Last month I conducted my annual survey and found some interesting statistics and comments that prompted me to write today’s article. It seems that many of my readers are struggling to survive and living on next to nothing.
A lot of you are making somewhere around $25,000 a year and have done so for many years.
Some of you are families with children, and others are single men and women over the age of 65.
One of the common themes among those who responded to the survey was finding creative ways to live on a limited or fixed income when the income amount is relatively small.
The question becomes how does one survive and even thrive when they are living on next to nothing?
STRATEGIES FOR LIVING ON NEXT TO NOTHING
Many years ago I was that woman who was living on next to nothing (you can read my get out of debt story here), and I have picked up a few tips and tricks along the way on how to make it when times get tough.
My first strategy is simple – develop a plan. Here’s what should be included:
- Simplifying your life
- Stop spending
- Reduce costs
- Use your time wisely
- Build a stockpile
SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE
The reality is most of us lead very complicated lives that cause us to spend money in wasteful ways.
When you take a step back and make the decision to simplify your life, many of the things you spend money on just go away. For example, if you’ve got your kids signed up for numerous activities that are costing you a fortune, reducing it to one activity will simplify your life and cut costs.
Not meal planning? When you simplify your meal planning system, you’re able to reduce waste and save a ton of money in the process.
You don’t need to make complicated and costly meals. A homemade sauce can be prepared for about $5, and if you make a big pot you can freeze or can the rest and have enough for four meals!
Soups and stews can prepare with lower cost meats and if you make a sufficient quantity can get two meals and a few lunches out of that one pot.
Apply the concept of simplicity to anything, and you’ll find ways to be happier, enjoy your life more and save money.
- 11 Ways To Embrace Simplicity
- How to Manage the Pitfalls of Simplifying Your Life
- The Secret to Successful Meal Planning and Food Budgeting
If you have a tendency to shop to fill other needs what ends up happening when you stop is you feel deprived which leads to more out of control shopping. If you’re struggling in this area, you must get a handle on your emotional spending and find other ways to fill the need you have that doesn’t require spending money. Fail to find a solution to this problem, and you’ll find it very difficult to manage your spending.
One way to highlight the issue and shine a light on your spending habits is to track your spending. Tracking gives you an inside look into where your money goes. Do it for a couple of weeks, and you’ll not only see your spending habits but spending areas that can be reduced or eliminated.
Another trick to help you stop spending is to convert to using cash only. It’s much harder to part with cash than it is to stop using plastic. Convert to cash and you’re spending will be significantly reduced.
- 6 Simple Habits That Will Transform Your Finances
- The Emotional Side of Money
- The Cost of Buying on Impulse
The fact is most of us spend too much on things we don’t really need. Here are just a few examples of ways you could save money and reduce the money leaving your wallet each month:
1. Purchase items on sale at all times. If this means having to make multiple trips to multiple stores then do so as long as the commute doesn’t outweigh the benefit of the sale. If you stink at trying to figure out how to maximize your dollars, follow a site like How To Shop For Free. Kathy lays out all the scenarios so all you have to do is copy her strategy and you’ll be able to save money on everything.
2. Always pair coupons in conjunction with sale items. If you don’t get the paper ask your neighbors, friends or family for their inserts. Use the public library to print digital coupons. Sign up for Ibotta (it’s free to join, plus you get $10 added to your account) where you can maximize your savings even more.
4. Buy an inexpensive chest freezer on a site like Facebook or check out your local Freecycle.org site for anyone who may have one to give away. When you can, stock up on meat and produce when it goes on sale.
5. If you live in a more rural area, barter with a local farmer. Often farmers are willing to trade some of their crops for help around the farm. Maybe you have a skill that would be useful, or you’re just handy and can help them out. Even if you are not handy, I’m sure there’s plenty to do around a farm.
6. Check your local community action council for heat and weatherization programs for low-income families. Often they can save you money by winterizing your home for free. You might qualify for fuel assistance depending on your circumstances. When all else fails, cover your windows with plastic sheeting and blankets to help keep the heat in/cold out during winter months and reduce your heating and cooling costs.
7. Sell anything you can that you don’t need. Most of our homes are filled with items we rarely use. Better to sell, remove the unnecessary clutter and make a buck or two from it.
8. Get the cheapest cell phone you can and give up the expensive phones with the high data usage plans. Try using Facebook, Skype or Google or another method to stay in touch with friends and family.
