Add to GuideAsk a Question
To Top

Living on a Tight Budget

Category Advice
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.


Share on ThriftyFunThis guide contains the following solutions. Have something to add? Please share your solution!

18 found this helpful
June 12, 2012

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

Comment Was this helpful? 18
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.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Read More Comments

4 found this helpful
October 5, 2011

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? Or, have you made a personal commitment to reduce your shopping adventures only to suddenly find some really good, seemingly irresistible bargains? A written budget can affect you in the same way. Once you write down your reduced spending plan, you may begin to feel a sense of deprivation that can lead to rebellion.

Possibly, the key to living on less without feeling deprived or rebelling against budget restraints, is to refrain from actually writing down a budget. Instead, focus on making simple, subtle lifestyle changes that will save you money so indiscreetly that you won't even notice you're living on a tighter budget. Strive to replace expensive habits and activities with new, less expensive or possibly free options and activities.


One of the first things people are encouraged to cut from their budget is regular visits to a coffee shop. Reducing your daily coffee shop adventures to once a week or once a month is a good starting point. The way you fill the void on the days you don't stop by for morning coffee is a key factor in how determining how dedicated you remain to your commitment to change. You could replace your regular visit to the coffee shop with an invigorating walk or an indoor exercise routine You could spend that extra time with your spouse, children or pet. You could even enjoy the luxury of sleeping a little later on the mornings you don't plan to stop for coffee.. This method of change can be applied to numerous other habits that, if broken, could be helpful in reducing your monthly expenses.

Eating out is expensive. A lifestyle change in this area can certainly ease a strained budget. Experiment with new recipes at home, make meal preparation a family event, decorate your table to make meal time special, or do whatever you can to make meals interesting at home. Develop frugal grocery shopping skills to further reduce your expenses. Instead of dining at a restaurant, enjoy a picnic at a park or possibly in your backyard. Make bag lunches and meals at home part of your regular lifestyle and eating out an infrequent treat.

If you frequently find yourself wandering through the mall in your spare time, change your routine. Instead, go on a nature walk. There is no temptation to spend money while walking in nature like there is when passing by store displays in a mall. If you are a spontaneous buyer, changing that habit alone will have a positive affect on your budget. Become a more patient shopper who waits for bargains and is not lured into spending by eye catching store displays.

Chances are, you will spend less if you pay cash for your purchases. You can develop a savings plan by never paying with exact change. At the end of the day, put your extra change in a "reward jar" Loose change adds up more quickly than you would think.

When choosing entertainment options, look for local events that are free or inexpensive. Concerts in the park, art exhibits, and free education classes could open up new doors of interests for you and your family. When you read about or hear other people discussing money saving changes they've made, take time to see if those changes could be a benefit to you. If you pick up on ideas as time goes by and implement small changes, the end result will make a large impact on your overall budget.

Something as simple as clearing clutter from your home and developing good organizational skills can save you money. You won't find yourself buying duplicate items simply because something got misplaced among the chaos. Make a conscious effort to learn the art of reusing, reinventing, and re-purposing items to reduce spending and avoid adding unnecessary stuff to your home and your life. "Stuff" is often a budget buster that can be avoided.

By VeronicaHB from Asheboro, NC

Do you have a frugal story to share with the ThriftyFun community? Submit your essay here:

Comment Was this helpful? 4
October 6, 20110 found this helpful

I try to save on everything, all of the time. It's a game, kaching! just saved so much. You can get free Starbucks coffees via freebie sites online, as a treat. (There was just a 2 for 1 at a Barnes & Noble location.)Learn to make your own lattes, etc. it's not hard. I use cosmetic giveaways as an excuse to go to the mail & fit in a mall walk (especially when it's very hot outside). Everything is so expensive I am usually not tempted by anything other than deeply discounted Barnes & Nobles books! Because hubby has been out of work, I have cut down my thriftshop visits, tho. Because there I am tempted! But I have been unearthing stuff out of my closet which all seems new to me!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Read More Comments

December 14, 20105 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.

Comment Was this helpful? 5

November 20, 20161 found this helpful

Two piggy banks stretching a dollar between them.

CommentPin It! Was this helpful? 1

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


Kelly Ann Butterbaugh1 found this helpful
May 5, 2009

List of Monthly Bills

CommentPin It! Was this helpful? 1

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.


4 found this helpful
August 20, 2004

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

Comment Was this helpful? 4

January 20, 20060 found this helpful

In an effort to stay as much on a budget as possible and track my spending I have finally found an easier way. I keep my check book in my purse and use is to record my deposits and withdrawals, of course, but I also keep a small ledger in my purse.

Comment Was this helpful? Yes

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh0 found this helpful
March 12, 2009

Sun Shining Through Clouds

CommentPin It! Was this helpful? Yes

I remember the morning when I watched the stock prices scroll across the bottom of the TV screen while I was watching the weather forecast. It was 5 AM, and I wondered if I was watching history happen; every stock was preceded by a red arrow that noted a drop in its value.



Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

February 22, 20151 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

Answer Was this helpful? 1
February 24, 20150 found this helpful

Here's something I just posted for another person and thought I'd repost for you. If you keep yourself busy with free activities you'll hardly have time to think about the extras you can no longer afford to buy. - free jigsaw puzzles -Crossword, sudoku, mahjongg, word search. -Crosswords, other word games, sudoku, Mahjongg, Spider and Klondike Solitaire. -grid-style logic puzzles. -Various memory games, word games, visual and auditory games. -Jigsaw puzzle. -Spot the difference in the two pictures puzzle. -spot the difference puzzles, word games, number games, strategy and memory games.

The internet is a great resource. Learn to use it to its best advantage.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
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.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
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.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Read More Answers

July 22, 2012

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

Answer Was this helpful? 1
July 24, 20120 found this helpful

You didn't say how large the home is but I agree with on post; rent out a room or rooms but be sure to do a thorough backgrounds check. Do you have friends or relatives who need to cut expenses; maybe they would be willing to share housing. If that's not an option try to bring in extra income by getting a part time job.

Check the appraisal on the home; it may be appraised too high and getting it appraised at a lower rate can lower your taxes and lower the house payment. Also, you didn't give a whole lot of details about other expenses such as cable TV, etc. If you drive a car can you sell it and take public transportation?

Your question has really go me to thinking as I'm not as pessimistic as others, and depending on other things you failed to mention I wouldn't say it's entirely impossible. In Texas one has to be "dirt poor" to get any assistance with utilities and even food stamps. Good Luck and I wish you well!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
July 24, 20120 found this helpful

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

http://coverage … mepage.php?st=26

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
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.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
Read More Answers

0 found this helpful
February 4, 2009

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

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
February 8, 20090 found this helpful

It can be tough, but a good mind set about getting on with life and helping yourself make ends meet by increasing your skills level can make a big difference in your getting on with things. What I mean by that is to put away a bit of your grocery money each pay and start looking around to see what you could do in your spare time to increase your income......through skill building!

For example, I am currently enrolled in a course through the career institute to learn how to do nails and makeup. I figure once I have acquire this skill I could put a sign out by my road, or I could start makeup and nail parties in peoples homes, or watch it unfold by word of mouth. I can also bless other women by having this skill and give of myself in a way I wasn't able to before.

Something else I have been doing is making scarves. I have been getting bargain wool (but looking for wool that is big and bulky, say 3 different kinds of wool in different colours) and knitting them together into this big, thick scarf with log luxurious looking fringes. Very artsy really but it works. I knit at night while I am watching t.v. or sitting on the veranda in the summer. You can sell them over the fall and winter at your local market, flea market, bazaars, word of mouth, a sign, friends etc. Then take that money and put it back into your little business. If you can't knit learn how, or learn to crochet, or something that might give you an idea to make a few extra dollars, something you enjoy!

What about baking? do you like chocolate chip cookies? I know I do. Make some of them and do them a bit differently, maybe add white and dark chocolate to them. These are just examples off the top of my head, but again, you could sell them at your local markets, or approach your local variety stores.

What about pets? people are mad about their pets! You could make t-shirt dog toys I read about this in the thrifty fun and thought what a great idea! I have kept it so that I could do this in my future.

Also computer courses, or any kind of interest courses that you might want to learn or add to your skills. Take your 25.00 and put it in a new savings account and call it "skills" and then when you have enough money sign up for a course, by the time your done you'll have enough for your next course, and keep adding to your skills.

When people are scraping by they need to look inside and see what they can offer. The more skill base you have the more creative you can be. I think that making a list of skills you want to learn and basically going down the list and taking the courses necessary to implement them in your life will create new ideas that you can take and redesign, or brainstorm with. Often we can take a few different skills and put them together some how to bring something new to the world. It keeps us from being idle, and worry, and gives us more opportunities for our future.

Skills will help you go a long way and give you some new roads to hoe. You will meet new people, it will give you a chance to network, and it will greatly increase your quality of life. God bless you as you forge ahead! Maureen.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
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!!!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
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.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Read More Answers

0 found this helpful
January 16, 2005

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,


Answer Was this helpful? Yes
November 15, 20080 found this helpful

You know, healthy bread is so expensive, like 4 or 5 dollars a loaf. Outrageous! so, I did some research on yeast and breadmaking. I then bought a 25 pound bag of white flour and large size yeast from costco, costed around 12 bucks. for a lighter texture, I mix white flour with the good King Arthur brand whole wheat flour. You can also add wheat germ, wheat berries, oatmeal, or sunflowerseeds, whatever you like. It has taken a few tries to learn how to make a good loaf but it is well worth the effort. If the kids are available let them knead the dough, that's the hard part! Once you master the ways of yeast you will want to make cinnamon rolls every weekend! Now I am trying to master handmade tortillas! give it a try It will save alot of money and it is so much better for you! homemade artisian breads also make great gifts!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
November 15, 20080 found this helpful

