ( www.befrugal.com )
These are just a few couponing sites to help you get started.
13. Increase your income
At some point, you might not be able to squeeze any more pennies out of your budget. Or you might want to create some more breathing room in your finances. If you feel that there is no room to create savings in your current situation, then it might be time to increase your income. Although it is not as simple as it sounds, increasing your income is completely doable. One way to increase your income is through a side hustle. It could be the perfect way for you to increase your income without taking a leap from your day job.
Whether you want to babysit, pet sit, walk dogs, drive for Uber or Lift, build a blog etc., there is a side hustle that will work for you!
The bottom line
Saving money when you have a lower income can be discouraging, but don’t allow it to stop you from reaching your income goals. Take a minute to be honest with yourself about your current finances and your financial goals. Find the motivation to move forward with saving money for your future. Start by tackling one tip at a time. Consider taking the first step today. Once you do that, take action on the additional ways to save money on a low income as you make progress. Finally here are additional resources and programs for families with a low income.