Recently, a friend of mine shared a blog post on Facebook that had the internet up in arms. The post detailed how the author just couldn't handle living in an expensive city on crappy wages, and how it was their employer's fault they were living in poverty.
While working at a crappy job that doesn't pay enough for where you live sucks, it isn't the end of the world. There are ways around it, or ways through it. Let's dive into the ways you can find joy and live a decent life in an expensive place, on a low income, or both.
Let's face it, housing ain't cheap and the easiest way to make rent every month is by getting a roommate or two. This can be scary. You never know what kind of Pandora's box of crazy they might unleash on you. Try to remember this as you're searching for someone to take that extra room: roommates split the cost of utilities, rent, and can even split grocery costs if you get along well enough to share food with each other. (Bonus: this saves serious fridge room, too!) What does all of this mean? IT MEANS YOU PAY LESS MONEY EVERY MONTH TO LIVE.
If you're wanting a roommate that is similar to you, post a flyer about the room for rent at all your favorite places to hang out. Love coffee and vegan/organic/raw food? Post your flyers at your favorite coffee shops, vegan restaurants, and Whole Foods. Would you die if your roommate blasted Ke$ha and Britney Spears at all hours of the day? Post your flyer at small local concert venues.
For me, I wasn't incredibly picky, and usually posted my need for a roommate on Craigslist. Sometimes, I even got lucky and found great friends from the unknown roommate situation. Whatever happened, I always ended up saving money because the rent bill would be split two, three, or even six ways!
This might not be common knowledge, but when you are living paycheck to paycheck, you have to budget. Eating $10 lunches and dinners everyday isn't going to get you very far. Shop smart. Buy generic brand groceries. Save fancy meals for special occasions and try to pack your own lunches. Brew your own coffee at home instead of spending several dollars every morning. Buy boxed wine instead of bottles. Want to really save money? Give up drinking all together! (Easier said than done for a lot of people, I know, but it is possible to have fun sober, and drinks add up.)
Laundry can be washed less often (as long as it isn't dirty or smelly). Hair schools provide a low cost option for salon visits. If you want to go even cheaper, box dye your hair, and paint your own nails. Shop for clothes at low-priced chains like Target, Ross, TJMaxx, Gordman's, and even thrift stores. My coworker regularly shows up in designer duds found at Goodwill for $5. These places all have great low cost home decor as well.
If you're needing to really cut costs, you can stop shopping altogether and only buy the necessities. This is also quite liberating to do because you end up realizing just how much "stuff" doesn't matter.
There are a lot of ways to save money on transportation. Carpool to work, ride a bike or even walk if you're close enough. If you can get by without a car, sell yours. You'll likely save hundreds of dollars a month when you don't have to pay for gas, insurance, parking, and car payments. Most overpriced cities have mass transit options that can help you get by without a vehicle. The perk to this is you'll have amazing legs from all the exercise, and probably end up with great health as well.
As awful as it sounds to give up your iPhone, there are also great reasons to think about it. Data is expensive. Cell phone companies still sell basic flip phones that will allow you to text, and call people. The phones and monthly plans cost pennies compared to a $650 iPhone with data, and you'll end up engaging more with people because you won't be distracted by Facebook or Instagram notifications, or even Candy Crush. Prepaid cellphone plans give you freedom from contracts, and you can go without a phone whenever you need to pay other bills instead. If you do have an iPhone, you can opt for one of these plans. On a non-paying month, your iPhone will still work if connected to wifi.
The main reason to get a library card is for the FREE BOOKS. We all love getting a new book and cracking the binding ourselves as we pour over the pages, but in all reality, if you're strapped for cash, new books are a luxury. The library likely has what you're wanting to read. Did you know you can also check out DVDs? My favorite place to rent movies in college wasn't Blockbuster, or Redbox. It was the campus library. They would let me check out several DVDs at a time, and we held many a great movie night for free just by using the local library. Libraries don't have all of the newest movies, but they do have great ones that are worth watching. Go check it out! (Pun intended.)
Some of the best times of my life were when we had to be creative and not just do the typical dinner/movie routine Friday and Saturday night events. Often, we would just collect some wood, and go roast hot dogs, or get a volleyball and head to a park to play a fun little game.
Most cities have pretty cool things to do and see for free. Often, all it takes is a simple Google search of "free things to do in [city name]". We have found fairs, festivals, farmer's markets, and fun places to hang out just by doing this search every once in a while.
If you are strapped for cash and have extra time, get a second job. You can also create a second job -- a side hustle. I know quite a few people who earn money blogging, sell on Etsy, do freelance work, or even dog walk or nanny. If you're desperate for funds, this is the easiest way to get more. Look around, and be willing to not have the most desirable options. I know quite a few underpaid teachers who wait tables on weekends and in the summers. Do they want to? Not really, but they love having the cash to be able to do what they want to do. So, it's worth it.
It's not easy to move somewhere else, especially when all of your friends and family live somewhere you can't afford, but here's the thing -- there are plenty of affordable cities in America. Sure, living in San Francisco or Manhattan is desirable. It seems like the dream, but it's not if you're living in poverty and miserable. Look toward the inland states in the country. They are quite affordable, and many of their cities hold a lot of charm. It may be scary, but you may find that by doing so, you can actually afford to travel to visit the people you love that live in the city you left behind.
Being strapped for cash isn't easy, but it doesn't have to ruin your life. Learning to live within your means and to create extra money when you need it are valuable skills. Not everyone is handed a job that gives them killer benefits, great hours, and the perfect salary. This doesn't have to suck your happiness from you.
If you are unhappy with how you're living, do something about it. It's your life. It's your responsibility to feed, clothe and house yourself. It's your responsibility to pay the bills you take on.
It's your responsibility to give yourself a joyful life and the great thing about it is it's totally possible.
++What are some ways you were able to manage living on low paychecks?
Want to see the post that inspired this one? You can find it here.