Is $19k a Good Salary? Is it Enough to Live On?

Is $19k a Good Salary

If you’ve been offered a job paying $19k per year, you might be wondering what this amounts to per week or per month and what type of lifestyle you will be able to afford on this income level.

If this is your first job or you are new to working full time, it might be difficult to imagine what your life will look like and what you will be able to afford on a certain salary.

This guide will walk you through some tips on how to budget to live comfortably on this level of income as well as what to expect from your take home pay each month.

Monthly pay

Since you are extremely unlikely to be given your entire years salary in a one off payment, you will have to figure out your weekly and monthly pay in order to set a budget.

With an annual salary of $19k, your monthly earnings before taxes would be $1583.33.

Working hours

Before accepting any offer of employment, you will need to discuss your working hours with your employer and how many hours you are working each week as this will have an impact on your hourly rate.

Most jobs will expect you to work between 35 and 40 hours per week.

You will also need to confirm whether or not your employer offers paid vacation.

Many employers offer two weeks of paid vacation per year which would mean you are paid 52 weeks of the year even if you choose to use your vacation days. In this case your weekly pay would be $365.38. This amounts to a $9.13 hourly rate assuming you are working 40 hours per week.

If your employer does not offer paid vacation then your hourly rate would raise to $9.50 and you would receive $380 per week. Keep in mind that any vacations you choose to take will be unpaid and there will be 2 weeks per year where you don’t receive any pay.

Don’t forget tax

You won’t receive your entire $19,000 salary as some of this will be used to pay taxes. Taxes will differ depending on which state you live in.

You can use an online federal income tax calculator to check how much you will be paying.

Is $19k a good salary compared to other salaries in the US?

You will likely be wondering how your $19k salary compares to the national average.

In 2019, the median income in the US was $68,703. This is considerably higher than your $19k per year income.

The median wage per hour in 2019 in the US was $19.33, which is again higher than the $9.13 hourly rate you would be receiving on $19k salary.

However, your $19k salary would put you well above the minimum wage in the US which is $7.25.

Assess your outgoings

Now that you know how much money you will be taking home each week or month, you can now compare this to your current monthly expenses.

Make a list of all of your monthly expenses, then split these into two categories: essential and non-essential spending.

Essential spending will include essential living expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, car insurance, car upkeep, groceries, paying off debts, childcare and any household bills such as gas and electricity.

Non essential spending will include things you may be spending money on but which you don’t necessarily need such as going out to eat, going on trips, buying clothing or cosmetics, buying gifts or going out to concerts or to see a movie.

Reduce your spending

Writing down your monthly expenses like this will let you know how much you’re actually spending. This may be more than you realised. It will also highlight any areas where you could save money by cutting back on your non essential spending.

If your outgoings equal more than your monthly income when you’ve added them all together, you will need to reduce your spending.

Cook at home

You can easily cut back on non essential spending and save money by making your food at home instead of going out for meals.

Learn how to cook

If you don’t cook much at the moment, you can learn a new skill. There are plenty of free cooking tips and recipes online to help you get started.

Improve your existing skills

If you’re already a keen cook, make the most of this and build on the skills you already have.

Eating at home doesn’t have to mean missing out on socialising with your friends and family – invite them over for a home cooked meal. You’ll have just as much fun as eating out, for a fraction of the price.

Save eating out for special occasions – you don’t need to cut it out completely.

Buy second hand

Thrift shopping has never been more trendy, and it’s also a great option for saving money.

If you find you’re spending a large portion of your income on buying new clothes, give thrift shopping a go. You can find unique items for a fraction of the price you would pay for new clothes. This could save you at least a few hundred dollars per year.

It’s not just clothes you can save money on at thrift stores. You can also find books and furniture as well as other homeware.

If you have children, thrift stores are a great option as children’s clothing tends not too last long due to them growing out of them quickly. Thrift stores will also stock all the toys your children could wish for so this could be a fun activity to do together.

Find free activities

Save money by finding things to do in your free time which don’t cost any money.


This could be going for walks. Research shows there are countless benefits to walking on your physical and mental health.


Perhaps you love reading. Spend your free time diving in to a good book or start a book club with your friends and family.


Do some volunteer work – most people find this to be a very rewarding use of their time.

Go to a museum

Many museums offer free entry so this is a great option if you are looking for a fun day out which doesn’t cost any money.

Learn a new skill

Is there something you’ve been wanting to learn for a while but haven’t got around to it? now is the time. Whether it’s photography or learning a new language, you can find free tutorials for just about anything online.

How many people are in your household?

A huge factor that will influence how far your $19k salary will go is how many people you need to support with it.

Living on $19k for a single person

If you’re a recent graduate living at your parents home, you will be able to put more money aside than those with their own place and bills to pay. If you’re in this fortunate position, take advantage and put as much cash as possible into savings, and try to set up an emergency fund.

