How To Save Money On A Low Income

Learn how to save money on a low income. I’ll show you creative ways to stretch your dollar and how to take advantage of free money hacks to make more money!

When you’re not making a lot of money, it’s challenging to find ways to save money and pay all your bills at the same time. I’ve used many of these resources to help improve my financial situation and I’m confident it will help you too.

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How To Save Money On A Low Income

Can you really save money on a low income?


But you need to change your mindset.

I’ve stated this over and over again on this site; saving money and making money is more or less the same thing. Allow me to give one simple example:

Person A = Johnny

Johnny “The Wannabe” made $100 today. He also spent on the same day:

  • $25 on groceries
  • $25 on gas
  • $25 on clothes
  • $25 at a restaurant

This leaves him with nothing left at the end of the day. No savings.

Now let’s look at Jane.

Person B = Jane

Jane “The Ninja” also made $100 today. She spent on the same things Johnny did:

  • $25 worth of groceries
  • $25 worth of gas
  • $25 worth of clothes
  • $25 worth of restaurant food

This should leave her with nothing, but she has $25 remaining.


Because Jane knows that every last cent counts and stretches the value of her dollar by using money-saving apps to:

  • Save on Groceries = using Ibotta ($5 referral bonus) to take advantage of special grocery offers and scanning receipts to earn cash back
  • Save on Gas = using Upside (30¢/gal bonus) to save money on every gallon of gas purchased
  • Save on Clothes = using Rakuten ($30 sign-up bonus) to earn cash back on clothes at her favorite stores
  • Save at Restaurants = using Seated ($10 welcome offer) to earn cash back on her restaurant bill

If you look at the $25 Jane saved from a different viewpoint, one can argue that she made $125 that day and spent $100.

Because that’s what Johnny (and other average people) would have needed to earn in order to have $25 left over.

Saving money IS making money.

Today is going to be a special post that focuses on incremental savings. I love writing about topics like this because I feel that a lot people can relate to it.

Do you want earn $200 right now?

  • Chase Bank is offering a $300 welcome bonus! Simply open a checking account and make direct deposits totaling $500 or more. There’s no credit check, it’s completely legit, and takes minutes to sign up for an account.

Experiences Of Low-Income Households

Watch enough TV and you might be fooled to think that everyone is doing well besides you. That’s simply not true.

Today, 30% of families make less than $31,275 a year. While that’s the level the government considers poverty (low-income households), there are many more families that barely make more than that. The reality is many are struggling to make ends meet.

You know that you’re living on a low income when you’re:

  • worrying about how to pay your next rent or mortgage payment because you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck
  • stressing out during the holidays because that means more bills you need to figure out how to pay
  • eating at home all the time because there’s no such thing as “going out for dinner”
  • going on vacations are more like staycations because you can’t afford where you really want to go
  • taking hand-me-downs from friends and family who are more financially better off
  • relying on some form of government aid

My Real Life Story Growing Up With A Low Income

If you’re a regular reader of The Money Ninja, you must be thinking:

“Wait, you’re the guy who has a high-paying corporate job, a blog that generates hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, and dozens of passive income streams. What do you know about low-income?”

I can’t hide the fact that my income is higher than average, but back in college, I worked at Banana Republic making $8.50 an hour. Before that, I started my “working career” at a local grocery store earning minimum wage. The struggle is real and I know how it feels.

Most of my wealth today is not because I saved every single dollar I earned. What fun would life be if you can’t buy a cup of coffee or go on that vacation because you’re squirreling away every last penny?

My wealth comes from understanding that life is a long-term game and you need to play this “game of life” strategically. You don’t need to take on big risks because you want to hit a home run.

There are so many ways to make extra money during your spare time and even more ways to save money when you need to spend it. Then you use can that extra money to consistently invest over time and build your wealth.

Although I’m a huge proponent of making your money work for you, this post isn’t about accumulating wealth through savings and investing. That’s for another day for a different post, but know that I still continue to save, invest, and make extra money on the side.

Ways to Save Money on a Low Income

1. Change Your Money Mindset

If you remember anything at all from this post, this is it.

This is the most important step that you need to accomplish. Once you fully realize what this means and get through this first step, I promise you that you’re more ahead in finances than 90% of the people out there.

