‘How are we supposed to live?’, too many people have been continually asking themselves lately with prices becoming so high, we can no longer afford things.
The numbers speak for themselves. In the US, consumer prices increased 8.6% from May 2021 to May 2022, the highest increase since 1981. Food prices have increased more than 10% over the year. A gallon of gas is over 50% more expensive than a year ago. And nobody knows when it’s going to stop.
Luckily, you’re not the only one living under a tight budget. Some people with lower incomes have been doing that for years, so they now have an invaluable experience to share with others. And this is what they did in this popular thread on Ask Reddit. Read below to find out the best life hacks for people living with a tight belt.
Little late to the party and this comment will probably get buried but your local Sikh temple will feed you hot food any day of the week. No conversion or preaching. In fact, no questions will be asked. Just make sure that you don’t drink or smoke before going in. Also, they will do this indefinitely. Some will also let you take food home if you ask them nicely. Sikhs have been feeding the hungry and homeless for 500 years and it seems that service is needed more than ever today. There is no reason anyone should ever go hungry. That is one of the core beliefs of Sikhism. It’s actually a pretty cool philosophy!
Okay, I’ve got this. I’ve been really, really super poor. I’m upper middle class now through busting my a*s but I still live as if I am poor.
1. First of all, food is expensive. You do not have to eat that much. Really you don’t. Mentally, being hungry as a teen screwed me up a bit. I learned that an empty stomach was normal, or even an accomplishment if I only had a couple of bucks and had to make them last.
2. Learn to cook dried beans. Pat boil them first. Then rinse and cook until done. Google it if you need to. Super cheap and nutritious meal. Bonus points for cooking them in a crockpot in a small room. It will help heat your room while they cook.
3. Cheap hotdog buns are a cheaper alternative to loaves of sliced bread if you are on your own. A whole loaf of bread can often go stale before you eat it. A pack of 8 hotdog buns is usually $1.00. So that’s a weeks worth of bread for $1.00.
4. Wear a knit hat and scarf in the house. It makes a huge difference. Keep that thermostat on 60 degrees. You will make it. Also, if you are a single person spend time at the library or other public space. Free heat and often free entertainment.
5. If you can afford it, buy an electric blanket.
6. If you can’t afford it, get one of those plush acrylic throws. Use it as the first layer of bed covering. Top it with some type of heavier cotton quilt. If you don’t have a quilt, top it with a sheet and then some other type of blanket. You will stay warm. It’s amazing.
7. Do not buy bar soap. Buy body wash and use one of those mesh loofahs. You will use much less product.
8. If your house and windows are old, cover them with anything you can find. Sheet plastic or bubble wrap are ideal but are also expensive. Use trash bags, cardboard, anything you can come up with. Tape around all edges with duct tape. It works.
9. Don’t heat space you don’t need. It was not unusual for us to stay mostly in one room during the really cold parts of winter. Just heat that room. If there are no doors, tack up blankets in the doorways to stop the airflow.
10. Cram anything you can under doors to stop drafts.
11. Take care of your possessions. No matter what it is, it’s all you have. Make the most of it. Don’t toss your things about or leave your clothes on the floor.
12. If doing laundry is as issue, have some clothes set aside as strictly “public” clothes. Pull them off ASAP and put on your hous clothes. At least you can look presentable longer between washes.
13. Learn all you can about everything possible. It is so good for your mind and can help stave off depression.
14. Join a church unless you find it offensive. Many churches provide weekly meals. Go eat, enjoy the climate controlled environment, and maybe even enjoy the fellowship.
15. Know your true worth is not related to money.
There are so many other things. I need time to think.
Thank you so much for the kind words, silver, and gold.
I am female.
Some people asked how I made it out. I won’t give my life story but will keep it short and simple. I worked. I worked my a*s off for survival and an education.
