Getting By on a Low Income?

Bronze Request Medal for All Time! 87 Requests

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

Add your voice! Click below to answer. ThriftyFun is powered by your wisdom!

February 4, 20090 found this helpful

Make a budget each month. Write everything that you spend on paper, keep receipts, and a calendar you can write on. Write down the dates of when your payments are due.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
February 4, 20090 found this helpful

Are you married or have kids? If not why don't you try to rent a room. That is if you have an extra room.

Try not spending money on lunch. Instead make enough for dinner so you can take the next day for work. I started doing this and you won't believe how much money I'm saving.


I'm saving on gas too. I used to fill up my gas tank every week which was usually $50 or more. One day I only had $25 to use for gas and it actually lasted me for a week too! Weird huh? Well every week I have been filling up with only $25 instead. I am now saving $100 each month on gas.

Do you have credit card debt? Try paying one by one. Give minimum payments on all BUT ONE and when that is paid off continue with the next one. I used to pay $100 on each credit card and would never seem to pay anything off. Now that I am doing this I will be done paying half of my credit cards.

I understand what you mean by looking at others being able to go out have fun, nice clothes, hair done, and etc...

I would think to myself I work hard and I should be able to have what they have!!!" and thinking this I became a compulsive shopper. I maxed out most of my credit cards and I couldnt stop!!! I knew I needed help Well I got this book: TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY and It has changed my life completely. I now dont compare myself to others and I am happy with what I have. If I dont have the money for it I dont buy it.


Every week I go through my bills and bank account I get paid weekly so I already know how much money is going to what bills each week and how much money I have left for food, gas, etc Dont get stressed. Love your self, and remember God loves you!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By Angelina (Guest Post)
February 4, 20090 found this helpful

Try shopping at Goodwiil, Salvation Army, Thrift Stores and Garage Sales. You will be surprised at the quality of clothes, bedding, utensils, household goods, etc. you will find there. Probably that is where your friends are purchasing their clothes.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

Silver Post Medal for All Time! 398 Posts
February 5, 20090 found this helpful

I use dish washing detergent in my washer. Just a couple of squirts around the clothes, because it is not as harsh as the other detergents. I used to always hand wash a lot of different fabrics in it, and I just decided to start using it instead of washing detergent. It works really well. I just use the cheap ones for the wash (99 cents) and then I use Palmolive for the dishes. It also saves a lot of money. Some people dilute the detergent down that they use in the dishes.


I keep real food around the house instead of empty junk snacks. I keep oatmeal, powdered potatoes, eggs for poaching in the microwave. The healthier you eat, the better off you are. Junk snacks cost money and they are no good for you and they make you crave the wrong kinds of food.

Tea is an excellent drink, and it is cheap to buy. I buy bags of broccoli and microwave them for dinners.

I don't serve meat at every meal, but I do serve some kind of protein. Beans and Rice are really good to have on hand, and a crock pot saves energy. When you serve protein of some kind; cheese, beans, meat, eggs, etc., you stay full longer because it takes longer for the food to be processed and turn into sugars.

You would be surprised at how many people are living this way....paycheck to paycheck. I have always been like that. It is easy to save money on the little things. Always save money in little increments instead of big increments. Have savings for something you like to buy.


I used to look in the department store magazines and pick out something I wanted. Maybe it would be around $20.00 or so.; something I could save up for short term. I couldn't afford it then, but

I would put the price on the envelope and then subtract from the balance all the change I received from the store, or saved in coupons, ask for the change instead of taking it off of the ticket, or little bits of money I would put toward it. These add up and eventually I would go to the store and get it, or order it in the mail with a money order. It gives you something to look forward to.

There is more to life than material things, but it is fun to always have something you want being saved up for. When you research how bad fast food is for you, you will be glad you don't have the means to eat it all the time. Some people cut their lives by years by eating all that fried food.....yuck!

