Help! I Ran Out of Money – Money Mailbox

by David Ning · 54 comments

Not everyone is lucky.

A Long Time Reader Writes:

I am an older single female, living alone in a small, yet expensive apartment. I am on disability leave from work and don’t get enough to live on, and make too much to qualify for food stamps. I am on budget for the electric bill, and I have bundled my phone, cable and DSL which is a good thing (really.). Here is what I have totally, for month to month (19th to 19th):

  • Rent: $795.00
  • Lights: $82.00
  • Phone/Cable/DSL: $175.00 (this is the highest so far due to the overseas/long distance calls I needed to make)
  • Prescriptions & Doctor Visits (Monthly): $198.00

Just with the above, I’m already in the hole about $75. I bundled the cable with the DSL and phone because it literally is cheaper than all three separately. DSL is $30. Cable alone was almost $300. Phone varied, but it could be as high as $180 a month. I’ve ‘dumbed-down’ my cable. I don’t have any movie channels, and it’s the basic with 200 other channels. The lower tiers don’t have the channels I watch in the middle of the night or any other time when I can’t sleep and I can’t find anything I really want to watch on tv and my package is going up $30 on June 1st.

I also need to pay for a cleaning lady once a month and that in itself is expensive. Where do groceries and laundry quarters come in?

I have no savings and nothing left in my checking account til the 19th. Help.

YIIIIIIIKEEEEEEES. Cut, cut, cut is what you need to do. Here’s what I mean:

Utilities

My electricity bill is $55 and there are actually 4 people + baby Sara in our two bedroom apartment (it was $25 when it was only the two of us). Is there a way to lower this? Use more natural air, turn off lights whenever you can, unplug anything that uses electricity whenever you don’t use it (except the fridge of course). I know it’s difficult to think of these small habits when there seems to be a much bigger problem at hand but small steps help in a big way through time too. Taking responsibility starts now.

My electricity company also has a lower rate program for people who have lower income. Since you are on disability, maybe you can call them and see if you can lower your bills. That goes with all the utilities company. Call each one and see if you can get some help.

All Those Broadband Expenses

The phone/cable/DSL bill is pretty high. You didn’t state where you which countries you were calling, but look into a service called vonage (vonage.com) or even use skype (skype.com) to make your phone calls. Where are you calling to? Skype.com can make computer to computer calls for free no matter where the destination is, and they have a very good rate for making calls from the computer to people’s phones. There are also other services out there that uses the internet to make calls too. You should look into this. I’m certain that with some minor adjustments, you can save $100 or more a month here.

How much is your cable right now? Can you use dish network? I see commercials for like $15 for the first 6 or 12 months. All those companies have specials for the first few months of signing up with them. It may be a hassle, but you can always keep switching every few months to get a better rate. Also, calling the companies almost always get you a few new discounts too.

Another thing with cable. Can you get Netflix instead of paying $50 – $100 on cable? It’s not the same, but once you get used to it, I’m sure time passes just as well with a $8.99 Netflix subscription than a $100 cable channel. You can always get local news through free broadcast to supplement your movies selection.

If you use Skype for calls, Netflix for movies and just have your DSL, I bet your $175 bill becomes more like $40 since you can cut out cable and phone all together. It will take some adjustments (like you said, you may not be able to watch that favorite show in the middle of the night), but for $135 every month and if it means food on the table, I urge you to change your habits.

Doctors Visits

Talk to your doctor about your prescription and visits. Maybe they can even lower your co-pay or setup an interest free payment plan. Everything is negotiable. The hospital where Emma delivered would give anyone a 10% discount as long as they called and offered to pay over the phone. Guess what we did every time we got a bill from them?

If you take the time to explain your situation to your doctor’s billing department, I’m sure something can be worked out.

Rental Assistance Program

I heard that there are many non-profit organizations that will help pay your rent. I did a quick search online, and found a few in my area. However, I have no experiences with any of them so I don’t want to mislead you by posting names. What I would do is go to your community center and ask for to see if you can find more information. Libraries and the city hall may also be good places to look this information up.

Please Help

This reader’s situation clearly needs your immediately help. Please offer suggestions, encouragement or anything you could think of to help her get through this difficult time and please be nice. Bills are due now. Can you think of anything that can ease the tension? Do you have any experience with the rental assistance programs I mentioned and can offer more information?

