Living on a Tight Budget

More and more of us are trying to make ends meet on a tight budget. This is a guide about living on a tight budget.

June 12, 2012 Flag
17 found this helpful

My family is now not just one percent poor side, but my parents are poor now too. I have always lived frugally, but now my mom has returned to frugal living just to survive, and I am reteaching her what she has forgotten, and the new frugal sources as well as the old ones.

We go to the thrift stores together now, and I am teaching her how to appreciate and shop thrift stores. Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is an excellent place to get new overflow from Target at cheaper than store price. Clothes for children can be had at a good cheap price and a third of the price too. The clothes we look for are Target brand, and new tag clothes. Instead of $25 jeans, it is $4 for the same jeans that are name brand.


I get a couple for my children, and my one niece whom I now raise. My brother whom is my niece's father has custody, and he told me to help raise his daughter, and the only way I know how to is frugally by sewing dresses made of yellow and pink. I get to crocheting too, as my source for mitts and scarfs for all my children is yarn from thrift stores.

My other past time is coupon clipping which my sons do with better accuracy than me. I passed that gene onto my children. We have a garden for our veggies, and seeds come cheaply from dollar stores in my area. I raise my children to be respectful and honest when it comes to living frugally. One doesn't have to cheat the system to do it.

Our rent is rent controlled by an understanding landlord, otherwise our rent would be a hardship on our family. We live in a two-income, limited budget of $1400 combined. We each get about $700 a month. This is the last year for rent return from the state, as they will not be doing it next year, so our rent return will be saved for clothes that are not thrift store buyable, or sewable.


Shoes are bought at a Payless Shoe store two times a year. One for winter, and one for the rest of the year. Shoes are a spendy adventure for a family of 14 that includes one niece, two adults, and eleven children. All of various ages. Hand-me-downs, thrift stores, and occasional garage sales help, but mostly hand-me-down clothes.

For furniture we go to the thrift store again. I also shop for dollar store bean bag chairs for my teen son and daughter. I love the fact that people donate Snoopy and Winnie the Pooh stuff. They sell them cheaply at rummage sales too, but I guess one person's clutter is our family's gain.

I shop at Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree in Dilworth and PR for groceries and personal items for my family. I stopped shopping at regular grocery stores long ago. I make my own cleaning supplies out of items like baking soda and vinegar. I have not spent one penny on bleach or 409 in years. I clean my windows with vinegar and lemons with water as a solvent. It works well.

My family is happy and we do not feel deprived one bit. Teach them young not to want name brand and you get frugal adults. That is what I always was taught and personally have been quoted by friends and family. My children have excellent imaginations, because I raised them to know that money can't buy you happiness or fun, if what you pay for isn't what you call fun. Living frugal has always been my way.

My grandma taught me to sew, knit, crochet, and cook from scratch. My mom taught me to clean without spending money that was not around with no job, and my grandpa taught me to fish which is what we eat fresh caught all summer long. My dad taught me car maintenance, so paying for oil changes never happened in our family which is what I teach my children, and DH was raised the same way I was raised frugally, so we teach that to our children. This is how we live frugally.

By Tanya J. from MN

June 25, 20120 found this helpful
Top Comment

I love, love, love your post and your ideas. You are very wise and thrifty.

I would like to add that as I grow older I find that a good brand of shoes lasts longer. I no longer buy my shoes at Payless because I find they make my back, hips, and legs hurt. I buy my shoes online from Easy Spirit Outlet. The shoes have cushioning inside that makes me feel like I'm "gelling."

The other thought I had is that I can't see how its more frugal to make your own cleaner products. I have just started buying mine at Dollar Tree. That store sells many name brand products. Washing soda and white vinegar are both pretty expensive. So I can't see how they save money. Although they might save the environment. I prefer to USE LESS of good products. My father used to add water to them, but I only measure them for use. Be careful with laundry products because the caps usually have a lot of lines inside. Use the very lowest line.

Good luck and keep up the good work of teaching others. I like using coupons, too.

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February 14, 20160 found this helpful

November 20, 2016 Flag
0 found this helpful

This is a guide about stretching my meager dollars. Finding creative ways to make your money go farther can be a real challenge.

Two piggy banks stretching a dollar between them.

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October 5, 2011 Flag
4 found this helpful

As odd as it may seem, just the act of writing down a budget can have an adverse or possibly even reverse affect on your attempt to save money. Have you ever decided to go on a diet and immediately began craving something sweet?

