Bare Bones Budgeting To Make It On Little Income

by Dollar Stretcher Reader Contributors
Bare Bones Budgeting

Do you need to reduce living expenses to the bare minimum? These bare bones budgeting tips will help you cut your budget and reduce living expenses to just the essentials.

Dear Gary, 
My life has recently changed and I am now on my own. I would like to ask your readers what ‘bare bones’ budgeting and frugality tips would they have? I am now living on a very limited income and most of my money goes to rent and insurance unfortunately. I have a used car that is paid for, and the only luxuries I keep are one streaming service and internet service. I would love to hear how others are finding ways to cut back to the bare minimum living expenses and using bare bones budgeting to make it on very little income.

How Do You Use Bare Bones Budgeting to Make It on Little Income?

We asked this question of our frugal readers. Here are the many tips and advice they had on this topic. Maybe some of these tips can help you with bare bones budgeting and cutting expenses down to the essentials.

Restaurants and the Bare Bones Budget

Absolutely the best way to save money is to do as much eating at home as possible, avoiding restaurants, diners, and even fast-food places. Even though you may only spend $12 at McDonalds, you could reproduce the same meal at home for $4. Those dollars add up quickly.

With practice you can eat a nourishing, quick breakfast at home, have a lunch packed for work, and easily prepare a hearty supper in 20 minutes to half-hour. I’ll say it again: Eat at Home!

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Entertainment on a Bare Bones Budget

  • Use the library a lot (free use of Internet, magazines, books, and newspapers).
  • Consider ushering at your local theater (free admission to plays this way).
  • At the end of each grocery trip, take any impulse items out of the shopping cart before going to the cash register (there’s usually at least one).


Budget Key: Wants or Needs

First, I would advise you to take a very close look at all of your expenses and designate them as “needs” or “wants”. If you’re having a hard time discerning between the two, just remember, a “need” is something that absolutely cannot be eliminated. For instance, your cable expense would be a “want”.

Once you’ve made your list, look at your “wants” and either eliminate them, settle for less, or find a way to get them for free or at a reduced rate. I, personally, do not like settling for less so when it comes to a “want”, I’ll find a way!

Once you’ve done that, take a look at your “needs” list and do the same thing. For instance, groceries would be a “needs”. Is there a way to cut that expense? Do you buy only certain brands? Do you shop with coupons or look for items on sale? Are you opposed to shopping at the “Scratch and Dent” store or the Bread Outlet?

I’ve found that you really can save money on almost everything you spend it on, it just takes time and a lot of willpower. The name of the game is getting what you want and need for less…and it really can be a game. The question is, are you up to the challenge?

Bare Bones Budgeting Tips

I have made very inexpensive pasta with flavored canned chopped tomatoes, pasta on sale, and one hamburger broken into small pieces. That makes at least 2 meals and doesn’t skimp on protein, since the hamburger and pasta both contain protein. (See Non-Cash Creative Grocery Budget Stretching.)

Buy fruits and vegetables in season. Or if you can shop more often, check out the “clearance” display of produce. It often looks less than desirable but is still nutritious and flavorful. The store just wants to get it off their main display because of looks.

Remember to add small amounts of chopped celery, carrots, onions, frozen and bits of leftover meat and scrambled egg to cooked rice. Makes a nice flavorful meal. While we’re on the subject, buy frozen vegetables in the bag and use just the small amount you need instead of buying canned or boxed frozen vegetables.

Wash clothing with cold water. Whenever possible, dry clothing until just damp then hang items on hangers to finish drying.

Purchase toiletry items in the “Dollar Store” or whatever store with a similar name is in your neighborhood. Also, electric bulbs, twine, etc. Check that store before looking in other discount stores, and buy items for just $1 to $1.25 each!

Remember that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Diligently and carefully shop at your local thrift store and yard sales, only buying items that you truly need.

Reviewed February 2024

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