Thursday, March 20, 2014

Living on a Very Tight Budget

I'm often asked how I manage to live on a very tight budget.  Well, it's not easy.  There are lots of things I do, though.
  • I don't buy much.  That sounds really basic, I'm sure, but it's true.  When I go shopping, I go with a list and I very, very rarely ever deviate from that list.  If I see something at the store that I think I want or need, I don't buy it then.  It can go on my list next time I go shopping, if I still think I want or need it after I've had some time to think about it, if I decide I can afford it.  But I do not buy things on impulse.
  • I plan ahead for expenses whenever possible.  For instance, last fall I bought a pair of boots for winter.  I'd been planning that purchase since the previous winter.  I knew several months in advance in which month I would buy them.  I knew I had to pay my car insurance in September, so I planned to buy the boots in October, and I had that planned since probably the beginning of the summer.
  • I buy used stuff whenever possible.  I love thrift stores.  I have only a few articles of clothing that did not come from a thrift store - underwear, socks (because second hand underwear and socks is just icky to me), a shirt my mother bought me at Kohl's a couple years ago, and a few sweaters that I bought myself about 15 years ago.  Yes, I have sweaters that are 15 years old.  For several years, I couldn't wear them because I had gained weight, but they now fit again.  I've always washed them by hand.  They are in great shape and do not look nearly that old.  But I'm not just talking about clothes.  A lot of other things in my house came from thrift stores.
  • I get used stuff for free when I can, too.  My dishes were free.  I found them on  I got a bunch of free towels through Freecycle, too.  My bookshelves were given to me by various people.  My coffee table was given to me.
  • When I buy new stuff, I keep it for a long, long time.  Like my sweaters.  My couch is also about 15 years old.  My bed is about 20 years old.
  • I make my own laundry detergent.  It's easy, doesn't take long at all, and is super cheap.  It ends up costing about one or two cents per load.  I make five gallons of it at a time and a five gallon bucket costs me less than $3 to make and it lasts me more than six months.  Of course, I live alone so I don't make that much laundry myself, but I do have an incontinent cat that pees on a lot of towels that have to be washed.
  • I make my own toothpaste.  It's also quick and easy to make and super cheap.  I haven't done that math, but it probably costs me about 10 or 15 cents to make eight ounces of it.
  • I make most of my own cleaning supplies.  Most things I clean with vinegar and water in a spray bottle.  Other things I clean with baking soda and water or borax and water.  Cheap and also better for the environment than commercial cleaning supplies.
  • I very rarely use disposable paper products.  I use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins, cloth rags that I wash instead of paper towels.  Most of the time, I use cloth wipes instead of toilet paper.  I use cloth menstrual pads instead of disposable pads or tampons.  All that means most of what I buy at the grocery store is actually food.  I don't buy stuff like laundry detergent and paper products.
  • I buy groceries on sale and use coupons whenever possible.  If you contact the manufacturers of products you like, they will often send you coupons on request.  If you like companies on Facebook, you can also get some good coupons.  I shop at dollar stores for certain items that cost less there.  In the summertime, I buy local organic produce cheap at farmers' markets and farm stands.
  • Last summer I did a little bit of canning.  I plan to do a lot more this year, so I can have local organic produce all year around.
  • Once a month I get some groceries from a local food pantry.  I also get $15 each month in food stamps, which is not a lot but it does help.
  • I buy vitamins when they are on sale and stock up.  For instance, I buy calcium citrate (the Kroger brand) when Kroger has it on sale, buy one get one free.  So I get two bottles for about $9.  I also started taking glucosamine/chondroitin at the recommendation of my rheumatologist.  That stuff is ridiculously expensive.  But Kroger had their brand on sale, buy one get one free, so I got two huge bottles for about $36.
  • I don't have cable.  In fact, I don't have a television.
Hmm... Those are all the things that come to mind at the moment.  That's basically how I do it.

No comments:

Post a Comment