Back in 2013, I was 24 years old, living a very active social life in a bustling Johannesburg while earning a salary of R4 000. My living expenses included rent, groceries, petrol, insurance and airtime.
I remember those years like it was just yesterday. I survived, but of course not without some growing pains.
Living on a low income is hard work, and it can often feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle. You’re constantly resisting the urge to give in to credit and the continuous pressure from peers and social media. But with a little effort and self-discipline, you may find that making ends meet will become easier than expected.
Here’s a crash course on surviving life on a low income.
1 Good ol’ budgeting
A lot of people overthink budgeting. They see it as some complicated spreadsheet that controls their life. Well, it’s only that if you’re not sure what you’re doing. A budget is merely a spending plan that will show you where exactly your money is going so that you know how to allocate it according to your needs.
2 Get a side hustle
No one should ever put all their financial eggs in one basket, low income or not. If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that you are not too good to get a second job or a side hustle to supplement your current income.
Whether it’s freelancing or waiting tables, extra income will always go a long way, especially if you earn a small salary. Get some ideas of side hustles you can start today.
3 Live at home or find a flatmate
Had I been from Johannesburg and living at home was an option, I would have taken the chance at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, as is the case for many people, staying at home isn’t always a possibility. That’s when sharing your space is the next best option. I went from renting a flat for R4 200 a month to paying only half that amount when I got a flatmate. Get some tips on how to manage costs with a roomie.
4 Needs over wants
There were times I found myself debating whether to spend money on food versus a Friday night out. You need to prioritise your basic necessities – food, rent and transport are the top needs for most people. You need to exercise discipline when your wants start sneaking in. And remember the golden rule: if you have to put it on credit, then you can’t afford it.
5 Start an emergency fund
I resigned from my low-paying job in the winter of 2013 without a plan, a job to go to or any money saved. That is a recipe for disaster and debt. Ensure that you start a rainy-day fund for unforeseen circumstances, like losing your job. Being able to save something, no matter how small it is, will keep you motivated. Check out how you can use MyPocketto start saving.
Remember that low-paying jobs don’t last forever, especially if you invest in yourself. So stay positive and perhaps learn a new skill.