37.2 million people in the US are in “poverty” or “low-income” according to census.gov. This includes any family whose income falls below $13,000. That means that a lot of families are low-income. For low-income families, making ends meet can be a daily struggle. Even with a steady paycheck, unexpected expenses, emergencies, and rising living costs can create financial stress and strain. Even meeting basic needs like rent, food, and healthcare can be difficult. This makes trying to save money and managing debt nearly impossible.
Despite these challenges, there are several steps that low-income families can take to improve their financial situation. Here are some important steps and things you can do to help. Because sometimes, your paycheck is just not enough.
Evaluate Your Budget
Creating and evaluating your budget regularly is the best thing you can do for financial stability, especially if you are low-income. Here is a simple way to do it:
- Determine Your Income and Expenses: Begin by making a list of all your sources of income and then your expenses for the month. Expenses include rent, utilities, insurance, groceries, transportation, and any other things that you must have. Make sure to separate discretionary expenses, which include entertainment and other non-essential spending.
- Track Your Spending: Once you have a clear understanding of your income and expenses, start tracking your spending. This will help you determine where you are spending money and where you can make cuts. You can use a budgeting app or a simple spreadsheet to keep track. It’s important to be diligent and honest with yourself about where and how you spend your money.
- Evaluate and Adjust: After you track your spending, evaluate it, and adjust your budget accordingly. Determine where you can make cuts in your discretionary spending and prioritize necessary expenses. Think about where you can reduce expenses to save more money for emergencies. We will go further into this next.
Cutting Down Expenses to Make Ends Meet
The best way to save money is not to spend it. This is easier said than done when you don’t have much money coming in. However, by cutting down on expenses you will be surprised at how much you have left over. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
Reduce Your Housing Costs: While moving to a more affordable place is your best bet, most of us can’t just pick up and move. But you can reduce your housing costs in other ways. Electricity is a big part of housing costs so get used to turning off lights and appliances when not in use. Small plugin night lights take a lot less electricity than the lamp in the living room. Another way to conserve utility costs is by temperature control or less of it. Wear warmer clothes in the winter and set your thermostat a couple of degrees lower. In the summer, running a fan or two can take some “heat” off the air conditioner.
Shop Smart: Food is a major cost but eating at home rather than going out will save you hundreds of dollars. You can shop smarter too. Look for deals on groceries and other necessities. Consider buying in bulk, and always make a list before heading to the store, so you don’t overspend on unnecessary items. Take advantage of coupons, discounts, and sales, and try to avoid impulse buying. Grocery shopping online can also deter you from buying items you don’t need. For more on how to save on groceries, check out our article here.
Use Public Transportation: If you own a car, it may be worth considering using public transport to save on gas, maintenance, and insurance costs. Alternatively, walking or cycling can be an effective way to get some exercise and save money.
Find Low-Cost Entertainment: Instead of spending money on expensive entertainment, look for free or low-cost activities that your family can enjoy. This could include hiking, visiting a museum, or playing board games at home. Here are 75 ideas for free entertainment.
Boosting your Income
Increasing your income is the obvious way to help you with not having enough money but that’s not easy. Here are some good ways to bring in a little more:
Start a Side Hustle: A side hustle can help you earn extra money outside of your regular job. Look for opportunities to leverage your skills or hobbies to make money, whether it be as a freelance writer, tutor, or social media manager. Even something as easy as taking online paid surveys for money for Branded Surveys can help boost your income. Click here for some more great side hustle ideas.
Explore Work-from-Home Options: Remote work and flexible schedules can help you save money on commuting costs and give you more time to focus on your family and side hustles. Look for work-from-home opportunities that match your skill set and interests. You can find some great work-from-home ideas here.
Seek Out Government Assistance Programs: There are many assistance programs available to help low-income families with food, housing, and healthcare costs. Look up what programs are available in your community and take advantage of these resources to help ease your financial burden. We will give you more information on this in the next section.
Living on a low income can be financially challenging. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help low-income families meet their basic needs. Below are some of the resources you can take advantage of:
Food Assistance: Food assistance programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) can help you put food on the table for you and your family. Contact your local Department of Social Services to see if you’re eligible and get started.
Housing Assistance: Housing is often the biggest expense for most families. If you’re having trouble making rent or mortgage payments, there are government-assisted housing programs like Section 8 that can help you. Additionally, some charitable organizations and non-profits offer rental and housing assistance.
Healthcare Assistance: Medical bills can be expensive, but there are programs to help low-income families access healthcare services. Some states offer programs like Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) that provide affordable or free healthcare coverage.
Utility Assistance: Energy assistance programs like LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) can help offset the cost of utilities, including heating and cooling bills. These programs vary by state and sometimes only accept applications during certain times of the year.
Education Assistance: Educational grants and scholarships can help pay for post-secondary education. Look into FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to see if you qualify for federal financial aid programs.
Community Assistance: Local churches, non-profits, and charitable organizations often assist to low-income families. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your community and ask for help. Search engines like Google are awesome for finding resources like this.
By utilizing the resources and assistance available, you can make ends meet and provide for yourself and your family. From food and housing assistance to healthcare and education programs, there are many options out there to help you improve your financial situation. And if you budget well, cut back on expenses, and supplement your income you can overcome financial obstacles and build a better future for yourself and your loved ones.