Saving for Emergencies on a Tight Budget?

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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April 18, 20100 found this helpful

Without knowing any of your expenses it's impossible to know what's happening to your money. You need to go for an entire month and write down every penny you spend. Then at the end of a day or week or month look to see what you're doing that you could stop doing.

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April 19, 20100 found this helpful

It's true, it's hard to make it to the end of the month with much left when you live on a fixed income, as I am also. I keep close track on what I spend, and stick strictly to my budget. I pay all my bills first, get my meds and personal items and cat food and litter for my babies. I stay home a lot so I don't have the tendency to overspend shopping.


I shop at the Goodwill or DAV stores to see if I can find what I'm looking for. Some of the stores give them their left over items which are new. You really have to be tight and then if you have anything at the end of the month, you can either save it or reward yourself for a job well done.

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April 19, 20100 found this helpful

Once a week, put all of your change aside in a jar. This adds up faster than you'd think.

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April 20, 20100 found this helpful

It is possible to save on medications. Have a conference with your pharmacist to see if he/she can recommend cheaper alternatives for any of your meds. The pharmacist will coordinate with your doctor before switching you to the less expensive drugs.


I've saved a bundle this way--and saved my insurance company money too. (We're on a group plan that is self-funded. We always want to save the group money in order to keep our premiums lower.)

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April 20, 20100 found this helpful

Well, this is a difficult one to answer because everyone's circumstances and expenses are different. I agree with others about writing down 'everything' you spend money on for a month and see where you might be able to cut further (and continue to do it to be accountable to yourself).

I am also on disability (1,059.00 a month) but am Blessed to receive enough food coupons to purchase fresh grocery items like butter, milk, eggs, fresh fruit juice and fresh fruits and fresh veggies. All the rest I am able to receive from my local food bank.


I also limit myself to one tank of gas per month (thankfully only $20.00) and have cut my car insurance to only the required state liability amount which, since no tickets since 1974 and a ten year old car, is only about $25.00 per month.

I have my land line phone (no cell phone), internet and cable on a 'bundle' and once a year before the 'bundle special' will double in cost I call the company and let them know I can't afford the bill to raise. They put me on hold and always come back with permission to keep my service at the same price for another year. I also signed up for a special program with my electric company and receive a 30% discount from them.

My one treat is the Sunday paper being delivered. Every time it's going to expire I call and explain I am disabled and can't afford without a discount. They reduce the cost from $1.50 to $1.00 a week. I 'coupon' and there are always enough plus more coupons (regular and flyer) in the Sunday paper for items I regularly use in the Sunday paper to not only end up covering the cost of the paper subscription but also end up saving oodles on purchases at my market and pharmacy :-)


Walgreen's regularly has sales on their TP brand called 'Big Roll' and, since I only need one roll a week of their brand, the TP only costs $2.00 a month. They also have awesome sales on brand name dish soap and laundry soap. And they also have buy 1 get 1 free vitamins all the time (I have to have those for medical reasons).

I have a neighbor who takes my recyclables for me to the recycle center (because he recycles everything) so I only need to take out the trash to the apartment complex dumpster once a week and I buy a large box of 50 bags on sale. That box lasts two weeks short of one year ;-)

There are so many ways to cut corners. It just takes detailed thought and reviewing a couple of times a year :-)

The idea about keeping all coin change set aside is excellent! I separate the quarters for the laundry room in my building and the rest of the change has saved me in several pinches :-) I also put aside a few dollar bills for 'just in case' in a spot where I don't see it ;-) (My best friend of 43 years knows where it is 'just in case' ;-)


If you need prescription drug help during spend down/deductible time, ask your doctor for samples!

I am frankly amazed I can squeak by because I don't even get housing help yet but I am Blessed when I can't make it with family members or friends donating a small bit here and there when really needed. I also submit oodles of recipes, tips, etc here at ThriftyFun for their weekly contests and pray for enough 'thumbs up' to win and earn a little extra to supplement income :-)

Hope these ideas have been of help to you!

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April 20, 20100 found this helpful

I agree with everyone who's advised you to start writing down where your money goes. I can do this even though I'm blind, thanks to the wonder of adaptive technology and a basic knowledge of MS Excel. I have to estimate some expenses, but can get it down to the penny in a lot of places. Although I'm able to add about $100-$150 by working from home doing B2B marketing calls, we mostly rely on our Social Security and a tiny pension of hubby's that equals less than $70/month. Our total income for two, not counting food stamps or the State subsidy that pays our Medicare premiums, is less than $18,000/ year, not counting borrowing.

