Starting Your First Job? 8 Tips to Save Money Until You Get Paid

A woman walks her bicycle into her office building.
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In the nervous excitement leading up to starting your first job, there’s one thing you might overlook. That salary you were promised — the one you’ve already imagined spending — well, you won’t see any of that money until two weeks or so after your start date.

Plus, let’s be honest: Most first jobs don’t pay all that well. You’ve got lots of rungs above you on the ladder.

In the meantime, you’ve still got work attire, downtown parking and lunches to pay for — not to mention, you’re probably already low on cash.

To keep costs low on your entry-level salary, take note of these eight ideas for how to save money on work-related expenses in your first job.

1. Choose Second-Hand Work Attire

You don’t have to buy new clothes to make a fashionable first impression. Thrift stores and consignment shops have all kinds of interesting finds. Or organize a clothing swap with friends. Trade that strappy summer dress you rarely wear for your bestie’s gently worn job-interview outfit.

2. Skip the Pricy Makeup

If the cost of your go-to beauty products doesn’t fit your budget, consider switching to drugstore makeup. Freelance writer Jamie Cattanach saved over $40 when she decided to ditch her Sephora and MAC finds for makeup she bought at Walmart.

3. Do Your Own Hair

It feels nice to treat yourself to the salon for a new haircut or style, but that can wait until after a few paydays have come and gone. Former Penny Hoarder writer Desiree Stennett saved $200 by turning to YouTube to learn how to twist her hair with extensions rather than paying a stylist to do it. Freelancer Catherine Hiles has become a pro at dying her hair at home.

If going the DIY route just isn’t for you, spend less by getting a cheap haircut or style at a beauty school or a low-cost chain, like Great Clips.

4. Consider a Cheaper Commute

A young woman uses public transportation to get to work.
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Sure, driving your own car to work is convenient, but choosing another commuting option may be better for your budget. See if biking to work or taking public transportation would be viable. Or if your new job is a 45-minute drive across town, consider carpooling with a friend or neighbor who has a similar route. Ask your employer about existing carpool arrangements among coworkers.

5. Pack Your Own Lunches and Snacks

Spending $10 for lunch doesn’t seem expensive when you think of it in terms of one day. But if it’s a regular occurrence, you’re looking at $50 a week or over $200 a month for lunch alone. Save money by bringing lunches, snacks and beverages from home. Meal prep on the weekends so you aren’t stressing out about what to pack for the next day’s lunch after a long day at the office.

6. Take Advantage of Work Benefits

If you’ve got a job that offers employee benefits, carefully review your compensation package to take advantage of all you’re entitled to. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn your health plan includes gym membership discounts or that your employer will help you pay back student loans. Even perks like free coffee and snacks in the breakroom can save you a little dough.

7. Find Affordable Child Care

Several children are babysat in an at-home daycare.
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If you’ve got young children, finding someone to watch them while you’re working can present a major financial hurdle. Check if your employer offers on-site day care or tuition discounts at local centers. Depending on your household size and income, you could qualify for child care assistance in the form of government subsidies. Consider nanny sharing or child care programs run by your school system for other options to reduce child care costs.

8. Save Money — Literally — by Starting a Retirement Fund

Even if you feel like your first-job earnings leave very little left over after bills, now is the time to start saving for your later years. When it is deducted right out of your paycheck, you won’t even miss that money. And the earlier you start planning for retirement, the better chance your money has to grow. It’s a move your future self will thank you for.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.