There was so much about my young life that I could share but this isn’t the place for pity or such. There was abuse, parental drug addiction, father committed suicide, and I became intensely focused on building my life. I wanted a home and to feel secure.
I hope my comment helped somebody as much as all the replies have helped me. Every time someone commented that “this guy gets it” or similar I started to remember that I do get it. I was reminded of the determination I showed and everything I overcame. This is important and valuable to me right now. Life is messy and I am facing some difficult life choices. I have been haunted by fear surrounding these choices because it will jeopardize my financial stability. But reading through this comment thread has helped me remember what I’ve already faced and overcome. I feel so much stronger.
So where am I today? I spent my morning watching my youngest child play basketball. I drove there in my car that is warm and dependable. Then I went to the grocery store. I treated myself to my favorite cheese. I bought my kids 3 big boxes of Lucky Charms (they were on sale – 3/$10!) And I came home to a warm house with a working washer and dryer. I put my food in a working refrigerator. I truly know I am blessed.
I just want to add that being poor is exhausting. And scary. It’s so hard. But happiness is very, very possible no matter your income level. Money will make some parts of life easier but not all.
If you have access, ethnic grocery stores usually have cheaper produce
Supercook.com has a recipe generator that will help you make good meals with whatever you have at home. Best thing ever. Went from boring basic meals to actual tasty meals
Not sure it’s a hack, but never, EVER, let anyone or anything convince you that you’re any less of a human being because of your sh*tty financial situation.
Go to the library. Not only are there books there, but also you can check out video games, sewing machines, movies, museum passes… so much more. Not to mention the software, education and events that can help you get a raise, promotion, or better job.
If you wind up homeless, get a Planet Fitness gym membership ($10 a month) so you can shower every day. The one near my work also has free WiFi.
Rich people throw out amazing stuff. If you know someone with a truck, you can go around the wealthy areas on garbage day and get all sorts of furniture, appliances, and clothing. A little cleaning and maybe a few minor repairs and you have lots of stuff to use or sell.
Drink only water. It’s one of those ripple effect things that improves every other area of your life.
I work in a welfare office. The number of people who are both 1) unable to afford proper nutrition (supposedly), and 2) morbidly obese is counterintuitive until you see the enormous sodas so many people travel with. It’s incredibly easy to drink more calories than you think you’re drinking, and the fattening nature of these drinks is all in the sugar content. Switch to carrying water instead of soda or other sweetened beverages and I assure you the following will happen:
1) You will save more money than you imagine,
2) You will sleep better,
3) Food will taste better,
4) You will have more consistent energy throughout the day,
5) Your skin/overall appearance will improve, and
6) You will lose weight.
If you do nothing other than stop spending money on soda/sweet tea/etc and just drink filtered tap water, you will thank yourself.
Source: Was poor, now am not poor. Still drink only water (and unsweetened coffee). Am over 40 lbs lighter, sleep well, and feel better.
Stop. Buying. Weed.
Edit: To elaborate, I’m not anti-weed. I’m trying to help.
I grew up in poverty, and nearly everyone smoked weed. The only people who didn’t smoke weed, were able to focus on a way out. Everyone I knew, used weed as a bandage to cover a gaping hole in their ambition.
At walmart or most grocery stores you can buy a rotisserie chicken for wicked cheap. They’re actually cheaper to purchase cooked instead of raw, and you can make several meals out of just the meat you scrape off the bones. I often make sandwiches or wraps and it’ll typically last for like 6 meals, all for like 5 bucks! Then you get to use the carcass to make a stock!
Don’t bank with Bank of America or Wells Fargo. Those banks might give descent service if you’ve got six figures in your savings, but not if you’ve got six dollars in your checking. Credit Unions, USAA (if you’re eligible) and literally almost any other bank is a better option than those con-artists.
PLEASE tell your doctor if your medications are too expensive.