Try this website It is a website that you sign up for and pay a monthly fee. It tells you what coupons to use for the week and you save a lot of money. I save at least 30 to 50 percent every week on my grocery bill. The trick is to stock up on the things that go on sale. It is worth the fee and I think you can try it out for free for a month.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
May 3, 20130 found this helpful

We don't have a 'scratch-and-dent' store, but many stores here do have clearance racks. Items that aren't selling well get marked down and sent there. Try checking those out.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Read More Answers

0 found this helpful
April 7, 2008

How can I feed and clean a family of 5 for $200 biweekly?

Laurie from Belle River, Ontario

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
May 4, 20080 found this helpful

You will find great tips and hints on this site and others. The best tip I have is to think outside the box. Be creative. Say you have 3 dinner rolls left. Don't just put them up and let someone munch them. Take the few minutes to scramble a couple eggs, add cheese, wrap them in your wrap of choice and freeze, breakfast on the run. Leftovers can be cooled in the fridge then make pie dough or bread dough, cut it into hand sized portions then fill with the leftover. Bake for dinner or put up to be reheated another night or for lunches. Get your family involved. Make it a contest to see who an come up with the best idea for whatever it is you are doing and then give them a prize. they will be much more willing to compromise and help. I treat this like a job. That whole "penny saved is a penny earned". Well it is. In the 6 months I have been an at home mom again, I have saved my family what I would have made in the 9 months a year at work. My house is cleaner, my kids better cared for, my kids are happier, all that makes for less stress on the dh which makes him happier. And that all makes me happier. It is hard to change from a consumer house to a saver house, but it can and should be done. By the way, I have 3 kids at home: 21, 8 and 3 and I am 8 months preg. with the 4th. as well as a son that lives away making me a grams in a few months.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
May 10, 20080 found this helpful

There's alot of money saved eating vegetarian. It's 'hard a bit at first, but you eventually get used to is, and can cut out dietary cholesterol! We recently started eating this way (in the past 3 months) and already I am healthier as is my husband, and our children do not complain. There are plenty of ways to get protein which isn't meat.

Join a food buying co-op for grains and beans. When purchasing things in bulk, you get a better per pound price and often you can purchase 6 months worth of beans or grains for the regular cost of convenience foods. For example, I get a 50 lbs. bag of wheat for about $20. That's enough wheat to make flour for about 2 months at the cost of one trip to McDonald's. We make our own bread, crackers, etc. with this wheat. Also we use it often like you would rice- in soups, as cereal in the morning, etc...wheat is a complete food and when beans are added to the diet, you have true completeness! The occasional veggies and fruit and you have a healthy family!

Eat more soups. I read somewhere once that people who eat soups regularly get more full and eat less, because of the water content (which we need anyway). Speaking of water- drink water in place of soda, tea, or lemonade. Water is much better for you than these others, but save the lemonade and tea for special treats. Skip the soda altogether! It's expensive and bad for you anyway.

Eat whatever fruits and veggies are in season (on sale) and don't forget to be creative.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
July 16, 20080 found this helpful

I do the same. Like you, I spend around the same amount or less. Just stock up on all things; grain, flour, drinks, and re-stock before they run out. Then just use your budget to buy meat, fresh fruit, veggies. Sometimes you can find meat on sale. Just today I bought a giant family pack of chicken drum sticks for $3.50, that was a deal for me. Also, 2 pounds of ground beef for $3.25, that's great for spaghetti. So hang in there, you'll do fine. Trust me, I know.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Read More Answers

0 found this helpful
April 18, 2010

How is it that I am only making $1185.00 per month, for I am on disability and I always come up short? I have done everything I can think of to budget my money to make it possible to have a few dollars to put aside for an emergency.

Answer Was this helpful? Yes

January 2, 20090 found this helpful

I am looking for tips for senior citizens who live on limited income.

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
Load More
Related Content
In This Guide
Writing a budget on a notepad.
Living on Very Little Money
Better Living Frugal Living AdviceApril 23, 2012
Tight Screw
Loosening a Tight Screw
Woman Consulting Her Shopping List in the Supermarket
Creating a Food Budget
Woman receiving change at the grocery store
Advice for Stretching Your Grocery Budget
Two piggy banks stretching a dollar between them.
Stretching My Meager Dollars
Fourth of July Ideas!
Father's Day Ideas!
Ask a Question
Share a Post
Desktop Page | View Mobile

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Contact Us

© 1997-2017 by Cumuli, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Published by .

Generated 2017/05/26 11:39:51 in 6 secs.
Loading Something Awesome!