I was pleased to find this guest post, a useful article on living inexpensively. Good any time, essential now for many people! — Zana
Hanging by a Shoestring – How to Survive on Next to Nothing
An estimated 47% of American households live paycheck to paycheck or very close. It doesn’t look like statistic will get any better soon; in fact it’s likely to get worse as the unemployment numbers rise. Not having much of a disposable income doesn’t mean you have to feel deprived, it just means you have to learn to survive on less fancy foods, repaired clothing, homemade old-fashioned household and beauty products and simple forms of entertainment. If you can learn how to and commit to doing at least these things, living n a shoestring budget won’t seem so much like deprivation.
Cut Your Food Bill
There are many different ways to save money at the supermarket. My favorites are shopping the sales and buying generic. Shopping the sales takes a bit of time and effort but it can really be worth it in the end, especially if you live in a relatively small area like I do. I keep a close eye on the sales flyers and when I see a good deal on something I normally use, I put it on my list and plan to stop by that store. Thankfully due to the area I live in, I am within a twenty minute drive to all the grocery stores I buy from. While this method takes more time than just shopping at one store, I have experienced huge savings because of it. For my family of five -two adults and three children – I spend from $325 to $375 a month on groceries.
Buying generic brands is another way I save money when food shopping. Many generic or store brands are produced by the same companies that make the name brands. But with store brands you aren’t paying for the “name” and the pretty packaging. Furthermore the majority of the time you can’t really taste much of a difference. I’ll admit some generic products aren’t as good as a name brand (I’m particularly picky about my spaghetti sauce) but by watching for sales, stocking up when on sale and buying mostly generic you have the wiggle room to buy a brand name or two.
Buying in bulk is another way many people, myself included, save some cash. If you live close to a food warehouse like Sam’s Club, BJs or Costco, you can purchase large quantities of foods at a discount. This is especially good for meats that you can buy in big packages and then split up for meals. Bulk buying is also good for dry food like flour, sugar, coffee, and canned goods like tuna fish, vegetables and fruits.
Finally there are coupons. Not a favorite of mine (probably because I buy so my generic) many other people swear by them. Generally my advice is to give them a shot, take advantage of any really good deals and read more from someone else who knows the secret of coupons that I have never picked up. I think the coupon rules must be stricter when I live because I read these stories where people get two or three coupons applied to a product or a purchase and the store in my area just don’t go for that. I hope you have better luck with coupons that I do but I am living proof that you can save lots of money on groceries without using coupons.
Make Clothes Last
There is an old New England expression that I have always found sums up the attitude we need to embrace when living on a budget. “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do or Do Without” Mending clothes is an activity that seemed to disappear with the onset of mass retail production. While I don’t yet make my family’s clothing, I do patch, hem and darn whatever I can to make what we have last as long as possible. A couple of simple stitches are all that is needed to fix most rips and tears.
At first they won’t look pretty so it’s always a good idea to use thread that matches the fabric’s color as closely as possible. The first couple of times that you stitch something up, it may not last long but as you repair more you will get better. With sewing, like with so many things, practice makes perfect. When a basic article of clothing, like denim jeans, gets to a point where they can’t be repaired or handed down further, keep them on hand for future patches to save even more money.
Make Your Own Cleaners
Making homemade household cleaners and beauty treatments is surprisingly easy and cheap. With the basics of baking soda, vinegar, olive oil and lemon juice you can make a cleaner for about any surface from wood to silver. Baking soda is a good substitute for bleach in scrubbing cleansers for sinks, countertops and appliances. White distilled vinegar works well as an all-purpose antibacterial property to any homemade cleaning solution and olive oil keeps wood looking well-managed and polished.
There are many books and blogs dedicated to providing recipes for DIY cleaners. With the exception of olive oil, the majority of the ingredients you’ll need will be easy to find and easy on the pocketbook. Beauty treatments involve more ingredients but most of them are just as inexpensive. Tea bags, honey, and oatmeal are just three of the materials you would need for homemade beauty products. Oatmeal is good to use during the winter since it protects against dry skin. Honey will gently exfoliate your skin and leave it glowing. Tea bags can be used to reduce puffiness in the eye area.
Not only are homemade products cheaper, they are better for you and the environment. While it may take some time, a little experimenting and a bit of research but in the long run making your own cleaning and beauty products is well worth the trouble.
Enjoy Simpler Entertainment
Nowadays going to the movies costs about $20 or $25 a couple. If you add popcorn, drinks, and candy and you’re looking at close to fifty dollars for one night of entertainment. Renting movies is cheaper but can still put a crimp in your budget when you don’t have any wiggle room already. Clubs are off limits when drinks are 4 and 5 bucks a pop and even a couple of games pool will set you back a ten-spot.
To save money, you’ll need to flash back to a simpler time when playing card and board games were the entertainment of choice. Odds are you have a stack of board games stored away somewhere. Dust them off and prepare for some family bonding. If you don’t happen to have any board games on hand, you can pick up a deck of cards for about a dollar at a discount store. There are websites where you can learn hundreds of different card games to play. If games aren’t your thing, you can borrow books and movies from the local library at no cost to you at all.
Outside there are nature walks, hiking, biking, and picnicking at a local park and, if you’re anything like me and like the pathetically corny, scavenger hunts. Simply write a list or pick a letter and find as many things that fit the category as possible. Above all it is most important to remember that money isn’t everything. As long as there a rook over your head, clothes on your back and food in your stomach you are a success.
Jennifer Carpenter is a work at home mother of three, two teens and a preschooler. She is a writer and Internet marketer who is currently working towards financial freedom through working online. Read more about her incredible journey at http://www.livingmybigdream.com
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