Living on a Shoestring
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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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!
- Managing Debt for Dummies by John Ventura & Mary Reed
- Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Joe Dominquez
-- An eye opening book!
- 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!