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Living on a Tight Budget

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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.
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By 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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June 25, 20120 found this helpful
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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."

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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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By 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: http://www.thriftyfun.com/post_myfrugallife.ldml

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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. 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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Kelly Ann Butterbaugh1 found this helpful
May 5, 2009

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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By 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.

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November 20, 20161 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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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.

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Kelly Ann Butterbaugh0 found this helpful
March 12, 2009

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.

Sun Shining Through Clouds

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Questions

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

Answers

February 22, 20151 found this helpful

You are the only one that can figure out what things you can save on. Could you do without a car and ride buses or take cabs. I haven't had a car since 1997, I take cabs when I have to go someplace, but I really limit how often I go anyplace. I live off $700.00 a month. I am 74 years old.

I have renter's insurance, pay electricity, phone, internet. Cable is included in my rent. I am also on Section 8 housing and I pay $210.00 a month rent, and I get $170.00 a month in food stamps. Medicare Part D pays most of my prescription meds. I don't buy any magazines or things like that. I do spend a fair amount on scrapbooking supplies and genealogy, those are my major recreational expenses.

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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

Answers

July 23, 20120 found this helpful

You are right there is assistance for heating, but it won't cover all of the expenses, anyway in SD, it doesn't. There is also other utility expenses, such as electricity, phone, etc. If they run an air conditioner in the summer the electricity bill will be quite high, Then there is food, clothing, and cleaning supplies. I don't see how with a mortage payment of $800 a month that they can live off $1000.00 monthly. Oh yes, there is also homeowner's insurance, car expenses such as insurance, gas, and general upkeep.

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By 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,

Tina

Answers

By guest (Guest Post)
January 16, 20050 found this helpful

Tina, do you have an Aldi store nearby? You have to bag your food there and it is unfancy, but you can get so much there for your money. They have a new health food line also. I have two teenage boys and just shopping there has cut my food bill tremendously. Good luck to you!

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 16, 20050 found this helpful

I shop at Costco for bread, meat, milk, eggs and cheese. Super Walmart for most other things. I think one of my biggest money savers is serving smaller portions of meat. I am able to use less by cooking casseroles, rollups, etc. I also shop alot of the BOGOs and try to use coupons for those items. I am a stay at home mom with 4 children and my 14 year old is 6feet and 180 and does not seem to have finished his growth spurt yet so I have to really get alot of food for as little money as possible. Also, water or milk is all we have to drink at meals. I've heard that Aldi's is a great place to shop too.

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 16, 20050 found this helpful

Cook from scratch! Buy whole chickens on sale, bags of potatoes, fresh fruit on sale and in season. Avoid buying soda and junk food-empty calories devoid of nutrition. If your kids want them, let them spend their own money on them. Serve oatmeal or eggs for breakfast, rather than expensive cold cereal. Mix regular milk with powdered milk, diluted. If you serve it cold and don't tell them, they'll never know! Find bakery and grocery outlets in your area. Avoid frozen entrees and vegies in sauces. Buy frozen vegies plain and season as you like. Fruit is a fine dessert. Make baked apples. Make soup from scratch in a huge batch and freeze some of it. Serve with fresh bread, rolls or homemade muffins and that's a meal. Think ahead, be flexible enough when you shop to buy any bargain/sale things you see IF and only IF you can use it. It isn't a bargain if you can't use it or it will spoil!

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 16, 20050 found this helpful

Look for a scratch and dent store. Lots of bargins there, for instance bottled liter water for 39¢, veggies 5/$1. A dented can doesn't matter unless there is rust. Also, the dollar stores and flea markets are other sources.
I make lots of healthy casseroles with recipies I get online. Try Weight Watchers, and any of the magazine sites.

