Living well on a Low Income

In today’s economy, more and more families are having to get by on poverty level incomes or below.  While this is not an easy task, it can be accomplished with a little bit of creativity, and a few minor sacrifices. 

The first thing you have to do on a low income is to set your priorities straight.  Although the credit card companies would like you to believe they should be your highest priority, your highest priority needs to be keeping your family fed and taken care of. 

This is a time to go back to basics. Cable, as much as it may seem like a need in today’s society, is not. Internet access is available at your local library for free.  It’s good to have a cell-phone for emergencies, but a prepaid cell-phone is better when you don’t have a lot of money. Having local phone service is a necessity because you are going to need it if you plan to improve your situation.  Shelter is important, but having the biggest house on the block is not.  Here are the areas you can trim, and other areas that you really shouldn’t.

First things first, look around your house for anything that you can sell for extra income. When your income is below poverty level, just a little bit can make a difference. CD’s, DVD’s and video games that are not currently in use can be sold to boost your income, and reduce clutter in your house at the same time.  In fact, reducing clutter in general is helpful. The tendency is to let the house go and keep everything when you don’t have enough money, but this may in fact keep you from moving forward.

Haircuts are also a good place to cut back.  If you have the talent, you can do haircuts at home.  For girls, keep to a straight, blunt cut.  It can be easily styled to the latest fashions, and a home haircut costs a lot less than going out.  For boys, a pair of clippers will give you just about any cut you want to give them.  If you’re not especially talented, however, you may want to stick to an old fashioned buzz cut. This saves a lot of money, that can go toward other needs.  If you are really untalented, you can go to the local beauty school and get haircuts there.  Yes, they are students giving the haircuts, but they are closely supervised, so you are safe.

When shopping for food, use coupons religiously.  Also use foods that go a long way. Things like rice and beans swell to 3 times their original size and are very filling. Cut back to a minimum of meat, and make sure that you buy it on sale.  Do not buy anything that is not on sale. 

Remember too, that when your income is low, you do not have the luxury of being loyal to certain brands.  You buy whatever brand is least expensive, regardless.  It helps if you take a calculator with you when you go shopping and use it.  Prioritize when you shop, and never shop without a list.  If you do this, you won’t go over budget.

Recycle everything. Not only is recycling good for the environment, it’s also good for your budget, since you can get paid for most things that you recycle.  Not only are you recycling the aluminum, plastic and glass that you use, but you will wind up recycling the cash that you use as well. This even includes children’s clothes. 

If you have more than one child, they can always hand clothes down to the others as long as they remain in good condition. If you only have one child, you may consider swapping clothes with others who are also trying to save.  As for the adult clothes, you don’t have to have a lot, and you can shop at Walmart for some and your local thrift store for others. Just inspect them carefully before buying.

If you are paying a lot in rent, look around for other places that may cost less.  You may get somewhere that’s a little bit smaller, but that’s ok. It does cost money to move, so you may have to save for a few months to get enough to move, but if it will save you more in the long run, it may be worth it.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. It’s hard, but not impossible to live decently on a poverty level budget.  Trust me, I took care of 4 children on less than poverty level for 13 years.