How to Live on Low Income

Image Credit: Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Unexpected events, from job loss to health concerns, can lead to drastic changes in income. Choices about education and career can also be determining factors when it comes to lower income. Living on less money takes a combination of creativity and resourcefulness. Although you can't always control the amount of income, you can adjust lifestyle and spending habits to move through the temporary changes and create an existence that is not only workable but also satisfying.

Step 1

Create a working budget. Determine how much income will be made during each month, from employment, unemployment benefits and any other resources. Calculate monthly bills (loan payments, utilities, rent) and also necessary expenditures such as food and transportation. A budget will help you monitor spending activity and make changes to adjust to a lower income.

Step 2

Cancel accounts that are not under contract. Whether it's cable TV, movie rentals, gym or other club memberships, these kinds of nonessential spending should be the first to be eliminated.

Step 3

Check for budget programs through your local utility, water and heating fuel providers. These programs set a lower monthly payment based on usage and can help you control your utility spending.

Step 4

Cut back on medical costs by switching to generic drugs whenever possible. Attend local health fairs and check with your local Department of Human Services to learn about other health-related programs and savings opportunities.

Step 5

Research less-expensive home and auto insurance options. Combining two types of policies through one carrier can result in significant discounts. If you own your vehicle, consider eliminating comprehensive and collision coverages, especially on older vehicles. Increasing your deductible can also lower insurance premiums; however, make sure that you can afford that deductible should you have a claim.

Step 6

Change your entertainment habits. Stop eating out or ordering pizzas, and start cooking at home. Stop going to movie theaters and renting movies, and instead look for DVDs to check out at your local library. Libraries sometimes offer movies free, or at minimal cost, to library patrons.

Step 7

Change where you shop for food and clothing. There are a variety of discount grocery stores and big-box retailers that offer greater savings than you will find in specialty markets. If you need clothing, check local consignment shops or look for a Goodwill store in your area. Garage sales can also be a great resource for clothing or home goods that you may need.

Step 8

Adjust your food budget. If you regularly shop for expensive cuts of meat and prepackaged convenience foods, consider scaling back. Switch from brand-name labels to store labels or look for sales and coupons to increase savings. Look for damaged or less-than-perfect produce and ask store clerks if you can get a markdown.

Step 9

Grow your own food, if you have space for a garden, containers or even room inside your home. Herbs, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and even beans can be grown successfully in containers. If you have garden space, you can grow corn, potatoes, onions, zucchini, winter squash and a host of other vegetables that can be stored and preserved.

Step 10

Consider applying for public assistance, if your situation is dire. While it may not be preferable, from an emotional standpoint, it can help you through a rough situation. Public assistance can help to provide food, medical coverage and housing for those that meet income guidelines.

Step 11

Find ways to supplement low income. Consider selling items that you do not need, such as clothing, books, DVDs and other household items. You can hold a garage sale or sell items online through websites such as Craigslist.com, Facebook.com or Bonanzle.com. If you are good at sewing or crafts, websites such as Etsy.com allow you to create your own store to sell handmade items.

Tip

Adjust your thinking and don't allow low income to define your self-worth. Look at it as a temporary setback that you can work through.

Warning

Talk to creditors before your credit is affected by financial setbacks. Most companies are more than willing to work out payment arrangements if you keep in touch.

references & resources