If You Make Under $25,000, These Tips Can Help You Save Big
In our stuff-obsessed society, it’s easy to think more money means fewer problems. It’s also easy to compare oneself to others, particularly where salary comes in. According to the most recent U.S. census data, the median household income in the United States comes in at a little over $56,000. That rises and falls depending on how close you come to peak earning age, or between 49 for men and 40 for women. However, about 25.21 million households currently live under $25,000 per year. About a quarter of both the total black and Hispanic populations were living below the poverty line in 2016. How do people save money at those levels? Some Reddit users offered a few tips.
1. Walk or use public transportation to work
User Jedi4Hire works as a security officer at a college campus where they also get classes for free. They live in a low-cost Midwest city and make about $13 per hour. “I found an apartment two blocks from campus, so walking to and from work most days saved me maybe $200 a month on gas,” they explained. While not everyone can walk to work and public transportation depends on the city, it can serve as a great money-saver for those who can swing it.
Next: Try pitching in together to save coin.
2. Move in with friends or family
When living on less, it can help to pool your resources. MrsJakkJones and her family of three lives on less than $25,000. She lives with her sister and takes care of the kids in exchange for reduced rent. While she called the experience “humbling,” it does save on childcare. Time reports that nationally, the average cost for a week at a child care center, for one child, totaled $196 last year. An after-school sitter set the average family back $214 for 15 hours of work each week and a full-time nanny topped $556 a week.
Next: Consider saving on food costs this way.
3. Economize food purchases
Programmer PouponMacaque saves money in a variety of ways but also relies on affordable foods that provide high caloric value for less money. “I lived solely off relatively cheap-per-calorie foods like lentils, rice, peanut butter, and bread,” they report. The blog Efficiency is Everything provides a handy calorie per dollar chart, for calculating food costs down to the calorie.
Next: Try this Macklemore approved technique to save dough.
4. Purchase clothes at thrift stores
Redditor Pecklepuff emphasized the money-saving capabilities of thrift store shopping. “That stuff is perfectly good, and why waste money on expensive new clothes when you can get good stuff at thrift stores for a couple bucks?” they asked. The benefits of shopping secondhand go beyond saving money, as LifeHack.org demonstrates. People often give away clothing that retails new for many times its price tag. In addition, the genuine vintage, unique qualities of items available contributes to the thrill of the hunt.
Next: Try this homesteading tactic to save big and get healthy.
5. Grow your own produce
Cook Throwawaybreaks grows vegetables in his home’s windowsills to augment the food they purchase at the grocery store and save a few bucks, too. Cooking Light adds that not only does growing your own food cost less, it can be healthier too. Food begins to decrease in quality the second it leaves the ground, so the freshest food comes from the least distance. Growing your own gives you access to often pricey “heritage” or “heirloom” varieties too. These often taste better and can be higher in nutrients, as well.
Next: Staying in has this financial benefit.
6. Set limits on going out to eat
Eating out can really take a bite out of your paycheck. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, the average American spent$3,008 annually on restaurants and takeout meals. Frosted_underscore suggested eating out less often and when they do, they set a $20 limit for themselves. U.S. News & World Report offers these tips for saving money when you do head out on the town. Try drinking water instead of soda or alcohol, taking advantage of happy hours or other specials, or even splitting appetizers instead of getting your own entree.
Next: Try taking this approach to make your frugal live less stressful.
7. Embrace minimalism
Personal shopper and Reddit user Awesomea16 employs a personal maxim that helps her live more frugally. “I’ve just learned that if you want it but you don’t need it, then you don’t get it,” she said. She touts the benefits of minimalism, emphasizing that if you don’t want much, you don’t spend much either. By taking a good, hard look at each purchase and evaluating whether it ranks as a “want” or a “need,” we can all save some cash.
Next: This thrifty user maximizes credit cards, but not the way you think.
