Last Updated on 27th October 2020 by Emma
If you look hard enough there are ways to live cheaply or even to live on nothing.
Realistically, when you have no money it’s not about learning how to live on nothing but fresh air alone (because that ain’t going to happen), what it is about is learning how to live cheaply.
And as cheaply as possible.
If you are like me you will already have read many different articles that talk about cutting $1000 grocery budgets down.
And I know what you are thinking when you read them.
$1000 grocery budgets?
Yeah right – wishful thinking!
You don’t earn the kind of money that allows for $1000 of groceries plus eating out.
You’re living on a low income and right now you are trying to work out how to live cheaply in order to make ends meet.
What you need are some strategies to help you get by and grow whilst on that low income.
You need to get creative and be honest about what you can do and what you can’t do.
When you are trying to survive with little money, it’s not about what you want to do it’s what you NEED to do.
Firstly – Please Don’t Panic!
You may not realize it but living very cheaply is possible, really it is.
Of course it’s a huge worry when you have nothing in the bank and are faced with the prospect of trying to find super cheap ways to live, preferably living for free.
Which you know in reality is not possible, not nothing at all.
So go right ahead and take a little time to sort your thoughts out. ((hugs)).
Now that you’ve given yourself a little hug and a shake it’s time for action.
Because you CAN do this and the following tips will help you to find the cheapest way to live for you and your family.
Live Cheaply – How You Can Win At Living On Next To Nothing
(This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can read more here)
Create A Survival Budget
To be successful in living cheaply you need to have full knowledge of what money you do have and what bills you must pay.
You need to have a budget that is realistic and honest. Your normal budget isn’t going to cut it right now.
Right now you need a survival budget.
A budget that stops you from starving but doesn’t have any excess in it at all.
No luxuries, no fun things.
Because it’s not for ever.
A survival budget is one where you have cut everything to the bone to keep you going whilst you learn how to live very cheaply.
The Empower app* is the perfect choice to help you master your new budget because it makes everything simple, clear and immediate.
Empower automatically tracks your spending which will be essential in the coming weeks. It also gives you updates on where you are against the weekly and monthly spend limits you set up.
No need for multiple apps for saving, budgeting and banking as these are all features of the Empower app.
Find out more about the Empower app here and sign up for your free 14 day trial.
Read these posts to get started:
Don’t pay for unwanted subscriptions
Monthly subscriptions can be lethal for leaking money every month and a key place to start when building your survival budget.
Make sure you are only paying for memberships or subscriptions for things you can justify the expense to yourself in these lean times.
Ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Do I get value from this service (or product)?
- Can I find it cheaper?
- Do I really need it or can I do without it for now?
Cancel any that fail these questions.
Need to cancel your old subscriptions? TRIM can do this for you
TRIM can even help you fight fees.
Lower Your Bills
Most companies rely on us not questioning our monthly bills, including internet, wireless and TV providers.
In some states and countries you have a choice of companies to provide these services.
This makes for a great way to save money as these companies always offer new customer discounts.
You don’t need to change company, just contact your existing provider and request a discount.
Even better, get Billshark to ask for you.
Billshark negotiates lower prices on your monthly bills to save you time, money and hassle.
You could save hundreds each month with the help of professional bill negotiators at BillShark, starting today!
Renegotiate Energy Bills In The UK With LAMB
Look After My Bills is a fantastic new service in the UK that will automatically switch you to a new gas and electricity provider as your existing one becomes more expensive.
You could save up to £450 a year when you sign up to Look After My Bills for free.
LAMB will get you a great deal on your energy and when that deal ends, they’ll switch you again!
You can sign up even if your current deal with your energy provider has not yet ended.
Keep Your Utility Bills Down
Utility bills are often cited as being part of your essential living costs but the amount you use and pay is very much down to you.
The more energy you use the more you will pay so now is the time to be thinking of all the ways you can live cheaply and reduce your usage.
If you can cut your energy usage by 20% then that is money you don’t have to pay out.
