Updated: February 4, 2020
A lot of times, I hear people say that they really want to start saving, but they can’t because their income is just enough to pay for their living expenses.
They tell me that more often than not, they have no money left for savings by the time the next payday comes. And unfortunately, they’ve been in this cycle for many years and haven’t been able to make any progress.
So how do you start saving money on a low income? I believe it is possible. And below are some tips that can help.
Start with a positive mindset
Don’t feel helpless about your situation. If there’s anything I learned from helping other people fix their finances, it’s that there’s always a way to get out of your financial rut.
I’m not saying that it will be easy. It will in fact, require a lot of sacrifices on your part, but it is possible. Just start believing first that you can, and you will eventually find a way.
Commit to always taking action
Wishing and hoping to start saving money is different from actually doing it. Moreover, you need to realize that your financial status will not change overnight. It will take months, even years before you see significant results.
Thus, it is important to make that commitment to yourself that you’re in it for the long haul. That you are ready to embark on this journey and you will not give up even if things become difficult.
Track your expenses
The first actionable thing you can do is to track your expenses. Know where each centavo of your salary goes. By listing all your spending, it will be easier to pinpoint the unnecessary expenses that you incur.
Be patient and meticulous about this process. I guarantee, you’ll thank yourself later for doing so.
I once urged a friend to track his expenses, and that’s how he discovered he has this habit of buying mineral water everyday. By bringing a water bottle instead and filling it up at home and at work, he was able to eliminate that cost.
Cut your spending and expect it to hurt
Go to your list of expenses. One by one, ask yourself how you can cut that cost. For each item, you can either eliminate it, find a way to lower the cost, or replace it with a cheaper alternative.
Expect that there will be things you need to sacrifice. For example, if you want to lower your electric bill, then you can stop watching television, replace your aircon with an electric fan, and go to bed early to minimize the use of lights in the evening.
For what it’s worth, keep in mind that your life will become better in the long run when you’ve become financially stable. And you can have those luxuries back when you start to earn more. So just keep your eye on the goal.
Find a way to earn more
Lowering your expenses is just one half of the equation. It’s the first thing you should do because it’s actually easier to accomplish than the other half, which is to find ways to make more money.
Dig deep into yourself and think of what you can do to increase your cashflow. Tap into your skills and available resources to help you find income opportunities.
You can do freelance work. Apply for a second job. Do some part-time work. Start a home-based business. Sell something online. You can even try asking your boss for a raise.
Gamify the process
Imagine that you’re playing a game. Set a savings goal and a specific reward for reaching that particular amount. For example, eat at your favorite restaurant when your savings reach P5,000; go to a spa upon reaching P10,000; and so on.
Set different rewards for each stage to keep your motivation up. Doing this will also help you focus more on making as much progress as you can every day until you reach your ultimate goal of building an emergency fund.
One of the best ways to save is to pay yourself first. When you’re already used to living off a specific budget, it will now be easier to immediately set aside a fixed amount during payday.
You can also consider saving automatically by asking your bank to debit a specific amount from your salary every month, and put it in a separate savings account.
Moreover, it goes without saying that you should avoid getting into debt during this time. If you have existing debts or loans, then pay it off while still saving money. Because you want to avoid having to borrow money in case a financial emergency happens.
Lastly, remember that saving money should be a lifelong habit. You’re currently at the early stages of developing this habit, so be patient with yourself and never give up.
I’ve met a lot of people who used to be exactly in your shoes — living from paycheck to paycheck for many years. Slowly but surely, through dedication and discipline, they eventually become financially stable and are now on their way towards achieving financial freedom.
If they can do it, I’m sure you can do it too.