Strategies To Help You Win At Living On Next To Nothing
If you look hard enough there are ways to live on nothing.
But realistically when you have no money it’s not about learning to living on fresh air alone, what you need to focus on is learning how to live cheaply.
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 you can survive on as little money as possible.
What you need are some strategies to help you live cheaply, to 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 living on next to nothing 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 on next to nothing is possible, really it is. Take a little time to sort your thoughts out.
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
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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 where you have cut everything to the bone to keep you going whilst you learn how to live as cheaply as possible.
Because it can be done.
Read these posts to get started:
Embrace Frugal Living
Learning how to live frugally and save money 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.
What frugal means to you will be different to me or your next door neighbor. To help you get started have a look at all these tips:
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
- keeping your heating and cooling costs down
- keeping it simple
- simplifying your life
- reducing your costs
- building a store cupboard
- 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 so 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
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 need.
Related reading: 10 Things I Don’t Do Or Buy
Keeping 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 costs by 20% then that is money in your pocket and 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
- 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
You will also want to ensure you are with the cheapest energy provider. Until recently this meant using comparison sites to find the best deal and organizing the switching yourself.
In the UK there is a fantastic new service called Look After My Bills that will automatically switch you to a new provider as your existing one becomes more expensive.
Not only is LAMB free to join, they keep checking the market and switch you again as your existing deal ends. So you know you will always be on the best deal.
- 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 halve your water flow
More tips available here: 10 Ways To Save Money On Your Water Bill
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.
I encourage you to focus on cheap and easy meals which can be made quickly to stop you from giving in to the eating out urge on those nights when you feel extra tired.
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 casserole
- 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.
However if this all feels a little overwhelming right now then the $5 meal plan could be your savior. For just $5 a month you not only get a weekly meal plan, you get a grocery list of all the ingredients you will need to make those meals.
That’s less than $1.25 a week to ensure you don’t waste food and have easy, yummy meals to make every night.
Given we can waste up to 30% of all the food you buy, $5 a month for 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, what have you got to lose?
Bonus Tip – Sign up for my FREE Resource Library and download the free weekly meal planner and frugal recipe cards.
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 to pick up the bargains in each store.
Coupons – If you have coupons link them in with the items being on sale. 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 get 80% dry then can be finished off inside on an airer. Tumbler dryers cost money to buy and money to run.
Have a large freezer – you can freeze purchases of meat and other perishables. 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.
Related post: How To Stockpile Food On A Budget – 10 Easy Tips
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
There are 168 hours in every week. How many hours do you spend working?
How many hours are you spending stressing about having to live cheaply 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.
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 to live 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.