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December 14, 2010 Flag
5 found this helpful

When life gives you things you can not handle, just remember you have to have bad to remember the good times. So when things get hard, just let it make you stronger. God will not give you something you can not handle. I call it a test of faith.

By Kathleen from Lithia Springs GA

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December 18, 20100 found this helpful


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December 22, 20100 found this helpful

The hardtimes? I've always called them the "speed bumps" in life. The phrase always seemed appropriate!

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December 27, 20100 found this helpful

February 22, 2015 Flag
1 found this helpful

How do I live off of $750.00 a month? How do I budget this amount of money each month? I live in section 8 housing and my rent is 191.00 a month, but I have car insurance and car expenses. What should I save from this low amount of money

By Valorie

March 18, 20150 found this helpful

Visit the public library for books to read. That can be most entertaining and a good use of your time. Hubby and I are retired and on fixed income. We read a LOT! We also are involved in our local political party. Just an occasional meeting with really nice folks. I am now using what I used to call my "job interview" outfits to go to Knox County Democrats. These clothes are from at least 20 years ago. In this day and age we are expected to spend a lot of money but take it from one who has tight waddery down to a science you don't have to spend a lot to have an enjoyable life.

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April 11, 20150 found this helpful

My disability is $766

My sec rent is $195

My medications total $3.10 a month

My tv is basically Netflix. I watch it all the time. I keep the lights down as much as possible. I sold my car and moved where bus and trains are walking distance. I shop for food on sale and buy almost three of everything. There are months where I don't need to buy some things. I shop through swagbucks to earn walmart cards. I shop Walmart to use the savings catcher. I now have over $15 saved up.

Clothing is under $5 most often and brand new. Jeans and sweats are from Salvation Army and Good Will stores, top of the line brands. I only buy the colors on sale.

I do my own hair and use coupons when possible. I recycle everything possible with friends and family. good luck. oh my cell is boost mobile $35 and my plan is to pay every other month and bank the savings. I use debit cards or cash no credit or borrowing for me. When my check is gone I live without an try to be home where it's paid for and free.

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May 9, 20150 found this helpful

May 5, 2009 Flag
Kelly Ann Butterbaugh1 found this helpful

There's no quick fix for the economy, and jobs are disappearing daily. Even seemingly secure jobs are causing some people to look at their futures with a budget cutting scissors in hand. If it makes you feel better to cut back now in preparation for the worst, then by all means cut back. Maybe drastic cutbacks aren't such a bad idea anyway. After all, we could all use some extra cash these days.

Hang It Up

Cell phone bills are outrageous, especially for large family plans. The average cell phone bill tallies up to $1,000 or more a year. Maybe it's time to say goodbye to the cell now rather than later.

Find out when your contract expires and note the date. Avoid early cancellation fees entering your life by opting not to renew the contract. It's the perfect time to buckle down and cut back.

Going without your cell phone plan doesn't mean going without your cell phone. Pay-As-You-Go plans allow you to cater your monthly budget accordingly. The committal to extra fees is gone, and so is the outrageous phone budget. It also works well for teenagers since they can be responsible for their own minutes. No money this month? No minutes. It's an easy lesson that anyone under eighteen can learn.

Trade Down

Gas prices may have fallen, but it's not a bad idea to trade down on your vehicle. Large trucks not only use more fuel but also cost more for repairs and yearly tags. Are they worth it? For some, the answer is an adamant yes. For others, maybe not. If you're driving a heavy duty pickup just to haul weekend toys, you might be able to downgrade your vehicle and pick up a cheaper, lighter trailer.

Similarly, if those monthly car payments are taxing, imagine what they'll feel like if job cutbacks affect you. Trade in now when you're not feeling so desperate and opt for something that's softer on your budget.

Eliminate the Extras

You may not be willing to get by without your cable TV or your landline phone, but those bills don't necessarily have to be as high as they are right now. Look at your next month's bill with a highlighter in hand. Highlight every extra service listed on your bill, both phone and cable. Can you live without some of these?

Try to gradually tighten your utility budget belt. This month eliminate one premium channel listing. Next month, drop call-waiting. Then, caller ID followed by DVR services. Could you drop your voice mail service and purchase a cheap answering machine instead?