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 16, 20050 found this helpful

one of my all time fav's is beef and noodles or chicken and noodles. i usually cut a roast in half for beef and noodles add a couple of pakages of frozen noodles and make homemade mashed potatoes with chicken and noodles it only take 2 or 3 pieces of chicken . my son could match his dad in eating as a teenager so i learned to make cheap meals that would go far and were filling. also porcupine meatballs are good too just take some hamburger and add instant rice(uncooked)roll into meatballs place in pan add 1 can tomatoe juice and cook till brown once again we usually had homemade mashed potatoes to the meal because they are cheap to make and filling

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January 16, 20050 found this helpful

There is a website and email group called Frozen Assets that's about cooking more than you need for a meal and putting the extra in the freezer. Then you can buy in bulk and save a lot of money. Many on the list cook just once or twice a month. I don't do that, but the ideas are really good and they list meals that freeze really well. It works even if you have just the freezer on the top of your fridge.

http://groups.y  p/frozen-assets/

coolchinchilla

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January 16, 20050 found this helpful

The biggest money saver in my opinion is planning ahead. Make a menu of healthy meals made with fresh unprocessed inexpensive foods before you go to the store. The once a month cooking ideas are great. Make homemade meatballs, use 2-3 lbs of hamburger +/or sausage and freeze what you don't use. Find spaghetti sauce on sale. This is a quick inexpensive meal.

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January 16, 20050 found this helpful

I check the local store flyers and make a list as to what are the best deals where, and I buy all of my staples at the Aldi's store nearby. They are very cheap (ex: canned soups are like 39 cents, their ground beef is @ $1.89/lb). Go to aldis.com to see if there is a store in your area.
I also try to make a weekly menu before I go shopping, as this cuts out on having to make a store run for missing ingredients, or ordering out.

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January 17, 20050 found this helpful

All the above Ideas are terrific. Here is My check list.

1. Make Pantry and Freezer Inventory
2. Make Fridge Inventory
3 Put magnetic Shopping list on fridge so when we are out of Item I can see to replenish
4. Stock up your pantries when stuff is on sale. My Local Shaws has 10 for $10.00 Items in every Flier.. I use this combined with the $5.00 and $10.00 Cupons they send me for each week of the month(Got this by going on their website and signing up for the rewards card) and Other coupns. I managed to stock up on at least 10 of each of my pantry staples in the last month alone while the entire grocery list was at least half the regular register price.
5. Clip Cupons
6. Get a good Recipe software program. Mine stores my recipes, Has a grocery list with prices that I update once a month, and makes a meal plan.
7. DO NOT BRING KIDS TO THE GROCERY STORE.(Grin I have found ways to get a stitter on grocery day, Even if you have to pay the sitter its usually cheaper than the guilt of saying no to the lil ones gimmes)

I hope this helps!
Honeydoya

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 17, 20050 found this helpful

Acquiring meat is the main sore in my budget. I have a cow sitting outside that is waiting to go to the abatoir's and in the meantime, my freezer is quite low and boring. The fact that I have to now buy meat, literally doubles my grocery bill. Ugh! I find that scavenging the flyers after the holidays will net you some good deals. I just found a whole shank of pork for $1/lb. I bought a 22lb. chunk and cooked it up and divided it into meal portions and froze it, then went back to the store and got another one! I've been thinking of buying a whole pig from the butcher, but he charges $2.10/lb. This certainly was a better deal and if the budget could have stood it, I would have bought 4 of them and had a whole pig practically for $1/lb.!

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 17, 20050 found this helpful

Noodles, and rice! Potatoes are always cheap!...my kids are happy with a bologna sandwich and soup...I usually have one night a week where I prepare a really nice dinner and one or two nights I take the easy route with soup and sandwiches or spaghetti. I shop the stores for the loss leaders on the front page and my girls have an understanding that if we stick to shopping just from the list, on the way home we can stop by the dollar store and they can each pick out one thing. There are also coupon sites online where you can print your own coupons.

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 17, 20050 found this helpful

Try speaking with some older women who survived the rationings during WWII. They had to feed their large families on what they had alone and grew their own vegetables, as well as stretched meals by putting chili over rice/pasta, etc.