- Keep your heating down low
- Turn heating off at night or even lower (we keep ours off or at 12c)
- Wear extra layers including jumpers and warm trousers and slippers
- Shut your doors
- Turn lights off when you leave the room
- Use LED lightbulbs when you need to replace bulbs
- Batch cook in your oven
- Use your microwave more
- If you have air-conditioning – turn it off or up high and get used to the higher temperatures. A little bit uncomfortable is better than paying out money you don’t have.
More tips available here: How To Keep Your House Warm and Your Energy Bills Low This Winter
- don’t leave the tap running
- turn the shower off whilst you are soaping & shampooing
- wash your fruit and vegetables in a bowl of water, not under the running tap
- wash full loads of clothes only
- do the sniff test before washing, does it really need a wash?
- fit an aerator to your tap to halve your water flow
More tips available here: 10 Ways To Save Money On Your Water Bill
Embrace Frugal Living
Learning how to live simply and cheaply through frugal living is probably the best thing you can do for your wallet right now.
Frugal living isn’t about being cheap, it’s about getting maximum value from the money you have so you can learn to love living within your means.
However small your means may currently be.
The thrifty lifestyle will help you understand how to live cheap and save money.
And by living cheap I do not mean being cheap! There is a world of difference between frugal and cheap.
To help you get started have a look at all these tips:
Start building your frugal muscles by enrolling in the frugal foundations framework email course
Develop Your Frugal Living Master Plan
The frugal folk who have worked out how to live cheaply have all started with a plan.
You will be amazed at how frugal you can become when you put your head to it and planning will ensure you are successful from day one.
Your plan should include some or all of these:
- planning ahead
- using your time wisely
- stop spending
- creating new money habits
- keeping your heating and cooling costs down
- keeping it simple
- simplifying your life
- reducing your costs
- building a pantry stockpile
- saving something every time you get paid
- managing your housing costs
- making more money
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Planning is a cornerstone of cheap living. When you don’t have the money then you must recognize that you do have the time.
Plan your time so you can clean your own house, make your own lunch, mow your lawn.
You may be working long hours but time is something right now that you do have, whereas money is something you don’t.
If you use money to pay for someone else to do something for you then what you are actually doing is buying their time.
If you are not used to planning your time and filling it up with daily chores then why not use a daily planner to help you create a successful schedule?
When you are not used to doing all the different tasks it can be helpful to have a visible reminder of what tasks need doing and what their deadlines are.
Use Your Time Wisely
When you have money, buying convenience food, having a cleaner, using a tumble dryer are all things its easy to fall into the habit of.
When you plan on living cheaply you need to get out of these habits fast!
There are 168 hours in one week so you have time and you need to allocate a bit of it to doing stuff you might not have done before.
Making your own lunch rather than paying for someone else to make it for you.
Cooking from scratch rather than buying ready made.
Packaged rice takes 2 minutes in the microwave versus cooking your own rice in less than 20 minutes.
Yes you spend up to 18 minutes longer to achieve the same food.
But pre-packed rice is about 5 times more expensive than normal rice.
You have 18 minutes, you don’t have money to waste when you’re trying to live on next to nothing.
Related reading: 27 Brilliant And Effective Ways To Create More Time In Your Day
How to Live On Nothing – Stop Spending!
I know I’m stating the obvious but if you’re trying to live on next to nothing then you need to stop spending!
Some people are emotional spenders (me!) so when feeling low they shop to make themselves feel better, which it doesn’t because you spend money you don’t have.
If you haven’t already, switch to cash only and use the cash envelope system.
Much harder to part with cash when you know you only have X to last you until next pay day.
Use the 30 day rule for items you truly need.
Meal Plan To Make Simple Meals
When you need to live on a really tight budget, your grocery bill is a place you can make some big savings.
There are many easy ways to save money in the kitchen but food is potentially your biggest win.
Meal planning helps you to use the ingredients you already have and plan your meals for the week so you do not get tempted to buy a takeaway or have a restaurant meal.