Advertisement has lots of information; some of it is useful for preventing or curing ailments. Look up free clinics or sliding scale medical clinics in your area. Check for dental schools in your area too.....well I hope this helps!

Doing other things for others and in my situation tithing at church is a good way to know you are helping others...even when I was dirt poor and sometimes even now when I am broke. I try to give 1/10 of whatever I have to my church, which is a great place to tell if you have needs. They are there to help. Racer

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By Duckie43 (Guest Post)
February 5, 20090 found this helpful

Have you checked out Angel Food Ministries to see if there is a group in you area? For $30.00 I get enough food to help me get by. I"m retired and live on a little over $500. a month. I was fortunate enough to get into a rent subsidised apartment and I sign up for energy assistance. I worked for 46 years and I feel I earned what I'm receiving now. I supported many others before I retired. Good luck

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
February 5, 20090 found this helpful

Do you have freecycle or Craig's list in your area; people are always giving away things or selling them at a very reasonable price. In my area they even give away food if not fresh fruit from their trees there cleaning out a cupboard and would rather give it to somebody and if you need something you can't ask and there's always somebody that has extra.
I do not eat out very often, when I do I use coupons and go with a friend is a buy 1 get 1 free and we split the tab.
Check on the Internet, a lot of times if you joined a restaurants club you get a free meal and when my friends ask me what I want for my birthday or Christmas I tell them restaurant gift cards, this way I can treat myself once and awhile. I buy in bulk even know I'm just 1 person it works out to be a lot cheaper in the long run.
I do have a freezer and a food saver.
I will make a pan of lasagna and it will last me a year, When I go shopping I try to buy the ingredients a little a the time, I will cook a full Thanksgiving dinner and get 30 meals out of it, it takes time to build up a big variety but it's everything I like. Today I bought a 10 lb. bag of popcorn and that will last me a year, it's a lot cheaper than a year's worth of microwave popcorn and I can control the salt & oil if I'm not air popping it.
As for the bill paying I'm self-employed and I get paid for each job I do, the bills come first, you know what you owe, you pay it and if there's anything left over that's what you get to shop with. Dont live above your means or you may try to get a better paying job. I love what I do so I will find a way to survive on virtually nothing.
As my income is so low I get a break on my utility bill, my Internet is through Wal-Mart for $9 a month and check with your phone company if you go with limited calls you can get it for under $4 a month, since I am on dial-up my is just under $6

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 378 Feedbacks
February 5, 20090 found this helpful

What did it for me, the breakthrough that stopped my habit, was putting my savings in another bank across town with the access information stored at my friend's house. You are in a good position to win this thing, many factors aligned right for you: home, car, friend... Have you thought about having work withdraw savings from your paycheck before you ever see it? Worked great for my Dad. God bless you, you are smart to be speaking up.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
February 5, 20090 found this helpful

I agree, budgeting is a great idea, as it helps you see where your money is going, and you can adjust it when you need to, just don't forget to write out a new budget when you do so you don't forget anything.

As for nice clothes, get to know your local thrift shops; visit often, find out what days they have specials and how they do them (all yellow tags 1/2 price Tuesday may mean yellow tag items are $2.00 that day). Also, check them all along your usual trip routes, the prices may be lower and the clothes better at one than another, for instance I find a lot of name brand clothes CHEAP at my favorite one often still with tags on.

Make bargain hunting into a challenge, almost a will be surprised how much you can save on the things you want or need!
Is there a cosmetology school in your area? If you want a nice hairdo or manicure/pedicure sometimes, like for a special occasion or treat, try the local cosmetology school. I was a cosmetologist for quite some time, and I remember the prices they charged for services were WAY cheaper than at a salon. Don't worry, the teachers are always there to supervise, and the entire time I was there I did not see any mistakes.

You can also trade stuff you are tired of with friends from time to time to update a look, or keep an ear open because when folks have something they no longer want they usually make it known.
Going out to have fun-call your local venues to see who has free cover charge until what time-you don't have to drink, take just enough money for a bottle of water in case you get thirsty, then dance til the club closes!

