The last 10 years (9 considering the unstable hours), I have worked mostly casual positions in hospitality and retail. I became inspired by these motivational speakers and YouTubers when they’d share their experiences. How they would save and what that would afford them – e.g. freedom, travel, security. Could I have this life? If I had this life, what would it mean?
Saving money would address two important needs for me: financial security and personal accomplishment. This would be my “why”.
Below, I share some tips I learned over the years to save money, no matter what income you’re earning.
Find your “why”, goal setting & approximate earnings.
What’s your reason to save? University payments? Buying a house? Attending a concert?Travelling? It could be similar to my goal of personal accomplishment and financial freedom. No matter what your “why” is, write it down somewhere or repeat it to yourself each day from here on out. When things get difficult – and it will – your “why” can serve as a reminder.
I set myself a goal of $5,000 over 12 months. This may seem like too much time to save this amount, but with my earnings (usually minimum wage or less = AUD $18-$20 or less per hour) it would be an accomplishment.
Discussing my goals with my boyfriend, we agreed that I would deposit savings into his account. That way, I wouldn’t have access to it. It would be like a slow-cooker — set it and forget it, except with money!
I spent a few months collating my approximate earnings over time. I made sure that working my minimum shifts, I could afford necessities of life: rent, phone bill, car payments, groceries. If all went south, I knew I could sell my car or phone and still survive on a skeleton wage.
Disclaimer: I understand that not everyone has access to this or that everyone has the same benefits within and outside of Australia.
Being on minimum wage and paying the amount of rent I was paying back then, meant that I qualified for Rent Assistance. If you’ve never heard of that, it is a small payment you can receive from the Australian government to help with rent. You must be eligible, apply and await approval before receiving this payment. For me, this made a huge difference.
Click the link below if you’d like more information.
Expect the unexpected.
During this time, things came up that I didn’t account for: family events, special holidays, not to mention winter and the dreaded flu… there were times where I’d put little to no savings away. I struggled to accept these normal occurrences like illness, drop in business at work and general life hiccups. Every second I wasn’t working, meant I wasn’t working toward my goals.
I needed to start expecting the unexpected – go back to basics: one of the reasons I started saving was for financial security. And when I got sick or if a family event came up, I could afford to pay for it.
And just like that, slowly but surely, financial security = check!
Every week, as soon as I got paid, I’d pay my rent and my bills. Without question. I’d then transfer money to my boyfriends’ account. This kept me accountable. If I asked for money, it would need to be under either of these conditions:
- Would not put my savings into a 50% deficit.
- Emergencies only! Meaning, illness, unexpected bill or special occasion.
Staying consistent was the biggest lesson for me. I was used to spending money without a care. Now I had this responsibility and accountability on my shoulders. I began to think about money differently. If I could achieve my goals, it would mean being a step closer to a future of financial stability.
Celebrate, track & automate.
Each month, I would ask Luke where I was at with my savings. These conversations were sometimes difficult to have because I’d be so disappointed in myself if I missed a payment or was $100-200 off my progress mark. Looking back, I wished I remembered that progress no matter how small, was still progress!
To track and plan expenses, you can draw up a monthly table, use an Excel spreadsheet or even create a table in Word. Predicting upcoming expenses including medical bills, birthdays, sentimental anniversaries or family holidays can really help you to achieve your goals.
Automation was new to me, but I utilised it without realising! I used my iPhone calendar to plan expenses every week, no matter what the event. I set my rent/bills on “recurring” for so I didn’t need to re-type it. I also automated my phone bill each month. Without lifting a finger, one of my bills were always paid. I no longer needed to worry about whether I missed a payment or think about when it was due.
If you’re able to, automate one or all necessary payments. Even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, knowing that one of your bills will never be pending can ease one stress off your shoulders. If you can’t automate payments, automate the organisation of your expenses. Set reminders on “recurring” so eventually it won’t be a surprise when a bill comes up and it’ll become a habit. We all have responsibilities, it just depends how we carry them out!
Save within your means.
A famous phrase is to “live within your means” and that’s good advice but I think it frames your mindset to be rigid. You may have to see the doctor and pay for medication — which could mean you can only put away $50 or less into savings. So what? You’re still making the best effort. Save within your means.
Here’s an Example of My Weekly Expenses*:
**Job 1 and 3 were my main sources of income. It also fluctuated depending on whether we were low on staff, if there was a function/birthday on or if there was a live act that weekend.
Snapshot of my crazy life: I worked days, nights, weekends… I’m actually surprised how many jobs I took on just to get through at times. 7:30am start at the first job, 1-5pm at another job and then 9pm-4am at the third job. Being young, I had the energy and the motivation – that worked for me!
Please remember that if you’re spreading yourself too thin and become stressed, irritated or start losing sleep — STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND RE-EVALUATE. There’s no point in suffering and negatively affecting your mental or physical health.
Some people benefit in pushing through self-imposed, rigid rules. Some don’t. Find what works for you and stick to it!
Fight the boredom.
Another thing I struggled with was the feeling of boredom. After a few months of saving, the feeling of doing something new had worn off. I wanted to go back to my old life of shopping and going out until the early hours of the morning.
If your budget is tight, find free things to do – go for walks in a new neighbourhood, find a new trail, re-watch old movies, play board games, visit friends or have them visit you. If you have access to internet, there are so many platforms for expression, and passing the time: YouTube, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, Quora, Tumblr and so forth.
This journey was not glamorous by any means! Although you better believe that if I happened to work 28-30 hour weeks, I would live it up! It’s all about balance. You can’t keep yourself cooped up at home with a mindset of “I can’t”. You can, it’s about finding a new way of doing the things you love and enjoy whilst on a budget.
Create extra income.
As you know, a job that is casual in nature means it’s mind-numbing to predict how much income you’ll earn the following week.
However! It doesn’t make your goal impossible.
I would pick up extra shifts by scrolling through a local Facebook group where employers/managers were looking for staff to fill hours with last minute notice.
Another way I’d pick up shifts was to build rapport with other stores in the same company. In many instances, I was able to work at multiple locations to make up my hours. It did require travel whether it be public transport or paying for my car expenses but it was worth it for the extra dollars in my pocket! I would often take public transport to save on petrol. I figured that if I had the spare time, I’d rather spend it travelling to my next shift!
Lastly, I would flip items online. Whether it be clothes, furniture or luggage – I was selling it for extra income. I would warn that it can be slow, so it requires patience!
In this day and age, income possibilities are vast.
Remember that you’re doing the best you can.
Throughout this time of saving, I often felt like I wasn’t doing enough. But looking back, I know I was just being hard on myself.
A year later, I managed to save approximately $4,400. I predicted with the hours I was getting from two jobs, I’d at least reach $5,000 by the end of the month. Unfortunately, my hours were cut by 70% due to the decline in business (perks of a casual job, amirite?). Nevertheless, I saved a decent amount!
I was so proud of myself for getting to that point.
It can take time for us to reach the next step in our career, land a job with stable hours or find a place that pays us the equivalent for the work we do. So don’t give up. Give it your focus, patience and dedication!
I hope these tips have helped motivate you to save for your next trip or for a rainy day.
If you can save on minimum/below minimum wage, you will always have the ability, discipline and patience to work towards financial freedom as you move into higher income.