I often get messages from lower-income friends asking me how to improve their finances, but it’s usually followed by one of these excuses:

“I’m not looking to make $50, that’s not going to change my life.”

“I don’t have time to read through your blog posts, can you just tell me what to do?”

“These people are all MBA or Ph.D. folks. I’ll never get to their level.”

“Work for extra money? No thanks. I’d rather watch my favorite TV shows when I get home from work.”

It’s really time to cut those excuses.

Stop believing that you’re the victim and start taking action. Every day you waste finger-pointing and playing the blame game is a day you’re losing towards financial independence.

Wealthy people become rich because they took action. They don’t use excuses to stop themselves from starting.

I mean, take a look at this old picture of Jeff Bezos when he first started

Change Your Money Mindset: early days of Jeff Bezos and
(Image from CNBC)

Does that look like the richest guy in the world to you?

Jeff had a dream and he worked on it every day. He didn’t use excuses. He took action.

Now, I’m not saying you’re going to be a millionaire someday (at least not overnight!), but changing your mindset will improve your life and finances significantly. Just because you’re living on a low income, it doesn’t mean that it has to be like that forever.

My friend said it best in one of our chats:

Change Your Money Mindset: Instagram chat on home runs vs stealing bases
(Screenshot from Instagram)

It goes back to what I said earlier. You don’t need to try to hit home runs. Most of the time you’ll strike out anyway. Stealing bases is easier.

This mindset can also be applied to your financial situation. You don’t need some get-rich-quick scheme when making $50 here and $100 there will get you to the same place.

If you’re not fully convinced, I’d highly recommend reading The Millionaire Next Door and How Rich People Think. It will open your eyes.

The books are available on Amazon and you can read it for free with this 2-month free subscription to Amazon Kindle Unlimited.

2. Earn Free Gift Cards to Reduce Your Spending

One way to save money when you have a small budget is to use gift cards for your expenses. If you’re ever feeling tight on cash, I recommend joining the best survey sites like Swagbucks and Survey Junkie to start collecting free gift cards to your favorite stores.

These sites are absolutely free to join and you only need an email address to become a member!

How survey sites work is you get rewarded with cash via PayPal or free gift cards for doing things like completing easy surveys, playing games, and surfing the web.

Most survey sites offer gift cards to your favorite places like Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Home Depot, and Best Buy. Here’s a screenshot of me redeeming my Swagbucks points for a free $250 Amazon card!

How To Save Money On A Low Income - screenshot of $250 Amazon gift card redemption at Swagbucks
(Image from Swagbucks)

3. Save Money by Reducing Your Food Expenses

Food is usually the second biggest expense for most people. Fortunately, it’s an area where there are tons of opportunities to save money, like buying groceries when they’re on sale and clipping coupons from local grocery ads.

Another lesser known strategy is earning cash back and rewards just by scanning your grocery receipts.

My favorite app for this is Shopkick ($5 sign-up bonus) because it’s so easy to use and the points really add up fast! With Shopkick, you’ll earn points every time you:

  • Scan barcodes from items in store
  • Scan pictures of your receipts with promoted items purchased
  • Earn extra rewards when you buy from popular brands that partner with Shopkick
Save Money By Reducing Your Food Expenses - Fetch Rewards
(Image from Fetch Rewards)

Each week, they also have special offers and promotions that you can participate in and earn even more points. Then redeem your points for cash back or for gift cards at retailers like Amazon, Apple, Google, Target, and Safeway.

Join Fetch Rewards and use my referral code 9EFD5C to get 1,000 bonus points after scanning your first receipt!

4. Make Money from Sign-Up Offers

Sign-up offers are my favorite ways to make money fast.

When I was in college in the early 2000s (where did all the time go?!?), I scoured the internet to find the best free money offers available and made more than my college friends who worked part-time jobs after classes.

Today, there are so many ways to make money from sign-up offers it’s ridiculous!

