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My Problem

My family income is $990 per month. My husband works full time and I am currently unemployed due to health problems. I am seeking advice on how to live on such a small of income My mortgage is $304, $107 for lights, phone is $32, Internet connection is $24 and $136 for food. This list does not include gas for our vehicles. I am open to any suggestions and advice. Help.

Not Only Survived But Saved Money

My husband and I were in virtually the same position for years. The best thing I ever did was apply for food stamps. I had never even considered the possibility until I happened to read a statistic about how many people qualify and don't know it. Although I was uncomfortable using the food stamp card at first, the $130 a month was a tremendous help. We shopped at Sav-A-Lot or a similar store in your area), bought generic, and used lots of coupons.

Our Internet service is nine dollars a month from and Netzero is ten dollars a month. We get the lifeline discount from our phone company, which reduces our monthly service to less than $12. I changed all of our lighting to halogen and fluorescent for only a few dollars a bulb and use fans in the summer. We keep our heat at 68 in the winter with 64 at night. We are on the budget plan and every four or five months our payments went down due to less energy use. Sometimes I drove my husband crazy, but in only 1 year we have, not only survived, but also paid off over $8000 in debt.

Three Helpful Suggestions

First of all, $24 for Internet is high. Juno has a plan that I am on for about $10 per month with no credit card needed. You can get a free disk and download. It is just as good of a plan as any other one, with no banners and full unlimited access 24 hours a day.

My second suggestion is that in our area, if you make less than $1000 per month or are disabled, Verizon will take $10 off of your monthly phone bill. Call them and they will send you a form to fill out. I know this works because I have a friend on this plan and it really helps.

I have a third suggestion. If you use coupons when grocery shopping go to Cub foods (if there is one near you) on Tuesdays. In our area they give a 10% discount to those 55 and older, and you can still use your coupons.

I've Been There

I am assuming there is some type of health insurance. That is not mentioned. Up until five years ago I lived on $740 a month. I was raising and homeschooling four children alone.

You seem to be doing ok on the grocery bills depending on how many people are living in your house. Do you bake from scratch and freeze meals ahead? Are you being conservative with your power and water? I wonder why you pay for your Internet connection. In our city we can use the library for the Internet. Why are you running two cars? Is there a bus in your city? Is there a library in your city? Without knowing your specific health problems it is difficult to say what you could try.

I have rarely had a car. We still walk most places, get rides from friends or take the bus. The bus is fairly costly for a large family. It may be that you have not acclimated yourself yet to being really careful with money. It will take some time.

Did you know that you can check many things out of the library for entertainment? Besides books, there are audio books, CDs and videos to check out. You can even check out computer programs. Often the library has musical programs for patrons. You can teach yourself new things or learn a new language just from what is in the library. If your library doesn't have something, they can order what you want from another library.

If you have a YMCA OR YWCA where you live you may be able to get a greatly reduced price for a membership. There you can take classes, swim or lift weights. You can shop for just about anything at a yard sale. Some people like thrift stores. I don't like them personally, they seem so expensive. I think that the best thing that you can do is not to look at what you had and miss it but look at what you have and feel blessed. Then try to find out how best to use your blessing.

Pennies Add Up

Here are some ways to save money on a limited budget:

  • Lights: If you aren't on a budget plan already, ask your electric company if they offer this. It may not save you money, but it will take the sting out of any seasonal fluctuations in your energy bill. Also some utilities offer a free energy audit. Some will even come in and make changes for you, such as switching conventional bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs.

  • Phone: Call your phone company and ask them if you're on the plan best suited for your needs. You may not be.

  • Food: The SHARE program enables you to buy groceries at a greatly reduced rate. This is a program that encourages volunteerism.

    If you volunteer for two hours in a week, you can buy a box of groceries for $15 that might cost three times that in the grocery store. Unfortunately, the SHARE program is not very widespread yet. There are some food co-ops that will let you work for a discount toward your purchases. Some churches will also provide you with staples to tide you over. If you haven't looked into vegetarian recipes try some. This is a great money saver!


Do Your Research

  • If you can, opt for fluorescent lighting in the home. These bulbs are supposed to save substantially on your lighting bill. If you are running an air conditioner and have ceiling fans, use the fans in addition to the A/C to cool the home. The fans should help with the cooling process without your having to turn the thermostat to a lower position.

  • Use the money you save on utilities to lower your food bill. Make an inventory of all the things you use regularly as staples and stock up on these items. Purchase detergent, toothpaste, toilet paper etc, and other household items while they are on sale, and by all means, use those coupons! I cannot stress this fact enough. If you go to a store that "doubles" their coupons you will come out with twice the savings. Cook from scratch as much as possible. I know that you have health problems, so maybe you can use the weekends to cook as much food as your family will need for a week and then freeze. To save on the cost of meat, I do things like have a vegetarian meal one night, a breakfast meal one night, a soup and bread night, and a simple sandwich night. I try to have Sundays as my "Big Meal Day" so that my family has something to look forward to at least once a week.

  • Always wait for sales unless you just have to have an item.

  • Save all excess change in a jar and use it as an emergency fund for gas and the little extras that are needed from time to time. I also try not to spend dollar bills. Any change or singles I try to put away for a rainy day.

  • I am looking into a paper route to earn extra money. Maybe you can find something to do at home, due to your health, so you can generate some extra income for your family.

  • Finally, with the hope that I am not being too personal, depending upon your health issues, investigate Disability. You never know if you might qualify for funds from this option.

Keep up the faith and all the best to you.

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