I canceled my one and only credit card, hubby's about to pay off the two store cards he has. That'll ease our financial pinch a lot. If hubby doesn't have cash on hand, which is usually by mid-month, he uses my debit card. This keeps him from overspending because I track every penny coming out of my checking account. This, too, helps me have an idea where our money goes.

We don't go out much, and don't spend a lot when we do. In short, no Red Lobster for us, usually. Even though hubby refuses to dig out his Golden Buckeye card (Ohio's senior-citizen discount card) and use it, we still managed to get a Burger King meal to satisfy both of us the other day for under $7. Even a little splurge (like my Cadbury creme eggs, available at our local Rite-Aid for $2,) feels great! We don't coupon, but do shop at Save-a-Lot most of the time.

The only other splurge I want to mention is our satellite channels. Since I have to have internet and phone for work, we bundled TV in to save. I've cut out everything we don't use. Even though my company's needs occasionally require me to call Canada, I add unlimited Canada calling only for one month at a time, when I just can't find a toll-free number to use instead. I think next time, I might go even cheaper and get "minute calling," lol!

But back to my TV splurge, sorry to have digressed. Hubby and I both love the Fox News Channel and several programs on the History International Channel. Since we can only get both of those stations at the "gold (top) level," we bite the bullet for those few extra dollars.

Last but not least, remember even pennies are worth saving. What others foolishly discard, neither hubby nor I am ashamed to glean, lol! I periodically wrap what's on hand. It's bought small necessities at the end of the month more than once. This and other strategies help us live fairly well, even on a severely limited budget. Best to you in your endeavor to do likewise.

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April 27, 20100 found this helpful

You are chiding yourself for living on $1185/mo and coming up short? Put that self blame away right now (unless you are blowing it on drinking, drugging, gambling, etc.) Life is expensive. I'm a single parent with 2 minor children trying to get by on just a bit more than that and frankly can't do it. If my mom didn't help us out we'd be living in a cardboard box or my car. The alternative is to sell everything and relocate where I can pay cash for a house. I stay because the schools are excellent here, and I feel the best thing I can give them is a sound education. I am also a cancer patient, and spent 3 consecutive months in the hospital last year. Because of my divorce settlement, I have good private health and drug insurance.

1. Some months though I have to chose between meds and food. My daughter has a part time job, sometimes I have to borrow a little from her (I also drive her to and from her job, and do lots of after school pickups which costs gas $$).

2. I've recently applied for foodstamps, and after confering with my various medical teams, SSD. Extensive surgery has long lingering expenses that show up unexpectantly in the utility and consumable items bills.

3. I pinch pennies till I and they scream, and consider a box of Good - n- Plenty a luxury (they are great for a queasy stomach!).

4. I make use of recycling (AKA shoppping at Goodwill, used bookstores, the donation shelves at the public library, going out of business sales, only buying used cars, and scrounging other people's cast offs),

5. utility grants (thank you PECO, our electric company),

6. alot of negotiating for time payments, AND,

7. this year, I am planning to put in a substantial veggie garden! Yes, I plan to eat off that sucker, and will donate surplus to the foodbank that has helped us out in the past. Last year, while recouperating and being barely able to move, I had a garden in miniature in pots. I called it my tablespoon garden because I dug with that instead of a trowel or shovel. Seeds to grow food plants are cheap, and can be purchased with food stamps depending on your state's laws. Container gardens can be grown indoors by a sunny window, or on a deck, and are accesible to people who are disabled. Even easy to grow basics like cherry or roma tomoatos, lettuces and herbs can help. Bush beans are also easy to grow.

8. One advantage (the only one I can see) at living below poverty level is that my brilliant A+ daughter will be getting grants and scholarships to attend my alma mater, Penn State, next fall.

9. My professional career (until 2000) was in scholarly publishing as a magazine designer and illustrator. I can also work a bit of jewelery, so I decided a long while ago that almost all gifts from me will be handmade. $$ would be spent on the kids, holidays are greatly pared down, and I opt for 'house gifts' (a special concert or 2 years ago, our adopted German Shepard) which I have found last much longer in the remembering and experiencing than things.

10. I swallow my pride, ALOT. Tell myself it won't always be this hard. Maintaining self esteem is critically important when living on the financial edge. It takes huge amounts of energy to cope everyday. If depression because of survival issues is making it hard to cope, there are mental health organizations that can sometimes be found through free clinics at your local hospital. Somedays it's a very thin line between feeling blessed and feeling like you are drowning.