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 17, 20050 found this helpful

Learn to make your own soups,pancakes,mashed potatoes, hamburger helpers from scratch,delute dishwashing soaps,shampoo, and try not to use too many already prepared foods. Stock up on vegetables and fruits. Make casseroles using less meat than giving a portioned piece to each person. Drink a glass of water before meals and leave the table when the meal is over. Eat only when you are hungry.

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 18, 20050 found this helpful

If you have a yard, try planting a vegetable garden during the growing season. I grow tomatoes, peas, beans, corn, and cucumbers in a pretty small garden space. The tomatoes are canned into spagetti sauce, chili seasoning, salsa, etc, the cucumbers are made into pickles, and all the rest are frozen. Never have to buy vegetables at the store, unless it is something that I need that I didn't grow that year. If you have only a little space, tomatoes and cucumbers can be grown successfully in pots, and still produce a large crop, if you water and fertilze them regularly. Gardening can be done frugally, without having to spend a lot on supplies. Do a Google search on "frugal vegetable gardening" for tips.

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 18, 20050 found this helpful

Lately I've been walking through the past when it comes to feeding my family. I remember there were NO cookies and chips in our house most of the time. If you wanted a snack, you ate bread and butter, or an apple, or a carrot. If you wanted more food at the table, you could have a reasonable sized secong helping, but then, if you wanted more meat, you also had to take more vegetables, too, so we didn't end up with a bunch of vegetables to throw out and everyone arguing over who gets the last piece of meatloaf.

I can't afford store-bought cookies now so I bake once or twice a week. I make brownie-bites in mini-muffin papers. When I made them without papers, 5 dozen would disappear in hours. My family sticks to two or three when they have to work to eat them. Then they are a snack, not a meal! I also bake 5 dozen cookies at a time using a cake mix on sale (usually for $1 or so.

We're also a family that doesn't really care to use food as entertainment. By that, I mean, since I don't like to cook and we all like different things, I don't try to make "new and exciting" meals. I rotate pretty much the same meals throughout the month. Burgers one night, spaghetti another, shepherd's pie another, etc. Next week it begins again. I change the menu more due to season than desire because what's on sale changes with the seasons.

We should remember that people in other countries live on a couple of cups of rice and mostly fruit and veggies with a little meat or dairy. The USDA daily requirements are bloated and untrue (I used to work for them...) and no one needs as much food as they say.

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 19, 20050 found this helpful

Tina: Use more beans and eggs. Since protein in the form of meat is the most expensive part of most food budgets, you can do yourself a huge favor by adding one or two no-meat or less-meat meals per week. Some ideas would be "breakfast for dinner" which is what we have when the pantry is bare. I make omelets with leftover ham and cheese, serve with whole-grain toast and fruit salad or fruit cocktail. You can add a good helping of beans to casseroles or chili or taco meat. Or even serve "rice & beans" by itself (use google to find a good recipe) or make soup using pasta and beans. Canned beans are cheap and good, and if you have the time, using dried beans is even cheaper! (Peanut butter is also a good source of cheap protein.)

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January 20, 20050 found this helpful

Everyone has great ideas! Another thing is that for meat, try to buy the Jenny-O ground turkey and chicken. You can get 1 pound tubes of it in the freezer section of the store, and depending on the store, it's only $1.29 - 1.59. I stock up on these for chili, pasta, burgers, casseroles, you name it. If you really like the texture of beef, you can try to buy it in bulk when it goes on a good sale, split it into several small packs, and then mix a pack of that with the ground turkey. We've also found in my house that whole wheat pasta, while a little more expensive, goes much farther than regular pasta. It makes you feel fuller with a smaller helping, and is quite a bit healthier than plain pasta since it is 'good carbs' that don't burn off as quickly.

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By 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

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By 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

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By 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.

By Lesa from Houston, TX

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January 2, 20090 found this helpful

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

Marieg

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By 0 found this helpful
March 3, 2008

How can I buy a nice TV on a very tight budget?

Deb from Terre Haute

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Related Content
In This Guide
Writing a budget on a notepad.
Living on Very Little Money
Categories
Better Living Frugal Living AdviceApril 23, 2012
Guides
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
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