Living well on a low income

One thing I am asked more than any other is how can people live well on a lower income, for example on benefits, or on a pension.
As regular readers - of this blog, and my previous one - will know, we choose to live a different life so that we have no debts, and use our income, such as it is, to suit this lifestyle.
A major life event led to us needing to move from the family home in order to pay off mortgage and linked house-y loans.
We were left with first world problems, and no more first world incomes to match.
This is what we did - in no particular order - and how we live our life now.
The essentials list:
. A safe, affordable place to live 
. Enough regular money for electricity, water, council tax and gas
. A mobile phone
. Transport, or access to affordable transport
. Enough money to cover monthly essential bills: prescriptions, direct debits to pay off outstanding debt.
. Enough money for a healthy diet

We live the cheapest way possible.  It is small, clean, warm, and safe. 
Our rent, electric, water, and council tax are all covered by one payment a month, and we rarely use gas.
We negotiated two sim-only contracts that give us unlimited minutes and texts as well as a large amount of data; for less than we were paying for one previous contract. We have not updated our phones with a provider.

We have kept and maintain our car, and put money aside each month towards a replacement.
The direct debits are in place for a reason, and have always included money going to savings - even when we were paying off the debt. I pay monthly for a prescription pre-payment card, as it saves us ££s. 
We plan a set of meals for a number of days, and shop for those meals - we don't have to eat them on those days..we can be flexible, and always have a standby dinner in case one of us is ill, or we have run late ( instead of reaching for a takeaway...). 
We always start by checking the store cupboard first, and if we have something we won't eat ( this week I found a box of pasta we had been given as part of a Christmas parcel, that wasn't gluten free ) it goes in the foodbank box at the Supermarket. 
We tend to our savings like a gardener tends to seedlings - every day we sort out our 

Christmas and Holiday funds - the ones we pay into using the 365 saving scheme I 
explained a few lists ago. We also have pots for saving for other things.

Once we had paid off our debt, and set up our emergency fund (I say that lightly, but it took months and months), our way of life and habits had changed, so living this way was second nature.

The things we don't do?
. Smoking: Neither of us smokes
. Alcohol: Man Wonderful has a bottle of wine twice a month, and has a wee tipple most 
evenings. I don't drink alcohol, although I used to.
. Entertainment: we have a small TV that has a DVD player in it. We don't pay anyone anything extra for channels, it's a Freeview TV. The TV licence is paid by direct debit.

. Go out: We save little amounts every day towards other things - this year we are going to the Theatre. We also have a big birthday year (MW) and have a couple of cheap weekend breaks planned. Because we live so cheaply and simply, we can save up for things we want to do.

I see a lot of people on benefit-ty -type programmes struggling without their "X-boxes" or the latest gadgets, or latest things to wear...
Read, knit, sing, talk to each other, play cards, draw and colour, wash clothes by hand in 
cheap shampoo and hang them out because it's blowy Just me?
Radio 4 has some superb articles that make you think.
Do a Sudoko or three.

Volunteer at a care home and go to listen to some folk who are lonely.
There are SO MANY free things you can do that give you some purpose.

We have to be strict with money, but so did my parents, and 
their parents before them. It's not a new thing!
I have a notebook that was my parents', and it lists exactly what they bought, and for how much, in 1965.

It makes sober reading - but then I'm sure members of my family reading this in the future 
would think the same!

Living is going to happen.
Living well is down to you, not down to how much cash you have.


  1. I live well, well within my means. I do most of the things that you do and plan to downsize again in a few years time. It takes thought and planning, and a time to get adjusted to marching to the beat of a different drum. My crafting is my luxury item but is affordable because of my lifestyle.

  2. I am finding that I have more opportunities to share my ' stuff ' than ever I had when I was on a salary.
    J x

  3. I've just reduced my hours at work. Won't really affect the family budget. We've always looked at my pay as a bonus. It paid off the mortgage a bit early and provides the emergency fund.

    Hubby retired three years ago, he has a decent pension. We'd like a smaller home but he loves the garden and wants the space for our dog.

    But in honesty, there are days I don't know if I'll make to 60 when I can collect a reduced govt pension. My nursing pension won't pay out till I'm 65.

  4. I enjoyed your post. It is good to read others feel the same as me and can live well and happily on a small budget. I also can afford to do the things I enjoy because of living this way.

  5. These are really wise words. I grew up in a single parent family and there was never, ever money left over for anything much but we never went without. We always had lots of love, a roof over our heads, good and simple food and books (I remember going with my two sisters to the little mobile lending library and choosing what we would take home to read...such a fond memory!) Meg

  6. An excellent post - your parents sound to be of our generation (we married in 1964) and yes, funds were just as tight then and this was in the pre-credit card era. If you couldn't afford to pay for something outright, the only way was by hire purchase. But we managed. If we couldn't afford something it wasn't a case of "putting it on plastic", you just didn't buy it. People are gradyally re-learning restraint, I think. And then there are others, like those we sometimes see on TV progs about overspending, and you wonder why they are so enamoured with having 'designer' labels on their clothes, spending countless hundreds, even thousands of pounds, on things they simply do not need, but just "want". It seems rather childish to me.
    Margaret P

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