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Financial Tips for Immigrant Families

Updated on July 16, 2017

A Farmers' Market

Fresh vegetables and fruits, are sold cheaper and in bulk at farmers' markets.
Fresh vegetables and fruits, are sold cheaper and in bulk at farmers' markets. | Source

The Value of Fresh Foods

Farmers' Market
Farmers' Market | Source

Deals Everywhere

Car Wash in Sarasota
Car Wash in Sarasota | Source
Gas savings at a gas station
Gas savings at a gas station | Source
Price Promotions At a Gas Station
Price Promotions At a Gas Station | Source
Looking for Savings in Unlikely Places!
Looking for Savings in Unlikely Places! | Source
Greens growing in a garden
Greens growing in a garden | Source
Brand name product at Walmart (Great Value)
Brand name product at Walmart (Great Value) | Source

Managing FinancesThe Immigrant Way

Advice for Families Living on Less

Several new immigrants to America have at one time or another lived on far less than some Americans keep in their piggy banks. It is not a bad thing to have so little because it teaches frugality. Learning to be frugal in a money driven economy is a must when one has to begin from the bottom, which is where many of us have to. After immigrants have unpacked their suitcases, found their bearings and hopefully a place to live and a job to go to, the quest for survival begins. Once the reality of capitalism is understood, it is a rude awakening to many who come from countries that though poor or not so poor, their socialistic approaches have enable most to have access to social facilities than many do here in America. They discover that almost everything in America costs something, nothing is free. If it is free, someone else has had to pay for it either via taxes, donations or fundraising.The sooner you understand that concept, the better equipped you will be to fit into the harsh terrain on which the wealth of this country is founded. When that bit is understood, it is time to take the next step. Biting into your own piece of the American dream; far fetched as it may seem, having a strategy no matter how doubtful, is better than having none at all.

Where to Live, how to save on housing

The assumption is that you arrived in the country with at least a bit of money to help you settle down. Many will start out living with friends in shared quarters or in a home. The immediate need is to find a job. Mostly, the money immigrants have on arrival is spent on securing legal documentation like a green card, social security card and the most important document of all, the driver's license. Your driver's license is your main photo ID. Your social security card and number are the proof you have that you are in this country legally and can enjoy the benefits that the country has to offer, i.e. getting a job, being treated in hospital, securing a place in school for your children, if you came with some (even if they are not required to have Social Security Cards to be in school), renting a house, opening a bank account etc.

Where you live could determine where you work or the other way round. If you live within walking distance from your working place, that could save you a lot of money. Try to find a place as near to your work place as possible as this will save you money in terms of transportation whether you travel by public transport, drive or carpool. Often the locations of working places are in areas where accommodation can be particularly expensive. Find a location to rent from that is cheaper and easy to get to, within good proximity of the places your other family members might be frequenting. You will save a lot of money if your children can go to a school in a nearby place where school buses are accessible or they can walk. Look out for bus stops and make sure if need be, you or your family can get around via public transport. Avoid booking taxis or using rented vehicles unless it is absolutely necessary or you have an emergency. Know the bus routes and times, secure a brochure of the timetable from your local library or some large grocery stores where they have these documents on display.

What Car to Drive: how to save on your car purchase

As mentioned earlier, owning a car in America is a necessity not a luxury like it would be considered in some parts of the world. However, the type of car you buy will determine if you are using this asset as a necessity or luxury. Buying a Toyota Corolla is reasonable, looking to buy a Cadillac as a status symbol is a luxury. If you are a newcomer to the country, all you need is a basic car with a good engine and looking presentable enough not to risk your children ignoring you at parent pickup. The cost of vehicles varies from place to place, but with patience, one can get a really good deal on a vehicle with as little as $2000 or slightly less. Often a vehicle coming at that cost even if good, requires some attention. A rule of thumb is to buy, with the idea of not needing to work on a vehicle, however, determine to work on the vehicle to bring it to your desired standard. A car with a good working engine and requiring little or no short term repairs should be able to deliver pretty well. The best places to look would be your local Craigslist, roadside sales, neighborhoods, ask friends and look in the classified sections of newspapers. If you have more money on your hands, you may want to approach a dealer for a reasonable price and better deal. Car rental companies often hold massive sales of vehicles they no longer need to rent out, inquire about those and find out what they may have, you could end up with a really good buy, howbeit with a lot of mileage on it.

