Today, I’m a single SAHM who lives very WELL and comfortably on $18k/year. I know that must sound like such a small amount to live on, but I assure you, I do very well for myself. Our family has just as much as a family making $60,000+/year I assure you. God is very good to us and I work extremely hard to provide for my family. It’s as simple as that.
But it’s not always been glitz and glam on what the world calls poverty level, several years ago, I lived on MUCH less: $700/month, which is $8,400/year.
If you want to get technical, the lowest amount I’ve ever lived on is $5, but I was living in a homeless shelter at the time, so I don’t count that. 🙂
My first apartment after I got out of the homeless shelter cost me $450/month. It was a 2 bedroom, very nice apartment, that was a new construction. I think that was key to my very low power bill of only $40/month. I suspect that it was insulated to top-notch quality, though I have to tell you, that the large house I live in now, only runs me $80. Perhaps it is because I have learned to lower my power bill by a large amount over the years, I do not know.
Here are the exact bills I had and how I did it. At the time I lived on $700/month, my bills looked like this:
$450 Rent (rent now on this same apartment as of 8/3/2022 is $513 for the 2 bedroom I had. It’s $413 for a 1 bedroom, and $706 for a 3 bedroom).
$25 Car Insurance
$0 Water (apt. paid)
$0 Sewer (apt. paid)
$0 Trash (apt. paid)
I refused to get a roommate, so it was just me and two little ones trying to make our way through our new situation.
The apartment clubhouse had internet, so I would be found once a day on the internet looking for jobs, etc.
Since I lived in an apartment, and not a house, there was not a water, sewer, or garbage bill to pay. They had a washer/dryer in my laundry room inside the apartment for me to use at my leisure. Some apartments, you have to buy your own, but these I did not, thankfully.
These are pretty low rent costs. If where you live currently, has a really expensive rent price, consider moving. Better to move than end up homeless! You do not HAVE TO STAY where you are. I moved to a different state in order to get these rent prices, and I’m thankful I did! Remember, YOU GET TO CHOOSE what you want your life to be like. You chose your own self-talk, whether it’s encouraging or defeating! Don’t have a life you like? Fix it. Will it happen overnight? No. Do what’s best for you and your situation, as a whole, and take one small step at a time. You WILL get there if you’re willing to work super hard! 💖
My phone bill was so low, because I was on a low-income program with the phone company.
Also, even though my power bill was so low, I was also on a low-income power program called LIHEAP. You’ll want to google it for your own state (or call your power company and ask), but I believe it is in every state. LIHEAP usually pays anywhere from $80-$300 on your power bill as a one-time payment once a year. At that time, I received $300 as I was in Oregon and it’s higher there. So, that $300/year paid for my power bill almost 8 months of the year! The next year I got something like $240 as my income went up and I just kept digging myself out of that giant hole.
I didn’t have cable. We had a TV and a VHS player I got for $10 at a yard sale and played tapes that way. My entertainment center was a nice end table that someone didn’t want and I grabbed it. Same with my rocking chair. My couch I paid $100 for and everything I got to furnish my apartment was super cheap. I would check out Craigslist daily and thrift stores every time I went shopping.
Gas was cheap for me because I didn’t really go anywhere. I didn’t have to money to go anywhere really. When I ran errands, I did them all at once to save money. Car insurance was low because I was under the 10,000 miles a year setting and because the state I lived in at the time, had good insurance rates due to less accidents overall.
I did have debt back then. I do not have a dime of debt now, which is EXTREMELY helpful to living on so little.
Food was paid for with food stamps** and WIC, though I was able to get off all support in time and haven’t been on any sort of welfare for a really long time now.
My total bills were $612 and I had $700/month at the time, so the rest stayed in my checking and I spent very frugally, almost non-existently to get ahead. It was my fervent goal never to get on cash aid. I do NOT agree with their program for cash aid and have never wanted any part of it!
Another thing that drastically helped was that I came across the idea to start selling things I’d get for free to add to my income. It was my first step toward getting where I am today. I didn’t have much, but I still had my kids, and I had help. It is possible to live below “poverty” and still have “enough.” It is our world that tells us we need the biggest fill in the blank to be happy. Just me and my kids, a roof over our heads, food in our tummies, and clothes on our backs.