My parents worked themselves to the bone and we ate like s**t to help pay for medicine for me and my sister (hemophilia, we needed medicine to help clot during our periods)…they never complained and just worked – my mom didn’t want anyone to know we were poor. There were cheaper alternatives!! They could have saved thousands of dollars.
I’m a family doctor now and I make it a point to talk about medication costs and ask at all of my follow ups if things are affordable. We don’t know what your copay is and it’s not always easy to tell what will be covered on your plan. PLEASE let us know if something is too much, this is what we are here for!
Edited to add hey thanks stranger for the gold and silver! That’s a first for me.
To answer some recurring questions:
I have Hemophilia C, which I like to call the off brand hemophilia because it’s quite different than the more common ones. It’s autosomal recessive, both of my parents are carriers. My two boys are carriers and one is symptomatic. The medication was Amicar oral solution.
And as someone more eloquently describes in the comments below, prescribing the “cheap” medicine isn’t always that simple. It depends on your insurance company, your deductible, which pharmacy you use (yes that matters!! Especially for psych meds), and if Jupiter is in line with Venus and the pharmacy gods smile down on us. For some people $50 a month is reasonable and they would rather pay more for a long acting and other people can only afford $5 a month and are re-using supplies like lancets and catheters.
I work in the US. If your medication is too expensive, and you have something other than Medicare or Medicaid try looking for manufacturers coupons (symbicort has a great one for 1 year no copays right now, and some of the newer long acting stimulants do too). Ask about local compounding pharmacies, mail order, three month supply or off label dosing…pharmacists look away… like you can use eye drops in your ears for an acute bacterial infections and sometimes they are significantly cheaper. I’ve done that once or twice when patients just didn’t have the extra cash to get the one designated for your ears.
If you need a procedure done and have a residency program or medical school local to you, see if they need any volunteers for didactics or demonstrations. We’ve done ingrown toenails, warts, skin lumps and bumps for free during lectures to teach the other residents how to do them.
Two great sites:
If you live close to one, planet fitness membership. $10 per month and the location near me does free pizza once per week, and free bagels once per week. That’s 8 meals for $10. Plus you can save on your water if you want by using their showers.
Also when you’re broke, it’s hard to kill time and not spend money. So go to the gym and use their wifi to watch Shows while you walk on a treadmill. Its honestly a great way to kill time
Learn to Cook! Less money and Better food quality than eating out
Congee with a broth cube and leftover veggies and meat. When things are really tight, just rice, broth cube and water. 1 cup of rice with 6-8 cups of broth or water will stretch into several meals this way. It can be made really nutritious by adding more things, but when money’s tight this can satisfy your belly.
Also, make use of all social services available to you. All of them. You’re poor, these services exist to help you get by and make things easier. Apply for them even if you’re 100% sure you don’t qualify, you never know how else they might be able to help you.
If you have pets, find charities on Facebook that help provide food for pets to people with a low income. I can’t tell you how much stress this took off my shoulders knowing I had enough kibble for my cats so they wouldn’t starve *and I could buy my own food* *instead*.
Don’t be ashamed of being poor. I know people look down on you for that, but shame gets in the way of coping with poverty. Everybody can get poor at no fault of their own if circumstances align right. Even if you made less than smart choices, got a drug habit or whatever, you’re not less deserving of basic human respect and kindness. Nobody is perfect, and poverty exists because governments don’t implement or fund social services well, f**k with minimum wage etc. Everybody deserves to live comfortably and not have to turn over every penny three times before spending it (no matter how much character that builds, poverty f*****g sucks) and still come up short on basic necessities.
Might sound like common sense or not quite a life hack, but a clean house improves mood significantly. Seen alot of less well off friends or coworkers with absolutely trashed houses, and they’re always sour and irritable, leading to less productivity at work and less chance to move up to better wages. Just tidy up, organize and your mood will improve dramatically and help in the long run.
