Does having a few extra dollars saved for a rainy day sound great, but the idea of saving money seems like an impossible obstacle? The ability to have a nest egg tucked away, a health savings account, or a first home fund is a tremendous milestone. With a few simple budget-friendly tips, these victories are closer than you might imagine.
At Kodak Cares, we know managing a shoestring budget can be challenging, especially as many of us grapple with managing a household alongside being our own financial planner. If you're one of millions of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, the good news is, you aren't alone. Roughly 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, the majority being single mothers and people of color, and there are plenty of strategies to stay on top of your budget.
We believe in empowering Denver families to create strong, sustainable financial futures. Our community is so much more than a statistic. We're a Rocky Mountain family of hardworking planners who sometimes need a little help knowing where to begin. Take the obstacle out of budgeting with these budget-friendly tips for saving money, even when you're living paycheck to paycheck.
1. Write It Out, Map It Out, Plan It Out
The first step to creating a healthy budget is manifesting your goals. It may sound simple, but writing out your budget is key when it comes to empowering your financial freedom. Your budget planner can be handwritten in a notebook, generated on a spreadsheet, or even put in journal form. The important thing is the detail.
Begin by writing out your necessities. Rent, food, utilities, transportation, school expenses, and other needs are non-negotiable budget items. Then, break these into smaller categories such as eating out or money spent driving as opposed to taking public transit.
We understand that necessities take up the bulk of the budget for most individuals who live paycheck to paycheck. However, even within this bubble, there's room to evaluate any cuts and reductions, such as looking for resources in your area that offer energy and food assistance or adjusting your daily routine to reduce expenses. You can implement strategies like using free WiFi at libraries and cafes instead of paying for your own.
Next, add in the non-essentials. These can include things like streaming services, shopping, and entertainment. It's important not to be too extreme in cutting these expenses. Everyone needs a treat, and an overly strict budget isn't sustainable. Much like a diet that's too restrictive, we're more likely to "cheat" when we're too hard on ourselves.
Focus on small, achievable changes like canceling any subscriptions you don't use regularly and controlling the urge to overspend on payday. Many savvy savers find that setting a certain amount aside for treat-yourself-money is the best option. Take this amount out in cash each month so you know exactly how much you're allowed to splurge and are less tempted to go over your limit.
Don't be afraid to get creative! Little incentives will help frame a more positive outlook on budgeting in general as you set and achieve sustainable goals.
2. Prioritize Bills and Become a Negotiator
Debt happens to the best of us. Many families who live paycheck to paycheck fall into the trap of becoming overwhelmed and feeling as if they need to pay every bill and obligation at once.
Get comfortable being a negotiator. Call your local utility services and ask for grace when you need it. If you have student loans, get on an income-based repayment or forgiveness plan. Many of these plans may reduce your balance to zero temporarily, especially if you've recently taken a pay cut or lost your job. Even big credit card companies are open to negotiations. Never be afraid to reach out and explore your options.
Prioritize your bills by making a list of current, past due, and upcoming. Tackling the current bills is most important, then focus on paying what you can on any past due items. Look for flexible repayment plans and try to keep a good rapport with creditors by being open to communication and paying what you can to keep your account in good standing. All of these budget-friendly tips help you stay organized.
3. Open a Savings Account
Open a savings account, even if you only contribute $10-20 per month. Look for a savings account that requires a low minimum deposit and offers a solid interest rate. Credit unions are often a good option for healthy savings accounts. Many even offer introductory incentives to help you get started.
Once you've opened your account, commit to contributing a small amount each month. Some find it helpful to stay accountable by setting up recurring automatic payments. These can be adjusted at any time for months when you need to scale back or increased when things are going well. Think of your savings contribution as paying your most important person: yourself.
4. Start a Side Hustle
Consider picking up a side hustle to tackle past due bills, debts, and other items. Side jobs don't necessarily need to be exhaustive or take up a huge chunk of your day. Work-from-home side jobs are a great opportunity for single moms. Transcribing, content writing, and even taking surveys are all excellent sources of side income. Business savvy families even find success selling second-hand items on sites like eBay or crafts on Etsy. Tutoring and pet-sitting are other tried and true methods of earning a few extra dollars every month.
Before long, you'll be setting your own hours.
5. Practice Patience
Saving money doesn't happen overnight, even with these budget-friendly tips. Be gracious and patient with yourself. Even when progress feels slow, remember that every step -- and every penny -- counts. To help visualize your goals, set monthly and yearly check-ins to assess your overall financial health. Surround yourself with dynamic, supportive people who are also striving to be more financially accountable. Don't be afraid to pool resources, and make the most of childcare and carpool exchanges.
It takes a strong community to empower financial freedom. Check out 10 Ways to Grow a Loving Support System to put these budget-friendly tips into motion. Kodak Cares knows there's nothing more valuable than security. We're here to empower your success, from your first penny saved to your first home purchased.