Here are some of my proven ways to save money even on a low income.
1. Save on food budget.
I do meal planning every 2 weeks so this helps a lot on decluttering my fridge and pantry as well gives me a sort of meal organization for the coming week. I do first an inventory of my pantry, fridge and freezer and see what are the items that near expiry and have to be used up.
I do not go to the grocery hungry. The times I do so always makes me overspend as well as I needed to buy something that I would be eating on the way. We have 3 grocery stores in our village and I go to all three everytime so it does make me more hungry and want to eat.
I buy things that are on sale. This is a must even if I do not plan to use them right away. For example, I just bought 5 heads of broccoli, 3 kilos of carrots and celery stalks because they were on sale even if I knew I would be not using them. What I do is I wash them, cut and then freeze them when I get home. 2 months ago, mushrooms were on 50% off and I bought 3 packs. I cut them up and froze them and so until now I still use them whenever a recipe calls for one. We are just 2 in our household and not really big eaters so if I am not careful, we have lots of food waste.
2. Save on transportation budget.
This may not be possible in every situation but always try to see your options. In Switzerland, we have a really good public transportation system that having a car is almost not a necessity. However, swiss public transportation IS a huge dent on the budget. For example, the bus that would take me from the bus stop directly opposite our apartment to the bus stop directly on my work in 3 minutes cost 7.80 chf back and forth. The monthly ticket cost under 100 chf. This is expensive for a 3 minutes ride. So what I do is ride a bike or walk.
If you are on a low income, you need to cut on your transportation. It is just not worth the time and money spend extra when the salary grade is low. Maybe it would be better to find a job nearby or move.
3. Consider switching to a prepaid mobile phone company.
There are lots of company where you pay only what you use. There are also monthly ‘unlimited data / calls’ contracts that if you are not satisfied, you can easily terminate and stop using without consequences. Nowadays, wifi is everywhere so you can easily save on data charges. After all, it is counter intuitive to be 20 hours on phone surfing instead of using the extra time to create an income.
4. Shop and compare yearly health insurance.
I do not know if this is applicable in every country but in Switzerland, there is an obligatory health insurance where ALL companies provide the same benefits. So why go to the expensive ones when the cheapest provide exactly the same benefits? I have been here for 7 years and have always had the cheapest insurance company with the cheapest deductable and I had absolutely no problems. However, every year, the prices change so I make sure that I terminate my insurance if the company I am with is not the cheapest in the market anymore. A lot of people here do not do that because it is could be a real hassle but I am on low income so I should accept these consequences.
5. Don’t be afraid to NOT go to the doctor immediately.
I have a high deductible so it means that I needed to also pay a lot before the insurance kicks in. So I do not fret and panic whenever I feel something bad. Of course health is important and what is the worth of having a lot of cash stashed when your health is failing, right? However, I only go to the doctor when the doctor can really help me. The reason is that I feel that they do not really help, or care. Case in point is my husband. For the last 5 years he suffered back problems and the doctors (not one but several already) told him he has this and that, never one sickness. Each doctor prescribed pills and tablets according to his findings and nothing really helped. My husband would go to another doctor and he’d say my husband had this and prescribed another set of pills. In the end it was just a matter of too much work and bad shoes. And all the time he popped in too many pills and medicaments in his system.
Of course situations like tumors and cancers are another thing but simple health inconveniences like fever, aches or whatever, I usually just self medicate. I remember my husband told me in one of his consultations that after he told how he felt and symptoms he had, the doctor googled it and gave him his opinions. I mean, I can also google my symptoms myself.
I also have a workmate who for the littliest things like stomachache goes to the doctor. The doctor just gives her pills and a next appointment. Then comes the bill.
6. Do not eat out or buy lunch, rather cook.
If you are on low income, eating our should be a luxury until you have enough money to be able to afford it.
In Switzerland, a simple meal for one in a restaurant will easily cost you 50 chf. A simple Asian meal like curry, or noodles would be around 25 chf plus drinks and appetizer or desert. Of course, there is also a transportation cost here if you want to try a restaurant somewhere away from your usual vicinity.
Also, brown bagging is a must if the salary is not high. A packed lunch of a simple salad with boiled egg and some shredded chicken strips easily costs 20-27 chf in COOP. Add the drinks, coffee, redbull and other ‘normal’ drinks at work and the expenses do pile up.
7. Save on electric and water bills.
Depending on the regions here in Switzerland, the electric and water bills could be too high or just okay. The easiest way to save on electricity is do a lot of household works on the off peak hours. I do the washing, ironing, phone and vacuum cleaning charging, and dishwashing always after 8pm or on the weekends. The price difference is almost double per kilowatt so it is a huge saving.
When it comes to the water bill, I just do the normal way like turning of the faucet while brushing teeth and not let the water flow. Or doing showers instead of a bath.
8. Pay only in cash as much as you can.
This is a common trick that a lot of people do to control their overspending habits and it does work.
Nowadays, we pay everything online like the rent, insurance, taxes, bills, etc. The only thing that I can still control using cash is the grocery bill, transportation and leisure.
I get this cash budget every start of the month and so I can SEE how much money still is left available until the end of the month. Also, I like the triumphant feeling of having beat the goal and still have something left on the wallet.
9. Hide some money where you cannot see it.
This is by far the most effective I have ever done. What I do is that I withdraw money every salary day and keep it somewhere. This money is hidden from my sight because I cannot see it in my bank account and it is also not in my wallet. This money piles up and I get a happy surprise at the end of every year or every period.
I tried the automatic deduction strategy before and while it works, I really did not feel too good about it because I can still SEE it and I can still calculate how much is my money at any given moment. Whereas when I cannot see it, then I am forced to limit my expenses/plans according to how much I have at the moment.
10. Have a side hustle.
Scrimping and penny pinching will just do so as much. The biggest impact on the finances is still the extra income that should come to the household.
A side hustle could be cleaning houses, babysitting, waiting on tables, or selling things online. There are lots of possibilities to have a side hustle and what is really important is that if you are in low income and cannot really do something about it, make a real effort to augment it by having a side income.
So they are my proven ways on how to save money on low income. They are simple, effective and easy to do.