In fact, call any place of interest and see if they offer any free activities-no shame in asking, and you are anonymous anyway.

Good luck, and since you say you have not learned anything from your friend's assistance, try shadowing your friend with a notebook and write what they do to use as a giude-after a few months you will be able to do it from memory just from practicing.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
February 5, 20090 found this helpful

You're definitely not alone in the paycheck to paycheck boat, so don't feel bad! You'd be surprised at the number of folks who rob Peter to pay Paul every month! We're a family of three with only one income and one member is a growing teenage boy who eats for an army! Have you thought about looking into the Angel Food Ministries? They provide food boxes each month for a small fee and you can get good, nutritious food for next to nothing. Do a search online to see if you might have a provider in your area.

Also, a lot of churches have food banks that assist the community by providing staples several times a month. You may could call your Chamber of Commerce to see which ones in your town do this service. I am a huge coupon clipper and study the grocery ads each week to combine my coupons with the sale items so I can get them free or next to nothing. Also buying store brands are also a way of saving a lot of times.

We have a grocery store here that puts out their reduced meat at a certain time each morning and we always try to be there on our grocery day and stock up on reduced packs of meat and this way we keep our freezer well stocked. There isn't anything wrong with these packs of meat, only they're close to being out of date and if you freeze them when you get home they're fine. We also watch for ground beef to go on sale and stock up on family packs and repackage when we get home, it's so much cheaper that way. We do the same with any family packs of meat we get, repackage.

I'm a big believer in thrift stores too as well as yard sales. You can find name brand clothing for rock bottom prices and lots of times brand new items not only in apparel but household things too. Freecycle is a fantastic group to be a part of! I can't tell you how many things I've acquired for FREE, just the cost of gas to go pick it up and my time.
The local library usually has dvd's and vhs movies you can check out for nothing, pop some popcorn and get your Jr Mints ready and have a movie night at home. Gather some board games and invite some friends over for game night and a potluck supper.

I hope some of this helps, you've gotten a lot of great advice and ideas from all the posters. Good luck and God bless!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By soyzicks (Guest Post)
February 6, 20090 found this helpful

Do not skimp on having fun:

$1 movie theater in your area?

Go fishing

Go ride a bike

Pick up trash --- craft it --- sell it

Recycle bottles and cans

Hair cut at a hair training school/institute

Dentist at a dental school

Health care at a teaching hospital

Get a bus pass! - Get some walking done

Call your utilities company and find some reduced programs
(I know the phone co. Sometimes gives discounts--for me it was internet usage)
(I qualify for electrical subsidy 1x a year helps!)

Join clubs --- word of mouth / networking gets you things also

Volunteer places - get invited to group meeting and potluck meals
(I always bring ziplocs to these meals and snag the leftovers!)

Off load things that you are not using any more --- sell them!

Be a junk brothers
(tv show that finds things on the side of the road that can be fixed up and they give it back to the original owners) - but you can sell it instead!

Go swimming at the beach --- its free

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By Jeanne C. (Guest Post)
February 6, 20090 found this helpful

First, I applaud you for your efforts. It is very difficult to make it in todays world. Second, if you are not living on credit cards you are head of most people in this country. If you are not charging "hair and nail" treatments to a credit card or purchasing them ahead of your debts it tells me your heart is in the right place. We have long forgotten in this country that having a roof over our heads, something to eat and something to wear, is all we really need! NEED! A clean heart is its own reward and it sounds like you are keeping yours. That makes you rich!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By Carol in PA (Guest Post)
February 6, 20090 found this helpful

You are doing the right thing. The people you see who seem to "have it all" and spending money probably have credit card debts or other debts. Don't be influenced by them! There are lots of fun things one can do that dont cost money. Put on your thinking cap to come up with ideas for that.

Have you considered trying to pay your bills without the help of your friend? Maybe it seems like your friend is helping, but the help is actually keeping you from feeling the pride of being responsible on your own. Its just a thought. Only you would know for sure.