Easy Sign-Up Offers

Here are several easy sign-up offers that take very little time and money:

  1. Get free stocks with Webull – Webull is a free stock trading app that will give you free stocks for signing up and depositing just $1 into your Webull account! You can withdraw your $1 anytime after that along with the cash from the free stocks. Want to learn more? See my Webull review.
  2. Make $325 With SoFi – SoFi is another popular cash management account that gives new users a $325 bonus for opening a SoFi checking & savings account and completing a direct deposit.
  3. Make $100 With Chime – Chime is a digital cash management app with zero monthly fees. New users will receive a $100 bonus when they open an account and make a direct deposit of $200 or more. That’s a 50% return on your money! Details here.
  4. Get Free Crypto and Bitcoin – Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies are all the rage lately, but a lot of people are nervous about buying them at these prices. Well, have no fear, here’s a risk-free way to get some. Coinbase will give you up to $167 in free cryptos just to learn about them through watching videos!
  5. Earn $25 For Driving Your Car Around With The Root App – Root will rate your driving skills and provide you a car insurance quote based on your rating. You don’t need to switch your insurance, they will pay you $25 just for trying it out! See my review of Root.

Interested in other money-making ideas? See all of them here.

Big Money Sign-Up Offers

These big money sign-up offers take a little more time and a little more money, but offer HUGE cash bonuses:

  1. Chase Bank has a new checking account bonus that gives you a $300 for opening a new account and making a single deposit of any amount.
  2. American Express is offering an easy $300 for opening a high-yield savings account – no direct deposit required.
  3. TD Bank launched a promotion where you can earn $500 for opening deposit accounts with them.

Interested in other big bonus offers? Here’s a list of all the best bank bonus offers!

5. Cut Your Expenses with a Personal Finance Robot

Do you have a bunch of subscriptions to places and services you don’t even use anymore? Or maybe you signed up for free trials that turned to monthly subscriptions because you forgot to cancel them in time?

It’s easy to lose track of what you’re subscribed to! I’m so guilty of this. Off the top of my head, here are my monthly bills:

  • Streaming Services (Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, discovery+)
  • Internet (Comcast)
  • Shipping (Amazon Prime)
  • Gym (Equinox)
  • Cell Phone (T-Mobile)
  • Gaming (Stadia)

All of this adds up to hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month and the sad part is I’m not even using half of them.

This is why I’m excited to tell you about Trim, a personal finance assistant that can help you save money fast! Trim shows you all the things you’re subscribed to and will help you automatically cancel the ones you don’t use.

Trim Your Expenses - Trim app on phone graphic
(Image from Trim)

What’s really cool is that Trim will also negotiate bills on your behalf and get you a discount. I tried it on my Comcast internet and Trim lowered my bill four times in a single year!

6. Save Money on Gas

Gas prices are going up and this hurts people on a low income the most. Unless you own an electric car, going to the gas station is an evil necessity – you need gas, but can’t control the price you pay. It changes every week and most of the time not for the better.

Enter your prince (or princess) in shining armor… Upside! The Upside app partners with gas stations to save you money on every gallon of gas you buy!

Download the app and enter promo code NINJA30 to get a 30¢ per gallon cash back bonus the first time you use the app to buy gas. Want to save more? Head on over to my post that provides additional promo codes to use. You can also read my Upside review to learn more.

Other Quick Ways To Save Money On A Low Income: Save Money On Gas With Upside App
(Image from Upside)

7. Look for Free Things to Do

Sometimes we get hung up on the notion that everything costs money, but there are plenty of activities you can do that doesn’t:

  • Going for a walk on the beach
  • Hiking up trails like the ones near Rancho Palos Verdes
  • Visiting a museum, aquarium, or zoo during free admission days
  • Reading a book at a nice park
  • Taking part in a free walking tour

A list of free things to do will depend on where you live, but there’s always something you can do that doesn’t require you to pull out your wallet.

The Bottom Line

Surviving on a low income is really difficult, especially during times like this. Turn “barely surviving” into “thriving” by changing your mindset. Don’t accept the situation you’re in because there are so many ways to improve your finances.

This post can’t possibly cover everything you can do to save more money, but it’s a good start. I’m hoping it will inspire you to see the possibilities and bring out the hustler from within you!

What other ways have you tried to save money? Are there anything that has helped you a lot? Share with your fellow ninjas!

About John Pham

John Pham is a personal finance expert, serial entrepreneur, and founder of The Money Ninja. He has also been fortunate enough to have appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, and U.S. News & World Report. John has a B.S. in Entrepreneurship and a Masters in Business Administration, both from the University of New Hampshire.

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