Your thoughts are very deeply appreciated.

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Blair MacGregor May 7, 2010 at 8:56 am

According to Skype, you can get an unlimited Intl. calling plan for $13.99 a month. Sounds like this would be more to your liking and is a lot less than $180 a month, that’s for sure.

If you can swing that and choose Netflix and Hulu for your TV watching, you should be able to cut at least $125 or so out of your entertainment budget. You might have to sacrifice the TV watching for the time being though, while you’re working your way through this. If you’re not with Fios or some other TV provider that would require a cancellation fee, you should be able to re-up your TV later on once you’ve got your house in a little bit more order.

I’ve been in this situation myself and I know it’s tough, but you’ll get through it.

-B

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Sandy May 7, 2010 at 9:09 am

I have no specific advice but I just want to give you some encouragement. You can do it, as long as you try.

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Wes May 7, 2010 at 9:40 am

I think everyone has overlooked 50% of the issue: it’s not ONLY about cutting, but what about the opportunity to increase income? Yes, you’re on disability, but you’re obviously able to use the phone, computer, watch TV, etc. There are ways to make money doing this. At the least you can do paid surveys (surveyspot.com, globaltestmarket.com, and others) while you’re watching tv. It’s not much, but depending on how much time you spend at home, it could add up to another $50-$100/month. There’s a variety of other options available to increase income from your home if you search around, but be careful of scams.

Also, depending on where you live, it might be possible to reduce your rent costs. I know moving can be a big hassle and also expensive, but if you cut $200+/month that way, it’ll pay for itself in a big hurry.

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Josh May 7, 2010 at 9:43 am

MoneyNing,

See if the person who contacted you is interested in a free month of netflix. If she is interested and will drop her cable tv, I will be happy to provide you with a “Priority Code” she can use for a free month of service.

– The code gives her 1 full month free vs the normal 14 or so days Netflix normally gives…

I completely cut the Cable TV cord and my family has not looked back. There are so many complete TV series and movies available by mail and streaming that picking is the hard part…

Find your local food shelter and that will help. I don’t know what your condition is, but if you can walk or ride a bike, do that instead of driving.

I can’t advise you to borrow money nor would I lend it. Times are tough for many people, until your back at work, you need to adjust your lifestyle and cut back. If you think its hard to do that, think of all the people who live with the same scarce resources and have little to no hope of recovering and going back to a high pay. In short, wake up, and do something.

At the least, cut back your energy and water usage. Don’t use a dishwasher or clothes dryer. If you use the dishwasher to wash, let the dishes air dry.

Ask your energy company for reduced rates and/or averaged bills… Average bills, estimates energy usage over a 12 month period usually resulting in paying the same monthly rate each month, but a lower rate during your peak energy season. If you live in a cold climate, you might not want to do it. If you live in a warm area, now is the time to do this.

See if there is anything you can do to supplement your income. Have a yard sale, sell things online.

I hope this helps you to help yourself.

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kt May 7, 2010 at 9:45 am

i am also in some sort of insufficient cash flow issue. How i am trying to handle it is but cutting away all the unnecessarily things like eating out, clothes shopping and all the other things that i dont need to survive. Most importantly, i am really asking God for help because he really has the ability to solve my money problems with no strings attached, unlike the mafia :)

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min hus May 7, 2010 at 10:22 am

The cable/phone/Internet bill is a big one. I know it’s not fun, but if you can’t afford necessities, I would cut cable and watch shows online wherever they are freely available, and borrow DVDs and books from the library for other entertainment. Others have already suggested good alternatives to your phone bill.

Also, could you take on a roommate? Not only would this provide rent, but also help for the utilities.

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cm May 7, 2010 at 10:28 am

The broadband cost is criminal. We pay at most $45/mo and that gets us a DSL line ($21) + a VoIP phone (~$25 depending on use), and of course Hulu and lots of ways to watch stuff online. We make about 4 hrs of international calling a month with this.

Giving up cable may not be easy for you psychologically, but if it’s that or actually paying the bills, how can you claim you have a choice? Good luck.

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CD Rates Blog May 7, 2010 at 11:15 am

Do you belong to a local church? Churches usually have assistance programs. They may require you to show a budget or take some classes, but can usually offer some quick help.

