Home > 2016 > Personal Finance

10 Ways to Save When You’re Making Minimum Wage

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

Are you squeaking by on minimum wage? If so, it might seem like there is little hope for you to get money into savings. After all, working full time on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour brings in a whopping $15,080 a year before any taxes.

But even if your budget is down to the bare bones, there are still things you can do to build up your savings. Here are 10 ideas worth considering.

1. Get Out of Debt

If you’re only making minimum wage, you can’t afford to be sending money to a car financing company, Visa, MasterCard or Discover.

Think about it this way: If you had no house payment, no car payment and no credit card payment, what’s left? The only bills you might need to pay would be utilities, taxes, insurance, gasoline for your car and food for yourself. In many areas of the country, you could do that on $15,000 a year.

We’ll talk a little more about affordable housing options in a minute, but for everything else in your life, make living debt-free a priority.

2. Hoard Money Gifts, Tax Refunds & Other Windfalls

To get out of debt and build up your savings, make smart use of any extra cash you get.

For example, if you make minimum wage and have children, chances are you’re entitled to the Earned Income Tax Credit. That could mean you get thousands of dollars from Uncle Sam each year. Here are some tips for maximizing your tax refund.

Until you get on firm financial ground, resist the urge to spend windfalls. Put a couple hundred dollars in the bank as an emergency fund and ship the rest off to your creditors. If you’re debt-free (hooray!), bank at least half of it before you think about spending a cent.

3. Save Your Pennies

Start a change jar and put your coins into it every night. At the end of the month, roll up the coins and put them in a savings account.

You won’t retire rich off the money you collect, but you could end up with $10 or $20 a month to pad your savings account. That’s not much, but when you’re making $7.25 an hour, every little bit helps.

4. Skip Processed Food

Processed food often is unhealthful. You will feel better and save money on health care costs in the long run if you say goodbye to canned, boxed and frozen meals. If you need some menu inspiration, check out budget cookbooks from your local library. “Family Feasts for $75 a Week” and “The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook” are two you may find worth reading.

5. Park the Car

After housing, your car is probably your biggest money pit. You need to pay for insurance, registration and gas, plus you might even have a monthly payment on it.

You’ll free up tons of money in your budget if you can get rid of your car or at least drive it less often. Depending on where you live and your personal situation, you may be able to:

  • Use public transportation exclusively.
  • If you’re a two-car family, sell one vehicle.
  • If you have years left on a vehicle loan, sell the car and buy a cheaper one.
  • Carpool with a co-worker or friend and split the car costs.
  • Combine errands and appointments to minimize gas and parking costs.

6. Rethink Child Care

Child care is absurdly expensive. If you have two income earners in your house, and both are making minimum wage, you might come out ahead if one adult stays home with the kids. Not only will that eliminate day care costs, you’ll also save on gas and other work-related expenses.

7. Sell What You Can

Get serious about saving by scrutinizing everything you own.

You could have a yard sale to sell old clothes, trinkets and kitchen gadgets, but think bigger. Sell the furniture you don’t need. Sell your movie collection. Sell the TV. I’m serious! The kids will find something else to do.

8. Find a Roommate

Finding affordable housing can be a nightmare. Subsidized housing is available, but wait lists are long and the properties aren’t always in ideal locations.

If you can’t find a place with cheap rent, the next best thing may be to get a roommate. Another option: If you live in a house, might be to rent out a room. Either way, you get a break on your monthly payment as well as on the utilities.

You can find potential roommates on websites like Roommates.com and EasyRoommate.com. Sites like Craigslist or your local paper may be good places to place ads if you have a room to rent.

9. Move Somewhere Cheaper

Maybe despite your best efforts, you simply can’t find an inexpensive place to live. In that case, it may be time to do something radical. You may want to move to a new city or a state with a lower cost of living.

That isn’t permission to simply pack up and go without a place to stay or a plan for what to do when you get there. Instead, do your research first and line up a job in advance.

10. Make More Money

Finally, if none of these suggestions sounds like much fun, it’s because it’s really hard to get by on very little income. You know that.

To make more money, you could work harder or you could work smarter. Choose the second option. Rather than spending your life working two or even three jobs to get by, get the right education and training for a career that will let you live comfortably. Look into jobs that require only a two-year associate degree.

Talk to your local community college to find out which careers are in demand in your area. Its financial aid office should also be able to help you learn about programs that can pay for college and eliminate the need to take out student loans.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team