If you don’t have a lot of money coming in each month it can seem impossible to save money. I mean, how in the world can you save money when you are barely making ends meet every month? It’s tough, but when it comes to how to survive on a low income budget, it can be done with a few simple tricks.
Tackle Your Major Expenses
Transportation and housing costs are typically the biggest expenses you deal with each month. When you can save in these two areas, you will see major savings that can add up to $1,000s of dollars each year.
You have a few options here…
Before we get into ways to save money on your rent each month, let’s talk about government assistance programs.
If you’re really finding it impossible to pay your rent, you might qualify for housing assistance. You’ve got a couple of options here.
You could qualify for a government rent subsidy. This is where the government actually pays part of your rent each month.
The second option is government housing such as Section 8 housing. The rent is based on your income and how many people live in your home.
This second option would require you to move from your current location.
You can find more information about government housing assistance at the HUD website.
If you don’t qualify for government assistance there are other options.
- Get a roommate – this is one of the easiest ways to cut down on housing and utility expenses each month;
- Rent out a room – this is the same idea as a roommate, but they typically have less access to the rest of the house;
- Downsize to a smaller apartment or house – we all need less space than we feel we do;
- Get rid of your apartment and rent a room from someone else.
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Transportation costs are your next highest expense each month. You already know this if you have a car and a car payment.
Don’t forget about gas, parking, upkeep, and insurance.
All of this can add up to hundreds and hundreds of dollars per month.
If you’re really on a low income and are having trouble making ends meet, then you will need to have a tough conversation with yourself to decide if you can actually afford to have a car.
I went without one for a number of years. I won’t say it was fun, but it was certainly doable.
If you live in a mid-sized to a larger city, getting rid of your car is kind of a no brainer.
If having a car is a must for you, you can save money on your transportation costs by doing some of the following:
- Move closer to work – this will allow you to walk, take the bus, or spend less money on gas for your car;
- Trade your older car in on a newer used car – this will cut down on gas expense as well as repairs;
- Start or join a carpool;
- Use your car on the weekends, but use public transportation for work;
- Combine your homeowner’s or renters insurance with your car insurance to receive a discount.
Change How You View Your Communication Needs
Everyone pretty much needs a cell phone in today’s world. You don’t, however, need a landline. If you still have one, get rid of it.
When it comes to cell phones, yes the new iPhone is always a thing of beauty, but it isn’t necessary. Neither is that expensive monthly cell phone plan.
When your contract is up, instead of automatically getting the newest phone and signing up for another two-year contract to pay for it, switch to month-to-month service.
There are a number of options out there that start at around $30 per month. That’s a heck of a lot better than the $100 plus you might be spending. Consumer Cellular and Straight Talk are a couple of good options.
Something else you should consider getting rid of is your cable TV. If you are still paying $100 or more dollars a month for cable TV it is really a no brainer to get rid of it and opt for one or two streaming services.
Personally, I have both Amazon Prime and Netflix. The only reason I have both is I like getting free 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime.
Reduce Your Food Bill
We all have to eat, but there are ways to save money while doing so.
Depending on your income and the number of people living in your home, you may qualify for a government nutrition assistance program called SNAP.
If you don’t qualify there are other ways to save money on food and still provide your family with healthy meals.
Some of these include:
- Plan your meals ahead of time and make a grocery list – this helps prevent impulse purchases;
- Use apps to find coupons and sales;
- Only grocery shop once a week or even once every two weeks;
- Don’t go to the store to buy only one or two items
- Cook at home;
- Take your lunch to work.
Reduce Unnecessary Expenses – Think Bad Habits
It’s crazy the amount of money we spend on bad habits. No judgment here. We all have them, but if you can reduce the amount you spend or eliminate it completely, you will be shocked how much money you can save each month.
Think about things such as:
- Drinking or going to bars
- Chewing tobacco
- Eating fast food
- Buying lottery tickets or gambling
These habits can add up to thousands of dollars each year without you even realizing it. You can read more about how to save money by getting rid of bad habits here.
Buy Everything You Can Used
Anything you can buy that is used instead of brand new will save you money. This includes cars, clothes, and appliances.
If you haven’t shopped at thrift stores before you will be amazed at what you can find. Sure, there is some junk there, but in between the junk you will find:
- Brand new clothes with the tags still on;
- Lightly used microwaves, toasters, and so on;
- Household items;
- Craft supplies, and more.
About five years ago, I bought a used breadmaker. Honestly, it looked like it had never been used. I paid $2.00 and to this day, I still use it. I saved a good $50 to $80 by not buying new and I have made a ton of fresh, homemade bread that also saves me money.
If you own a house and have ever had to buy kitchen appliances such as a stove or refrigerator or bought a washer and dryer you know just how expensive they are even for stripped-down models.
When I was in that position, I bought all of my appliances used. They aren’t fancy by any means but they all work and have for years.
I know…I know…when you picture used appliances you see dirty, gross things with mold growing in them and baked on nastiness.
That image couldn’t be further from the truth. All of the appliances I purchased looked, smelled, and performed as if they were brand new off the showroom floor.
Not to mention, I paid $200 for the refrigerator, $250 for the stove, $175 for the washing machine, and $200 for the dryer.
So, for $825 dollars I got everything I needed and paid less than one of those appliances would have cost me new.
Don’t take my word for it. Go check them out in your local resell shop for yourself. I know my mother was completely against the idea when I suggested it, but after she saw the appliances for herself, she was a believer.
Also, I paid $35 for delivery and they brought them into my house and connected everything, so they were all ready to use.
Increase Your Income
If you are living on a low income, I know how hard it can be to get your bills paid. I’ve been there myself.
Perhaps my favorite way of surviving on a low budget and getting your bills paid is to increase the amount of money coming in every month.
I think we all spend a little too much time worrying about saving money and not enough time on making money.
You don’t need to get a second job – who has time for that? All you need to do is find a way to bring in an extra $100 to $200 dollars per month.
That isn’t a huge goal, but it can make a major difference in your life.
There are so many side hustles or gigs you can do in a few hours a month to make that extra money that the list is almost endless.
Just find something you enjoy so it doesn’t feel like you are adding another task to your already busy life. Find something you look forward to doing.
Personally, I like selling stuff on eBay and if you are going to thrift stores to buy items for yourself, you might as well look for a couple of things you can sell to make money as well.
How to Budget Money on Low Income?
If you want to budget your money on a low income you need to start by knowing all of your expenses, all of your income, and all of the things you spend money on that you don’t need.
Keep a little notebook on you at all times and write down everything you spend money on for a month. You will find many things you don’t need and you are wasting money on.
Start to reduce those items, and then see how you can reduce the necessary expenses you have each month.
How to Be Poor and Live Well?
Money is nice to have. There’s no getting around that, but regardless of how much money you have or if you are poor you can still live well.
Take pleasure in the little things. They matter most in life anyway. Enjoy free entertainment such as movies in the park, taking your dog for a walk, going to a festival, and so on.
Don’t measure happiness by your bank account balance. Instead, measure it by the joy you receive from spending time with friends and family.
To Sum it All Up:
When it comes to how to survive on a low budget, the key is to buy what you need but not what you simply want, take a hard look at your transportation and housing costs, and always buy used whenever you can.