How to live well on a low income

Lately, most topics revolving around money seem to concentrate on how to save money, how to invest, ways to build your retirement nest egg and so on.

Many people though, even with the economy levels rising, still need to figure out how to live on a low income.

Whether it’s for minimalist reasons or simply because income isn’t sufficient, modest living wasn’t ‘born’ yesterday.

When money is tight, one has to be resourceful!

Here are some tips to help anyone live well on a low income and avoid getting into debt or other money troubles.

Live well on a low income

How to live well on a low income: whether it's for minimalist reasons or simply because income isn't sufficient, living a modest lifestyle is possible!



When you live on a low income, budgeting your money is essential. Whether you enjoy it or not.

If you have trouble arriving at the end of the month, it makes sense to see where your money is going and what can be done to improve your financial situation.

If you usually spend money on nights out or that morning latte (a.k.a., avocado toast), maybe it’s time you redirect the amount towards a different, and more important, budget category.

Figure out how much money to set aside for your bills, for food, for other expenses that are necessary.

For instance, if money is tight, you may only afford to spend $250 on food, each month. If you manage to limit your weekly grocery shopping to $50-$60, you’ll stay within your budget. If you spend $80 your first week, $70 the next and $100 by week three, you won’t have any money left to afford food one week before your next paycheck!


In all fairness, if you can’t afford to go 1 whole month without running out of money, it’s time you learned how to prioritize.

Do you actually need that new smartphone? Do you have to change your car every couple years?

Prioritizing your spending is key to living well on a low income.

Know how to distinguish the needs from your wants.

A pair of new sneakers, for instance. You need them if your old ones have holes in them. Wanting to buy them just because they look cool isn’t a necessity.

Give up bad habits

When you’re struggling to make ends meet, giving up on the bad habits that eat up a serious chunk of money every month is a no-brainer.

How many cigarettes do you smoke a day? That’s how many packs in a week? Now, figure out how much money you’re throwing out the window to literally hurt your health.

It’s not nice, telling someone to quit smoking or drinking. Many feel offended because it seems like you’re judging. The effect is probably going to be the opposite.

However, if your bad habits are affecting your family’s finances, maybe it’s time to cut back and find a better use for your money.

Unfortunately, often times money troubles lead to bad habits. Bad habits – guess what? – lead to money problems!

Finding a way to understand the need to quit or at least cut back is essential to using that money to, say, buy more food or pay the bills on time.

Save money around the house

Some household expenses are fixed (like, rent or phone bill), others can be flexible.

Either way, figuring out how to save money around the house can help a great deal if you live on a low income!

Take fixed expenses for instance.

Is your rent too high? Downsize and save money each month!

Is your phone or cable bill hurting your budget? Look for a cheaper option and just switch providers!

Same goes for flexible expenses.

If you’re willing to, you can find a ton of ways to save money on electricity! You can save money on your water bill. You can even save money on your car!

Alternatively, you can stop using your car altogether and use public transportation to get to work and back. Look into it, it could be way cheaper than driving!

Learn to cook at home

A food budget category can be ginormous, compared to a very ow income. Especially if you’re a family with children!

By learning to cook all your meals at home though, you can save a ton of money each month!

I had no idea how to cook at home when I first moved out of my parent’s home. I wasn’t even able to boil an egg.

Little by little though, I learned how to cook simple meals. Seeing how much money I could save by cooking at home was incredible!

Knowing how to cook a few simple meals is enough to feed a family on a budget. If you’re passionate about it and learn how to cook ‘fancier’ stuff, even better!

Fast forward to today, I’ve rarely paid for lunch at work, brown bagging it was so much cheaper in the long run! I even bought a thermos-mug and brought my own coffee to work. Same with water, I always brought my own instead of buying on a daily basis. Saved me a few good bucks each day!

Avoid spending money

Accept you won’t catch up with the Joneses, and that’s OK.

Living on a low income means, implicitly, spending less than you’re used to.

Living below your means is a must when money is limited.

This includes eating out less, buying less clothes, in some cases giving up wearing expensive perfumes or even makeup, if you know you can’t afford it.

Every dollar counts, the less you spend, the more money you free up for your important expenses.

Giving up on certain habits you’re used to can be difficult.

However, if you truly understand the need to curb your spending, giving up on the little things won’t seem as bad as it sounds.

Avoid debt

Obviously, debt is the enemy when living on a low income!

If you have little money in the first place, getting into debt means wasting part of your already low income on interest fees or penalty fees if you can’t pay your balance on time.

By prioritizing and spending less, you should be able to avoid debt.

It’s key to not getting into even more money trouble!

Look for discounts

Can’t figure out how to spend less on essential items you need?

Look for discounts!

Extreme couponing isn’t the answer to everything. It’s also time consuming, so not everyone can ‘keep up’.

However, there are plenty one dollar stores you can shop from, you can ‘hunt’ the sales and plan your shopping accordingly, you could buy food in bulk when it’s in season and much cheaper (and freeze it so you’ll enjoy it for months to come).

There are many ways to take advantage of discounts. You only need to learn how to pay attention to these things, if you’re living a modest lifestyle.

Consider starting an emergency fund

Starting an emergency fund, even from scratch while on a low income, is essential.

It sounds impossible, but by spending less and looking for discounts, by saving money on your main bills, by budgeting and sticking to your plan, you’d be surprised to see how you can start saving money in no time!

An emergency fund can only be helpful.

Unexpected situations that require you to spend money can occur any moment now. You never know when something might happen and you’d need to fork up hundreds of dollars at the snap of a finger!

If you’re on a low income, coming up with the necessary cash can be difficult. You’d have to get into debt or borrow money from friends or family (which is still debt).

Start saving as soon as you can, even if it’s only $20 a month.

An emergency fund is important for everyone, regardless of the family’s income. But having a small paycheck makes it a lot more difficult to pay for emergencies!

Be resourceful and DIY

Limited monetary resources make it difficult to pay for literally everything.

In some cases, being resourceful and doing some projects yourself can save a lot of money!

For instance, shortening your own pants or sewing a couple buttons on your shirt are good examples of DIY projects. Instead of paying someone to do the job, you could take the time and do this yourself.

The internet is full of “how to” tutorials that can help you fix or build things at home.

Of course, you’d always have to be extra careful.

If you have an electrical problem, it’s best to let an expert fix it. If you have a leaky faucet, then maybe you can take a look at it, without worrying you might make matters worse.

Saving money on repairs and other expenses is great, but safety always has to come first!

What other advice do you have for living well on a low income?



I'm Adriana, a passionate SEO expert with a knack for budgeting. As an SEO whiz, I help businesses reach their goals. In my personal life, I care about empowering myself and others to make the most of every cent.


  1. This doesn’t relate to my experience of being “low income.” We have a hard time making it month to month and are not buying “avocado toast” or lattes or equivalents except on the very infrequent date. We have one paid off car that we share as a couple, don’t smoke, cook at home, etc….this actually just makes me feel more marginalized and helpless. Maybe we are further down the income ladder than I realized. However I do think creating a budget is key and will be very helpful!

    • I suggest you look at your largest bill, perhaps its too high, like your housing, if your mortgage or rent is too high, it can be like walking in quick sand!

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