If you are a single person who is not living at their parents home, you will have to consider things such as housing costs and other bills, but you should still be able to manage on this salary as long as you can learn to budget effectively and your money will go further than if you had a spouse or children to support.

Supporting a household on $19k

If you are the sole earner in your household and have a spouse or children to support, this can be incredibly difficult on a low income.

If this is the case, you would have to find low cost housing and stick to a strict budget.

If you’re part of a dual income household, you will find this much easier with two salaries to live off rather than one.


Where you live and work will have a huge impact on what you can afford with your $19k salary as the cost of living varies across the country.

The median cost of a house in San Francisco is over $1.4 million so this is a super expensive city to live in. Research shows that a family of four living in San Francisco would need to be bringing in $111,136 just to make ends meet.

If you have the option consider moving to smaller towns, rural areas or cities with a lower cost of living. In West Virginia, the overall cost of living is around 10 percent below the national average.

As a general rule, you should avoid spending more than a third of your monthly pay on housing costs where possible.

House prices will increase depending on the property you are looking for. A single person living alone will save money as they will generally only require a one bedroom property so if you require a two bedroom property to more, expect to pay a higher cost.

Finding affordable housing may prove to be your biggest challenge on a budget of $19k especially if you live in an expensive area. You need to find housing that makes you feel safe, where the living conditions are acceptable which is still within your budget.Consider sharing a house or apartment with roommates to keep expenses down and help you build your savings.


There are often costs associated with commuting to work, whether it’s public transport, car insurance or gas.

Keep in mind the cost of gas will vary depending on where you live.

If you’re spending a lot of money of gas or public transport each month, you might find you could save a lot of money by living closer to your job.

If you live fairly close to your job but are still driving or taking public transport, consider walking or cycling to work. You’ll save cash and your health will benefit greatly from the extra exercise.

Older cars can cost more for car insurance, gas and maintenance and are known to be less reliable all round. If you’re currently driving an older car and have experienced issues relating to costs or the reliability of the vehicle, you might want to consider getting a new car. Although it might be a huge expense in the short term, this will reduce your expenses and you’ll be saving money in the long term.

Paying off outstanding debts

To put it simply, the higher your outstanding debts are, the more money you will be spending each month to pay them off. This means less money to live off for the month and less money to put into savings.

The quicker you can pay off your debts, the less you will be spending in the long run due to mounting interest and the quicker you will be debt free.

Make a list of all of your outstanding debts including any personal or student loans and any outstanding credit card debt.

Aim to pay off the debts with the highest interest rates first.

Make sure you are using your credit cards wisely and consider taking out a balance transfer. This will help you pay off the balance of the debt more quickly as opposed to just the interest.

Skip the coffee

A great tip for living a more frugal lifestyle is to cut down on coffee.

Though you might not think spending a few dollars per day on coffee is a big deal, this amounts to a lot of money over the course of a year.

Studies have shown that the average American spends a whopping $2,008 on coffee every year.

This money could be put to better use paying off debt or being added to your savings.

To avoid overspending, cut down on coffee or cut it out completely.

If this isn’t an option, make your coffee at home instead and save cash without having to sacrifice your caffeine kick.

Instead of spending an average of $2-$5 dollars per day on a cup of coffee to go, spend $15 on a pound of premium coffee beans which will last at least two weeks.

Quit smoking

Much like drinking expensive coffee every day, smoking can be a very expensive habit.

If you’ve smoked for a long time, you may have factored this into your budget, even viewing cigarettes as an essential item you have to have.

You might be looking for an excuse to quit, so hopefully this will give you the final push you need.

Not to mention the health risks associated with smoking, it is also a pricey habit.

The National Cancer Institute found that smoking a pack of cigarettes at an average price of $6.28 adds up to $188 per month.

This equates to $2,292 per year which could be otherwise spent adding to your savings or paying off debts.

Kick the habit and feel better physically and financially.

Set a grocery budget

When setting your budget, keep in mind that you should only be spending about 50% of your monthly income on essential spending such as housing costs, utility bills and groceries.

If you find that you are spending too much on groceries, it may be that you are shopping in the wrong grocery stores.

The cost of food varies greatly between different stores so look for lower priced stores to shop in. Many people find the quality of the food is just as high despite the lower cost.

If you find you’re throwing a lot of food out, this is an area you could be saving money. You are either buying more food than you need, or planning poorly. Try to plan your meals out for the week before you buy your ingredients so no food is being wasted.

If you’re concerned about being able to eat healthily on a budget, don’t worry. It’s actually not too difficult to eat healthily at home on a tight budget. See here for more tips.