I have no doubt in my mind that you can make the hard decisions in life. You have what it takes. No one promised life was going to be easy. Its a struggle.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
February 6, 20090 found this helpful

This is one that I am going to try myself as I have watched my husband's work go from 5 days a week to 4. The times are scary I admit. However, I know that as much as I can do by living frugally, I am not ultimately in control.

There is a scripture that says - cast your bread upon the waters and after many days, it will return. (Eccl 11:1-6). For the longest time I had absolutely no idea what that meant. I kept envisioning somebody throwing bread in the ocean. I've been in church for 50+ years and only about a year ago, did it "click." It is the same as saying "what goes around, comes around." Give out of your need. If you have need of love, give love. If you have need of money, give money. It is the same principle as in "The Secret."

Luke 6:38 says: give and it shall be given unto you.

I do not want to seem preachy here as I hate that myself. However, those two scriptures have been coming to mind a lot lately. You don't have to necessarily give to a church if you don't want to, but to neighbors, somebody else in need, etc. I figure it couldn't hurt to try. I've lived by that in the past and I never was without. But somewhere I think we lose that concept.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 472 Feedbacks
February 6, 20090 found this helpful

You are in good company--we are all in that same boat! I refuse to be a victim--I've found the Internet to be a fantastic source of info. So many of my money saving hints have come from it, and I always learn more. I'm continually amazed at what others do to save money; I love picking up a tip that works for me here and there. This site has taught me so much, and the people as extremely nice and helpful, unlike other sites.

My first piece of advice is to quit sizing yourself up against others. They're probably robbing Peter to pay Paul, charging up huge debt, have family to help them, or have simply established healthier habits. I look to the latter when I need help. You sound like an intelligent person--make a point to understand financial responsibility. Your friend sounds wonderful to help so much; I'm sure she wouldn't mind explaining how she does what she is doing, so you would be able to learn to do it yourself. This would boost your self-esteem and help you take control over your financial situation ultimately. And that would empower you to do more.

I like to make a game of it. I spend my time on hobbies that help me save money ultimately: I garden (freeze and can), cook all my meals from scratch never buying anything premade, make things as often as possible (like homemade laundry detergent/soap), find ways to use things before tossing (I make the netting from bags of apples into scrubbies for my dishes), I use rags instead of paper towels, I've made cloth napkins from leftover fabric instead of buying paper ones, I crochet rag rugs from old t-shirts, mend clothing before tossing, make my own salad dressings, pudding mixes, bread crumbs, etc, I wash and reuse zip lock bags, and so much more. I take walks instead of using a gym, lighten my own hair, donate things to others who need them more, and pass things on (I get free magazines from the internet; after reading, I donate them to two nursing homes, the hospital waiting room, several doctor's offices, and a free clinic.). I try not to look at what I can't do, but rather feel gratitude for what I have.

You must be doing something right; you have a job (not everyone does in this down market), you own your car outright, and have a roof over your head. And you have your health. It's time to give your friend a break and take full responsibility for you own life, even if finances are foreign to you (trust me, we all fear something). Don't be too hard on yourself; we all learn at different rates. You sound strong and determined. I'm sure you'll do just fine. If you have any problems, you have a good friend by your side. Sometimes you just have to keep doing what you're doing no matter how hard it is. Keep optimistic--lots of us are praying for you.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

Diamond Feedback Medal for All Time! 1,394 Feedbacks
February 6, 20090 found this helpful

