Living off a lower income bracket can be extremely tough and frustrating. Here’s how one of our members, Mdowdy, weighs in when asked how she and her family thrive off just $18,000 a year.
How we live on $18,000 a year
Ok, I had a request to list how we live on 18,000 a year. This is what we do:
1Dining In or Dining Out?
1st We do not eat out if we do it’s the dollar menu at one of the local fast food joints.
That way we all eat for a little over 9.00 our order looks something like this three double cheeseburgers, one large fry (we split it) a tea (I love McDonald’s tea) a cheeseburger and they let me buy a toy for $1.00 instead of getting the whole Happy Meal. This is limited to if we can spare the money some months it may be once others it maybe more.
My dad comes and takes us out every two weeks; One night, he pays so that is not included. He says he does this because he knows I work hard with school etc and it gives me a break. We do eat out for my boyfriends birthday this is ordered in so my daughter and I can split a plate with no complaints from the restaurant.
2 2nd Coupons anything I buy at the grocery store is with a coupon or on special or both.
3 3rdI make most everything from scratch.
4 4th I buy most groceries at Sam’s Club ( I really think it depends what you buy if this saves)
When I shop at Sam’s Club it will last definitely a month, most of the time the veggies etc will last 2 so one month I may spend $400 on groceries but the next month all I have to buy is meats because everything else is still lasting. The extra money from groceries is put into savings.
I throw nothing away as far as leftovers, we either eat it or freeze it within two days.
5 Streamline your Lifestyle
5th everything is streamlined. We do not have HBO, Showtime, etc on cable we have the lowest package possible for my little girl to still get noggin and sprout.
We do have cable net but that is the slowest speeds they have available. We watch what is on television and limit ourselves to one rented movie a month.
Our phone is the basic, we do have caller id but that is it no call waiting or long distance. If we make a long distance call it is on the cell. We are switching to magic jack as soon as they get a local number to cut down on this.
My cell phone has 500 minutes per month. I do have text for 7.99 (this gives me unlimited mobile to mobile and 400 extra texts not mobile to mobile) my total cell bill is about 65.00 (I am looking for a way to lower this but can not give up my text because that is how my older kids talk to me LOL) My entire family has the same cell phone company since my siblings work there so our phone calls to each other are free.
For some reason people think we need clothes even though we have too many now, so we have to buy few clothes cause someone is always giving them to us.
My daughter gets new toys on holidays and her birthday unless someone else gives them to her. Trust me she is not lacking in the toy department.
If she gets candy at the store she is limited to 75 cent which we give to her so she can pay for it. This is about once or twice a week and we put her change in a jar where either the whole or part of the 75 cent will come from.
Since my boyfriend doesn’t work and neither do I (outside of the home) gas costs me about 20.00 a month because all I have is errands appointments and my daughters playgroup to go to. When gas was high I shopped on this side of the river so I didn’t have to go all over town.
My car is paid for, and my car insurance plan is the minimum state requirement.
The electric bill is something that we battle with but I think I now have my boyfriend talked into signing for the equal pay plan where they take the total for a year average it and this is what you pay monthly. Once this is done we will not have anymore $500.00 bills during the winter.
We only heat the part of the house we use the most. The rest we shut it down for the winter. Right now the only thing shut down is my boyfriends hobby room. He loves to shoot so this is where his shooting supplies are located.
The only time that room is heated is when he is reloading (he makes his own bullets and ammo instead of buying them) This room is heated by a space heater so we don’t have to try to warm it up with the gas heater in the house.
Our house payment is $500.00 a month will be paid off not this June, but next. It is through a private seller and not bank so we can’t do much about the house payment unless we refinanced through a bank but really don’t want to since its almost paid for. Our house insurance we pay all at one time so we don’t have another bill monthly.
If we need to make a purchase we pay for it with cash (we save for it)we do not have a credit card at all
Savings is not touched unless it is an emergency and we don’t have time to save for it before we have to have it.
