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 10, 2013 Flag
19 found this helpful

I am a single mother of two kids. The income I have comes from what little I make from my full time job, my job working in my church's nursery on Sundays, and Child Support for my oldest. I am constantly learning new ways to stretch my meager dollars. This is what I do to stretch what I have:Stretching My Meager Dollars

  • I do use the A/C constantly as it gets hot and humid where I live, but I hang clothes to dry. I turn off lights when not using them, raise the thermostat when no one is home so the AC isn't running and unplug things when not being used.

  • I walk to work. When I need to go to the store for one or two items, I walk to the store if it's close by.

  • I use fans as much as I can, too.

  • I open the blinds during the day and use the light from the outside instead of turning on a light.

  • I use sites like My Coke Rewards, and other places where I can enter codes, as well as survey sites where I can get points to get things like magazine subscriptions, household items, gift cards, money through PayPal, etc.

  • I save aluminum cans to cash in for money. When I am taking a walk, or am at the store, I pick up any aluminum cans I see.

  • I have food stamps and go to food pantries as well, as I am low income. I also stretch my food as long as I can. I save leftovers for the next day for lunch, or another dinner. I even save meats and vegetables for soups.

  • I recently had some socks that had holes in them. Instead of throwing them away, I took the socks that no longer had mates and patched up the holes with them. I do any kind of simple mending I can.

  • I pretty much try to make do with what I have and see what I can do to keep using the stuff I already have without having to go buy the same thing new.

  • Instead of buying trash bags, I use the grocery store bags, bread bags, etc. I even use the big bags that my pet food comes in as trash bags.

December 1, 20140 found this helpful

Thanks so much for this! I'm going to put a baggie in the freezer now! Also, when I was a single mom, I used coupons with Food Stamps, and this stretched the stamps a bit further.

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January 12, 20150 found this helpful

Being economical is not being "cheap", it is being wasteful that clutters this earth, it's only common sense. Of course use store bags for everything (collecting recyclables, sorting garbage, house wastebaskets), keep empty bottles/jars to store things, darn your socks and anything else that needs it, sew on buttons, keep heat off at night (it's healthier for sleeping), use fans instead of ACs, have your kids join Scouts (usually fees are waived if you are low-income), utilize your public library for many activities, movies, crafts, contests, shows for adults and children (it's also an air conditioned haven in the summer) and here's one I haven't yet seen here - get your family to church: aside from feeding your soul there are food drives, soup kitchens, social and recreational activities for adults and children, and no one will judge you or your lifestyle. Live to conserve, not waste, and see how much your life improves.

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February 14, 20160 found this helpful

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

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.

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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

August 13, 2016 Flag
0 found this helpful

This is a guide about advice for stretching grocery budget. When living on a budget, you are probably trying to reduce expenses in many areas of your budget.

Woman receiving change at the grocery store

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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.

List of Monthly Bills

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August 3, 2012 Flag

I am trying to help out a friend with big financial problems due to poor choices over many years. My question to all of you successful TF folks is, is it possible to manage on the income she has coming in and get this nightmare turned around?

She is a 60 yr. old woman in poor physical health who had been unable to find employment for 4 years. She has no resources to fall back on. She is no longer eligible for unemployment benefits as they have been exhausted. After hundreds of job applications she finally was hired, but it is a very physical job and it is questionable just how long she can make it there. The pay is low.

Her income is very close to $1,000 a month, but her mortgage payment is $800 a month, plus her utilities. She is 2 months behind on the mortgage. The bank is threatening to foreclose as this has been a long and winding road they've been on before. She lives with her 22 year old son for the summer, but he leaves to go away again for college in fall. Fortunately he has been able to work out his finances for school, but he does need to save some money over the summer here. Is it possible to be frugal enough to make it on that much money? The geographic location is upstate New York as I know locations do make a difference.

By Arlinn

August 6, 20120 found this helpful

Has she applied for SSI and or Disability?

Does she qualify for food stamps?

Can she re-consolidate her house loan?

Make as few of trips to town as she can.

Try to get a free cell phone thru the Obama plan - MI has it - not sure if NY has it.

Meet with utility companies and show proof of all her utilities and try to get on some

type of budget plan.

If there is a food program in area--even for seniors, maybe that would help.

Is the son maybe got a summer job and could help his mama and save some too?

That mortgage payment is so high - at least for Michigan.

Was she ever married and did it end in divorce but was married for at least 10 years? If it ended in death, she should be able to get spousal benefits no matter the time frame if he died ,and married at least 10 yrs. if it ended otherwise.

Seems she is part-time caregiver for her son in college there should be some

help in that area?

Free tv with a converter box and an antenna, unless she already has a

digital tv, then just an indoor antenna.

Get movies, book, magazines etc. from the library and library book sales.

The no. 1 thing would be the ssi/disab. applications. They would pay for

her to be seen by their doctors etc.

Senior resource center might have a resource person she could meet

and be of some help.

Commodities - They are not a lot and not yummy but they will feed ya

and free. She may even qualify for senior commodities--think they

get a little bit more than regular commodities.

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August 7, 20120 found this helpful

Absolutely get rid of the house, she may be able for Social Security Disability, be sure and check that out. On getting a roommate, be very cautious. I'm 67 and I'm not sure I'd want a roommate, I'd rather have senior housing. My mother-in-law's income is around $1300 a month and she was able to get senior housing for less than $300 a month - this is in southwest Missouri. I don't know what kind of bills she has, if she has credit cards, she might be able to declare bankruptcy. Check with Legal Aid (free attorneys).

Kudos to the son for taking care of his college, but at 22 he should be graduated or almost ready to graduate. If he's still living with his mom, he should contribute to the household expenses while he's there.

Get rid of cable and internet services - read, go to the library for books and magazines.

Garage sales, flea markets and consignment shops are great for selling and buying clothing, books, etc.

Consolidate trips to town. I live in a tiny town 30 miles from a major town and I'd love to go every day. I have my trips down to once a week and now that my husband is very ill, my trips are down to when we have doctor visits in that town. It's not especially fun, but I view it as a temporary situation.

This shall pass.

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March 27, 20140 found this helpful

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.

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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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