Saving money on a low income ($500 per week or $2,000 a month) is easier if you have no bills and no expenses. But unless you’re a child, you probably have both bills and expenses! Here are nine easy ways to save money even if you’re only earning $500 per week.
One of the best ways to save extra cash is to make more money. Easier said than done, I know! The tips I shared on my blog post Do You Feel Trapped in Your Marriage Because of Money? are slow and sustainable. I have no “get rich quick” or even “save lots of money fast” schemes because they don’t work. I do, however, have lots of ways to save money when you’re only earning $500 per week. These are the best tips because even though they’re slow, they’re sustainable. You can save more money than you think if you just keep socking it away.
It’s important to remember that stressing about your financial problems will only make it take longer and be harder to save money. Before I share my money saving tips, I want to give you five ways to cope with stress. If you can try to relax and lean away from your financial problems, you won’t be so anxious or worried about saving money. These tips are from psychologists and financial experts; they’ll help whether you’re dealing credit card debt, possible mortgage or home foreclosure, job loss, or investment mistakes.
5 Ways to Cope With Financial Stress
Here’s my a surprising tip for dealing with financial stress: know why you are saving money. You know why you’re earning $500 a week, right? Now, write down the exact reasons you want to save more money every month. The act of writing down your financial goals – and the reason why your goals exist – will help solidify your intentions in your mind.
1. Avoid the media (it always increases money-related stress)
“Eliminate or minimize watching the news and reading newspapers,” says psychologist Dr Joseph Cilona, PhD. “It’s important to remember that even respected news sources are not always giving a truly balanced and accurate portrayal of the reality out there, particularly when it comes to job hunting and the recession.”
Dr C. explains that watching too much news or surfing media websites can make it hard for you to maintain a positive outlook and stay motivated. If you’re searching for a second job so earn more than $500 per week, use your normal media or social media time to peruse job search related websites, researching employment resources, and networking with people in your field.
2. Take specific action that helps you save money
“Action takes the edge off worry. Putting a plan on paper gives many people relief from the ‘what ifs’,” says certified financial planner Rebecca Schreiber. “Plan on paper what you will do if you lose your job (names and numbers of placement agencies and companies you would like to work for) or get hit with major medical expenses.”
Schreiber recommends making a pact with friends to keep conversations about personal finance problems short and to the point. Don’t ignore your money problems or financial goals, but don’t obsess about them.
3. Be realistic about how much money you can actually save
“Are you actually experiencing financial issues yourself or have you gotten caught up in the culture of fear?” asks life coach Kirsten Mahoney, founder of Insight Out Life Coaching. “Check your current income situation – is it secure as far as you can tell? Sure, we never really know what is going to happen, but according to your best judgment is your income secure? Also check your current spending habits. Are you spending within your means? To do this measure, your income against your outgoing bills. Are you able to pay your bills every month on time? Do you sometimes have some left over for savings? Do you have a savings plan?”
If someone is pressuring you to lend them money because they’re earning less than $500 per week, read How Do You Say No When Someone Asks You for Money?
4. Focus on your financial successes
“Make a list of the things that you have done right with your money recently, such as paying your mortgage/rent, not using your credit card this week, eating dinner at home instead of out, etc,” says Danny Kofke, author of How to Survive (and Perhaps Thrive) on a Teacher’s Salary.
You’ll have more motivation and energy to save money if you focus on the positive decisions you’ve already made. It doesn’t matter if you’re making $500 or $5,000 per week; reassuring yourself of what you are doing right will help you stay happily focused on your financial goals.
5. Stop fortune telling about your future money problems
“Fortune telling is predicting the future negatively and emotionally reacting as if it is already happening or it is imminent,” says psychologist Elizabeth R. Lombardo, PhD, creator of Control Stress For Good. “For example, people are often not worried about the here and now, but rather what they think will happen. If they are working, they are fearful they will lose their job. If they have foreclosed on their home, they are emotionally reacting as if they will be homeless forever. If they want to retire at a certain age, they are upset they will probably not be able to do that.”
If you’re stressed out about your finances, read Overcoming Money Anxiety: 4 Ways to Relax Your Grip.
9 Tips for Saving Money When You Only Earn $500 a Week
Here’s the short answer: spend money on nothing unless it is absolutely essential.
1. Cut the TV or internet cable cord. Eliminating cable TV can easily save $50 a month. In a downturn, that is enough to fill the gas tank, pay the electric bill or buy groceries. Instead of watching TV, save money by renting movies from the library. Focus on building an emergency fund, not buying stuff you don’t need.
2. Get basic phone service. Eliminate the bells and whistles – texting, data service, ringtones, music, voice mail, caller ID – from home and cell phone services to save $20 to $100 per month. If you can, keep one cell phone only for emergencies and share it among family members. Choose a pay-as-you-go plan to save more money. And, keep only one home phone line.
3. Skip the Internet. If you don’t require Internet service at home, you may be able to eliminate your connection and use the free service at work, a library, or café. In addition, the average American is online about 26 hours per month. Cutting out aimless surfing isn’t just a great budgeting tip, it could free up hours for other activities!
4. Get to know the library better. The public library is no dusty repository of boring tomes — today, it is full of books as well as magazines, cookbooks, movies, graphic novels, TV shows, fitness DVDs, music and more. If the local library does not carry something you need, ask about interlibrary loan (ILL) to borrow materials from a library elsewhere.
5. Buy used clothes, furniture, and other items. Many items — from clothing to ski boots to books to furniture — are available used. Check thrift stores, sites like eBay or Craigslist, or yard sales. Often, gently used goods sell for as little as 10 percent of the original retail value. To achieve your financial goals, shop before you buy something so you can compare prices, take advantage of coupons and discount days, and bargain where possible to get the best deals.
6. Barter your skills, goods, and services. Evaluate what skills you have that might be valuable to others and trade instead of paying someone. Can you sew curtains for a handy repair person who can help fix your washing machine? Will a neighbor babysit if you watch her house and pet while she goes on vacation? Thinking creatively and working with your neighbors is an easy way to save money when you earn $500 a week.
7. Buy groceries and other items in bulk. Bulk buying might cost more at the outset, but over time it will save you big bucks (as long as you buy only items you truly need). Purchase bulk volumes at a warehouse club or even with a “case discount” at a local retailer. Check prices on Amazon.com — customers can save as much as 15 percent by subscribing for a frequent purchase, such as toilet paper, to be shipped on a regular basis. Before you buy, however, compare prices on a per-ounce or per-square-foot basis to be sure you’re saving money — not just buying more of a product.
8. Think before you replace something. To save money when you earn $500 a week, don’t buy something new immediately. For instance, if an appliance, accessory or other household item breaks, refrain from immediately replacing it. Will your hair look fine without a new flat iron? You could save $30 (and some time). Can the vacuum cleaner be repaired? A new band or gear could help you avoid a $100 purchase. This tips for saving money will also reduce the garbage you throw out.
9. Work extra hours to earn more money. Spread the word that you are willing to work, whether babysitting, shoveling snow, running errands or doing pet pick-up. If you have time for a job, try holiday retail or parking cars, which offer tips for extra cash. Or look into mystery shopping, making crafts to sell online or other quick jobs you can do at home.
If you’re worried about paying the bills and eating because your $500 per week isn’t going far enough, read How to Survive When You Have No Money.