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Living off a minimum salary requires a couple of habitsWhen US Representative Janice Schakowsky tried surviving on a minimum wage with her husband, she had a lot of revelations in the end. Her story was published in 2014 on the Department of Labor blog. According to the narration from Department of Labor, she and her husband participated in the Live the Wage challenge for a week. They had to live on $77 each and this will cover their expenses for food, transportation, housing, insurance, dependents, etc. This $77 was the same amount that people earning $7.25 an hour had to live on. According to Rep. Jan, they didn’t make it to their budget.
Based on her narration, surviving on a minimum wage would require you to have the following habits:
- Budgeting. In the words of Rep. Jan, she said that “it takes meticulous planning and discipline to live on the minimum wage and still we went over $4.47.” She said that this was despite the advantages that they had over those who are really living in poverty. The planning that she is referring to is obviously, budgeting. You have to learn how to budget and stick to your budget plan. Without it, you will be unable to maximize your limited resources. You will end up failing to prioritize the important expenses. That can quickly lead you into debt.
- Self-control. Based on the quote that we mentioned, Rep. Jan also mentioned discipline. Having a budget plan is not enough. You need to have the self-control to follow what is stated in your budget. When you pass by something that you want to buy, you need to stop yourself because you know that your budget plan is telling you that you need to spend your money on something more important. You know that you deserve a break, but you cannot give in (ever!) because you just cannot afford it.
- Frugality. Rep. Jan also mentioned how she learned how to value a dollar while they were going through the challenge. Those who are surviving on a minimum wage are constantly thinking about what a dollar could pay for. You cannot afford to be careless because every penny counts. Since you have so little to spend, you need to use it only on things that you know is the priority. You have to implement the concept of frugality - wherein you focus on spending only on what is important and not on the unnecessary ones.
- Creative spending. Another thing that was not really stated but can be a helpful habit for those surviving on a minimum wage is to be creative when you spend. Given that you only have a little to spend, you have to try to find uses for products other than what they are made for. An example would be baking soda. Instead of spending for cleaning products, you can combine it with other liquids around the house (e.g. vinegar) and use it to clean or even unclog a drainage. If you have empty plastic bottles, you can use that to decorate your home.
- Hardworking. Finally, you also have to be hardworking to be able to survive on your salary. No matter how much you try to stretch every dollar, it will be hard to live a comfortable lifestyle when you only earn the minimum wage. You need to look for something that will add to your income. You can freelance, get a second job, or sell something. If you work 45 hours a week, you can probably get another part-time job - if you are physically able to do so. But if you can find something that you can earn from while staying at home (like cooking and baking items you can sell), then that should be a better arrangement for you.
The life of a minimum wage earner is difficult - there is no doubt about that. Here is a video from PBS NewsHour about the lives of 2 minimum wage earners in Seattle. This place is known to have one of the highest minimum wages - but it is still not enough for anyone to get by.Surviving on a minimum wage is one of the hardest things that you will have to do. This is why you need to think of a way to get yourself out of this situation. Even if the government gets everyone to raise the minimum wage, it is not a guarantee that it will keep you from going through the problems that you are going through right now.
Can you improve your life despite a minimum wage?We cannot say that it is impossible to improve your life when you only earn the minimum wage. It is possible. However, it will not be an easy task. Improving your financeswill take hard work, determination, perseverance, and commitment. Unless you increase your monthly cash flow, it will be hard for you to buy the things that will improve your overall life. These improvements include buying your own house, a car or even saving for your retirement. According to the data from HSH.com, if you want to buy a median priced house, you need to earn a specific amount of money. Below are the three metros with the lowest annual salary requirement.
- Cleveland: $33,714.17 ($16.20/hour)
- Pittsburgh: $33,838.57 ($16.26/hour)
- Cincinnati: $36,357.35 ($17.47/hour)
- Choose where you will live. Ideally, you want to live in the rural areas so you can save on rent. The cost of your house is usually the biggest expense in your budget. If you can get a roommate or find a cheaper place to live, that is what you should do to save a couple of hundred a month.
- Get rid of your car. This is easier said than done - that is true. However, you have to understand that a car will make surviving on a minimum wage even harder. If you can get a bike instead, that should make things easier on your budget.
- Go for freebies. Anything that you can get for free - go for it! These will help you use your limited resources to pay for something else or to put it aside to go to your savings. You can look for freebies to help you with entertainment needs.
- Opt out of debt. Unless you really have to, try not to go into debt. This is one expense that you do not need in your life. The interest rates are quite high and you do not want to waste your money on that. If you do have debt, make sure you have a plan to pay it off. There are debt relief programs like debt consolidation that can make payments easier.
- Own fewer possessions. When you are surviving on a minimum wage, you want to detach yourself from material possessions because you know that you cannot afford to buy a lot of them anyway. Owning less will also allow you to live in a smaller house. That will cost you less in everything. If you have a lot of items in your house, you should try to sell some of them off. The amount that you will earn can be added to your savings.