10 Ways to Save Money When You Have a Low Income
Updated: May 21
It’s easy to think that when you have less money coming in, you should have to spend less. In practice, this often means skipping meals and throwing away food that you can’t afford or don’t want to buy at inflated prices.
There are plenty of ways, however, to save money while still being able to enjoy the same quality of life that you had before your income changed.
These ten tips on how to save money when you have a low income will help you live comfortably without going broke every month!
1) Cut back on everything
It’s not always easy, but cutting back on everything you spend money on is definitely one of your best options when it comes to saving money. If you can shave £/$20 per week from every category that isn’t paying for essentials, that adds up to over £/$1,000 per year.
It may be hard at first (especially if you are used to having plenty of everything), but soon enough, you will have built up some savings.
And then it will get easier and easier as time goes by. Before long, you might have enough saved up for that vacation or that car—or whatever else you want out of life!
2) Cut cable TV
The average cable TV bill in 2016 was £/$100.81, according to Leichtman Research Group. At that rate, you'd spend more than $1,000 per year just on cable TV—an expense that many people could save money by cutting.
If you do decide to drop your cable subscription, here are some ideas for where to spend your savings: Amazon Prime (the non-video parts of it), Spotify and Netflix.
These services have thousands of hours of content—including original programming from top producers like ABC and HBO—all for less than what you pay for cable now.
And there's no contract, so you can stop whenever you want without paying an early termination fee or losing any access at all!
3) Take public transportation instead of driving
On average, you’ll spend around $0.18 per mile if you drive your own car. If you take public transportation, on average, it will cost you $0.06 per mile.
If you need to save money quickly, and can commit to riding buses or subways instead of driving your own car, there’s a good chance that cutting back on gas expenses will do just that in no time at all.
And here’s another interesting fact: Taking public transportation is also good for your health!
4) Find free activities
One of the easiest ways to save money is simply finding free or cheaper activities. There are so many free things to do out there that you'll be amazed by how little you actually have to spend.
Many museums and concert halls, for example, offer student discounts or day passes on days when they're not hosting special events.
For theater shows and concerts, it's common practice for promoters to pass out tickets at nearby universities or schools with an agreement that attendees will use them that night—if they can't make it back in time, they can hand them off at no cost.
5) Eat out less
One of the easiest ways to save money when you have a low income is to eat at home more often.
With restaurant food costing anywhere from three to four times as much as it does at home, there’s tremendous room for savings.
When you do go out, consider splitting an entree with your dining companion(s) and requesting that they order an appetizer instead of an entree.
In some cases, you might even be able to get them to throw in on your side-dish costs too!
6) Live frugally in the moment and in your head
The more financially literate you are, and the better you understand your spending habits, even small changes can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
But managing your money is about much more than just keeping track of how much you spend; it’s also about identifying what would make you feel successful, whether that’s buying concert tickets for friends or finally taking that vacation that’s been on your mind for years.
Planning for future purchases like vacations will require some upfront saving—maybe putting money in an online savings account and earmarking it as vacation funds.
7) Buy a cheap car, get rid of expensive ones
The most expensive aspect of owning and operating a car is the cost of gas. But even if you live in an urban area, owning a cheaper vehicle that gets good mileage can make all of your other monthly expenditures seem relatively less important by comparison.
And if you live in an area where public transportation or ride-sharing services are available, consider getting rid of your car entirely.
It might take some lifestyle changes at first, but think how much money you could save each month after all is said and done.
8) Bring lunch to work
Bringing lunch from home is cheaper than buying lunch at a restaurant, and will save you money on average about $1,000 per year.
Not only that, but if you buy your lunch out regularly you may be taking in much more sodium and saturated fat than is good for you.
A lot of restaurants have at least one healthy option on their menu: think grilled chicken with steamed veggies instead of fried chicken with mashed potatoes; shrimp in tomato sauce over pasta as opposed to buffalo wings.
If your favorite isn’t available as an option just ask for it!
There’s no reason why anything that’s good for you has to be off limits when dining out.
9) Replace your gas guzzler with an eco-friendly alternative
If you’re currently driving around in an SUV, odds are good that it is costing you a lot more on gas than your neighbor’s compact car.
Think about what would happen if you just switched cars with your neighbor, and get rid of that gas guzzler.
Not only will it save you money on gas, but also on wear and tear. You might not want to give up your giant SUV, but trading down could actually put more money in your pocket each month.
Plus, if everyone traded down one vehicle at a time and got rid of their extra vehicles (like some people who have three cars), we could improve our environment significantly—and get more greenbacks in our pockets too!
10) Stop shopping for entertainment
Many people with low incomes also have limited free time, which makes it tempting to spend money while they’re out and about.
Shopping is an easy way to entertain yourself but it’s usually not as cheap as it seems.
Even if you find yourself with a bit of extra cash one day, resist the urge and take a long walk around your neighborhood instead; getting out in nature often does more for our mental health than retail therapy.
So save your energy for things that really matter and pass on shopping when you’re just looking for something fun to do.