I don’t even have cable. We have Netflix and the new instant download features are great. In addition, you can get whole series on DVD.

And someone else hit on the income side of the coin. I don’t know the extent of your disabilities, but there are many opportunities online. Of course you have to be careful so ask your online friends if the programs are legitimate. You certainly don’t need to add any additional monthly charges which often come with online programs (I almost want to say schemes, but don’t want to offend everyone with a broad stroke of the brush).

Also, what about friends or family? Is there anyone nearby that can provide some assistance.

cd :O)

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WR May 7, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Don’t mean to be harsh so please accept this comment in the highest regard.

You should be in Emergency mode right now. Flashing red lights.

(Not sure what kind of disability you are on so this may or may not be possible)

1. Shut off your lights, and turn up the thermostat. Open a window.
2. This also applies to your Entertainment consumption. Get out of the apt. Unplug ALL of your electronics (most draw power even when off). Go to the library and use their internet and A/C. If you have laptop, go to the 100 or so places that offer free wifi and use that (Panera, McDonalds, Borders, etc…)
3. Drop all subscriptions. Cable, internet, phone, etc. Do you have a cell phone? you might be better off getting a cheap- pre-paid cell. Use Skype to make your int’l calls (again from the library or Panera over your laptop wifi). If you want to watch a TV show, use HULU or go to the channels web site. lots of free content out there.
4. Maybe it’s time to rent a room instead of an Apartment. Can you break your lease? There are lots of rooms for rent in my area for much less than $795. Since you are not working (and not constrained geographically) you can temporarily move to cheaper accommodations until you get off disability/ find a job etc. living in a group home is not ideal but I would assume many people would be thrilled with a mature, quiet roommate.

There are lots of expenses that are left out here. Do you have a car? What are you spending on food each month?

Unless I’m missing something you need to drastically reduce your expenses (yes, it will be painful) and find a source of income.

Best of luck to you. You are not in an enviable position but it has and can be done. Someday you WILL look back on this and laugh.

-WR

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Cd Phi May 7, 2010 at 12:54 pm

I say cut the cable. Lots of little cuts here and there will really save you money. One time I did an experiment where I used as little electricity as possible and my bill literally went down half.

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Jersey Mom May 7, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I also have bundle service. After the initial 1st year promo rate, they raised my rate up to $175 or so, like yours. I called them & asked for a discount & proceeded to talk about how bad the economy is… They gave me the promo rate back. =)

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basicmoneytips May 7, 2010 at 7:37 pm

If you need to raise cash, Craigslist is usually a good alternative to get rid of things you may not be using anyway. You do not have to wait for an auction to end or anything like that.

Also, without knowing much about your area, I would think there are alternatives to almost $800 per month in rent, while I know it is a hassel to move.

I agree with everyone on the TV/DSL/phone points

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sandra jensen May 9, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Some great ideas here, I would add:

Get to the food bank, most will give you help once a month or so.
Contact you local social service office to see what is available in your area, here in South Dakota there is a “commodity” box available to income eligible elderly that provides about a week of food once a month, free.
Check into local meals on wheels – many/most have a very small fee – waived if you can’t pay it.
Contact the United Way for referal to agencies, there is a lot of small “helps” out there you just need to track down and put together.
As far as increasing your income – if you are home all day and watch TV and have internet access – you can make $10 to $25 a month or so through Mechanical Turk – google it – I read about it on a financial blog – and have made about $15 so far and received the money.
ALSO – enter on-line sweepstakes. Really. If you spend 2 or 3 hours a day entering you will win prizes – look for things you can resale, books, DVD, toys, etc. (CASH.) I have done this and sold on Amazon.com – it will take several months for you to start hearing back, receiving things in the mail – but you will. Just decide those 2 or 3 hours a day are “work” hours and keep plugging away. Search on Yahoo Groups and you will find groups that will send you DOZENS of sweeps everyday – you don’t have to search for them, just enter. I would suggest you set up a “sweeps” only email address as you will get some spam from this – but the income and fun of prizes showing up is worth it. Go to about.com and search for sweepstakes and read the information before you get started. Good Luck – it sounds like just a couple of hundred dollars in income, or food, or goods will make the difference for you – you can do this if you are pro active.

