How to Make the Most on Minimum Wage – Useful Tips for Living on a Budget

As of January 2019, the minimum wage in  Richmond, Ca is $15.00/hr*, which full-time amounts to $31,200 before taxes. This rate reduces to $13.50/hour if the employer contributes pay at least $1.50/hour for the employee’s medical benefits planBased on housing cost and  Bay Area expenses it makes it almost impossible to believe that even with the city minimum wage being higher than the state rate of $12/hour, surviving on minimum wage in Richmond is still a challenge. There’s no getting around that, particularly if you are raising a family. However, there is hope. The key to covering the cost of living when earning minimum wage is to keep your regular expenses as low as possible and to avoid impulse spending on things you don’t really need. We know it sounds simple and even novel; however, RNHS believes creating a budget, getting creative, having open conversations, and creating financial goals with your family can make this challenging situation easier.

How to make the most of minimum wage Below are some other tips for spending, saving, and budgeting while earning minimum wage:

Housing – Is the highest monthly expense for most people. Some ways to keep housing costs affordable include:

  1. Shared housing – Consider getting a roommate, either a friend or a member of your family
  2. Rent only the space you need, this could be a room, or a finished basement (rather than a full apartment or house)
  3. Negotiate – in some cases, landlords are willing to reduce the rent in exchange for work, like mowing the lawn, painting, or performing other apartment management duties
  4. Check into Time-of-Use (TOU) electricity rates to keep your utility expenses down

Transportation – Consider public transportation, the Bay Area has a great transit system so you can map out your day and see how you can use  BART, AC transit free shuttle services, and Oakland free shuttle services to get around. Make transportation your motivation to see what the City of Richmond and surrounding areas have done and the great work the city has done with the creations of bike lanes. Let’s face it a car is necessary to get around town and enjoy the amenities of the Bay; by using alternatives it can cut down on the cost of gas,  insurance, parking, and maintenance costs that can add up to $100’s quickly within just a month. Consider looking for work that is within walking or biking distance from your home. Live near available public transportation routes, and get bulk/monthly passes for monthly savings. Alternatively, look into getting rides with others and negotiating deals with them. 

Food, Clothing, Furniture – Meal preparation is key to saving on food. Food tends to be at the top of the list of expenses, so plan out your meals, only grocery shop with a list and use Sundays as your food fun day to create your weekly meal plan. You can also prepare your lunch the night before instead of going out. If you have a back yard or small patio put your green thumb to work and create a garden Grow some of your own food if you’re able, if even a few tomatoes, lettuces, or other vegetables.  Be sure to download your local grocery app(s) to review their deals and coupons before you plan your next shopping trip. Always look for deals at the grocery store, and be sure to use a discount grocer if one is available rather than a higher-priced convenience mart.  Using coupons and discount/loyalty cards will save you money! Have your kids participate in the planning of meals to get them involved in trying new things and preparing their lunch and mid-day snacks. This is a great way to start getting them to learn about the cost and waste. You can also create a new meaning for a shopping spree by learning the art of thrifting. Make shopping for clothes and furniture an adventure. Take inventory of what you have and write a list of what you need to buy – no impulse shopping. Consider getting clothing, furniture, and other housing supplies at a local thrift store or churches.

Healthcare. While costs associated with healthcare are not always controllable, there are things you can do to minimize them, most of which revolve around staying healthy.  Take advantage of your health care providers health and wellness programs to get involved in the community. Check out The City of Richmond’s Zuma and swim classes so you can move more and stay active! Be proactive with your health by following the following tips: don’t smoke, get exercise, eat healthy/whole foods, drink plenty of water, reduce alcohol consumption, and get plenty of sleep.

Entertainment.  The value of living in the bay is that there are tons of entertainment and activity options that are free. Check out Eventbrite, Facebook and meetup for local events happening in your community that are FREE.  Even on a tight budget, there are things you can do to enjoy life. Look into free events like music or other arts. Have friends or family over for game nights. Take advantage of free movies, music, and books through your local library. Go for a hike or bike ride in a park with friends. 

Create a monthly expenses budget. The best way to do this is to review your finances monthly and examine your income vs. your expense. Write everything down to the penny.  We recommend using a financial app but whatever tool is best for you, stick to it and revisit your progress throughout the month. If it’s not on the list it can’t be bought and at the end of the month track your successes and identify ways you can improve the next month.  Be sure to include birthdays, anniversaries, office parties and impromptu activities. Budgets are important so make them work if they need to be flexible.  If this is a new concept and or you’d like to have an accountability partner to sit down with a neighborhood organization that offers free financial counseling services. They will help you review, understand, and layout your major monthly expenses as listed above and offer recommendations that meet your specific needs, which may include government assistance programs.

Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. (RNHS) helps residents understand and master the “basic” financial habits of budgeting, managing credit, and home-ownership. To learn about our FREE services, call us today at (510) 237-6459, visit our website, or reach out to us at Please be sure to follow us on Facebook.




Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. (510) 237-6459