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Budgeting on a low income can feel pretty impossible.
Making ends meet, running out of money each month, trying so hard to make it work on one income..it’s tough!
That’s where learning how to budget on a low income comes in. No matter how much money you make each month, you can budget successfully!
For much of my married life, you could classify us as DINK: dual income, no kids.
Me and my husband both worked pretty good jobs and made decent money. And our lifestyle showed it.
I’ve always been money-minded, but there was never any driving force strong enough to really make us hit our money goals (like getting out of debt.)
We’d try hard at it for a few months, make some progress, then slip back to old spending habits.
Fast forward five years, and we had our first baby. We’re no longer a DINK couple. Now we’re single income and a baby.
How I SO wish we’d have taken advantage of all that extra money we had before!
Now I’m learning how to budget money on one income, and it hasn’t been easy. But I’d love to share what I’ve learned so you won’t have to struggle as much as we have. 🙂
Start with a Basic Budget
When you’re learning how to budget on a low income, you’ve got enough to stress with already. You don’t need a big, complicated budget to add to that.
To make your first budget, start by looking at last month’s spending. Based on what you learn, you’ll decide on your simple budget for the next month coming up.
I’ve got a whole post that will show you exactly how to do this (just click here.) And don’t worry, it’s easy!
Get on the Same Page
If you’re doing this with a partner, the most crucial element to making a budget work is being on the same page together.
It’s fine if one of you naturally takes over the budgeting process. That’s pretty normal actually. And I’m going to guess it’s you since you’re the one reading about this stuff.
But you can’t expect a household budget to work if everyone isn’t working towards the same goal.
This usually looks like you setting the budget each month, but your husband doesn’t really know about it. So he goes out to eat for lunch, buys a new game, and generally spends money without talking to you (or consulting the budget) first.
Before you know it, those purchases add up and blow your whole budget out of the water.
If you’re stuck in this cycle, how do you fix it??
Have a money date.
You might have to wrangle him into it, but you’ve got to set aside some devoted time to talk about your budget. This is so important when you’re working with a low income and really need to watch every expense.
Block off some time you can focus and have a good conversation together. This doesn’t have to take hours, but I’d say to give yourselves at least 30 minutes.
You’ll want to come prepared with:
- questions to discuss
- your quick start budget
- and any debt or savings numbers you want to go over.
I’ve even got a worksheet you can print out and bring on your money date to help keep track of everything. Click here to download it!
You’ll want to have a money date monthly, and probably even more often while you’re first starting to live on a budget. So pick your favorite coffee shop, restaurant, or corner of the house, and make it fun!
Track Your Expenses
If you want to stick to your budget, you’ve got to watch what you’re spending. It’s just not enough to set up your budget but then not look at it again.
You get to choose how you want to do this. Some people save all their receipts and track everything in a spreadsheet once a week. Others write down expenses in their planner as soon as they’ve spent any money.
I like to keep it simple and just log on to my online banking every day and give it a quick glance over to make sure our bills are being paid on time and we’re sticking to our budget.
Start an Adult Piggy Bank
I’m a huge believer in being able to visually see your progress on your goals. One super fun way to do this is to use a shadow box to save up for a fun money goal.Stash your extra cash and change for your next vacation, shopping spree, or rainy day fund. It can be anything you decide, but make it something that will get you excited to see grow.
This is going to be so motivating to stick to your budget!
You can budget on a low income
Just start with a simple quick start budget, get on the same page with your spouse (with monthly money dates), and track your expenses. And don’t forget to save some up for the fun things in life too.
For more awesome money tips, check out these posts:
- How to Save Money When You Live Paycheck to Paycheck
- 9 Easy Ways to Save Hundreds of Dollars Each Month
- How to Live Off One Income