9. Eat whole foods. Potatoes (even sweet potatoes), rice, beans, homemade bread, and such are all cheaper than their pre-packaged equivalents.
10. If something breaks, try your best to fix it yourself. YouTube is a great resource for how-to information.
11. Line-dry your clothes. You will be amazed at how much cheaper your electric bill is if you avoid using the dryer. Plus the smell will remind you of your childhood (this only applies to folks over 50!)
12. If you rent, ask your landlord if you could be assigned to cut the grass, shovel walkways, and driveways, and do repairs yourself in exchange for lowering your monthly rent.
These articles offer other ways to reduce your overall costs each month when you’re desperate to save money and living on next to nothing:
- The Best Saving Strategies When You MUST Save Money
- Don’t Waste Your Money On These 15 Things
- 101 Creative Ways To Cut Costs When You’re Desperate To Save Money
USE YOUR TIME WISELY
When money was in short supply, I learned the value of scheduling my time, so I could do the things that I had otherwise abandoned. When money is abundant, I did things simply for convenience. I bought prepared foods, and let someone else clean my house.
When faced with the prospect of living on next to nothing, I found value in using a planner.
I scheduled everything into my planner and left convenience at the curb so I could focus on using all my time wisely, and not waste a penny of my money.
Today I still use a planner to organize my home and work schedule. I still see the value in planning and know I’d be lost without my planner.
BUILD A STOCKPILE
Groceries take one of the biggest bites out of your budget each month. But if you plan, coupon and observe stores you’ll begin to see the sale patterns. When you do, that is when it’s the best time to start to stockpile.
Buying what you family eats at the lowest possible price can reduce your spending drastically. I’ve shaved thousands of dollars off my grocery budget by being diligent about this one task.
If you don’t currently have a stockpile, you’d be foolish not to try creating one. It will make a huge difference for you and your family.
- Food Shop These 7 Weeks And Transform Your Grocery Budget
- Take Charge of Your Food Budget and Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half
- How Freezer Cooking Can Transform Your Grocery Budget
I know you’re thinking, save? I barely have any money.
I get it. I was there too. But here’s the thing. You’ll never get out of the hole unless you start saving money.
It doesn’t have to be a lot. But every payday you should put aside something. Start with $5.00 and build up from there.
You can also use a service like Digit or Change. Digit uses an algorithm and calculates based on your spending how much money to take out of your account and place in savings. I’ve used both Digit and Change, and they are excellent resources for helping folks save money.
- 9 Easy Ways to Save $1,000
- The Joy of Saving
- The 6 Steps To Saving As A Means Of Getting Out Of Debt
What I have learned during the time I was living on next to nothing was that when I gave freely, I always ended up having more than enough to cover my needs.
When I held money too tightly and was stingy about parting with a dime, even to help someone in need, I was less likely to find myself able to pay all my bills each month.
I wish I could tell you why this works, but I know it does as I saw this demonstrated in my life over and over again.
WHEN MONEY IS TIGHT – LIVING ON NEX TO NOTHING
Having to watch every penny leaves many feeling hopeless, guilty and ashamed.
It’s tough – but don’t be too hard on yourself. Anyone can find themselves in the same situation through illness, job loss or death of a provider.
If you need help, there are government agencies and charities that can give you a helping hand. Don’t be ashamed of having to use those resources. It won’t be forever, and you can always pay that kindness forward.
You can do it and find financial peace.
What are your tips for when the money is tight, and you’re living on next to nothing?
MY FAVORITE MONEY-SAVING TOOLS
EBATES: Want to earn cash back when you shop online? Ebates acts as a shopping portal offering coupons and cashback from over 2,000 online stores. I always check on Ebates first whenever I shop online! You can join Ebates for free and get a $10 welcome bonus when you sign up through this link.
DIGIT: Like the idea of saving but need something automatic? Digit is the perfect solution if trying to automate your savings strategy. In essence, what Digit does is use an algorithm to detect spare money and then transfers it to a secure savings account – so you’ll always have something to fall back on. Sign up for free!
GROCERY BUDGET MAKEOVER: Is your grocery budget giving you a serious kick in your families spending plan? Grocery Budget Makeover helped my family slash $6,000 a year from our food bill! Learn more about how Grocery Budget Makeover can help you save money too!