Insurance; how to find affordable insurance

When you buy a car, there are other expenses you need to worry about and save for: insurance, the tag, tax, and registration. Shop around for insurance, there are small insurance companies like Infinity Insurance that do not advertise as much as Progressive and they are far cheaper than the cheapest advertisers. My husband and I moved from spending close to $300 each month on insurance for two vehicles to less than half that amount for the same vehicles! Shop around, ask and you will be surprised what you come up with. Having insurance is a prerequisite to your vehicle being registered here in the state of Florida. The biggest investment in your newly acquired car will be replaceable parts. You may need to make sure they are taken care of before you start driving your car on the road. Shop around for an affordable automotive place that is also reliable. I am truly thankful for Old Fashioned Auto here in Lehigh Acres, Florida. I am sure there are other automotive places where both knowledgeable and not so knowledgeable car owners can come with their problems and receive expert advice and care.

Car For Sale

Vehicles lined up for Sale at a Garage in Sandbek
Vehicles lined up for Sale at a Garage in Sandbek | Source

How To Save While Spending

Utilities: how to save on water, electricity, and cooling

So, you have your paperwork, car, job and housing. You are pretty settled; what remains are the nuances of every day living that you must take care of. Depending on where you are in the country, your energy, electricity, water and sewerage needs will vary. Some localities offer you a choice of utility providers i.e. for electricity; choose the company that most meets your needs or will be easier and cheaper to manage. If you live in an apartment in a condo, or housing unit owned by a corporation, you may not have much of a choice. Often, in such places, utilities are cheaper, probably because of joint ownership of accounts. There goes your first cue about accommodation, an apartment and not house might be the best arrangement if you want to make savings. Energy, heating and cooling costs, including water are way cheaper than in a a single family house. The money you save by living in a community restrictive as that, could be saved for depositing on your first house or better vehicle. Begin to plan your finances in that way, as soon as you get a job, there is no ideal time or place to start than today.

Around the house, you and your family can make big savings by observing certain requirements about how to use your lighting, cooling, heating and water. Around the house, the use of adapters to connect several electrical items will save power and time if you have to turn them off at night or when not in use. It is easier to simply hit one or two buttons to turn everything off completely than to go around turning off one gadget after another. Besides, during bad weather, it saves a lot of time and anxiety too. Shop for energy saving bulbs that not only last longer but use electricity conservatively. Cook collectively and in bigger portions that can be refrigerated instead of several small meals throughout the day. Put dirty dishes, plates, cutlery and pots in the dishwasher until it is full before you can run it. The same goes for laundry, it is best to have big laundry days when all the wash is put in together accordingly, not run several small washes individually.

Shopping: how to make the most out of your earnings

Every so often in most neighborhoods, a weekly newsletter, newspaper or catalogue is distributed that details sales going on within a certain distance, discounts, coupons and offers that could save you a lot. The prices of foodstuffs are often marked down in the latter half of the week as supplies run low or reach their stipulated shelf life. These items can be bought at much lower prices or you get to have extras for buying one of a kind. Take advantage of these and calculate the savings, you will be amazed how much you save over time. Once I walked into walgreens when detergents and many cleaning products were on sale, I bought as much as I could at what I knew was a great price, those items are still sitting in my closet and being used, I have not had need to buy more for over two months now. Sometimes, buying more expensive but fresh foods will save you money than buying those on mark down which do not last much longer. Alternatives for fresh foods are the farmers or flea markets where people from different walks bring commodities that are sold at great prices and in bulk

If you are shopping for clothes, you may want to target off season clothing because they get marked down, i.e. summer clothes in winter, when most are people are targeting winter clothes. Clothing stores hold sales often, check out their clearance sections and watch for when the sales are bound to occur so you can save. Another way is to enroll for membership in big stores, get a card, leave your email address; you will often be notified of deals and ongoing sales from which you and your family can benefit. The same goes for the purchase of seasonal items. Buying Christmas decorations at the beginning of the year or Easter products at the end of Easter will ensure great bargains, sometimes at prices as low as 75% off. Buy and save for use when the season comes. Avoid buying things when they are most needed because the demand is high and so are the prices. Often, I buy my Thanksgiving Turkey a few weeks before Thanksgiving, they are far cheaper then.

When you shop for groceries, take advantage of store brands like Great Value (Walmart) My Essentials (Sweetbay) or products with names like Publix for Publix. These products tend to be cheaper than other big name brands depending on what you are buying. Equate produces beauty and feminine health products that cost far lesser than most brands that are on the market i.e. Kotex or Vaseline. Look out for these brands in all kinds of products and you could literally save a bucket load of pennies doing that over a long period of time. Often there is not much of a difference in the quality of the products, depending on what you are getting. Another way of saving on groceries is by using coupons.

