by Billy Moller
When it comes to work and money, there are two prevailing schools of thought: either you find a job that will pay the wage you need for the lifestyle you want, or you live a lifestyle that can be supported by the kind of job you love to do. In an ideal world, everyone would make lots of money doing rewarding, fun jobs, but this rarely happens right away. For social workers and other rewarding but low-paying careers, a meager income can present a real challenge.
Fortunately, it’s very possible to live on a low salary while you pursue a career you’ll love. As an added bonus, learning to manage your money and live a simple, frugal lifestyle will establish good money habits that will last you throughout your life, even if you later start earning more.
Here’s how you can stretch your paycheck:
Make a budget.
You can’t control your spending until you know how much you have to spend. Draft up a simple budget showing income in and expenses out, and keep track of each penny. This will help you know exactly how much you have and find those places that need to be trimmed down.
Put aside some money.
Before paying your bills or making any purchases, set aside a small amount of every paycheck into a savings account. If you have a hard time not spending it, put the account in a different bank and lock up the card.
Cut your grocery bill.
Food is one of the first parts of a budget that can be slashed, often substantially. Learn how to cook and focus on homemade meals rather than eating out. Learn to make your own breads or condiments. Homemade food is cheaper, healthier and tastes better than commercially-prepared alternatives, and cooking is a rewarding and cheap hobby.
Buy in cash.
Don’t let yourself fall back on credit cards or other financing methods. Instead, use layaway or simply save up for major purchases. You’ll save money on interest rates and avoid damaging your credit if you can’t keep up with payments.
Before committing to a purchase, see if you can find the same item used. Shopping at thrift stores, yard sales and pawn shops is a great way to get items for low prices and reduce the amount of trash that ends up in landfills.
Focus on experiences, not goods.
Instead of spending your money on shopping, make life experiences or spend quality together time with friends and family. You’re more likely to remember an event more than any trinket or souvenir, and lots of experiences can be cheap or free.
Frugality is a lifestyle choice. Instead of looking at it as a means to an end, consider it a sustainable lifestyle that you are committed to living so that you can afford to pursue the career that you love. The best part about living within your means is that it often coincides with living an eco-friendly lifestyle; by avoiding unnecessary expenses and buying used items, you reduce the amount of commercial production and wastage. You will be doing the right thing for yourself and the environment, and that feeling is definitely worth the price of giving up a few extravagant purchases.
Billy Moller is a finance-savvy freelance writer for msw online programs, which can help you pursue a career in social work from the comfort of your home.