Friday, December 14, 2012

Money Saving Tips for People With a Low Income


If you are like me, it can be difficult to manage a budget when you have student loans and other financial obligations to worry about. A part of my experience as a Volunteer In Service to America is  to live in poverty, according to the region I am serving, for a year. Our goal as asset builders is to fight poverty by helping people become financially literate and save money to create a better life for themselves and their families, such as the current and future homeowners of the New Century IDA program. I am fortunate enough to live at home with my parents so I don’t have to worry about rent for now, but many VISTAs choose to relocate, meaning they have to learn to live on a very tight budget while simultaneously paying rent and any other monthly bills. For many of us, this is a small price to pay for the opportunity to serve our country and to fight poverty. We become advocates for budgeting and saving, and in turn, we become financially literate ourselves (or, that is the hope).

For those of you who live on a low income (considered to be below $20,000 a year for a family of four), check out these suggestions I came across (and many I have incorporated into my life) on how to live on a small budget:

  • Have an emergency fund and three months worth of income in a savings account just in case.
  • Avoid scams that rip off the poor: used car leasing, rent-to-own, banks, payday lenders, and buy here, pay here car lots.
  • Save save save! Save as much as you can, whenever you can. Shop on clearance, don’t impulse buy, and create a budget. Shop at the Goodwill or the thrift store instead of paying full price for clothing. Use coupons and if you go out to eat, choose the special instead of ordering off the menu. Know what your money is going to each month!
  • If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.
  • When you start to think that this person or that person has it all when they are young, stop and ask yourself: Would I be willing to live like no one else now so I can live like no one else later? The money you are saving will help you live a better life in the long run.
  • One of the biggest things you can do is to automatically deposit money into your savings every time you get paid. If you aren’t able to set that up through your bank, check out your accounts online and move money over to your savings on the day you know you are getting paid.
  • Try not to eat out. Although shopping at the grocery store seems like it costs more initially, it is much cheaper than eating out. You are paying about $3.00 or less per meal eating at home compared to $5-10 eating out.
  • Don’t live above your means. This is really easy to do in today’s world. While friends are buying new cars, eating out for every meal, and spending lots of money on rent and clothes, it can be hard not to fall into the same trap. Everyone has a different budget and just because someone else buys it, doesn’t mean you should.

There are tons of other budgeting and saving tips out there, but these suggestions should give you an idea of some of the ways you can be financially literate on a tight budget. Feel free to comment with any other money saving tips that have worked for you!

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