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How to Save Money When You’re Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Hey, financially literate friends! Today we feature Cindy, who talks about how to save money when money is tight. For extra fun, you can visit Cindy’s guest post over at our sister blog, Fruclassity. 

It’s easy to feel you’re working for nothing. The bills are (barely) getting paid. But how can you get ahead, when it seems you’re just existing from paycheck to paycheck? 

 You don’t have to live this way.

Even if your income is rock-bottom right now, you can still take actions that help. I speak from experience. My husband, the Brick, and I have had years when his paycheck was $800-900 monthly.

Until things got better (and they did), here’s what we did.

How to Save When Living Paycheck to Paycheck

There are ways to save money when your income is low. It will take some effort, but here’s how we did it.

We Knew What We Owed

We paid credit cards off every month, on time.

Use a card with no yearly fee that offers cash back, and charge everything you would normally pay cash for, including utilities, phone bill, etc. You don’t pay a lick of interest — and you’ll harvest cash or gift cards.

If you already have credit card debt, you’re already paying interest you can’t afford to give. What can you do to get rid of this burden? (See below.)

We worked with medical providers to make a payment plan. 

The Brick’s insurance had a huge deductible, which covered catastrophes, but little else. Hospital and dentist’s offices were willing to wait — provided we made small payments regularly. And we did, until they were paid off.

Want a fool-proof system for getting out of debt? The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

We kept monthly costs reasonably consistent. 

The Brick and I never had a written-up budget, but we knew what heating costs, groceries and other expenses need to be, in order for us to get by. If this occasionally meant turning the thermostat down, or not going to the grocery store that week, so be it.

We paid ourselves, too

Call it an emergency or an “F-you” fund, doesn’t matter. That money will save you over and over by covering unexpected plumbers’ fees (like the washcloth a daughter flushed) or a ‘grab-it-quick’ sale price. Even $5 a week equals $260 yearly. Keep the money separate and you honestly won’t miss it. Replenish anything used as quickly as possible.

How to Save to Become a Millionaire: The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich

We Cut Expenses

We Saved on Groceries

You have to eat — that’s a given. What you don’t have to do is pay full price. Buy on sale or clearance, go to a warehouse or dollar store, use substitutes.  Possibilities are out there.

This includes trendy foods: ‘gluten-free,’ for example. So many people spend inflated prices for items they could just as easily make at home for less — or do without, altogether. Do you really need these for health reasons? Then by all means, find them at a discount price.

Organic items come into play, too. ‘Natural’ and  ‘organic’ label requirements are much looser than companies would want you to know; don’t fatten their profits. Instead, grow or make your own, hunt and fish it, buy from a wholesaler or roadside stand, pick it yourself, or buy in bulk.

Frugal living can be fun! The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle

We Didn’t Pay Interest

     *We didn’t pay interest. No matter what.  I cannot emphasize how important this is. If we couldn’t pay for it, we saved — and did without until we could.

Another option: a payment plan that doesn’t charge interest, provided you pay it off regularly. We purchased both laptops this way.


     *We bought used — but the best quality we could afford. Buy a cheap sweater, and you’ll have to replace it next season. Spend the same money on a good wool or cashmere sweater at the thrift shop, instead, and you’ll have it for years to come.

This applies to everything, from refrigerators to furniture. (Cars and homes, too.)  Do your research, find reliable brands, then scour Craigslist, garage and estate sales, and the Internet. Tell friends. Take free stuff for now — then upgrade when you can afford to. Bargain!

It may take time, but you’ll find what you need.


Finally, We Increased Our Income. 


     *Take a part-time or temporary job. Any job.  We’ve both done everything from fixing sewing machines to catering and dogsitting. (Including cleaning up poop – yuck!). If it’s honest work that pays — we’ll do it.


     *Use that extra income to pay interest-bearing debts, invest in items you really need, or beef up your savings. 


It’s no fun to live on a limited income – but can be done. And with patience and discipline, your life will improve.  Hang in there.

Visit Cindy Brick – and hear a lot more about frugal topics – at her Brickworks blog: http://www.cindybrick.blogspot.com








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  1. It’s tough and will require discipline but is worth the effort.

    It’s a simple math equation – either increase your income or decrease your spending. We live in a society today where you can pick up a side gig, temp job, or side hustle in many different ways.

    Thanks for sharing Cindy

  2. Cindy Brick says:

    The hardest parts are discipline and patience. Invariably, though, you’ve gotten yourself into this brouhaha gradually…you can’t expect to magically (and quickly) get out!

    But the standard still applies: when asked what his most important concept has been, Trent over at The Simple Dollar said it again: don’t spend more than you earn.
    And he’s right.

    Thank you, all of you, for writing.

  3. Mrs. Groovy says:

    Thanks for sharing, Cindy. I love what you said about not fattening the profits of the food companies. I also think the “take a job, any job” advice is spot on. When you’re deep in debt it’s not the right time to be choosy about how you earn a living.

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