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May 6, 20090 found this helpful

5buckdinners AT $5.oo dinners plus websites for lots of great coupons,etc.

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May 11, 20090 found this helpful

I would also add contact the utilities before dropping anything. We were trying to tighten the belt a bit and decided to drop call waiting. Hubby called the phone company and told them we wanted to drop caller id to save money. In the end not only did we keep caller id, but added something else that I don't even remember right now because the company had lower prices on that particular pkg than just dropping all the extras. We end up saving about $10.00 a month over our previous bills.

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July 22, 2012 Flag

For all of you very frugal TF readers out there, I have a big dilemma. I am trying to help someone out with and was wondering if you could guide me. Is it possible to live on $1000 per month with a mortgage payment of $800 a month which includes the taxes? I am asking for a family of two, a parent and a 22 yr. old college student. The student's schooling costs are covered and he works part time for his expenses. The location is upstate NY which I mention because I know cost of living varies. Of course in this location there will be heating costs in the winter, but I know there is assistance available for that. Thank you for any advice you can give.

By Arlinn

July 24, 20120 found this helpful

Search the Internet for State Help. One I found for NY was:

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July 24, 20121 found this helpful

If you are willing to move, try contacting USDA-RHS (rural housing service). It is for low-income families. I pay $155.00 for a 3-bedroom, 1500-sq ft. house in a town just 8 miles from a big city. House payment is based on income & house taxes are paid at the end of the year.

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Anonymous Flag
July 26, 20121 found this helpful

February 4, 2009 Flag
0 found this helpful

I like many other people are struggling financially. but unlike many others I have been in this boat for well over 5 years. I pay for my own health insurance. I own my car and condo outright. But I am living paycheck to paycheck hoping the next check will be enough and it never is. I keep having to borrow from my savings account. My good friend is helping me with telling me which bills to pay and when as I don't have the organizational ability to do that.

She has been doing that for 2 years and I haven't learned anything from her about how to do it myself. I don't go to movies, beauty salons, or other fun things. I see many people on relief and assistance and they have such nice clothing, have their hair done and here I am living honestly on only the money I earn and money a friend will give me every now and again. I can't get by and am having a really hard time. What else can I do?

Sandy from Baltimore, MD

February 9, 20090 found this helpful

If I'm repeating someone else, I'm sorry. I think it's great you live within your means. So many people just don't get that concept. The first thing to do is track all you spending for one month...the stick of gum, the coffee to the electric bill. You may find some "extra money". Another area we seem to overspend is on groceries. There is a great book by Amy Dczyczyn called the "Tightwad Gazette". I would highly recommend borrowing from the library. It is loaded with REAL information that real people can use. My husband and I started following some of her advice about two years ago and have since been able to save enough to pay cash for a car and an addition on our home...he only makes 46000 a year and I make between 8-10,000.

Another thing you can do is go to and click on their financial section. You don't have to be a customer (I'm not and we use it). They have different calculators, financial advice and downloadable budget guides.

As far as your friends who "have it all". I thought the same thing about our friends until I heard them complain about the credit card bills piling up and wondering if they were going to make the mortgage on their huge home.

Turn saving money into a game and you may just end up having fun...there's nothing quite as exciting as finding an expensive item at a yard sale for $1!!!

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February 15, 20090 found this helpful

Try trading services. I have an abundance of venison meat and trade friends venison for use of leaf blowers, or even for hamburger meat. Also ask around and see if any friends need housecleaning. I made about 200 dollars last week just cleaning houses for my friends and family. I've been unemployed for about 3 months, and just keep scrapping trying to find little bits of money. Once you finally get an even budget, try saving all change and one dollar bills. At the end of the month stash the change and ones that you saved into a savings acount. In 2 weeks of doing this I came up with over 100 dollars.

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February 24, 20090 found this helpful

August 20, 2004 Flag
4 found this helpful

It took me several years, but I finally figured out how to manage my families finances so we never worry about the bills.

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January 16, 2005 Flag
0 found this helpful

Hello, I am the mother of three teenagers, well one of them is only twelve, but my oldest, at only 16 is 6'5 and 230 lbs, and his dad is just as big. My problem is, although we both work, we have a very tight food budget, and I just can't seem to make it to the next payday with our food supplies. I want to cook healthy, I do frozen burritos from time to time, but that just doesn't do it. Any ideas how I can better stretch our food budget while not feeding them junk? Thank You, Tina

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