Best savings tips if you don’t have a lot of money, from the Warrior Woman Foundation

Collage of a warrior woman surrounded by blue and falling coins.

When it comes to wealth, some start the race ten metres ahead – others get tripped at the starting line. And unfortunately, the latter tend to be women. 

However, one organisation is keen to even the playing field.

What is the Warrior Woman Foundation?

Collage of a young warrior woman.

The Warrior Woman Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting young women from underprivileged backgrounds, especially when it comes to making empowering financial decisions. 

Whether it’s finding community, getting a foot in the door of their career, or just learning practical money management skills, mentors with the foundation work closely with ‘Young Warriors’ so they have the space to feel seen, heard, and valued. 

Part of the process is equipping Young Warriors with basic financial literacy – which for many can be life-changing. 

“I’m horrified at the growing statistics of women over 55 living close to the poverty line because they do not have adequate savings and super for their retirement,” explained founder and chief executive Jessica Brown in an interview with Mozo.

“It’s important to teach young women how to manage their money as early as possible so they have enough for the future.”

With the cost of living on the rise, the foundation’s work is more important than ever. So in the spirit of empowering young savers, Brown shared with Mozo some of the most important and practical savings strategies the foundation teaches Young Warriors. 

NOTE: The interview has been edited for clarity.

Smiling women hold up another at a Warrior Woman Foundation event.
Courtesy of the Warrior Woman Foundation.

Economic gender gaps in Australia

Collage of multi-ethnic women wearing face masks.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), women currently earn 14.1% less than men on average in full-time positions. This disparity is widened by race, too, since Women of Colour tend to earn far less than White women.

Women also:

  • Take the most parental leave (88%).
  • Have the least super saved for retirement ($168,000 by age 65 compared to men’s $208,000).
  • Are significantly more likely to experience harassment, abuse, assault, and violence from an early age, including financial abuse. These forms of violence can all significantly impact women’s financial health. Deloitte estimates the costs to victims of financial abuse amounted to more than $5.7 billion in 2020 alone. 

This isn’t to say men can’t (or don’t) experience these setbacks or inequalities, but women are disproportionately affected – and have fewer supports. 

This is where organisations like the Warrior Woman Foundation can play a vital role.

RELATED: Australia ranks 43rd in the Global Gender Gap Report, so how do we get equal?

“Sometimes it is hard to get young women thinking about their economic security in retirement,” says Brown. “It certainly wasn’t something I was interested in at eighteen. However, we do reinforce the importance of them starting their financial plan early.”

Practical saving strategies for low income earners

Collage of a young woman in a graduation cap and gown thinking of her financial future.

Modern living is expensive, and essential goods and services like food, fuel, and even paying rent have all gotten significantly pricier in the last six months alone. 

To address all these areas, the Warrior Woman Foundation encourages a holistic approach to saving, which includes an emphasis on relationships and money.

“The very first topic we dig into is our earliest values and beliefs about money,” explains Brown. “Some beliefs come from a place of ‘money is scarce, so spend it when you have it’, while others are more ‘save it for a rainy day’.”

Identifying these beliefs, where they come from, and whether or not they still serve you are crucial for shifting your money mindset. 

“When Centrelink has been your life raft and you have only had role models who have been welfare-dependent, it is hard to break the cycle,” says Brown. “Especially when those role models discourage you from gaining full-time employment for fear of losing your welfare payments. For some, economic security is welfare payments.”

“But you only know what you see unless you are shown other paths in life.”

The Foundation’s basic strategy has four steps. Young Warriors are encouraged to:

  • Complete their education.
  • Aspire to seek work (the foundations’ mentors play a crucial role here in modelling female success).
  • Gain meaningful work. 
  • Retain meaningful work. 

“Only then can they begin to even contemplate the conversation of financial security,” says Brown.

Once they’re well placed to earn, however, Brown recommends the following saving strategies.

Get out of debt ASAP

Collage of a young woman thinking about budget items.

“If you have any debt, address it head-on,” says Brown. “Don’t just let it tick over so you’re continually paying interest but not the actual debt.”

This is especially critical for smaller forms of debt, like Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), which can sneak up on you if you’re not careful. (This bad debt has even gotten BNPL companies in trouble, who reported around $150 million in credit losses last year).

“The high of the purchase is long gone, but the debt is still there if you don’t set conscious goals to pay them off on time,” warns Brown. 

“Sometimes only a small loan can take years to pay off, so this is absolutely targeting the vulnerable who are in desperate need and don’t read the finer print.”

Getting rid of debt requires some careful budgeting, but it is achievable. These free budget apps make it super simple, and Brown recommends seeking out a financial counsellor sooner rather than later. Credit lenders are also legally required to help you if you’re experiencing financial hardship – but only if you ask for it. 

“Debt can take years to recover from,” she cautions, “so we stress to our young women not to live beyond their means and always have an emergency fund.”

Meal plan and shop local

Collage of hands holding foods.

“Plan, plan, plan your grocery shopping,” urges Brown. “We waste so much food in Australia which is literally money down the drain.”

Some of her hot tips include:

  • Planning meals a week in advance.
  • Only buying what’s on the list (online grocery shopping can sometimes make this simpler).
  • Cooking in bulk and freezing leftovers for later. 
  • Buying in bulk with family and friends.
  • Learning how to store fruit and vegetables correctly so they last (resources are available on YouTube).
  • Substituting popular foods for less popular ones, like turkey for chicken. 

Brown also suggests browsing local markets for cheaper fresh produce or making the most of food pantries such as the Addi Road Food Pantry in Marrickville.

“They help stretch your budget while reducing your carbon footprint,” explains Brown. “You might not have a choice which produce you can get on the day, but you will always be able to put healthy food on the table.”

Use petrol apps

Collage of a young woman swiping on a petrol app.

Petrol prices have reached record highs this year. So if you have a car, Brown suggests downloading fuel discount apps like the NSW government’s Fuel Check to compare prices in your area. 

RELATED: Are rewards membership fuel discounts worth it?

Check government rebates

Collage of one hand dropping coins into another.

Brown also recommends exploring government rebates for low-income earners through Services Australia, especially those geared towards parents.

New changes made this year also mean there are more cash supports for vulnerable Australians in place that weren’t there before.

Reach out for community support

Collage of a young woman blowing red heart kisses on the wind.

If the Warrior Woman Foundation proves anything, it’s that young women aren’t alone in their journeys toward financial independence. Capitalism and economic inequality actually thrive on people not having a community, since this prevents them from making meaningful change.

“Many of the young women we work with have disability pensions, assisted housing, or are living in youth refuges,” explains Brown. “Buying a house – or even paying rent – is not even on their radar.”

These basic needs are human, and there can be a lot of unnecessary shame over the failure to meet them. But Brown encourages hope through solidarity and action.

“There are people out there who are ready to support you and help you get back on track,” she reminds.

Photo of diverse women in a hotel lobby, courtesy of the Warrior Woman Foundation and their 2021 conference.
Courtesy of the Warrior Woman Foundation.

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