There’s a lot of conversation at the moment about women being paid their worth – and rightly so. Entrepreneurial spirit and a will to push for the salary that you want are to be admired – but they’re not always possible (or indeed desirable) to everyone.
For those working in public sector jobs, or still on the early rungs of the career ladder, there’s not necessarily a way to dramatically increase your income, at least in the short term.
According to a pre-pandemic study by the Women’s Budget Group, women accounted for 69% of low earners, with impacts felt even more strongly by Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women.
While there are clear cultural and systemic changes needed to ensure that women are paid fairly, there are also some practical things that will help you to enjoy life to the fullest on a limited income.
Budget, budget, budget (but make it enjoyable)
I know, I know, budgeting again. But your budget is like the heart of your financial life, and when it’s working correctly, it makes everything else healthier, too. Choosing a really simple, effective budgeting spreadsheet or planner, and making a habit of checking in with it each week, will help you to feel in control of your money and better equip you to make decisions.
Remember that your budget isn’t there to tell you what you can’t do – it’s there to inform you about the state of play, and help you to prioritise. If your budget always works out on paper, but you still find yourself struggling at the end of the month, keeping track of your daily spending will also help you to see where money is leaking out of your bank account.
When you’re working within tight margins, budgeting can feel like a real chore, so make sure that you pair your weekly budgeting session with a treat – like a bar of chocolate or your favourite self-care perk.
Prioritise what makes you feel good
This is really important. Of course, your essential bills like rent, mortgage and utilities may be eating up a large proportion of your monthly income, but if you want to live a full and happy life on a smaller salary, it’s really important to get your priorities straight, so that you can spend your disposable income wisely.
If a takeaway every once in a while is life-saving after a long day at work, make sure it’s included in your budget. Take some time to really think about the things that bring you joy, make a list of them and try to work the associated costs into your budget – and similarly, if there’s something non-essential that you’re currently paying for but not enjoying, cut it out.
Use technology to help you save
The last few years has seen the birth of lots of helpful apps and websites to help you to save money. One of the earlier examples being Martin Lewis’ now-ubiquitous website, moneysavingexpert.com. The information it contains will help you to get the best deals on essentials, enjoy life for less and choose the right financial products for you.
If you’re looking for something to help you decrease the mental load of looking after your finances, budgeting app Snoop features lots of these same deals and money hacks, but also links to your bank account to provide tailored suggestions and budgeting features, too. You could also try Emma, Yolt or new financial coaching app Claro for similar functions – browse the app store to find the right one for you.
“If there’s something non-essential that you’re currently paying for but not enjoying, cut it out.
Make saving a habit – but don’t put pressure on yourself to save huge amounts
We often tell ourselves that we’ll save when we can afford to, but the worst thing we can do when it comes to saving for the future is to wait. Even if you can only afford to put a small amount of money away, it’s brilliant to get into the habit of saving regularly early on – both for the sake of your money mindset, and also because these small amounts do add up.
Your first priority with saving, especially on a low income, could be to build an emergency fund to cover you in case of any unexpected events. Following that, your saving methods will depend on your financial and life goals – if you’re saving for a big goal that’s three-to-five years in the future, investing those small amounts of money could be a really smart move. You could also look to create ‘sinking funds’ for annual expenses like Christmas, school holiday activities, car insurance and council tax, which will really help to smooth out your monthly expenses.