Updated: Sep 05, 2023

4 Savings Strategies for People with Low Income

If you don't have high income, learn about the different ways that you can still build up your savings to reach your financial goals.
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Saving is difficult for many people in America. Still, having some money in a savings account is very important.

If you encounter an unexpected expense, such as a medical bill or car repair, you want to be able to pay for it out of savings. If you can’t, you’ll have to take on debt to pay the bill.

That just makes the expense cost even more since you’ll have to pay interest charges on top of everything else.

There are a lot of reasons you might have trouble building up a balance in your savings account.

You might have a lot of bills to pay or a large student loan balance. Another common reason is having trouble with spending your savings on things you don’t really need.

You also might simply not earn much money and not have enough left over each month to save.

Learn some saving strategies that will help you build up some emergency savings.

1. Automatic Transfers to a Savings Account

One of the best ways to build up savings is to make regular deposits to a savings account. The balance of the account will earn interest each month, and the regular additions to the account will speed up the compounding even further.

It can be difficult to remember to make a deposit every month, so one way to do this is to set up automatic transfers. Nearly every bank will let you set up recurring transactions.

You could have your bank move $5, $10, or $20 from your checking account to your savings account each month. Even a small recurring transfer will help you build up a large balance given enough time.

2. Direct Deposit into Your Savings Account

Setting up direct deposit into your savings account is like setting up automatic transfers but can be even more effective.

When you sign up for direct deposit, each pay period your paycheck is deposited to your bank account.

This saves you time because you won’t have to visit your bank every other week to deposit a paycheck. The money will be available to spend on the morning of payday, without you having to do anything.

Many employers now allow you to split your direct deposit into multiple different bank accounts. You could have your employer deposit a small portion of your paycheck to your savings account every other week.

This means that the money will never show up in your checking account, so you won’t be tempted to spend it. It also removes the risk of overdrawing your checking account with an automatic transfer.

If you have your savings account at a different bank than your checking account, direct deposit is a great option.

Some banks may charge a fee for transfers to an external account. Transfers between banks also tend to be slower than transfer within a single bank. Direct deposit lets you avoid these headaches.

3. Take Advantage of Special Savings Programs

Many banks offer programs specifically designed to help people save. One of the hardest parts of saving is making it a habit, so integrating saving into things you already do can make it much easier.

For example, Bank of America offers the Keep the Change program.

This program takes all of your Bank of America card transactions and rounds them up to the next dollar. It then deposits that extra money to your Bank of America savings account.

If you bought lunch for $6.42, your card would be charged for $7 and $.58 would be deposited into your savings account.

If you make an average of ten purchases per week and have $.50 deposited for each transaction, you’ll save $5 per week.

After one year, you’ll have saved $260, which is enough to cover some small, unexpected expenses. And this is without having to do anything different than you already are.

Other banks offer similar programs, so see if a bank near you offers one you could take advantage of.

4. Use an Automatic Saving App

If you can find a bank that offers a program like Bank of America’s Keep the Change, or you want a system that’s a little more advanced, you’re not out of luck.

You can try using an app like Acorns which will help you invest your spare change. That gives you the opportunity to grow your savings much faster than a savings account, but investing does bring some risk.

Acorns works like Keep the Change in that it rounds up your card transactions to the next dollar. It takes the extra money and deposits it into your Acorns account, and then invests the balance in low-cost mutual funds and ETFs. If the stock market does well, your savings will grow much faster than it would have in a savings account. If the market does poorly, you could lose some of your savings.

Acorns also offers a feature called “Found Money.” Companies partner with Acorns to offer bonus cash back when you make purchases from them. You can save money on purchases from companies like Apple, Airbnb, Barnes & Noble, and Groupon.

Acorns isn’t the only app that helps people save while they shop. Other apps such as Digit, Chime, and Qapital have similar programs.

The downside of these accounts is that they often charge fees. Depending on how much you have available to save, using one of these programs to save may be counterproductive due to the costs.

Reduce the Temptation to Spend Money

One of the biggest barriers to building up savings spending money that you intended to save.

Everyone has felt like their money has been burning a hole in their pocket at one point or another.

Once you’ve built up some savings, reducing the temptation to spend that money is just as important as adding to it.

Online savings

One great way to reduce the temptation to spend your savings is to open an online savings account.

If you open a savings account at your usual bank, you’ll be tempted to access your money every time you visit your local branch.

You’ll also be regularly reminded of the account’s balance as you’ll see it when you log in to your account to manage your checking account.

Keeping your savings account out of your mind can go a long way towards reducing the temptation to spend. Having the account at a bank that isn’t the one you use on a daily basis is the best way to do this. We specifically recommend online savings accounts for a few reasons.

One is that online savings accounts are easy to open.

They often have very low minimum balance requirements. Most banks will force you to deposit between $25 and $100 to open a savings account.

You might not be able to come up with that much money at once. Online savings accounts can be opened with deposits as low as a penny, making them much easier to open.

Online savings accounts also charge much lower fees than traditional savings accounts do. Usually, there’s no minimum deposit requirement r hoops to jump through. There just won’t be a monthly fee at all.

Traditional savings accounts often charge a fee of a few dollars unless you can meet a few requirements every single month.

Finally, online savings accounts pay much better interest than savings accounts at other banks do.

It’s not unusual to get an interest rate that is between 10 and 100 times higher by choosing an online bank. If your goal is to build your savings, you definitely want to get an account with a good interest rate.

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Avoid an ATM card

Another way to reduce the temptation to spend your money is to choose a savings account that doesn’t offer an ATM card. You can also simply cut up the ATM card you receive when you open the account.

Making your savings more difficult to access will make it more difficult to spend the money.

You’ll have to actually plan out the process of visiting your bank or transferring the money to your checking account before you can spend it.

Adding just a few extra steps can have a surprisingly large effect on whether you do something.

That’s why not having an ATM card that lets you withdraw your savings from nearly anywhere makes it easier to preserve your savings.


There’s no doubt that saving is difficult, but like exercise and eating right, it’s an important part of your life.

Having some money in a savings account will help you deal with unexpected expenses without going into debt and can remove a lot of financial stress from your life.

Do what you can to automate the process of saving to make it easier to do. Then, make it difficult to spend the money you have accrued.