Earning minimum wage can be challenging for anyone trying to survive and pay bills, unless, of course, you’re a teenager living at home with your parents. With the cost of rent, utilities, transportation, and food, there’s often little left over for anything else. However, with a little creativity, effort, and ingenuity, anyone can live on minimum wage. Let’s look at some ways to trim expenses and make a minimum wage budget work.
Don’t Be House Poor
Housing expenses are generally the largest expenditure that consumers have. If you’re living on minimum wage, finding affordable housing will be your biggest challenge. Look for ways to share the expense of housing by taking on a roommate or finding a room for rent. Perhaps a relative has a basement he or she would like to rent inexpensively. You could even look for an opportunity to earn your keep by doing property management and maintenance for a landlord. Look for safe areas that are off the beaten path that may offer cheaper rent. Just make sure there’s affordable transportation available.
Cut Down Your Transportation Costs
The cost of transportation is usually the second highest expense in a consumer’s budget. For someone living on minimum wage, it can be a difficult expense to manage. With car payments for new cars averaging above $500 a month, minimum wage earners simply can’t afford the expense. In this case, they should look to buy a used yet reliable car at the lowest cost possible.
Living near work can greatly curb your transportation costs by allowing you to utilize public transportation, walk, or ride a bike. Creating a carpool is another great way to save on your transportation costs. This will save you money on gas and maintenance if you own a car.
Be Frugal with Your Food Costs
Just because you’re living on minimum wage, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat well. With some planning and creativity, you can keep your food costs low while still enjoying healthy, high-quality food.
You should institute meal planning as a primary strategy. This means you sit down and develop a plan for each of your meals for the week. This will keep you from making impulse buys, such as fast food or ordering pizza or Chinese food to be delivered. It’ll also help you stay on budget by utilizing store sales and coupons in your weekly planning and shopping trips. Try to stay away from processed food and expensive snacks and convenience foods, as they can be real budget-busters. Growing your own produce is a great way to save money. Even if you live in a small space, there are great options for container gardening on balconies, decks, and even rooftops.
Have Fun on the Cheap
Hanging out in bars with your friends can create a huge drain on your bank account. Not only is it expensive, but it could also tempt you to consume unhealthy and expensive bar food. Eating out at restaurants should be limited to special occasions for those living on minimum wage.
Instead, get together with friends for potluck dinners and barbecues. With everyone contributing, you can all keep the cost of the food down but also eat very well. Buying beer and other libations at the grocery store or wholesale club will be significantly cheaper than doing so at a bar or restaurant.
Other ideas for cheap entertainment include matinee movies, movies in the park, local events such as festivals and street fairs, and outdoor activities such as hiking or biking. Visits to museums and local aquariums and zoos are generally inexpensive, and you can enjoy many activities at a discount by utilizing coupons and deals through companies such as Groupon.
Pick Up a Side Job
You can always add to your income by picking up a second job or seeking other ways to generate cash, such as by starting a side business. Even if you only work for an additional few hours a week, this extra money could make all the difference in helping you make it through the month without dipping into credit. Think about your skills and hobbies; you might be able to translate something into a moneymaking idea. You never know, you could build something that allows you to quit your minimum wage job someday.
Another idea to consider is asking for a raise. Chances are strong that your employer won’t volunteer one for you all that regularly, so you need to have the courage to ask for it. You have nothing to lose and more money to gain, so don’t hesitate to ask if you think you deserve it. The worst thing that can happen is your employer says no.
Try to Save
While it is, no doubt, very difficult to save money while living on minimum wage, it can be done. Having some savings to fall back on will keep you from going into debt with a credit card should you have an unexpected expense, and it’ll greatly add to your financial stability.
You can create a savings account by committing to banking any financial windfalls, such as bonuses, tax refunds, or monetary gifts. You can also get started by selling off any items you no longer need, either online or in consignment shops. Be committed to not touching your savings unless you need it for a true emergency.
Living comfortably on minimum wage isn’t an easy task, but it’s possible. Be smart and creative and you can make your hard-earned dollars go further than you think.