Our spending money comes from my school checks. These checks we split. With my half I buy extra stuff I want for the kitchen etc, Christmas for my side, and birthday presents for my side.
I also take my older kids shopping and give my x some money to help with football, basketball, and dance classes. My boyfriend buys whatever reloading or shooting thing or anything else he wants, presents for his side and we split the cost on anything our daughter needs.
Like with the next check we will be buying school stuff (she will get brand new clothes for this, she loves to shop) My checks come in about every four months and usually average about 2500.00
When things happen like this light bill I streamline the cable or the cell before cutting back on groceries. Why? Because food is needed cable and cell is not, although I do have to have my internet since I go to school online. Contrary to popular belief if you have to you can survive without cable and a cell phone.
It is true we have no extra money during the month and if my school checks weren’t coming in we probably couldn’t do it without cutting out the cell, cable(except for internet) and cutting back on groceries. And thank goodness I was expecting the electric bill from last winter and stocked up on groceries.
We save all our change as well as have yard sales etc during the summer.
i am careful where I shop for clothes, this consists of the thrift store (if they don’t have to be brand new), Walmart or anywhere else having a really good sale. I refuse to pay $100.00 for a pair of tennis shoes or over 25.00 for jeans (these are for my older kids they still get to shop at their favorite stores but are limited to whats on sale or a decent price) and they have a spending limit.
For Christmas my kids are limited to $300.00 a piece. The can pick a present to ask for for the whole amount or just get the money or give me a list and let me pick. This year they got Ipods. I was able to order them through the school I go to with a discount from apple so I got the nanos for $79.00 a piece the rest went on cheaper items they had on their list and then if any was left they got the money.
I think I covered about everything, if there is something you are wondering about please ask. Hope this helps
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / mirzavis
16 thoughts on “How we live on $18,000 a year”
Very thorough. Congrats on your accurate budgeting. There were some nice ideas that I will try to apply to my life.
We are switching to magic jack as soon as they get a local number to cut down on this.
We use Magic Jack. We do not have a local number, the only draw back to this is, we have to dial the area code, even when dialing local calls, however, this really isn’t a problem because you can just program the number into your address book on the menu.
You stated that you wanted a way to cut back on cell expenses. I have always wondered why people use text messaging when they can just as easily, if not easier, place a call? Do you really need the text messaging service?
We have one cell for my husband to have at work in case of emergencies, we do not have the texting service. Great post by the way, we manage on $14,400.00 per year. Its rough, but it can be done.
Of course, we do not have any childrend at home, its just my husband and myself.
wow- i knew this could be done and i really didn’t know how i used to live on so much less than i did before i got the job i have now. and now i am wondering, where in the world is all my money going???
we do pretty much everything you do and you said – except with more money (since we have 2 incomes), and somehow it seems to disappear? and half the time it isn’t even enough.
Although, we rent – and our rent bill is more expensive than your house bill (probably because of being in a city)… and we don’t have internet, and we have basic cable, and our electric bill is only $70 a month.
I was wondering, what you mean by “school checks”? I am in grad school but dont receive any sort of compensation? I do get free tuition (about $20,000 a year!) since i work for the school (great way to go back to school for free if anyone was thinking about going back to school 😀 ).
Are these loan checks or scholarships or are you in a fellowship/assistantship that pays you for your studies? Sorry for all the questions.
I guess I could cut out the credit cards and we would need to stop going out to eat (we go about once a week). I also do have a lot of medical bills to pay per month for allergies and other things. And I do pay a $300 car payment each month.
But anyway, (i am rambling on about finances lol) your post really made me re-think how I am living and i really appreciate you for offering your living expenses up to us all so easily because i am sure it will help many of us re-budget, not only me.
oh and mardhines – you reminded me of the days when i was growing up when we didnt have to dial area codes!! all our phone calls locally use area codes here, since in a big city we have more than one area code for the same location so we have had to dial area codes for years now. i thought they made that an entire US thing, but I guess not.
i also just checked out the magicjack site – can it be used as a cell phone? or you need to be near a computer?