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air betty May 13, 2010 at 8:34 am

I think there are a lot of very helpful responses here in the comments and would like to add to the growing body of resources. But I’d also like to emphasize that I am not judgmental of this woman’s hardship. So many people are going through what she’s going through, and I think it’s imperative to say that you’re not a bad person for having had some bad luck. I think it’s great that you’re reaching out to the world at large for help. Good for you.

I agree wholeheartedly with the suggestions to cut the cable and watch everything online. Once you go online, it’s very hard to go back to regular tv. Seriously. It’s what all the kids are doing, but I as a middle-aged person am also hooked. You get to watch what you want when you want it, most of the time. Except for nightly news. But you can get most of the news a day late by subscribing to their video podcasts on itunes. You don’t even need a mac to use itunes. With itunes podcasts, that you can play on your computer (don’t need an iphone or a ipad or ipod), you can listen to all kinds of really great shows. Again, on your own time when you want it. Some of my favorites include: This American Life, The Moth, Fresh Air, Diane Rehm show, How Stuff Works, Radio Lab, and Rachel Maddow Show. All for free.

Here are some links to watch all kinds of tv shows for free:
hulu.com
nbc.com
abc.com
cbs.com
fox.com
cwtv.com
tnt.tv

The netflix subscription is also an awesome alternative. They let you watch online all kinds of cable tv shows that you won’t get at the above mentioned tv sites. Plus you get to rent all sorts of dvds that are not available in stores, especially excellent British tv series. Really, you won’t run out of good stuff to watch for years.

Another thing to consider is checking out cheaper areas of the country to live. You can do this, if you’re somewhat mobile, by doing a house swap or apt swap with someone in the area you want to go. All kinds of people do this, including retirees, families, single people. I have a home in Canada where I live part-time, and it’s small and in the woods. But for some people, that is an excellent place to get away. So we’ve done swaps of all sorts using Craigslist, caretaker gazette (taking care of pets in exchange for a free place to stay), and through a local university to post ads. Craigslist has a bad name for some people, but really, it’s been so great for me. I do rideshares every week through them. Have done so for years. Everyone except one guy, great. You just have to go with your feeling upon reading emails that come to you. All it takes is one word to indicate that someone’s not up to snuff. Anyway, use another vetted service for swapping if you like.

If you are able to go to the library, get the new version of Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Workweek, he’ll have other better links for this kind of thing.

Also check out Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich. His aim is toward the young college graduate, but his money saving tips and out of the box approaches to living know no age.

One thing I can’t recommend highly enough, though it costs about $50 is software called You Need A Budget. Just go to their website and read the tales of the people who’ve used it. Really better than anything out there. Sign up for the free online workshop to introduce you to it. It’s really really helpful.

Good luck to you.

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s May 13, 2010 at 8:50 am

Hi,
I am also a woman who is middle aged and on social security. For your medications, try and get 3 months worth at one time. Find out if you qualify for Medicare, this will help you pay for your meds and doctors. If you are a senior citizen, get in contact with your local senior citizen organization or call aarp for help.
Churches and person to person are places that give food and clothes for free
(there is a process to go through for person to person).
Going back to your local senior citizen group, this may give you things to do in the evening (like playing bridge, seeing a movie for free) and also you may make some more friends. They will be able to hlep you to continually to get back on track.
I know what is like to be on a very limited income and not be able to pay your bills. I hope my suggestions help.
Good luck,
S.

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marci357 May 13, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Try CARE – community action resources… or a similar name in your community. Can help with housing costs or utilities on a once or twice time basis.

Take in a renter or college student if you have room and can do so safely.

Do as much laundry as possible at home… a large tub or bucket place in the tub or shower, and a clean plunger or paddle, will enable you to hand wash alot of clothes. Do smaller items in the sink and hang to dry inside with a fan blowing on them or near a window. Hang outside if allowed.

If possible, Move. An over 55/disabled studio is $450 with all utilities paid around here – maybe there is special housing available for you.

Use the library for movies – free is good.
Hulu is great for tv programs – free :)
The TV/Cable/DSL/Phone has got to go or be cut down drastically. I went 18 yrs without tv – no big deal. Emergency limited phone for about $9.99/mo should be available for low income/disabled – it is in our area – local calls only, but access to 911 etc. Unless that is your disability, try reading in the middle of the night – free books from the library. There is a service that will get books to the disabled.