8. Learn to use cash-back credit cards
Credit cards help Isayimnothere save money because he cashes in on the bonuses. He opens a card with a cash back bonus, usually in the $100-200 per every $500 range. The user then uses that card to pay his bills so he spends the amount the card requires. Next, he cashes in on the bonus as well as any other cash awards, making about $50-75 per month that way. “Depending on the purchase, I’ll get the minimum of 1.5% back but I have gotten upwards of 21.5% back when particular deals come around,” he explained. Every few months, he gets a new card and cancels the old one, to keep raking in new customer bonuses. This strategy takes some work, but for the organized person, can really pay off.
Next: This tried-and-true technique does not get enough credit.
9. Shop sales and use coupons
User Budgiejen pointed out that sales cycles and coupons can help save a bundle. “Most stores are on a cycle that’s easy to anticipate,” they explained. Money Crashers offers some tips to get the most out of your coupon and sales shopping. Among other tips, they recommend only buying things on sale that you would use anyway. Additionally, always do the math on whether coupons on name-brand items work out to a better price than generic options. Not all coupons are created equal, but if you shop savvy, the savings really add up.
Next: If this is an option for you, it can really pay off.
10. Choose more affordable areas, if you can
It’s no secret that many urban areas carry a higher cost of living than rural locales, and some areas of the U.S. weigh in as cheaper, overall. User Littlebunnyfoofoo11 lives alone in rural Tennessee where rent is reasonable. The Council for Community and Economic Research, a nonprofit group that provides information on local economic trends, compared the cost of living in 306 urban areas in the U.S. It ranked cities based on housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services, CBS News reports. Harlingen, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Ashland, Ohio; and Pryor Creek, Oklahoma all ranked in the cheapest 10.
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11. Try working from home
Working from home saves money on commuting, eating out, child care, and even professional wardrobe items. User Yureal left “a pretty cushy job” to work from home and has not looked back. The Spruce adds that saving time also gives you time to take care of things yourself that you might otherwise outsource, like minor home repairs or decor projects.
Next: Think about using your home for income, if you can.
12. Rent out part of your home
User GrimChaos saved up to buy a house and then rented out its upper floor to help cover the mortgage. If you have the means to invest in property, some landlords can cover their entire mortgage with renters or even make a little extra. The Penny Hoarder made twice the amount they needed to cover the mortgage simply by renting out rooms in their home. They also offer a few simple tips for how to live peaceably with renters, if you decide to take that route.
Next: To change your finances, adjust your outlook.
13. Work to improve yourself, personally or professionally
It can seem easy to get despondent when in dire financial straits. But UnseenPower offered some advice. “I was there once upon a time. My advice is to spend 10 minutes a day on yourself,” they said. “It can vary between gaining skills, qualifications, or applying for jobs.” Even small changes like spending 10 minutes exercising, reading a new book, tracking your spending, or checking in with a friend has lasting benefits.
Next: Consider this lifestyle change to help your finances.
14. Consider going freelance
When freelance writer and editor ElvisIsReal took the plunge, it changed their life. “I feel like I’m cheating at life because I don’t have a set schedule or boss or anything,” they said. “I just work when there’s nothing else to do or when I need money to go do something. I’d say maybe 50 hours a month is spent actually working? Wouldn’t change it for the world.” While freelancing does require a more stringent attention to things like taxes and time management, it can actually pay more than many minimum-wage jobs.
Next: Finally, make this paradigm shift to find peace.
15. Find value in experiences instead of things
An anonymous Reddit user pointed out that, “We are brainwashed to work and consume. Consume, more than anything. It’s the carrot to buy things that sometimes motivates people to work.” Learning to take advantage of free activities instead of buying more stuff contributes not as much to the bottom line, but to overall contentment.
“Compared with their grandparents, today’s young adults have grown up with much more affluence, slightly less happiness, and much greater risk of depression and assorted social pathology,” noted Hope College psychologist David G. Myers in the American Psychologist. “Our becoming much better off over the last four decades has not been accompanied by one iota of increased subjective well-being.” Maybe learning to love what we have and not chase what we have not will make us all richer, in more important ways.
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