This is soooo challenging. Some times I wonder where our money is going. This systematic budgeting must be the way to avoid those suprises every month.
Sams is good but I find that sometimes the things bought in bulk can spoil unless I freeze them. An example is apple sauce; which comes in two 64oz containers. On the overall, Sams club is great.
I only buy what I can freeze or what I know we will use before it goes bad, I have to check dates as well as prices to see if its worth it
Hi Couple of Questions Does your boyfriend receive a check too? How is your house and utilities paid monthly? I have cut out extra expenses but not enough.
i used angel food until they closed. I would love to spend 400 a month on food but i can’t afford it. My in laws use a free food program by them but there isn’t one around me.
I don’t eat out and I don’t do any extra trips in car. Do you receive any government help from programs like snap, wic, or ssi? I sometimes buy tv dinners for lunch only because i am tired of bologna sandwiches.
I would love to see your budget because of the cost cutting methods you use.
I make use of a local Food Bank to take some of the pain out of monthly food costs. Today I got canned vegetables, dried beans, grapefruiit & tomato juice, pasta noodles, spaghetti, cabbage salad mix, fresh pears, fruit cups and bread.
Angel Food Ministries is an excellent source for food at a low cost. It is too much food for me to store so I haven’t used them yet.
What I love about Angel Food is that at only $30 a month, it isn’t hard to find someone to go in on it with me when I don’t have the room in my freezer! I have even bought boxes and only taken a few things and then given the other to someone I knew needed it, when I haven’t had room for more than a thing of chicken and steak. There is a LOT of food if you are single or two people.
One box lasts my daughter and I an entire month!
magicjack has to be hooked to a computer. The problem with the local number is his mom does not have long distance which is the only number we can get at the moment. his dad forgets things a lot and his mom has cancer so the long distance number is not an option.
The text I have to have because this is my connection with my older kids. When they are on the phone with me he interrupts constinently. So they use the text messaging for no interruptions and they dont have to worry about their dad listening in on calls.
Unfortunately we are not on the best of terms he and I.
The school checks are what is left after expenses for school from my pell and loans. i am always looking for ways to cut more so if I come up with something I will let you all know.
Thank you so much! Please take what I say the right way…I am really shocked. As I said, I cannot imagine living on so little, and yet it actually sounds like you live better than I am!
LOL. I was reading what you have thinking, I want those budgeting skills. I expected you to say you had no cable, no phone, just internet and a cell.
You have done an excellent job and I hope when you receive your degree you are able to get a great paying job that will bless your family! Thank you again for sharing!
you are very welcome. i don’t mind at all sharing. it took me “going to hell and back” to figure out with a little adding and subtracting and a lot of determination i can figure out how to do it.
i just love a challenge. thanks for the compliment. sometimes it takes almost losing everything or actually losing it all to realize how many things we think we need we actually dont.
at least it did for me.
I’m in Awe of you girl! Of course I have 5 kids and a husband that has to live in another town during the week. But I’m really in awe of you!
I wish I could do that good! but I’m learning! Thankfully I haven’t had to go to the school of very hard knocks like you have!
My 2 sons and I live off $15,000 a year. It is not difficult at all. I never understand how people can be in debt and feel deprived living off double or triple that much.
It really comes down to understanding wants vs needs.
I never have a accurate plan like that ,just can’t stop thinking where is my money ,I bought nothing and money is gone ….Thanks OP gave me the good ideas of how to save money for a better life .
Cut your cable bill and go with a jail broken fire stick. Start a garden. Pay off all credit cards, then stop using them unless you can always pay them off before interest kicks in.
These are all really fantastic tips for living on a very frugal budget.I really love the idea about limiting the kids christmas gifts to a set amount per child. We’ve never done that in the past and we end up paying for gifts into March due to the credit card bills.