Think about WHY you need to call overseas??? Would an email work just as well, or a letter?

If you can get to a library, use their internet, instead of paying for it.

Grow a mini container garden – inside if need be – to supply some food.

Good luck with the cost cutting.

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Buy Groceries Online May 14, 2010 at 10:03 am

Those utilities are the budget killers. I use Skype to make International calls and it’s $13/month.

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Darrel May 17, 2010 at 6:32 am

You obviously have to get rid of your cable and internet or increase your income.

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Patrick May 18, 2010 at 1:00 am

I’d imagine this post will be deleted soon, but whatever…

I’m 27 years old and make about the cost of your rent alone per month. So gas, food, and a place to live are all luxuries to me, nevermind cable or internet. I don’t have any sort of insurance, and have to beg my electricity company to keep my power on. I go to a university for 18 credit hours and work a forty hour a week job. My situation is better than at least half the people I know. Most likely 90% better than the world’s population.

Your ‘situation’ is ridiculous. I envy you. How dare you complain. How dare you. I’m sorry that things are so difficult for you that you might have to consider not watching Lifetime, or catching up on your cousin’s blog. I know eating fruits, vegetables, and proteins must be a challenge too.

I happened to ‘stumble’ upon this post, and it sickened me. I feel no empathy whatsoever to you, ma’am.

Good luck affording next month’s rent. I know I will need it.

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WR May 18, 2010 at 1:44 pm

best comment so far.

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air betty May 26, 2010 at 8:49 am

not helpful comment so far. what part of disability do you not understand? 27 years old has a completely different life that someone middle aged. you need to stop judging.

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Pyankcat July 20, 2013 at 5:28 am

If you can’t reply in a compassionate, positive manner, please keep your harsh opinions to yourself. There is a world of difference between a young, healthy individual and an older & disabled one. It takes courage to ask for help, and I commend her for seeking it.

On the Internet people can be be so mean-spirited; please consider being a bit more empathetic – there’s no way to know her entire situation.

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JJ May 28, 2014 at 6:01 am

I agree—those were very harsh, uncalled-for words. Might I make a few suggestions?
1) maybe you could try a food bank, or commodities.
2) apply for Section 8 housing; you can live anywhere you want for little cost.
3) for utilities: does your state have utility allowances? Mine does, and it helped immensely.
4) use a long-distance calling card instead of having long distance on your phone—or maybe better, get a cell phone, try for unlimited talk & text, and ditch the landline.
God bless you, ma’am. I’ll be praying that He’ll show you the way. I hope my ideas helped! (-:

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Jerry May 18, 2010 at 12:55 pm

TV: Netflix is a good option for pay movies and can be streamed instantly now if you are capable of hooking your computer to your television. Hulu (and there are a couple others if you search the internet) are good for current and past seasons of television shows. Using a computer, you can cut cable out all together if need be and use a digital antenna called a “home run” to get broadcast channels. That should cover TV.

Phone: I bought a service called OOMA. Ooma uses your DSL connection for your phone line. It is a one time outlay of up to 200 bucks, but you never pay another phone bill for any call within the US, and outside the US is pennies. Another option is if you have cell phones, cut the land line all together, 911 works on a cell phone, just don’t let them die. If you have both…choose one.

Internet access: Several ways to handle this. With your current connection, search the internet for DSL options. You would have to maintain a land line account with your phone company if you choose anyone else, but cheap is cheap. Evaluate the savings of a basic phoneline plus DSL against phone and DSL with your phone company. You could also go to dial up, but you won’t be watching any media over that.

Household savings: Vinegar and Baking soda are cheap. Did you know you can make your own cleaners from them? Including softener for the wash? Search the internet for Vinegar uses and baking soda uses. This will cut the cost of cleaning supplies and laundry needs drastically.

Gas: This is an obvious one…don’t drive unless you absolutely have to. Save grocery trips until you absolutely have to go, then get everything you need in one swipe.

