How to Survive on a Small Paycheck

This is a guest post by my husband, Beaker.

In my forty some years of life there has been one constant. Besides gravity and that the sun always rises in the east, I have never had a good job or have had a lot of money.

Until recently, I have made such a small amount of money that I was considered to be living in poverty. I am not writing this for sympathy or trying to ask for money. I just wanted to give readers my credentials to be able to state that I know poor. I believe that I know how to live in poverty. I want to enlighten people and give some advise on how to survive on a small paycheck.

Cheap Food, Shopping on Saturdays and Snacks

Buying cheap food usually consists of pasta or those Asian Noodle packs. I think everyone knows this, so I am not going to waste your time. I just want to emphasize there are other cheap foods that people sometimes forget about. Besides pasta, remember some other staples in a diet like rice and potatoes. Don’t forget to shop the vegetable isle for the fruits and vegetables that are in season. If you have a farmer’s market in your area, it is the best because you can sometimes haggle for a lower price.

In the past I liked to go shopping on Saturdays because most of the supermarkets have their free samples, and this gives you a nice treat and makes sure that you do not shop with the pain of an empty stomach.

I don’t buy snack food because I don’t snack. This is not a choice of trying to be healthy. This is a habit I picked up because I could not afford to buy snack food. I am a creature of habit and, even though, I can afford it now, I still don’t buy these things. I learned a long time ago that snacks are not needed, and I can live without them. To this day I still have a hard time trying to snack on fruits and vegetables. I am trying, but it is not a natural thing for me.

If You Don’t Have It, You Don’t Need It

I am grateful to my father for this lesson he taught me because it kept me from getting a credit card and engulfing myself in debt. I give my father credit for teaching me that I should never live beyond my means.

One of my regrets in college was getting into debt with student loans. Even though I was working part time, I was still poor enough to qualify for a Pell Grant. I didn’t need to take out student loans. My girlfriend, at the time, came up with the “brilliant” idea to take out student loans to go to Europe. I really wanted to go to Europe, so I agreed, and I forgot this important lesson that my father taught me. I was blinded by my strong desire to go somewhere without saving up for it.

When I look back at that time, I get really mad at myself. It reminds me that anything worth doing, or having, is worth saving up for. I will never again go into debt for the dream of traveling. If I want to travel, I will save up for it and I will enjoy every moment of my trip, knowing that it is paid for way before I get on the plane.

Accepting Food or Money From Your Family

One of the hardest things in the world is to accept gifts of food or money from friends and family.

I had to swallow a lot of pride and accept things that I didn’t want to at the time because I didn’t want to feel like a leach. It is never easy, but as long you don’t make a living off of your friend’s and family’s generosity I think it is acceptable to let your loved ones take care of you in your time of need, especially if you plan on “paying it forward” to them in the future.

Someday when someone I love is in need, I will go to them and offer whatever I can to help, and I hope they will be gracious enough to accept. I love them with all my heart, and I would love them whether they helped me or not. I know they are proud of me and my accomplishments, and I hope they know how much they helped me. I remember their generosity all the time and I remind myself that I would not be where I am without their help.

11 thoughts on “How to Survive on a Small Paycheck

  1. Daisy

    Agreed with all of these. I know lots of people live off of pasta and ramen, but nutritionally. that’s probably not the best idea!

    Reply
  2. Mackenzie

    The part about cheap food reminded me of one of my years in middle school. That whole year, 5 out of 7 nights a week, we we eating some sort of combo of potatoes and carrots and some other vegetable, because our family was in a bad way financially. To this day, it pains me to waste food, for any reason.

    Reply
  3. Marianne

    When we made very little money we ate a lot of rice, potatoes and pasta. We still do actually but we usually eat meat with it now whereas before we didn’t. We used to make ‘tuna pasta’ which was cooked pasta fried up with onions, canned tuna and olive oil with a healthy dose of parmesan cheese (canned kind). We still like to eat that cause it’s tasty. We also eat a lot of rice. We used to just have rice and soy sauce sometimes which I still kind of like… 🙂 It’s a bit like comfort food to me now because the time that we were the poorest was also one of the best periods of our lives…

    Reply
  4. Analytical Planner

    I also grew up very poor. We didn’t have meat very often, so my mom mostly shopped at the farmer’s market. We ate beans for all meals. Looking back, we probably ate more healthfully than how my family eats now. Vegetables, rice, beans, pasta, and potatoes were our main stapes in life. It may sound boring, but the food was always great. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Michelle

    Hi Mr. Broken Coin! I think accepting gifts from family would be a problem for me. I once borrowed some money from my grandma for just a couple weeks, and I felt so anxious until I had paid her back. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I simply couldn’t afford to. She has plenty of money, but I would just be too proud. I know this is a fault of mine.

    Reply
  6. PB @ Economically Humble

    This is a great post. As a student I have an economically humble budget, so when it comes to food I buy fresh veggies and staples and make dishes interesting by using cookbooks. I’ve learned all sorts of new cooking techniques… and hey, this a great topic four a blog post! I’ll be sure to mention you all….

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Frugal Friday: I make my first debt payment! | Frugal City Girl

  8. Bill Swan

    Been there and done that. It’s also how I learned gardening, some baking and how to do laundry in a sink when I couldn’t afford the laundromat.

    Reply
  9. Financial Samurai

    Thanks for sharing your story. Perhaps the upside is that since you’ve never been rich, you don’t know what you’re missing, and all is good then?

    Plus, you have a wife to take care of you! That’s good enough for me!

    Reply

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