10 Money Saving Tips for Low-Income Families

Money Saving – Practical ideas anyone can use!

Saving money is a nice thing for most famililes, but is a necessity for low-income families. Whether your family is temporarily low income because of job loss or underemployment, longer term because of illness or injury, or by choice, such as single income families, as in our case, it can be tough to meet your family’s needs. Let’s look at ten ways to help increase your money saving abilities.

  1. Transportation – For short distances, ride a bike or walk for major money saving… zero gas expense! For longer trips use public transportation, if it is available. If not, try to rideshare or carpool. Sharing your gas expense with two or three people can be serious money saving. Consolidate your trips, making several stops, instead of several separate trips. Do you have a neighbor you can borrow a vehicle from as you need it? We used to have two drivers and four vehicles, one of which was a 1994 compact pickup truck. We gave the truck to a relative this year. Now, on the rare occasions I need a truck, I borrow my neighbor’s. I have been thinking about getting rid of my little car (which is 17 years old, with well over 250,000 miles), and just driving my “DJ Van”.
  2. TV – Drop your pay TV service for monthly money saving. We used to have cable, then satellite. We never really had time to watch it, so we dropped it almost a decade ago.
  3. Movies
    Money saving with DVD's from the library

    “Rent” movies from the library!

    We “rent” DVD’s at the library. This money saving tip allows you to have family entertainment, without blowing the budget. We can keep them one week, and it is FREE. Our library is small, but they still have a few thousand titles, and many regular series. Alternatively, borrow DVD’s from a neighbor, especially one who goes to RedBox every week. 🙂 Just be sure to return the movies so there are no late fees. Our library charges $1/day per DVD if you are late, which negates your money saving quickly!

  4. Internet – This money saving tip takes a little creativity. When money was really tight, we were without internet for over a year. I would go to the library on my lunch break, research what I needed, and save the info on a thumb drive. Since I only had one hour for lunch, I would either save the webpage, or copy the text and save in a word document to read in more detail later. I would also find places with free wi-fi, such as McDonalds, Starbucks, and even the library. Many mornings, I would leave for work early, and drive past the library. I would sit in my car in the parking lot since the library was not open yet.
  5. Garden – Gardening is a money saving top to reduce your food budget, and improve your eating habits. Fresh tastes best in most cases. Research Square Foot Gardening. Start a window box for fresh herbs, or hang an upside-down tomato planter from your patio/balcony for money saving and great snacking.
  6. Coupons – This money saving tip became popular the past few years, seeing shows like Extreme Couponing. Some people say the show is bogus. We don’t have cable TV, so I have never seen the show. There are many forums, blogs, and websites that teach how to use coupons successfully. Recently, many stores have stopped doubling and tripling coupons, so the saving are not as extreme as they have been in the past, but my wife still can save $10-$40 or more on the grocery bill every week. Many department stores also post coupons online or in their circular advertisements. However, don’t buy stuff you don’t need just because you have a coupon.
  7. Water – Use a rain barrel to conserve water for your garden. Consult with local authorities, as some will try to fine you for conserving the water. Don’t water your lawn or garden or wash your car during the hottest part of the day, as much of the water will be lost to evaporation. Make sure your faucets and toilets don’t leak. Another money saving idea… Reuse your towels for a week or so; after a shower, you should be pretty clean, so your towel won’t get dirty… you don’t have to wash them every day.
  8. Phone – This money saving idea has saved us over $3000 so far. We eliminated our home phone line almost a decade ago. We realized the only calls we got at home were telemarketers and robo-politicians. I have no use for either, and don’t care to pay for the privilege of them bothering us during dinner. We pulled the plug and save every month. We use our cell phones, have “naked” DSL for internet, and the home alarm system uses cellular technology.
  9. Groceries – For a weekly money saving strategy, go to a “off brand” grocery store. Sure, those fancy supermarkets have exotic food, but you should not be eating that if you are a low-income family anyway. We shop at Kroger and Wal-Mart for 90%+ of our groceries, and if we are in the area, we go to ALDI. The selection is limited to more basic foods, but that suits our needs fine. Also, a “super” store, like Wal-Mart or Target will have more than just groceries, so we do less driving around to other stores for household repair needs, auto maintenance supplies, health & beauty, etc.
  10. Barter – This money saving idea lets you trade your skill for someone else’s. Do you have a skill that you can trade with someone for their skill? Can you swap mowing their lawn for getting three or four haircuts? Can you trade painting their living room for plumbing repairs? There are many busy professionals, such as doctors or lawyers, who don’t have time or knowledge to do projects themselves. If you have the time because you are out of work, or have the knowledge but not the cash, see if they would be willing to trade services.
  11. BONUS – Obviously, there is only so many money saving ideas you can realistically use. If possible, increase income. If you can’t do that because you are currently unemployed/underemployed, is it possible to get a part-time job, which will not affect your search for a full-time job? If you are employed, can you pick up a few extra hours? Can you start a side hustle?

At one point, I lost my full-time job. I started carrying pizza in the evenings and weekends. When possible, I tried to get shifts that were late at night, so I would not be away from my wife and children while they were awake. This provided my family with cash, a small bi-weekly check, and usually a free pizza or two each shift.

In case someone is curious about the free pizza… Usually, someone would call in with a custom pizza request, then not come to pick it up, or would not answer the door when a driver arrived. Sometimes, the manager would let the closing employees make a pizza at no charge if we’d had a profitable shift. This money saving idea was tasty! 🙂 With two hungry children to feed, the free pizza was a blessing.

Through that job, I met another delivery man who also worked as a delivery man for the newspaper. He helped me get a job delivering papers seven days a week. I delivered papers to convenience stores and boxes in grocery stores. I would arrive between 2 AM and 4 AM, depending on the day, and would be done by 6 AM most days. I would then run back home and have breakfast with my family before they left for school and work (my wife was a school teacher and took the kids with her). In addition to the bi-weekly check, the manager would let us have the coupon inserts from any Sunday papers that did not sell when we put out the new Sunday papers. This was another money saving help.

I later found a full-time job, where I still work almost nine years later. I continued to work the pizza and paper jobs in addition to the full-time job for over a year. I was exhausted, and slept in my car during lunch many times. However, the additional income really helped our family through a tough time. So, if possible, even if it is not your long-term goal, find a side hustle.

How about you? What money saving tips have helped you during a low-income time?

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