Skip the gym

This doesn’t mean cutting out exercise completely. Whether you live in a busy city or a rural area, going outside for a walk or run is a fantastic way to get some exercise and it’s completely free to do.

Since the pandemic, it’s became easier than ever to exercise from home, with more free videos and apps available than ever to help you along the way.

The average monthly cost of a gym membership in the US is $58. Opt to exercise at home and bank this money instead.

Research shows that 67% of gym members actually don’t go to the gym at all, and many more don’t go often, so this is a quick and easy way to save money.

Credit cards

Where possible, try to use credit cards very sparingly.

Using a credit card comes with interest rates that will quickly deplete your salary. If you are using a credit card try to make sure you are paying it off in full each month to avoid paying exorbitant interest rates.

That is not to say you shouldn’t be using a credit card at all. Using a credit card wisely can boost your credit in the long run and help you get approved for credit for important things such as loans and mortgages.

Utility bills

Much like rent and the cost of living, the amount you are spending on bills will vary depending on which state you are living in. If your utility bills seem unusually high, shop around for a better deal and consider changing suppliers if this is an option for you.

Health care

Health insurance may be included in your job package, but if not this is something you will have to pay for out of your income

Build an emergency savings fund

Though it may seem difficult on a low salary, you should think about trying to build an emergency savings fund.

This eliminates a layer of stress as you won’t have to worry so much when an unexpected cost pops up.

Only 39% of people in the country report being able set up an emergency fund of $1000.

Ideally, you will be able to save enough to cover 3 to 6 months of outgoings. Don’t worry about building this up straight away, it may take a bit of Tim to grow your emergency savings fund.

Find how much you spend each month and multiply the number by 3 or 6. This will show you how much you should aim to save.

This fund can be used to cover costs such as

  • Unexpected maintenance or repairs for your car or home
  • Emergency medical bills/treatments
  • Covering your living expenses if you should lose your job or if you become ill and are unable to work
  • Replacing items in your home which have broken unexpectedly such as a television or dishwasher


Finding the right budgeting method to suit you will help you spend less and save more each month

Pay yourself first

We recommend putting aside some of your salary each month to put towards your savings. It is best to do this when you first receive your pay check and haven’t spent any of your earnings yet.

We recommend saving between 15% and 20% of your monthly salary, but don’t worry if you aren’t able to save as much as this. Save what you can and build your savings up over time.

Use cash instead of cards

Using cash instead of cards can help you keep track of your spending much better than paying with card all the time, as you can lose track of how much you’re spending this way.

Try the envelope method: split your monthly spending into categories. Figure out how much your budget is for each category such as food and transport costs and place that exact amount in an envelope labelled with the category. Once you have spent all the money in the envelope, you can’t spend any more on that category for the rest of the month. Using cash rather than cards can help prevent negative spending habits, studies have revealed.

Use a spreadsheet

Creating a spreadsheet can be a great way to keep track of your monthly spending. If you are not familiar with how to build a spreadsheet there are plenty of templates and free apps to help you. Seeing how much you are spending being broken down and laid out in this way can be a real eye opener to the areas that need attention.

Pen and paper

For many people, a pen and paper are the only tools you need to budget. Whether you’re making a list of all your outgoings or splitting the page into essential and non essential expenses, it can be helpful to see where your money is going on paper.

Increasing your income

Budgeting is great for maximising your salary, but anything you can do to increase your income will be a great help in the long term.

Perhaps you can take on extra shifts, get a second job or do freelance work in your spare time. You may have a special skill you can capitalise on to earn some extra cash.

Whether you’re using the extra cash to add to your savings or pay off any outstanding debts, it is a wise financial decision to earn extra cash on top of your $19k salary if this is an option for you.

Keep in mind that increasing your income might not mean you get to keep all of the profits as depending on which state you are living in this could push you into a higher tax bracket.

Don’t forget to give yourself treats

Though it’s important not to overspend and stick to a budget, you should also be able to treat yourself from time to time.

Whether it’s the occasional meal out, trip to the movies, clothing item or beauty treatment, it’s important to do something for yourself once in a while.

As long as you make your your bills are paid first and don’t spend money on luxuries too often, it’s fine to indulge in the occasional treat and you don’t need to worry about it or feel guilty.

Final thoughts

So, is $19k a good salary?

Although $19k is below the national average salary, it is still enough to get by on and above minimum wage in the US.

With a salary of $19k, you are earning above the poverty level so you should be able to afford all the essentials with a little left over for savings. However, if you have a spouse or children to support you should possibly consider ways in which you can bring extra money into your household as it may be difficult to support a family on this salary alone.

Living comfortably on this salary is impacted greatly by the location in which you live as housing prices and the cost of living vary greatly from state to state.

As long as you budget efficiently and cut down costs where possible, you should be able to maintain a reasonable standard of living on a $19k salary.

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