There are reasons why a person would want to live on as little money as they possibly could:
• To simplify their life and make life easier. Things get real simple when you are living on so little. Those fancy cars, fast food tabs all the time, elaborate houses, they all disappear in comparison. You start to realize exactly how little you REALLY need in order to survive through life. THEN, when you do have more, you can appreciate it all the more!
• To get out of debt. Many people deliberately live on less money in order to get out of debt. This is, in my opinion, extremely wise. If you’re serious about getting out of debt, you’ll need to make some drastic changes. While that may not be living on $700/month, it could be living on half your income. If you are married and you both work, try getting to the state of living where you’re not dependent upon both incomes, but only one. If one spouse makes $2,000/month, this means you have $2,000 to put on debt! You can get out of debt super fast that way and then once you ARE out of debt, go back and get your nice house again, get that nice car, just pay cash for the car and rent, so that you’re not getting BACK in debt!
• To retire early. Who wants to work all their life? Not me! I’m working 80+ hours a week for the past 4 years now for a reason. So that I can provide for my family as a single mom, making $10k/month and get somewhere. Put money aside to buy a house with cash (I just bought a brand new car with cash), to put away for college for the kids, their cars, my retirement, and so on. Work hard now, so that I don’t have to work so hard for the rest of my life.
• To prepare for emergencies. What if you or your spouse were laid off their jobs? What if a natural disaster overtook your home? There are a million and one things that could happen and having a nice, well-stocked savings can drastically help in the event of an emergency.
• To prepare for kids. Some people like to live on little in order to prepare for having kids or adopting. While I feel kids are inexpensive to raise (see my post on how I get my kids clothes completely free here), they still do add to the expenses each month. You might need a bigger house with more bedrooms, a bigger car, more food, and so on. Saving now to prepare for those expenses is wise.
• To start your own business. Depending on the business you want to start, it can become very costly. Blogging is probably one of the cheapest businesses to get started in, but it requires investment just the same…in your time. You have to build it. It can also be very lucrative. Within 1 year from my starting a blog, I was making $10,000/month! Going from making $18,000 a YEAR to $10,000/month was insane and it’s something I’m STILL getting used to.
My life has not changed, outside of the fact that I did buy the car and am now renting my dream house. I still save money like crazy. I still work hard, because I want to get somewhere one day. Being self-employed has changed my life and it may be something that you can do as well. Best to have the money to start upfront, so you can really ROCK it. Here’s a post that will walk you through all the things you’ll need to think about before starting a blog, if that is the direction you are thinking about. And of course, check out my best blogging tips and tricks here!
How to get your cost of living down on whatever income you’re at:
• Don’t use any credit cards. You don’t want to incrue any debt. Being debt-free allows you to have a completely free lifestyle.
• Find and use the cheapest cell phone service you can. Net 10 is a great prepaid service and if you don’t use your phone much, the prepaid cards can last you 3 months! Last time I used their service, it was $30 for a phone card, which lasted me 3 months, so $10/month.
• Use cash back sites like Ebates. You’re going to spend the money anyway, might as well get paid to shop! If you don’t have an account, you can sign up here and get a free $10 gift card! To receive your free gift card, just make one purchase of $25 or more and they have every site I shop at on there, so it’s very easy. I put a sticky note on my computer so I remember to go through them first. I’ve been with Ebates for about 3-4 years now and have earned over $2,000. They are a pioneer in the cash back industry and I highly recommend them!
• Negotiate your bills. Did you know that you can do that with some of them? You totally can. Negotiate credit card bills, everything, and get that DOWN!
• Use free budgeting software and tracking. If you don’t have a pre-set budget, you’re dead in the water before you even start. You have to tell your money where to go each month or it likes to spend itself! If you’re looking for a printable Budget Binder, check mine out here.
• Meal plan. Like budgeting, you have to tell your meals what to make (here’s cost-effective and quick meals for those on a budget) or it can take over your expenses. You’ll go out to fast food too much, nice dinners, and so on. Having a meal plan set up makes things a lot simpler. In a little bit, I’ll be sharing with you how I took my grocery bill from $600-$800/month to only $200 with ONE simple trick, so be sure to look out for that post coming up soon!
