Although decades of inflation have occurred, the wages of million of American workers have not kept up with the increased cost of living. But with a little of what I call "economically creative thinking," we can keep the hope of a better life alive.
Here are 3 areas low-income earners can trim to make life a little easier
1. FOLLOW A STRICT MONTHLY BUDGET
When working a low-income job and living paycheck to paycheck, the cost of housing is the number one priority. If you’re fortunate enough to live rent free, be grateful and do not take the situation for granted!
For the rest of us, bare minimum survival is possible even on the full-time minimum wage income of $1,160 per month gross, or approximately $1,044 per month net. If you suspect too many taxes are being withheld from your wages -- as I’ve heard time and time again from my fellow low-income earners -- check the IRS tax table and follow up with your employer’s human resources department as necessary.
Read more: How to get your finances in order in 30 days
When it comes to housing, a $400 rent is extremely possible if you have an incomed live-in significant other or roommates. Or you could take advantage of many affordable homes-for-sale options and pay a $400 per month mortgage.
For those who don't think it's possible to qualify for a mortgage on minimum wage, please see the screenshot below.
My Amazon ebook How To Buy a House on Minimum Wage explains the possibility of putting $0 down and closing (available in select states,) as well the option to buy more than 1 home -- like this property with an estimated $500 per month mortgage for 2 homes. You can live in one and rent the other out!
As for the other elements of your budget, after you factor in the much-needed cell phone service ($75 per month) and utilities ($200), you’re left with around $369 towards transportation and groceries.
Read more: Cut your wireless bill by 60-70%
Monthly expenses may be reduced through keeping your housing costs as low as possible, using public transit/carpooling/driving a cash car (i.e. not having a car loan) and using coupons in conjunction with BOGO (buy one, get one) grocery sales. And of course we hope that a pay increase may go towards 401(k) savings and the luxury of disposable income!
2. FIND A JOB WITH INCENTIVES
If you’re in the market for a new job, try to obtain as many benefits as possible. For example:
- A taxi (or Uber) driver may be a great job for someone who knows the city well and is in need of a vehicle, but clientele must be quickly established as you must “pay to keep” the job.
- Food service workers may seek employers who offer free lunch and the option to take home leftovers (thereby reducing your grocery bill). This situation is more common in smaller, locally owned cafes rather than larger establishments.
- Educational positions offer you the ability to work at your child’s school, eliminating or reducing the need for child care.
- Want to travel? Apply to airline and long-distance bus positions, as these companies often offer free or discounted travel during your vacation period.
- Also consider applying for work where you pay your bills and you could receive a discount for that bill. For example, working for an apartment complex may result in reduced rent; working for the phone or cable company may reduce those bills, and working at grocery or retail stores may give you first knowledge of new sales with discounts.
Low-paying or not, anything that can help your life become a little easier should be a sought-after benefit when job seeking. The options are out there. You just have to dig around and not be afraid of rejection. Get to the point and speak your mind, professionally! It may be okay to accept any job initially, but continue to work towards life improvement.
2. SHOP FRUGALLY
Clothes shopping, beauty maintenance, holiday shopping, or even a trip to the movies are often out of reach to low-income workers, who deserve it just as much as anyone else.
Read more: 18 foods that are breaking your grocery budget
Consider shopping at thrift stores located in the prestigious areas of town. This is where many rich families donate clothing and home décor, many items unused, brand new, tag still attached. If it’s an item you could use, keep it. If not, many brand new items may be sold for top dollar online, and then you can use the cash profit for what you need/want.
Expand your shopping area to online, malls, and larger shopping centers. The more store options you have, the better your chances of finding a 75% off or greater retail clearance. That means $250 worth of clothing would be around $63.
With my HOA home and efforts of grocery couponing, thrift store shopping/online selling, and clearance shopping, you probably couldn’t look at me and tell that I’m a low-income worker. Go for it!