Ways you can pay your bills and reach financial goals while making minimum wage.
Living off the minimum wage is challenging, especially if you have a one-income household. As of May 2021 the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. It has not been raised in over 10 years, according to the Economy Policy Institute. A full-time federal minimum wage worker today earns 18% less than what her counterpart earned when the wage was increased last after you adjust for the rising cost of living. While the minimum wage has not increased, the cost of food, rent, health insurance, childcare and education have. There are 29 states and D.C. that offer minimum hourly wages that are higher than the federal minimum wage, but it can still be difficult to live on those earnings.
Reaching financial goals with low income.
If you are earning minimum wage, you may be living paycheck to paycheck, making it difficult to save money or reach other financial goals. Being smart with your dollars is difficult when living on a low wage, but not impossible. Here are five tips to help you reach financial goals with low wages.
Map out your expenses.
It is no surprise that the first step towards reaching your financial goals is to map out your expenses and create a reasonable budget. Create a sheet for needs and one for wants. It is important to understand which of your expenses are fixed and necessary versus those that are expendable. Once you know how much money you need to spend each month to live, you can create a reasonable budget that will help you reach your financial goals. That should include a line for savings or a rainy-day fund.
Find alternatives to your fixed costs.
There are some things you simply need to survive. You cannot cut those expenses from your budget, but you can look for ways to reduce what you spend on those items.
Food is a necessary expense, but many Americans struggle with food security. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, helps subsidize the cost of food. Reach out to your state agency to determine if you are eligible for SNAP benefits. As an example, a household of three can receive a maximum of $616 through SNAP. Food pantries exist in certain areas as well. The Feeding America website can help you find local food banks. If you have children, Child Nutrition Programs provides free healthy meals and snacks to kids while they are out of school. If you are a mother, Women and Infant Children (WIC) programs provide healthy, supplemental food to low-income people who are pregnant and have children under the age of five. In addition to these programs, you can save on the price of food by cooking at home, using coupons or taking advantage of deals, buying in bulk, and buying frozen instead of fresh foods.
Finding affordable housing may mean moving out of the city or even to a different state. Cities like Harlingen, Amarillo and McAllen, Texas were among the cheapest U.S. cities to live in. Another way to save if you live alone is to take on a roommate(s). You may qualify for subsidized housing through the Section 8 Rental Certificate Program created by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Certain cities have low-income housing, apartment buildings dedicated to those who earn certain low wages.
Transportation is key to finding work and staying employed for many Americans who cannot find remote work. However, a car is an expensive mode of transportation. If you lease or are paying off a vehicle, there is a monthly fee. Even if you own your vehicle, there is the cost of gas, insurance registration and maintenance like oil changes. If you are a two-vehicle family, consider downsizing to one car. If you can work remotely, can use public transportation, or can walk, consider going without a car.
Automate bill paying.
Automating your bill paying can help you avoid fees or paying more in interest. If you schedule your bills to be paid right after you receive your paycheck, it is easy to see how much money is left for other expenses and avoid overdrafting or overspending.
Every penny counts.
When it comes to building your savings, every penny counts. You may not have a lot to put away each check, but every cent you contribute to savings can help you out of an emergency. While financial experts recommend saving 20% of your income, that is not feasible for many Americans who live paycheck to paycheck. Everything you put away is an investment in your future and something to be proud of.
Seek out new opportunities or career development.
Getting a higher paying job isn’t easy, especially when you lack required education or experience. However, there are ways to improve your economic situation if you can devote the time and effort. One way to earn more money is to take on a side gig, whether that is picking up hours as a delivery driver, ride-share driver, article writer, tutor, or other part-time opportunity.
If your lack of education or skills is holding you back, there are many online programs available to help people learn new skills. Some free online resources include Coursera and edX. If you work for a larger company, they may offer courses you can take or programs you can join for career advancement. Speak with your manager about any career advancement opportunities.
Paying your bills and reaching financial goals like having a savings can be challenging when you make minimum wage. On the other hand, not having a savings or emergency fund can leave you in a vulnerable position when the unexpected happens. Being smart and responsible with your money can help you reach financial stability, even if you earn a low income.
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