Use your slow cooker/crock pot, batch cook and freeze extra meals.
Simple meals with less ingredients cost less and will help you when living on a tight budget.
They also lend themselves to being batch cooked which means you cook once and eat twice or more.
The simple but homely meals I batch cook include:
- sausage pasta tray bake
- chicken curry
These meals don’t need a ton of expensive meat. Indeed my chilli often has more lentils and veg in it than meat!
You can make basic, homely meals using cheap meat, the cheaper, in-season vegetables and tinned or frozen veg.
All of which helps you to live cheaply.
Batch cooking also reduces your energy bills as you will cook less and do more re-heating.
For help organizing your meals grab a copy of the Meal Planning Mini Bundle
However if this all feels a little overwhelming right now then the $5 meals plan could be your savior.
Given we can waste up to 30% of all the food you buy, $5 a month for a weekly meal plan, recipes and a grocery list emailed to you every week will definitely save you a ton of money over the next few months.
And with a 14 day FREE trial, you can try before you buy.
Simplify Your Life
Leading a more simple life can be one of the cheapest ways to live. Consider everything you do and consider whether you can simplify it.
Cut down on activities your children are doing – they will be just as happy and possibly more so being creative at home and having downtime.
Learning how to live simply and cheaply is not about doing without but doing things differently.
It’s about finding alternatives to your usual spending patterns.
If you need inspiration have a read of what rich people do.
They don’t splash their cash at every opportunity. They make their money work for them, as hard as possible.
Reducing Your Costs
We can all spend on stuff we don’t really need. Think about ways you can live on less money. Ways like:
Purchasing only reduce to clear bargains – this can mean completing your grocery shopping at more than one store and timing it just right to pick up those bargains.
Coupons – If you have coupons link them in with the items being on sale.
But never use a coupon if it will cost you more cold, hard cash than buying an alternative brand.
Swap phone plans – consider using the likes of Skype or WhatsApp chat to keep in touch with friends and family.
Line dry your clothes – I line dry even if there is a frost on the ground, clothes will get 80% dry then can be finished off inside on a drying rack.
Tumbler dryers cost money to buy and money to run.
Have a large freezer – you can freeze purchases of meat and other perishables.
If you can, buy a second hand freezer cheaply from Ebay, craigslist or a local Facebook group.
You might even get lucky and pick up a free one from Freegle or Freecycle.
Support Schemes – ensure you are signed up to support schemes that are aimed at low income families.
You might get reduced energy bills or free loft insulation.
Cook from scratch wholesome food – home made bread, potatoes, beans (dried then re-hydrated is cheaper), rice are all cheaper than their processed equivalents
Learn new skills – through YouTube or asking a family member to fix things yourself.
Don’t automatically think you need to buy a replacements.
You may also like: 12 Traditional Frugal Living Tips To Supercharge Your Savings
Build Your Store Cupboard On The Cheap
Your grocery budget can be a big chunk of your budget after rent/mortgage.
You can slash your grocery budget in many ways and spend next to nothing for a while if you have a solid store cupboard to feed your family from.
Plan your food through a weekly or monthly meal plan and also take note of sales.
Over time you will recognize when an item is at its lowest sale price – stock up then with enough to last you until the next sale.
Within a few months you’ll have an idea of how often you need tins of tuna and stock up on the next sale.
This works really well with dried goods and tins. Just make sure you are going to use them.
If money is really tight right now then try to buy one pantry item each week, even if it’s just one big bag of pasta.
Over time stockpiling will get easy.
The key to a successful pantry stockpile is knowing what you have, their best before dates and using them.
No point stock piling if you don’t use the item to take advantage of its low cost.
For more help in reducing your grocery bills join the grocery budget challenge
It wont be much to start with but create a new money habit of saving every payday whether its £10 or a little less.
Save Every Month
I know we started this off and you didn’t have any money, but the thing is you have to find ways to save money in order to change where you are and make a long term difference.