So, in my area, boneless chicken breasts cost at least $10 for two. A whole chicken costs about $10 or less if it’s on sale. I learned from youtube how to “dress” (cut up) a chicken. So now I get two boneless breasts, two boneless thighs, two drummies and two wings for the price of two breasts. Also you use the carcass and the bits of meat attached to it to make soup.
Go to Aldi. Most stuff there (eggs, lettuce, salt) are just as good as other stores and much cheaper.
I’m going to drop some things that I’ve learned over the years. DISCLAIMER: don’t hate me. Not everything works for everyone and tbh I don’t expect most to be able to keep up with this ridiculously strict “diet.”
No eating out.
Don’t stop at stores “to grab a drink.”
Do not shop while hungry.
Always shop at Goodwill, value village, and other stores like that.
Don’t go out to watch movies.
Collect your change.
Save any cash that you get. (Depends on how you get paid.)
No alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, etc
Buy in bulk. Always.
Do free things – like going to parks, going on walks, libraries, hiking, etc. Find creative ways to have fun.
Avoid driving as much as possible.
Use supplies sparingly.
Practice self – control.
If it helps, treat yourself to ONE $5 thing a month. When I was a teenager I worked three days a week and made $175 a MONTH. Every payday I bought one Starbucks drink and that was that, managed to save up to $500 in three months by following my own advice ^
Good luck, everyone!
Certified Poor Person: Born into extreme poverty, Now I’m just above the loverty line.
-Save the seasoning packet from Ramen for broth.
-Use emergency candles at night
-Unplug everything when you aren’t using it, to save energy.
-Combat boots are year around shoe
-Hit up local food banks
-If your phone gets shut off, go to public places to use the wifi.
-If your electricity gets shut off, keep your blinds open during the day, snd use candles at night. Charge your phone(and computer if you have one) at the library, or bus station.
-Art! Even if its origami with printer paper from the library, art in any form will help you clinge to your sanity, in a world that does not seem to want you.
If you’re female, check out reuseable menstrual products. There are plenty of affordable cloths pads on amazon or you can save even more by making your own. Menstrual cups are great too but they come with a bit of a learning curve.
One you have your system sorted you can stop buying disposables completely. Pads and cups last 10 years.
Ask to speak to a social worker at the hospital when giving birth. Ask about the visiting county nurses or another home visiting program. Best thing I did with my kids- we had be a waitlist for a year but now they get free daycare on tuesdays and thursdays through the county. Literally 100% free (if you’re poor enough). My home visitor comes and shoots the s**t with me every 2 weeks and brings me free diapers and clothing hamdmedowns from her other clients. Really easy to get connected to if you find the elusive social worker
You can donate plasma and be paid $30. Up to 6 times a month. Extra $180. It is supposed to hurt a little.
* Learn where to shop. Going to the grocery store will not save you money. The Latin markets, the Asian markets, the halal and African markets and Indian markets each have their own specialties.
* Stockpiling is a necessity. Always have basics like flour, sugar, and spices you use. Stock canned goods you use frequently.
* Buy in season and avoid things like Starfruit and Avocados when possible.
* The dollar store is in general, not a good place to save a buck, though there are deals there if you look around.
* Community Garden in the summer, or just garden if you have the land for it. Hunt and fish during the fall and winter. A deep freezer, even if shared with friends, is a must.
* The bread outlet store will save you lots of money.
* The thrift store is an amazing place for dishware, clothes, and electronics, especially cables.
Hot Sauce is a simple investment to turn sad, bland food, into sad, slightly less bland food
Eliminate food waste. Things you’d normally throw away like vegetable peelings and bones can be turned into flavorful stock for future meals.
Probably not what you’re asking for, but if you really want to look at the data, Haskins and Sawhill found there were three things that most determined whether people escaped poverty:
– finishing high school
– waiting until you are 21 to get married and not having kids before that
– managing to hold down a full time job
Of course these three things are not entirely down to choice, but if you focus on them and pull them off, there’s only a 2% chance you stay poor.
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