Groceries/Cooking: Beans go a long way, rice goes a long way, mac and cheese, pastas in general can go a long way. Don’t buy dinners, don’t buy all those frozen treats and boxes o fish sticks. Get a large bag of beans, a large bag of rice, and a large amount of the cheap mac and cheese, a whole bunch of cheap tuna, and the cheapest ground meat you can find. With all this and some pasta, you can mix and match for some meals. Make a large pot of chili, a large pot of spaghetti sauce, portion them out and save them in the freezer. That will gain you several meals to save you time and money. Look for stores in your area called sav a lot, eagle, or if you live in an area with mexican carneciria (sp), they have some great deals and walmart will match their coupons most of the time even if you can’t get to the stores.

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JJ June 24, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Jerry, I like your suggestion of going to a Mexican carciniera. There’s one in the town where I live; I’m going to try them and see what they have to offer. (By the by, your spelling was very close; good going! You’re to be commended)

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marci357 May 18, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Ads from this week’s paper:
Studio efficiency: $395/mo. includes all utilities plus cable. Free laundry room, for over 55 or disabled only. (Note: this is a converted older single story motel – so has full sized bathroom.)

One bedroom apt with some utilities included. $450/month.

Small 2 bdrm house (700 sq ft) $650/month with water and garbage paid.

Hopefully you can find a less expensive living arrangement.

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air betty May 26, 2010 at 8:51 am

the housing ads are not helpful unless you all know for sure where this lady lives. in massachusetts you can’t find anything under $800, which does not include utilities. low-income housing has a 2-3 year wait.

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marci357 May 26, 2010 at 8:57 am

I’m just saying there are areas of the country where a little money goes a lot further. Mightn’t it be possible for her to find one of those places? Sometimes it takes a major uprooting of life to make it on less. Perhaps a family member or friend would be able to help with a move, if it meant she could get by on her own on less, by paying less rent.

And just for the record, I’m an older single woman – so I know how hard it is to get by on one small income. Sometimes we have to go out of our comfort zone and change what is not working for us, whether we want to or not. It’s the only way to survive sometimes.

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marci357 May 26, 2010 at 9:00 am

apartmentguide.com shows apts for rent in MASS starting at $483 – so lower priced apts ARE available in Mass.

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MoneyNing May 26, 2010 at 9:03 am

I agree with marci in that moving is a very viable option for someone who cannot make it in a big city. Sometimes the toughest decision turns out to be the best one.

Moving can have its costs, but doing it once it much better than getting zapped every month due to an unsustainable urban lifestyle.

If you can’t afford it, you cannot. Sometimes, trying to delay the problem will just make it worst.

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Stephanie June 30, 2010 at 8:27 am

You can watch all the shows you want on hulu…and for free.

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Miranda August 12, 2010 at 5:05 pm

I’m sorry but this is ridiculous. My husband works (I can’t. Pregnant and due in less than two weeks.) and makes how much your rent costs per month and our bills exceed it by at least 150. Those things are luxeries that you can most definitely get rid of.

Another thing I haven’t seen anyone touch down on is… depending on the disability, do you NEED a cleaning lady? Or can you spend ten dollars every few months on the cleaning supplies and do it yourself? Unless you are confined to bedrest, there is no reason to hire someone. That’s just lazy.

Good luck to you and to everyone else in crappy situations. (Although, lady, I really think you brought this on yourself.) :]

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Susan September 29, 2010 at 1:33 am

What’s more important: luxuries or the ability to pay for rent and future medical expenses?

I live in a part of the country where the cost of living is basically insane ( rural Alaska). My rent is more expensive than what the reader pays and I’m just in a one bedroom. I suspect many non-negotiable expenses like food and gas are also much higher here. However, I’m able to get by because I don’t spend much on fluff.

Here are my tips:

1)Axe the cable TV. You can’t afford it and you don’t need 200 channels.
If you’re going to pay for broadband internet you need to use it. Otherwise this expense can’t be justified. Hook your computer up to your TV monitor. Stream movies/videos from free sources like hulu.com or pbs.org. Borrow DVDs from your local library. Use skype for phone calls or get an international calling card. Finally ask yourself if the internet is really needed. Maybe the reader can get by using someone’s wifi network or free internet at a public library.

2) The electric bill is too high if you aren’t on electric heat. And even if you are, try to save here. Make sure all appliances and electronics are on power strips so they can be turned off when not in use., Use CFL or LED lights. If you pay for heating or cooling at all weather-proof the rental unit so that you aren’t wasting money pumping good air out leaky areas. Finally, if you’re in a cold climate you can turn down your thermostat and throw on a sweater. If you’re in a hot climate try cutting back on the AC.

