If you make minimum wage, you probably think it’s impossible to save money. But with the right steps, anyone can save money.
It comes down to creating a budget that fits your income. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sacrifice or live a life that’s ‘less than.’ There are ways to save and still enjoy your life.
Here are 12 ways you can start saving today.
1. Create a Budget
The easiest way to save when you make minimum wage is to create a budget. You don’t know how much money you have to save if you don’t know where your money goes.
Create a budget that accounts for your fixed expenses, variable expenses, and room for saving. The easiest way is to follow the 50/30/20 budget. With this budget, you use 50% of your income for fixed expenses (housing, utilities, basic food needs, medical needs, etc.); 30% of your income for variable expenses (fun money, shopping, and non-necessities), and 20% of your income for savings and debt payoff.
When you have a specific amount of your budget allocated to savings, you’re more likely to save each month.
2. Set up Automatic Transfers
Don’t leave saving to chance. Instead, set up automatic transfers, there are two ways you can do this:
- Set up direct deposit with your employer. Most employers allow you to divide your paycheck up into multiple accounts. Have some money (even if it’s a small amount) sent to your savings account from each paycheck.
- Set up automatic transfers from your bank account. Most banks offer automatic transfers that you set up once and then can forget about. This ensures you save each month or whatever frequency you set up without having to think about it.
3. Open a High Yield Savings Account
If you open high yield savings account online, you’ll make your money work for you. Even if you’re only saving a small amount, if it’s earning a higher interest rate than your local bank pays, you’ll reach your goals faster.
Online high-yield savings accounts can pay as much as 1% whereas local banks may pay as little as 0.01% on your balances. It’s not going to make you rich, but any amount you can earn on the money you save will compound your earnings.
4. Meal Plan Based on the Week’s Sales
Creating a meal plan each week is the easiest way to stay on track and to avoid going out to eat or running through a drive-thru. To save even more money though, you can create your meal plan around that week’s sales.
Try only buying products that are on sale and using up the food in your house so you don’t have to buy as many ingredients. If your family is up for it, consider instituting one or two meatless meals into your week too so you can cut back on expensive cuts of meat and save even more money.
5. Cancel Subscriptions
Look at where your money goes each month and decide if it’s worth it. For example, if you pay for a gym membership but never use it, why are you paying for it?
Look at other subscriptions too. Many of us sign up for ‘free trials’ and then forget that we tied a credit card to the subscription and we end up paying for it even though we don’t use it. If you aren’t sure if you have subscriptions you pay for, try an app like TrueBill to help you uncover unnecessary subscriptions and cancel them.
6. Start a Side Hustle
If you don’t want to cut back on your expenses or aren’t able to save enough money, consider starting a side hustle to increase your income. Today there are hundreds of ways to make money from home or in your free time.
Whether you start freelance writing, web design, selling arts and crafts, or even driving for Uber or Lyft, you can use the income to offset some of your expenses and allow you to live the lifestyle you want without sacrificing.
7. Pay off Debt
If you carry high-interest debt, it’s an opportunity cost to anything else including saving money. Create a plan to pay off your debt as quickly as possible so you can put that money in your savings account rather than wasting it on interest costs.
The debt snowball plan is a great way to pay off your high-interest debt fast. Here’s how it works:
- Order your debts from smallest to largest balance
- Make the minimum payment on each debt every month
- Put any extra money you have toward the first debt (in addition to the minimum payment)
- Keep doing this until you pay the first debt off in full
- Take the money paid to the first debt (minimum payment + extra money) and pay it toward the second debt (in addition to the minimum payment)
- Keep doing this until you pay the debt off in full
8. Use Micro Investing Apps
Micro investing apps make it easy for anyone to invest, even if you make minimum wage. Most micro-investing apps don’t have a minimum requirement for investments, meaning you can invest as little as $1 if you want.
Acorns is a popular micro-investing app that allows you to invest your spare change. You link a debit card to your account and each time you make a purchase, Acorns rounds up your purchase to the nearest dollar.
The spare change is moved to your investment account and once you reach $5, they invest the money in ETFs for you.
9. Use Cash Back Apps
Today there are hundreds of cash-back apps you can use to get paid to shop. Rakuten, for example, pays you a percentage of your purchase back when you shop at partner stores. They partner with all of the popular stores so it’s easy to earn what they call a Big Fat Check every quarter. You just need to shop through their app while logged in to get your rewards.
There are even cash-back apps for grocery stores too. Apps like Ibotta make it easy to save more money at the grocery store. You activate the offers you’ll use before you go to the store. After you make your purchase you upload your receipt and earn cash back.
10. Swap Babysitting with Other Moms
Instead of paying for childcare, get with other moms in the area and swap babysitting times. When you both watch each other’s kids you don’t have to worry about paying expensive childcare costs and instead have money to go out once in a while or just have time alone.
11. Find Free Entertainment
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to entertain yourself or the kids. There are plenty of ways to entertain yourselves for free or at least cheap.
Instead of going to the movies, stream them at home, pop some popcorn and have a cozy night at home. Rather than going to amusement parks or other expensive outings, take a hike, set up a scavenger hunt in the neighborhood, or go ‘park-hopping.’
12. Take Advantage of Reward Credit Cards
If you have reward credit cards and can use them responsibly, take advantage of the rewards you can earn.
Each credit card pays different rewards for different purchases. Find a card that pays the most in the categories you spend the most. For example, if you spend a lot on groceries, find a card that pays a high percentage for groceries, or if you spend a lot on gas or traveling, find a card that pays in those categories.
The Citi Custom Cash Card is a great option for most rewards. You get to choose the category you earn the most in (5%) each month and can change it each month. This allows you to earn the most cash back in your highest spending category.
FAQs – How to Save Even When you Make Minimum Wage
How do you survive on a low-income budget?
If you’re single and making minimum wage, it may feel hard to survive, but there are plenty of ways to get by. Most importantly, you must budget and keep your expenses within what you can afford. In addition, you can find free activities, look to your local community for support, start a side hustle, or take advantage of cash-back apps and credit cards to make the most out of your purchases.
What is the 30-day rule?
When you are out shopping and see something you want, give yourself 30 days. Don’t make the impulse buy but instead wait it out 30 days. If at that time you still want the product, then see how you can fit it into your budget rather than splurging when you see it and going over budget.
Most of the time, though, you’ll forget about it and save yourself the money.
What is the best way to save money?
There is no right or wrong way to save money. You can save it by cutting back on your expenses, starting a side gig, canceling subscriptions, only shopping sales, and negotiating your bills to lower your expenses.
Any money you’re able to save with these steps should be deposited into a high-yield savings account so your money can grow even further.
How much should I save each month?
Ideally, you should save 20% of your income, but that’s not always possible. If you can’t even come close to saving 20%, save as much as you can, even if it’s only a few dollars. Any money you save today will be worth more tomorrow, allowing you to stretch your money even further.
Final Thoughts – Ways to Save Even When you Make Minimum Wage
It’s possible to save money no matter how much you make. The key is to live within your means, use the strategies to make your dollar stretch further, and to always find ways to make more money.
Making minimum wage doesn’t mean you can’t afford to save. It just means you must think outside the box for other ways to save.