One of the great things about The Non-Consumer Advocate is that it has evolved from a traditional blog to a genuine community. There are often conversations between readers within the comments section, that occur without any of my input.
And the conversations on The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group? They’re insanely fantastic, sometimes it’s all I can do to a word in edgewise! It’s pretty common for readers to pose questions about sustainability, gardening, simple living, how to get a particular used item or, you guessed it, money issues. And while I’m thinking through how to best answer the question, a dozen or more readers will jump in with really thoughtful answers that knock my socks off. I often get great ideas and inspiration from the group.
But sometimes, a reader will write a question that begs for a larger audience than the 2,728 current members, and I bring that question over to the main blog.
Today is one of those days, so please help Amy, who is asking for ideas on how to get by on a very small income:
I’ve been an on again off again frugal person with more on time than off. Currently I find myself in a situation of almost an impossibly TIGHT budget. I’m talking $100 a month for food and a few necessities for 2 people hopefully that will increase a bit after the first of the year. A little background, It’s just my hubby and I plus pets (2 small dogs and a very old cat) . About 6 years ago hubby was in an accident and suffered a brain injury which left him unable to work. We were doing okay with his WC income and SSD but then the Social Security people said they goofed up the math and overpaid him so for the next 2 years they are withholding his SSD to make up for the overpayment. It’s crazy and it frankly it makes my brain hurt to think about it. Anyway I’m here to learn and to share and maybe we’ll make it through this tight spot in better shape than we entered it.
Here, I’ll start:
Amy, first of all, I’m very sorry to hear about your husband, I can’t even imagine how hard this must be for you. My family has been in situations where our income hardly covered our expenses, (husband in school, me working part time with tiny children) but we always knew it was temporary.
Here are a few ideas to bring your expenses down:
- Stop buying most anything disposable. This means paper towels, paper napkins, plastic silver wear, Kleenex.
- Stop buying drinks when water will do. This means soda, juice, alcohol, and the like. Make coffee and tea at home, and keep a pitcher of tap water in the fridge, so there’s always a cool drink available. Make ice tea from tea bags instead of a mix. And it goes without saying, no bottled water.
- Buy your food wherever is cheapest. This might mean fruit from one store and cereal from another. And certainly say goodbye to any brand loyalty. Buy whatever is on sale that week rather than having a set grocery list that doesn’t waver. This means only buy strawberries in early summer, pears in the fall and asparagus in the spring. Look into ethnic grocery stores, as they often provide great bargains. Also, take a look at dollar stores.
- Eat less meat, and embrace the bean! Dried beans cooked in a slow cooker or a pressure cooker are the best protein bargain in town. Vegetarian chili, lentil soup, black bean burgers, rice and bean burritos and enchiladas are all tasty without sacrifice.
- Study all of your set expenses. Are you paying extra for low deductible home owners insurance or add-ons on your phone line? Call your insurance agent and let them know if you’re driving less and ask about any new discounts. Call all the customer service numbers and negotiate lower rates. I have done this, and it’s easy! If you have a cell phone, then cancel your landline.
- Get to know your library for what they offer beyond books. DVD’s, CD’s, audio books, whatever. And then, (this is important here) return everything on time.
- Take advantage of all the free events that your city or town offers. Concerts, movies, museum nights, readings, lectures, dances performances, etc. There is no reason to sit at home just because you have no money.
- If there’s something that you need, see if any of your friends or family have an extra one. Facebook is great for this. And if it’s something you just need to use rather than own, see if you can borrow it.
But sometimes employing frugal practices is simply not enough, and you need to be bringing in more money, in which case you should consider:
- Selling unused items in your home. It doesn’t have be a priceless object, as unwatched DVD’s, books, electronics, furniture, clothing, video games, sporting equipment and kitchenware can also plump up your bank account. Try Craigslist, as it’s free without the annoyance of shipping. Plus, if your item doesn’t sell, you’re not out any money like if you would be if you’d used eBay.
- Start using Swagbucks for your internet searches. This website gives out points (A.K.A. “Swagbucks”) for searching the web, which can then be used to buy different items, (although I always choose the Amazon gift cards.) You won’t get rich from this, but you might as well earn money something you’d be doing anyway.
- However, be aware that your government benefits may cap the amount of income you can bring in, so be careful here.
Now your turn, What money saving/money earning advice do you have for Amy to help her through this difficult period of her life? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
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