11. As I pay off one major expense, I move that money to the next and so on, payments involving interest being paid off first. An alternative is to take the payment money for a retired expense and hiding that away. I use the same pharmacy all the time. They are very helpful. If I need an expensive refill, they know I will need the balance of the medication, and will sometimes front me a few days worth to tide me over until child support comes in. Ask your major utilities about budget plans, to even out those costs over a year, plus special rates for low income.

12. I write and rewrite the monthly expenses several times over 30 days. Having school aged kids and sudden expenses for them necessitates some flexibility. I now have them on the school lunch program. I accept the Thanksgiving turkey basket and supplement it. We don't have TV, haven't for 5+ years. No land line either - I have a cel and their father pays for theirs. The cels are safety equipment in my mind.

13. Once in awhile, buy yourself a chocolate bar (if you can eat sugar). I'm serious! Or a beautiful magazine. Why? Moments of delight help make the hours of frugal necessity more bearable. Also, drop a few coins into a charitable collection. I've found it's harder to cope the months I can't do that.

14. Eat the best quality food you can afford - fresh fresh fresh! The healthier you can stay, the better you feel, and the clearer your mind will be, less doctor visits, less meds. It's also cheaper in the long run than heavily processed foods.

15. Just an aside - for every program I apply for, I seem to lose a little more privacy. If that is a major issue for you, try and get by without program assistance, which sometimes can't be done with children in the house. For anyone who has never had to do it, it's alot more than just 'applying'. It's basically laying out your life to be examined in minutia and judged.

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June 14, 20110 found this helpful

Bless your heart! Its hard to save money even when you do everything you can think of! I recently bought a book from amazon called " How to survive without a salary" and was surprised to find that I am already doing most of the things they suggest! LOL

One way of tracking your expenses would be to save every single receipt for a month, then you can see where your money is actually spent. Also, keep track of small purchase like sodas that you dont normally save receipts for. I kept track of how much we were spending on those and was shocked at the amount of money was being wasted there!

We love Mtn Dew, so in order to cut our expenses there ($1.39-1.59 PER 20 oz) I started saving the 20 oz bottles, bought more 2 liters from Walmart for $1.25 each and split the 2 liters between the 20 oz bottles. Then I put them in the fridge and now if we go somewhere, we just grab a drink out of the fridge to take along with us instead of spending 3+ bucks for 2 20 oz drinks while we are on the road. You can get 3.5 20 oz bottles out of a 2 liter. The savings is awesome! 3 20 oz bottles was costing us $4.77+ tax and I now get those same 3 bottles for $1.25.

My husband and I were both out of work for nearly 6 months, so things got pretty hairy for us! We have been living on about $300/week with no foodstamps or any other assistance.

One thing we did was to buy an older model travel trailer off of craigslist, do a little work to it and then we moved to a rv park that allows long term rental of camping spots. We now pay $125/mo for rent AND utilities instead of $400+/mo for rent PLUS utilities. I didnt think I was going to like living in such a small space, but I LOVE it! We had a HUGE yard sale to get rid of a lot of our clutter and that extra cash paid up our lot rent for several months.

With a little imagination you can do it! I have faith in you, you just need to have faith in yourself. My Dad always said, "Where there is a will, there is a way" and it is true. Make a list of all of your expenses and then see what you can do to shave them. You'll be surprised at what you find! I was a little embarrassed at first about living in a travel trailer, but it doesnt bother me now at all. Those ppl who might poke fun at me are NOT paying my bills, nor are they contributing to my household in any way, so why should I care what they think?

We are now able to put back a little bit of money towards purchasing our own property and hubby found a job finally just last week, so things are looking up!

Also, there are a few places online that you can make a little extra money once you learn how. If you're interested, send me a message and I'll be happy to point you in that direction. The little bit of cash I make each week has bought groceries in a pinch and is my little "savings" account for emergencies.

Good luck to you! ;)

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July 13, 20110 found this helpful

I am living off $750.00 a month total, retirement Social Security. I get rental assistance for my apartment, the rent includes heat, water, sewer, garbage, cable TV (as a thank you for renting from them). I also get food stamps. Check with your Department of Social Services and see if you qualify for things like food stamps, etc. If a person qualifies for rent assistance I urge them to sell their house and move into a rental. However, most locations have a real long waiting list for rent assistance. Here the waiting time is about 2-3 years. Here is also HUD apartments that are low income. Check into these things. I also gave up my car about 14 years ago. For me it is more economical to take a cab or being I have mobility problems I also ride a paratransit bus. The thing when using cabs and other public transportation is you have to plan ahead and limit your trips. Doing this is cheaper than running your own car. When you have a car you have to figure payments, insurance, oil changes, gas, tires, and all other maintenance items that might come up unexpectedly.

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