Every time you get paid whether that’s weekly, bi-weekly or ad-hoc make sure the first thing you do is save something.
You are saving for your future self and prioritizing yourself and your family.
By paying yourself first even if it’s only a few pounds you are demonstrating to yourself that you matter.
As time goes on you will be able to save more and more.
These savings can be the start of your rainy day fund.
Not to be touched unless it really is an emergency. Such as car repairs to get your car back on the road and you to work.
Not a top up grocery shop or a take away because you’ve had a long day at work.
Sorry, emergency is emergency and nothing less.
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Cheaper Housing Costs
It’s not easy to instantaneously reduce your housing costs. You might have a mortgage or a rental contract.
But there can be things you can do depending on your individual situation.
- Do you have a spare room you can rent out?
- Can you get a lodger?
- Can you do Airbnb?
- Could you move to a smaller place to free up some money?
Some people advocate living in an RV/mobile home as a great way to live cheaply.
Can you refinance your mortgage or extend your term to reduce your monthly repayments?
Thinking outside the box will help here.
Make Money To Save Money and live cheaply
There are 168 hours in every week. How many hours do you spend working?
How many hours are you spending stressing about how to live on nothing because you have no money?
Why not try and find a way to make a little money at home or online.
The first place to look for making money is to sell anything you currently own that you don’t need.
Less clutter will help reduce clutter in your mind and selling it will bring in a few pennies.
You’ll be amazed at what people buy.
Use your local Facebook groups or Gumtree as these are free to use.
Ebay is of course a great place to sell as well, just remember that their fees can add up to 10% or more.
Ideas To Earn Extra Money
Working overtime or extra hours is possibly the easiest and most lucrative way to earn more money.
Alternative you could take a second job that fits around your commitments.
There are many work from home jobs that pay a good income when you commit to learning a new skill.
These posts have some great ideas on money making hobbies and flexible work from home jobs:
Additionally these are some really easy ways you can earn a little money doing small things every day while at home or waiting in a queue!
Fetch Rewards is a free grocery savings app that rewards you just for snapping pictures of your receipts.
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This is your opportunity to be an influencer (and make a little money). Share your opinion to help brands deliver better products & services.
How to live very cheaply
How can I survive with little money? It’s probably almost impossible to live with no money at all.
But you can live on very little money if you are willing to live very differently.
I’m talking living off grid, find a rent free place (which could mean camping).
Foraging and eating food that others have discarded (e.g. dumpster diving – check your local laws first!)
How do I live off next to nothing? Consider every cent, every penny you have as a prisoner, not to be released unless all else fails.
You need to be prepared to get completely out of your comfort zone, to jump in feet first into extreme frugal living.
What is the cheapest way to live? Every country has some super cheap places to live.
But they can come with downsides, like no local jobs, extreme weather, high crime rates.
Alternative you can think about living in more unconventional places like an RV, a boat, a commune or even a tent.
You choose it, you live it.
For less extreme yet still very cheap ways to live do investigate the 14 frugal living tips above.
They will help you cut your costs and save money.
Living Cheaply Reduces Your Stress
Living cheaply because you have to, rather than because you want to can be stressful.
Having no money is stressful.
Reduce your stress by being active in doing everything you can to find the cheapest way to live for you.
You deserve not to be stressed over money which means you need to take charge and get your spending down and your saving up.
Most people at some point in their lives have a really, really tight money phase.
It could be because you’ve lost your job, got a chronic health condition that limits your work capability, had a marriage relationship breakdown.
All super stressful in themselves.
Add in money worries and you are one stressed bunny.
If, despite trying everything you are still struggling with living cheaply then seek out help in your local area.
There are people, charities and government agencies, that can help you.
Don’t shy away from this help, reach out to them. They have experience and it is what they are there for.
For more help in saving money grab your copy of the Money Saving Mini Bundle today!
Come and follow me on Pinterest for more money saving hints and frugal tips!
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