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Living on a Shoestring

Updated on October 26, 2014

A Few Pointers…

I've been poor my entire life, but the past few years have been especially difficult. I’ve had to stretch my limited income even further than before to make ends meet. The following are a few tips and suggestions that I've picked up along the way:

1. Re-prioritize: The first step to stretching out your income is to trim your budget. It’s necessary to re-prioritize the things that you spend money on every month. To do so, ask yourself this simple question: Is this [insert object or service in question] a necessity or a luxury?

Some items are easy to categorize. For instance, we all have to eat, right? So, grocery is a necessity. But, what about going out to eat at a restaurant or buying a cappuccino at Starbucks on your way to work each morning? Other items or services may seem like a necessity because we’re so accustomed to having them, but they could be eliminated from a tight budget (although it may feel like a sacrifice initially). For instance, cable television service or even having a telephone (depending on how strapped for cash you are).

2. Groceries: I’ve found that the easiest way to save money is by focusing on the grocery bill. The suggestions below have all save me money over the past few years:

a. Grocery Outlet & the Dollar Stores—Okay, I’ll admit that the food may be slightly odd sometimes (they wouldn’t mark it down without a good reason!) but I’ve saved bundles by shopping at these stores. When my brother’s family came for a surprise visit in November, I was able to buy everything but the turkey at the Grocery Outlet for less than $15. There was enough food to feed 7 adults and 3 kids—with leftovers!

  1. Short Dated Items—most stores will mark down the food that will be expiring within 30 days. I usually save between 50-90% on each item!
  2. Buying in Bulk—I have a small family, so I only purchase items with a long shelf life. The total at the checkout will be hirer than I usual spend in one shopping trip (do to the larger packages), but in the long run the money I save by buying in bulk make it worth it.
  3. Coupons—I only use coupons when they’re for an item that I was already planning to buy. Spending money just to use a coupon is counter-productive.
  4. Vegetable and Herb Gardens: Planting a small vegetable and herb garden in my back yard was one of the best ideas that I’ve ever had. In addition to having fresh, organically grown food, I can reduce my grocery bill—and enjoy some sunshine at the same time!

3. Be a Book Nut: The best way to save money is to consult the experts. My local library has a great selection of financial and money managing books. The following are some of my favorites:

  1. The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn
    -- Compiled articles from her newsletter. She has tons of creative ideas about ways to save money, spend less, and re-use items!
  2. Managing Debt for Dummies by John Ventura & Mary Reed
  3. Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Joe Dominquez
    -- An eye opening book!
  4. The Complete Cheapskate by Mary Hunt
    -- Not as good, but she does have some good ideas about tackling debt and saving money.

4. Be Persistent! Attempting to live on a shoestring takes time and effort. It can be frustrating at times, but stick with it! It’ll be well worth your effort!

What kind of debt do you have?

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    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      very useful hub!! Voted UP!!

    • Reprieve26 profile image

      Reprieve26 6 years ago from Oregon Coast

      Hollie-- You're exactly right-- making food at home is both cheaper and healthier. :) Thanks for stopping by!

    • Hollie Thomas profile image

      Hollie Thomas 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great hub! Also, when you're strapped for cash, which I am most of the time, you have to cook more- no more expensive lazy foods and it's healthier.

    • Reprieve26 profile image

      Reprieve26 6 years ago from Oregon Coast

      Thanks for the positive comments! :) I got rid of my cell phone several years ago. I found that it was more expensive than a "land line." Besides, when I was out and about it usually wasn't convenient to answer the phone anyway. I found that it was easier to just have a land line with voicemail and call people back when I got home and had the time to chat.

      When it comes down it, all of our financial situations are unique. It's up to us to find what works and doesn't work for us as individuals. I was able to eliminate my cell phone altogether. You might want to look into a cheaper plan or just eliminating some of the extra features. Just some thoughts. Good luck! :)

    • michelemacwrites profile image

      Michele McCallister 6 years ago from USA

      This is very timely information and there is great value in the suggestions listed. The one area I have a particularly difficult time with is the dreaded cell phone bill. Working on reducing it or eliminating it altogether. GRRRRR !!! Keep these great hubs a coming Reprieve26 !!

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Great suggestions! Another very useful hub you've written which comes in handy for just about everybody! It's good common sense whether one is strapped or not! Great "411!" Thank you!

    • Reprieve26 profile image

      Reprieve26 6 years ago from Oregon Coast

      Thanks! :)

    • Annette R. Smith profile image

      Annette R. Smith 6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Reprieve26, this is a great hub. I appreciate the tips, and your book list, too. I'll have to check out some of those titles.

    • Reprieve26 profile image

      Reprieve26 6 years ago from Oregon Coast

      Denise-- thanks for the suggestion. I'll do some brain storming and see what I can come up with! :)

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Wonderful hub. Hey-it is too bad that you couldn't have read the HP minds and know the Hubmob topic of this week is Economizing. I think you should think of an offshoot with your experiences and jump into the mob with it. Voted up.

    • Reprieve26 profile image

      Reprieve26 6 years ago from Oregon Coast

      Thanks! :)

      I do the same thing! Frozen bread is great. Only I use the toaster to thaw out a few slices at a time. I'll have to try your microwave method-- fresh baked bread sounds really good!

      I'm hoping to post more saving money, thrifty living hubs in the future. I've just had a lot going on lately, so I haven't found the time to type up my ideas yet. :)

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Thanks for the information. We are a tiny family of two so I shop for long term use also. I buy large packages and keep most everything in the freezer to retain freshness. Even bread is frozen. I remove a few slices at a time, wrap them in a towel and microwave a few seconds and it is just like fresh baked.

      I am off to check out more of your Hubs since this one wasso enjoyable!

    • Reprieve26 profile image

      Reprieve26 6 years ago from Oregon Coast

      I agree completely! :)

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 6 years ago

      Thank you for a great hub with good advice. We all should learn to live more frugal..what we don't have in material things we make up in spirit. :) Thanks again.