How to Survive with a Minimum Wage Salary

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Minimum wage gets millions of Americans by on the lowest salary lawful per state. But just because it is legal and lawful, doesn’t mean people actually get by easily. Because of the considerably low pay, in addition to the rising costs of living in the country, many advocates around the country rally for wage increases. And they have succeeded because states like New York and California are increasing their minimum wages to $15 in a few years. Why? Because minimum wage barely helps people get by, especially people with children and families.

With the way the job industry is set up with unemployment, along with underemployment, many millennials are not finding jobs in our desires fields. Therefore, millennials are relying heavily on minimum wage jobs for income. And with the low wages of a minimum wage job, surviving on it can be a task, but there are a few steps one can take to get by.


minimum wage budget spending

Set a budget. Everyone should budget, but this is important especially when you are not making a lot of money. Do not spend unless you need to, and avoid overspending on unnecessary things. This does not mean you cannot buy these things, but you should delay buying things that are not a necessity. Buying your monthly pass for transit is more important than a new pair of sneakers. Likewise, putting gas in your car is more important than new accessories. Every month set a monthly budget of spending. With a minimum wage job, there is only so much you can spend on, especially if you’re renting and paying other bills. It may seem complicated but figure out a benchmark income to spend on food, clothes, and personal care products. Setting one will keep you from overspending and possibly allow you to build your savings.

Need vs. Wants

needs and wants minimum wage

Learning the difference is important. Knowing how to separate what you need and what you want, will save you from overspending. Create a list and decide what you need to get by every day, and what are the things that you want but can live without. A perfect example is something I dealt with last week. I wanted this lip scrub at Sephora, but I also needed to buy some formal clothing to attend a special occasion. So I just bought the clothes. Even though I didn’t get the lip scrub when I initially wanted it, eventually, I got the lip scrub free of guilt.

So yes, you may want to go to a concert, buy a new TV, or finally get the Breaking Bad DVD set, but you need food, clothes, water, and electricity.

Saving with Minimum wage

woman piggy bank 401k savings

Saving money can be a hard task to commit to, especially if you’re a big spender. But putting aside money every month will build your savings, and even allow you have money on hand for emergencies or items you want to gift to yourself and loved ones. The best way to decide how much you should save every month is finding out your disposable income. Disposable income is money you have left for yourself when you pay all your bills. You can determine this using this helpful calculator. Find out your disposable income and put away what you can. Try to do this weekly or bi-weekly (however you get paid), not monthly, to build your savings faster—but only if it will not hurt your pockets.

Shopping the Clearance

clothing rack minimum wage clearance

Do not ignore this money-saving opportunity found in every retail store near you. Like myself, for instance—I have been meaning to shop for a while, but I did not want to overspend. So, I set a $100 budget to get a few things at my favorite store, thinking it would be hard to achieve. As I shopped I stayed in the clearance section, calculated prices, and when I got to the register….$99. I was proud of myself for achieving this goal. But this was achievable because out of 6 items I bought, 5 of those were from clearance. So, do not underestimate the value of the clearance rack at any store. There’s a lot of good stuff on clearance.

Eating Out Less, Cooking More

cooking food on minimum wage

For many millennials, because of the pace of our lives, the convenience of fast food and takeout seems like a better option. Sure the quick preparedness of fast food may seem cheaper, but it’s not when you calculate totals for a week. The $15 you spend on lunch and dinner every day could decrease if you bought the grocery items yourself, and make food at home. Of course, that is not always the case, but a grilled chicken sandwich might cost $11. With $20, you can buy chicken cutlets, bread, and everything else to make more than one sandwich. You can make sandwiches all week, and the end result is saving more money. So cook more, and spend less. If you aren’t finding the time to cook, meal-prep. Meal-prepping may take a lot of time on the day you cook, but the rest of the week is a breeze.

Thinking of the most important things you need to get by can help you live a decently on minimum wage. Sure, we have to entertain ourselves and make ourselves happy with non-essential items, but if you’re focusing on buying them more than the things you need to live on, you may be a bit strained. So write down all your expenses, how much you make, and start setting a plan.




How to Survive with a Minimum Wage Salary

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