First, let me just say that living on low income is nothing you have to be ashamed about it. I’m the LAST person that has the room to judge where you’ve been and where you are.
When I became pregnant with our second child, my husband and I decided that it was best for me to stay at home with the kids instead of daycare. Can I be honest?
I was excited…but also scared to death!
Because I was the breadwinner—so we worked our tails off and we cut over $22,000 from our budget my entire pregnancy to make sure we could afford to live off his income.
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After I had that baby, there were times money got so tight we couldn’t afford to keep buying paper towels, or we had to do all our laundry at my parent’s house, we were falling behind on bills and had NOTHING in savings.
So I am all too familiar with the struggle.
Learning how to budget money the right way made living on one low income SO much better. We were able to stay out of debt, continue to grow our family, and went from struggling to no longer stressing about money.
So it is hard living on a low income at times? Sure. But it IS possible to live well, eat well, and have fun!
10 Ways We Survive on One Low Income
1. Meal Planning
The trick to saving money on food is knowing exactly what you’re going to eat BEFORE you buy anything. Learning how to meal plan was one of the BEST ways I’ve found to save a ton of money on food.
But if making a meal plan from scratch every week overwhelms you, I recommend you start off using the $5 Meal Plan. Because you’ll get customized premade meal plans that are going to save you time AND money sent to your inbox every Friday (all you have to do is buy the ingredients — um? Heck yeah!).
Plus, they’re super easy to make and very cheap too (like $2 per person!).
Here are some recipes we’ve tried and LOVE:
- Ginger Peach Salmon
- Slow Cooker Caribbean Chicken
- 20-Minute Spinach Lasagna Skillet Dinner (I didn’t even know you could make lasagna in a skillet!)
- Pineapple BBQ Pork Chops
- Baked Cinnamon Apples With Pecans (YUM!!!)…
2. Living below our means
Seven months after I had the baby I got pregnant again! So we sold our condo and moved into an apartment to save money on living expenses.
Now I realize that not everyone is in the position to downsize, but you should definitely consider it if you can. Because wherever you choose to live will make a big difference in your budget.
Plus, it doesn’t make sense to be stuck in a rent/mortgage that you can’t comfortably afford. It’ll be harder to save, pay off debt, or have any “fun” money.
3. Cutting our phone bill
Our cell phone bill was costing us almost $200 a month for TWO unlimited lines. I was sick to my stomach forking over that monthly payment because I felt stuck.
And you probably feel stuck too. Don’t you?
Well, T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint are not your only options! There are many reliable prepaid phone plans available that are a fraction of the cost.
We switched to MetroPCS (now Metro by T-Mobile) and went from paying almost $200 a month to just $80 a month for the same service!
Other prepaid phone companies you can try include Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and Straight Talk Wireless.
So, if you feel stuck with your cell phone company, I suggest you call them up to see how you can lower your bill first. If that doesn’t work, then consider switching to a low-cost cell phone plan so you can stop overpaying for the service you need.
4. Buying used as much as possible
I hardly ever buy things brand new because I hate paying full price. So I prefer to see if I can find what I need in used, but perfectly good condition.
Some items we’ve bought used include refurbished electronics, video games, kids furniture, anything from thrift stores, designer shoes and handbags, home decor, appliances, and more!
I’m telling you, finding gems like these in barely-ever-used-condition feels like a STEAL!!
My favorite places to find good quality used stuff include Craigslist (just be careful of scammers and never go to buy something alone), the OfferUp or Letgo App, on Facebook, at thrift stores (great for finding stuff you need for your home), garage/yard sales, and eBay.
I also buy almost all of my kids’ clothes secondhand. We go to stores like Once Upon A Child and then resell any items they outgrow to get cash or store credit to buy new stuff — so I’m practically getting clothes for free!
5. Learning how to DIY
I’ve always kind of been the type of person that won’t pay for something if I can learn how to do it myself. And the internet makes it super easy to learn how to do almost ANYTHING!
Especially short tasks like small home repairs and upgrades, manicuring your nails and feet at home, sewing and crocheting, or even brewing Starbucks right in your kitchen!
You can find easy DIY ideas and how-to videos on YouTube and Pinterest.
6. Avoiding unnecessary fees
Paying late fees for bills that aren’t submitted on time is a waste of money. And so is using non-bank ATM machines.
It’s easier to avoid unnecessary late and bank fees like these when you plan ahead. For instance, if you’re going someplace that may not accept plastic withdraw just enough cash in advance.
If you have a hard time remembering when all of your bills are due, make it a priority to get organized so you can keep track of them. You can use a bullet journal, digital calendar, or reminders on your phone — whichever works best for you!
Because you’ll be better off planning ahead and getting organized than falling behind on your bills and throwing your budget off track.
7. Having fun for free (or almost free!)
You don’t have to go broke trying to have a good time with your family and friends. Especially during the summer months when everyone is traveling and you don’t even have enough money to go see a movie (I know how that feels).
We take advantage of free events in our community by following our local news networks on social media to stay informed all year long. That’s exactly how I find out about free admission days at the zoo, museums, and the free Boyz II Men concert I’m excited to attend!
So when the weather breaks, find out what’s happening for free in your city instead of sitting in the house.
8. Getting rid of cable
Getting rid of our cable was a HARD decision. My kids are obsessed with Paw Patrol and my husband is a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Plus, I love me some Housewives. Thankfully, though, there are many free or cheap alternatives to cable available to us these days that make cutting the cord not only easy but a HUGE relief on our wallets too!
So just because you get rid of your cable doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite shows.
9. Canceling all subscriptions
We don’t have anything that auto drafts from our bank accounts. You know why? I’ve had one of those subscriptions overdraft our account.
It’s so easy to forget about all those tiny memberships and subscriptions that you’ve signed up for when you have to keep track of their payment dates.
Plus, spending $5 here and there seems innocent until you have more than 10 of those tiny $5 subscriptions. And when you’re living on a low income having an extra $50 each month can go towards something a lot more important.
10. Finding ways to make extra money
Because growing your income just might give you the extra breathing room you need to get ahead financially on your tight budget!
The possibilities are ENDLESS and they really come in handy when you’re living on low income! In fact, I’ve tried MANY ways to make extra money.
The truth is…
Learning how to live on one income boils down to knowing how to manage your money effectively. You’re going to need a budget and you can use these FREE Paycheck Budgeting Worksheets to help you organize your finances every time you get paid.
What tips do you have for families living on low income?