Hi, I hope I'm not repeating someone else's advice. I'm a little sleepy and haven't read through all the comments first.
On the timely bill-paying... Since I'm on my computer a lot (I work from home,) I use my Microsoft Outlook Calendar to remind me of due dates. The down side to that is, you'll have to copy and paste the reminder from one month to the next.
You can also try a print calendar with "Pay Gas Bill," etc, on or a day or two before the actual due date. Or, "Mail Gas Payment" about a week or 10 days before it's actually due.
Especially if you have credit cards, you could save yourself a bundle just by paying on time!
One more thing: I believe in tithing. If you can't tithe cash, maybe you could try tithing your time or talent? Perhaps help at your local homeless shelter for a couple of hours a month? Spending some time volunteering can help your morale - not only the good feeling that comes with a good deed, but you may find you're not so bad off, after all.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By AuntyC (Guest Post)
February 7, 20090 found this helpful

Have you considered selling your condo and car and getting a smaller place and cheaper car? None of us need those 2000 plus square feet to live in. It seems as though as we get older and feebler, our houses get bigger & bigger. So think about selling and reducing your house & car first.

Next, the bills. Everyone has cable, internet, cell phones, car phones, GPS, etc, etc. Reduce your outgo by cutting back on everything that's not NECESSARY. You have to have electricity, water, gas, etc. You have to pay your taxes. You don't have to keep up with the neighbors.
Can you get a part-time job? A few hours a week can make a great deal of difference in whether you get simple bread or bread with jam. There are a ton of places that need part-time workers. And you usually get benefits as well. Discounts, freebies, etc.

Why do you pay for your own insurance? If you are disabled or handicapped or poor, the government has programs for that. I only wish I qualified for such. Look into EVERY opportunity the government or state gives you. Sometimes you get money for heating or cooling costs. The food stamp program is wonderful. Medicaid and Medicare are wonderful as well.

Look around the neighborhood. I help out at Crosslines. They give out boxes of food to almost everyone that asks. Our clothing runs $1-$2 each, and much of it is really excellent clothing.
Churches can also help you out. Most have food pantries/programs. They also run seminars on how to live better on less money. WIC is also available to many people.

Don't buy junk food. Make your own cookies, french fries, pizza, etc. Much better value for your money.
I don't want to make you feel bad, you really are ahead of most of the people by owning your own house & auto. A lot of folks hit retirement age and have nothing.
You also might look into reverse mortgages. I don't know anything about them, but it seems as though you sell your condo, continue to live in it, AND receive payments as well. Might be something to consider. Good luck to you. And may God bless. AuntyC

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By Maureen S. (Guest Post)
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
By Mary (Guest Post)
February 24, 20090 found this helpful

Just a few things that have worked for me...if you are a person that can't say no to your kids at a store (you know who you are), leave them at home. They will think that you are mean either way, at least save money while at it. Or you could bring them back something, your choice and price range. I work in retail and see mothers drop $10-$20 every shopping trip just to keep their kids quiet. Good for the economy but unhealthy for the children. It is possible that after a few times being left at home, after you explain to them why they can't go, they may reconsider their behavior. Don't carry ANY plactic forms of payment with you. Use cash. You won't have nearly as many bags to carry in, LOL, as you will not buy things that you can't afford and don't need anyway. Don't leave any money in your checking account after paying bills. It disappears as if by magic. Before you know it the money you were going to withdraw for groceries is gone. Do your shopping ASAP, use the money for what it was intended. If you are fortunate enough to have a little left over after bills, get it out of easy reach. Put it in a separate account that you can only access by car. Most people won't bother to go get money for something trivial, especially if it's for somebody else.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

Add your voice! Click below to answer. ThriftyFun is powered by your wisdom!

In This Page
Budget & Finance AdviceFebruary 4, 2009
Halloween Ideas!
Ask a Question
Share a Post
Better LivingBudget & FinanceBusiness and LegalComputersConsumer AdviceCoronavirusCraftsEducationEntertainmentFood and RecipesHealth & BeautyHolidays and PartiesHome and GardenMake Your OwnOrganizingParentingPetsPhotosTravel and RecreationWeddings
Published by ThriftyFun.
Desktop Page | View Mobile
Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Contact Us
Generated 2022-10-13 17:19:42 in 2 secs. ⛅️️
© 1997-2022 by Cumuli, Inc. All Rights Reserved.