If you’re low on cash, there are plenty of things to do that can help you stay afloat. That is, as long as you’re not spending on unnecessary purchases in the process. Let’s face it, we all face income and spending imbalances from time to time, but the best way to avoid disruption is to be prepared.
The smartest way to save money is to avoid debt, which means not having to spend on these people
Here are a baker’s dozen ideas to help you save money on a low income.
Decide in advance that no matter what you make you want to save 10% of it for the future. This could be cash you need for college debt or for your home mortgage. We all have debt that we need to support, and this method where you set aside cash each month to protect yourself is a solid way to keep on top of things.
Build A Budget
This is the first step in a smart series of moves that can help you save cash while being more efficient in your finances. The first thing you can do is that you decide to put away a bit of cash to start the budget and grow it with small infusions of money each month. Whether you decide to use this budget for personal or professional reasons is up to you. If the former, perhaps this is the money that you set aside to go out with friends or to put toward your next vacation.
Declare A Spending-Free Month
Start a spending diet by picking one month where you are prepared to avoid extra spending on anything other than the necessities. Food, electricity, transportation and health costs are never worth forgetting, but curtail the extra perks for a month. During that time, make a note of all the urges you have to spend and the amount of money you are saving on the spending diet. You may be surprised about how much you can potentially save with this method. If you continue for awhile on low income amounts, consider extending this plan. Take the money you would have spent and invest it in stocks or open a bank account that earns interest. Make money on the money you are saving rather than hiding it under the mattress.
Cut Back On Energy
Did you know that when you leave items plugged in at your house that you are incurring charges? This means that when your coffee maker or electronic toothbrush stays plugged in (even when you are not using them) they are usurping a small amount of energy that is charging you money. Unplug devices when they are not in use. Lower your air conditioning and heating use. Wear a sweater when cold or open a window when you’re hot. You can save $20-40 per month in no time by being more conscious about the amount of energy you are using. If you are serious about slowing your energy use, opt for public transportation instead of paying for expensive fuel for your car. If you have an affordable place to access them, use solar energy panels for your home to reduce the energy bill you spend monthly.
Do It Yourself
Instead of hiring extra help to repair a household appliance or clean your home, roll up your sleeves and learn how to do the heavy lifting yourself. There are countless videos on YouTube that can explain how to handle basic tasks. Of course, this is not advice if you need medical treatment or need to fix something technical like your car or computer. After all, you are trying to reduce costs not mess things up further to the point that you need to spend even more money to fix the damage you caused!
Open A Savings Account
This may seem super simple, but it is an easy and cheap way to keep money out of your spending fingers and reserved for the most important things that you need. There are even ways to earn miles for your savings account. For example, Bask Bank has a partnership with American Airlines and its new loyalty points system that allows you to rack up points for the money that you invest. This can be one of the best ways to invest your cash with ample returns.
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Avoid Unnecessary Fees
Review every penny you are spending each month. Could there be some expenses that you can shave off the budget? For example, does your bank charge you ATM fees? If so, you need to find a bank that does not charge you extra money to pull out your own cash. Or consider using only banks within your network so that you don’t pay that extra out-of-pocket fee. Other fees you may be paying include late charges for library books or interest on any debts you may have. Sometimes, we are so busy going through the motions that we fail to realize that we are overpaying for something or have ways of saving cash by making a simple change.
Search (or ask) For Coupons
These are more common than you think. A simple Google search or perusal of Groupon can reveal coupons or discount codes to your favorite retailers. Even asking for a discount as a repeat customer or potential future frequent customer at certain businesses (like a hair stylist or housekeeping service) can yield savings. If you can prepay or guarantee future business for a provider, they may be willing to offer a discount in exchange for a larger share of your business.
Change Your Dietary Habits
This is easier than it seems and involves changing your daily behaviors. Consider going vegetarian or only eating more expensive things like meat or seafood a few times a week. You can still get strong nutritional benefits dining on salad, beans and other vegetables. This can help save cash while also helping you live a healthier lifestyle. If you frequently dine out, opt for more home-cooked meals so that you control the amount and number of calories you eat. Pack your own lunch instead of going out to eat with colleagues or buying something more expensive from a place near work. It’s shocking how much we spend on retail prices for meals and snacks that can be easily handled by a little extra planning from home. More than likely, it will prove to be healthier for you, too.
Sign Up For Free Loyalty Programs
Don’t forget to sign up for loyalty programs at grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail outlets to take advantage of discounts and cash-back or points-earning offers. You can achieve substantial savings by taking the few extra minutes to sign up. If you don’t want to provide your real email address (for fear of being spammed), create a free Gmail or Hotmail account that you use just for newsletters or loyalty programs. Many retailers offer a discount on a purchase by providing your email, but if you have a separate account
Cut Back On Entertainment Costs
Watching the latest TVs and movies is certainly fun, but not when you need to save for more important things in the meantime. Try and trim down on the expenses that are slowing you down like Netflix or Hulu subscriptions. If you can’t cut them out entirely, consider sharing a subscription with a friend or family member and splitting the savings.
There are other ways to find entertainment beyond paying monthly for it. Go to a matinee movie instead of the evening screening or visit free museums or attractions instead of forking over big bucks on admission fees. This advice can be especially worth it if you multiply the cost over what a family would spend versus just one person.
Library memberships, for example, are free, and they include everything from books and CDs to DVDs and periodicals that you can either enjoy there or borrow to bring home. Why pay extra to watch films at home, when you can find many of them for free? It’s true that the latest TV series are not available at the library, there are plenty of alternatives to keep your creative juices flowing while you sit back and relax. Libraries often host free entertainment or educational events. Watch local news or review local entertainment periodicals to see what activities are open to the public.
Fetch App Discounts And Rebates
The Fetch app lets you scan your receipts and earn cash on anything that has your name attached to it. This includes restaurant and retail outlets with big name partners where you are already probably spending money. Let’s say you enjoy shopping with Target or dining at Chili’s. Did you know that you are leaving cash on the table by not scanning your receipts via the Fetch app to earn cash back?
Avoid All Debt
One of the worst things that you can do is to take on debt. This means accruing debt on your credit card. This is a pointless way to spend money with little benefit since the interest charges imposed by most financial institutions can be painfully high and recurring every month. If you are looking to save money on a low income, it is best to switch to a debit card so that you only spend based on the funds you have in your account. Borrowing money from the bank or via a credit card is a surefire way to get yourself into deeper trouble.
When you review the amount of money you spent on a monthly basis, it can be surprising how much you might be overpaying. A few conscientious moves and important changes in your daily routine could have you back on track in no time no matter what your income level.
Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe. He's a contributor to NerdWallet, Forbes, Fortune and more.