Living on a Small Income - Quicken Loans Zing BlogWhile browsing Pinterest today, I came across this awesome blog called “The Peaceful Mom.” Written by mom-of-four Kimberlee, this blog gives advice on everything from parenting, to recipe planning, to saving money. What particularly caught my eye was a series of posts called “Living on Less than $28,000 a Year,” in which Kimberlee explains how she makes ends meet for her large, single-income family. If anyone has made me realize that it’s possible to live well on a small income, it’s her. If you’re dealing with small income or trying to save up to buy a house, Kimberlee has a ton of great tips that will make you realize that it’s possible to get by on less than you think.

Are you trying to pay off your mortgage, feed your family, and still have enough to live on with your limited resources? Well, you should definitely stop by her blog; but I’d like to share with you some of my favorite tips for living with a small income.

Have a freedom account. What’s a freedom account, you ask? For Kimberlee, a freedom account is one of her most important budgeting techniques. Basically, it’s a separate checking account that’s used for paying irregular expenses. Anything that’s not monthly, like car maintenance, clothing, car insurance, gifts, etc. should be totaled by how much you estimate you’ll spend per year. Divide this amount by twelve, (or by 24 if you get paid every other week) and that’s the amount you should be taking out of each and every paycheck to be deposited into your freedom account. For example, if your irregular annual expenses total $1000, and you get a paycheck every other Friday, you’ll need to deposit about $42 out of your paycheck into your freedom account every time. You should spend money out of that account only on expenses that you have accounted for. Then, if you get that “surprise” car repair bill, you won’t have a problem paying it.

Budget your extra money. Say you get a bonus at work. Don’t spend it just because you can because that means you won’t have a financial cushion if anything happens. Instead, prioritize, and save.

Make distinctions between the food you need and the food you want. One area of the budget that’s likely to get off track is food. It’s easy to spend a few extra dollars on takeout or work lunch when you’re not paying attention to your budget. How can you combat this? Kimberlee suggests distinguishing between “necessity food” (what our bodies need to function) and “entertainment food” (snacks, take-out, boredom eating). Necessity food takes priority, and if you have leftover money for entertainment food, decide how important that food is to you.

Planning ahead saves you money on groceries. Commit to grocery shopping at the same day and time every week. Also commit to a “planning time” before that grocery shopping day. During planning time, check sales at local stores and plan meals around sale items and what’s in your pantry. Don’t veer from your shopping list and you won’t be spending money on extra groceries you don’t need.

Save on utilities. Here are some tips for saving money on electricity.

  • Dry clothes in the dryer for 10 minutes only, and then hang dry. This eliminates most of the wrinkles, while saving a ton of electricity.
  • Adjust the thermostat. Keep the temperature lower in the winter and wear more clothing. Use ceiling fans in the summer.
  • Unplug unused appliances.

Get extra cash. Now this might sound like I’m telling you to pull money out of thin air, but there are ways to produce more funds without getting a second job. Some ways to do this include putting all of your change into a change jar, selling unused items from your house, and recycling cans and scrap metal.

Save on non-food necessities. When you find toiletries, cleaners, or other necessities on sale, buy enough to last 2-3 months. Some products you can make fairly cheaply yourself. There are lots of recipes online for D.I.Y. cleaners, and they’re not hard or expensive to make.

Drink water. Not only is water good for you, it’s also cheap. If you’re a family of six, and everyone orders a soda at dinner, you’re probably going to pay around $15 just for drinks. If everyone orders water, that’s $15 you can spend on something more important.

Think about the future. It’s easy to purchase something on credit. You might be thinking “I’ll pay it off next year,” or “one day I’ll be a millionaire and then I’ll pay it off,” but you better have a backup plan in the meantime. According to Kimberlee, instead of taking money from your future self, you should be sending money to them. Then you won’t be paying off debt out of your paycheck 10 years down the road, when you could be saving for your dream vacation.

Use cash. It’s the age-old money-saving advice that can be hard to follow. Sure it’s a pain to stop at the ATM before every shopping trip, but if you leave the credit and debit cards at home, you have no choice but to stick to your budget.


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  1. Use cash is a really great idea, but I tend to never have any with me. I like to think of my credit card like a debit card and never spend more than I know I have. I know people who take this a step farther and actually fill up those credit cards from grocery stores that you can put money on and only use those. It’s the convenience of a credit card, but same mentality as using only cash!

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