How to use coupons to save money

Look out for coupons on websites like Groupon where you can download and print coupons for brand items of all kinds. Often, schools run fundraisers where they sell coupon books that could benefit, especially those who like to eat out or visit places etc. All the same, look out for great coupons in the things you buy i.e. Pampers diapers come with store coupons, you could save by buying magazines like "All You" that come with a host of coupons for all kinds of products in different stores. Other coupons are the ones delivered to your mail box, email or through magazines; make savings, use them. Grow your bank by making savings.

Banking: How to make your bank work for you

If you are going to make all those savings, you will need an account to which to deposit the residual money that come as a result of spending well. If you find a good bank to save with, and one that is interested in building a relationship with you, your finances grow faster, or you will adapt easily because you have the advice of professionals. If you want professionals who will treat you no differently than their million dollar customers, you may want to visit a Credit Union. Credit Unions are good at how they handle their customer and their accounts. They have fewer or no extravagant charges for accounts that are struggling. Further, they return good interest rates for your savings. Credit Unions will counsel and help you along the way if you need to improve your credit, own a Credit card or manage one. Approach the Credit Union staff, they can be very helpful. Often, the problem new comers to the country face is not bad debts as much as the lack of credit history. A credit card will get you on the way to building that credit. When you do get your credit card, you have to play by the rules too, maxing out your credit will bring down your credit scores in much the same way bad credit could, so, beware. Credit Unions will give you a good education on that if you seek it. Most Credit Unions will help you in your efforts to build your credit, but you have to ask for it.

If you are unfortunate enough to have already accumulated unpaid medical or other bills (sometimes it is inevitable for people to fall sick, get hurt or be in an accident when you are new to the country), because of lack of medical insurance. It will be in your best interest to make an arrangement with the attending physicians to pay your bills off on a regular basis. If they are already in collection, follow through with the collectors and offer to pay off at least 2/3 of the amount over a period of time that is most conducive to you and your family. Unpaid bills, no matter how small, can hurt your credit and bring your scores down severely. When servicing your debts, what matters most is your income to debt ratio and how you service it. A consistent effort in addressing financial matters that are reported is of the essence and will help a lot in the long run. Building your credit is a matter that will take time, so be patient. But, always remind yourself that to get hefty financial assistance, you will need to have credit that will prove to lenders that you are capable of paying back what you owe; and that begins with that secure or unsecured credit card (more about that will be addressed in future articles).

Further, take advantage of credit cards or cards with rewards like the Paypal debit card. All these cards can become yours with the establishment of a relationship with these financial institutions, they do not just happen. Open a paypal account and make use of it, the same with that bank account for the credit card. When you possess these cards and use them to make purchases, at the end of the month you receive cash back equal to 1% of the total amount you spent using that card. For $1000 dollars, you get $10. $10 can make a great difference especially if you get it for spending.Make use of those facilities and get yourself some change. The paypal debit card if properly used doubles up as a credit card for at least two to three days, depending on how you use it. Make sure you use all these facilities to help you use your money wisely and safely.

Overdraft: How to avoid bank charges

If you have an account with some of the big name banks, avoid overdraft charges by setting up and linking your savings account to your checking account. Ask for the overdraft protection facility, so that when you overspend on your debit card or happen to run low on money on your checking account, the bank's system will automatically cover you at a lesser charge; than having to pay $35 for whatever amount it may be.

Keep The Change: how to earn money while spending

Bank of America has got a program called “keep the change”, which for many living on less could help keep those pennies for you (I consider it a way of saving because it is your change that is sent to your Savings Account). With this program, each time you use your debit card to make purchases, the bank rounds off the change on your debit card purchases and transfers the amount on a daily basis to your savings account. It is like throwing all your change in a piggy bank. The first time around, the bank matches that amount a penny for a penny up to $250 for the first three months. Afterwards, they will match your change for up to only 5%. 5% might not be much, but the savings you make over time do add up and can help, after all we are looking at pinching all the pennies we can!

Money Matters: How to make savings as a family

Share your financial dilemmas and triumphs with your family, children included because they are capable of understanding and learning money issues. Budget with them whenever possible so they appreciate where the money is going. This will help improve their sense of financial responsibility, which they will need it here in America. Learning theoretically is one thing, applying that learning is priceless for the entire family.

How To Save And Be Happy


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