• Stop paying for stuff. Just decide that there are things you won’t pay for anymore! Here’s my list of 15 things I refuse to pay for. Here’s a post I wrote about how I get all my household products for FREE, including diapers, baby wipes, pull ups, candles, soaps, dishwashing detergent, cleaners, and SO much more!
Increase your income to put into savings:
• Start a blog. Staring a blog is first because it’s my own favorite personal way to make money by doing what I love, serving others! If your heart is about helping others and sharing your knowledge with the world, then you should go for it. I started out with a dream of making $1,000/month by 1 year and ended up making $10,000/month by 1 year! My life has changed drastically. Though the results are not typical, you never know until you try. I surely didn’t know when I started, but God did!
I recommend going through Bluehost and through my site, you can get the cheapest cost (I worked out a deal with them on your behalf!) You have to pay upfront for how many ever years you want to choose, but by far, this is the cheapest and best plan. I pay ONE MONTH for what YOU can get for one YEAR!
• Take surveys online. It won’t get you rich, but it’s income and you want as MANY revenues for income as you can. You can check out my 25 best survey companies here.
• Sell things around the house. Here’s a post I created teaching you how to find FREE things to sell and here’s a post giving you 40 ideas of things you can sell right now that you might already have in your home!
Related: 5 Real Ways to Add $500/month Steady Income (you can find even more ideas for increasing your income here!) Still looking for more? Here are the 10 best articles that teach you how to make money from home.
UPDATE 8/2/15: I’ve been asked a lot about how long ago this was. People are skeptical to believe it can be true of today. I can assure you, that there are many states where you can get a 1 bedroom for $350/month or a 2 bedroom apartment for $450-$500ish/month. In fact, 2 years ago, I had lived in a 3 bedroom 1200 square foot house, fenced yard, 2 car garage for $700/month in one of the best subdivisions in our area. It all depends where you live of course.
I’m sure there are more states that offer such reasonable housing, but Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota are all great places to look. I would encourage you to think about moving to another state if you are miserable and can’t make ends meet. This opinion will vary from person to person. You can research the cost of living by state and find the cheapest places to live. There’s no right or wrong. But our family chose a better quality of life than living near family. This is not uncommon and why be near family if it means you’re miserable the rest of your life? Working your tail off to get NOWHERE. Would your parents/family not want you to be happy? I moved from Cali for just that reason and am able to live the life I want because I took a chance. No risk, no reward is something I believe in, and it’s gotten me to where I am today.
You can see some pictures of where I live today on my blog through out posts, but I will tell you, solely for encouragement purposes, that I haven’t accepted monetary help in like forever and I live in a 5 bedroom, 3 bath, 3 car garage, 2 story home with granite countertops, beige walls, and a nice fenced backyard with two gardens. I do this as a SINGLE MOM. I don’t buy that other people can’t do this too. Not when most people have another income and I only have one. It’s lies fed to you by society.
For most people, if you do the math, using the budget sheet in this post here, you’ll see that it costs you MORE to have both working parents than 1 parent working and 1 being able to stay home with their kids. Thus the whole reason for this site!!!! I’m living proof it happens.
Yes, it takes work, but no more work than you’re doing now, spinning your wheels and getting nowhere. The answer is NOT make more money. They’re WRONG! The answer is getting your cost of living the cheapest you can while still living in safe conditions. THEN, you can add income and it won’t fly out the window to everyone with their hand out!!!
Have you ever had to live on a very little amount? What are some of the tips and tricks you can share to help others out there who are frustrated with their circumstances and feel like they can’t get ahead?
Want to learn exactly how I went from being homeless to having all that I have now? Step by step, nuts and bolts, detailed information? Leave a comment and let me know if this is something you’d love to see more of! If there’s enough interest, I will create a massive, in-depth look at ALL that I’ve done between then and now and how you can get out of your dire situation as well.
**A couple comments have come in and I wanted to address them: there is NOTHING, absolutely nothing wrong with taking food stamps or government assistant when you need it as a low fixed income family. At the point I was living on $700/month, I had JUST gotten out of a homeless shelter and I was VERY grateful for the helping hand. I have since gotten off all government assistance, even though I still qualify I just prefer not to be on it, but am thankful it was there when I needed it.