3) You don’t mention transportation but I assume you get out of the apartment from time to time. Try to minimize driving by using public transit or carpooling. If you own a car negotiate for a better insurance rate. Bring in a quote from a competitor. Increase your deductible to cut back on insurance premiums.

4) Food
a) Watch prices. Buy items you use regularly when they’re on sale or when you have coupons for them if possible.
b) Does your community have a food bank? Here there’s a weekly food handout with NO income restrictions. Ask around, maybe your community has a similar program.
c) Do you have any friends that garden, raise chickens, fish, or hunt. If so would any of them be willing to give you food or barter in exchange for a skill you have? Can you grow a few items yourself?

5) Use craigslist and freecycle. Seriously. I can’t tell you how great these services are for finding household items at a reasonable price. Plus, craigslist is also good for selling all the crap you don’t use anymore.

6) Can you supplement your income? Do you have skills that your disability doesn’t hinder? Can you tutor children in reading or teach trumpet lessons? Do you make arts or crafts that you could sell at a fair or on etsy.com? Could you teach a one-time or once-a-week class though your city’s program?

Finally if expenses are totally unmanageable find a way to make it work. This might mean sharing an apartment or house with a roommate or two to cut down on expenses. Or maybe it means taking a real hard look at finances.

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Brianna Siegrist November 11, 2010 at 5:13 am

Hey, someone wanna let me know when unlimited access to entertainment became an inalienable right??

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Alex November 25, 2010 at 12:52 am

Are you kidding me? Cable…? How on earth is that remotely necessary?

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Concerned Tax paying citizen December 1, 2010 at 6:02 am

How about they get a job and ttop living off our tax dollars. Why is it you think our country is in debt? War and lazy people like this. What kind of disability is it that you have? You probably are a fat lazy leech. My advice correct this.

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Jethro December 6, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Learn how to make a simple website and sell something on it. Think of things you own or anything you could sell to make money. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need, pay off all credit cards and invest 10% of all you have. Slowly but surely you will have more money

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Emma December 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I replaced cable with hulu (free) and a ten dollar a month netflix account. Check with your phone company, many states have a subsidized phone service for low income people, and I second using Skype or another service for your long distance.

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James December 7, 2010 at 3:52 am

try Hulu for tv shows and movies–it’s free
Also, a gmail account will let you call any phone–cell phone or landline for free in the US. I think it’s .10 a minute outside. That might be worth it for you.
And there are a lot of cheap internet ideas out right now. Most cable packages start out at $25.
If she’s at the point of losing money, drastic measures need to be taken whether she likes it or not. Drop the cable, drop the phone.

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seriously December 15, 2010 at 3:54 am

Is this lady for real? When you can’t pay your bills, you’re not working, and you have no savings, you shouldn’t even have cable, high speed internet, or a cleaning lady. It’s just not a priority. Books are free at the library. You can find tons of free TV online. You can get a Netflix account for $8.99 a month. You can move to a cheaper apartment. If you have a cell phone, you don’t need a land line. What about getting a roommate? Eat out less often. Ask your doctor if any generics for the medications you take are available. Turn your thermostat up or down a few degrees (depending on where you live and whether you use heat or air conditioning). Buy store brand groceries.

I don’t want to seem unsympathetic, but I have lived alone on a tiny income for several years and I feel I live very well considering. In times past when things were really rough, I stayed home all the time with no cable or internet, ate beans and peanut butter sandwiches, and watched my body hair grow. You do what you have to do to keep yourself afloat. Too many people act as if they have no control over how much it costs to live, but they have a $300 a month cable/internet bill, $150 cell phone bill, buy brand name everything (groceries, clothes, toiletries), wouldn’t be caught dead using a coupon, lease their vehicles, and don’t comparison shop on large purchases. Times are tough, but an educated consumer can live well on a lot less.

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Money issues here, too December 31, 2010 at 7:49 am

The economy has hit our business hard, and my husband and I have taken drastic cuts in our salaries to keep from laying people off, which is next. I’ve started doing things that in the past I considered a waste of time. I’m starting to coupon, and CouponMom.com is a great place to go to get tips on how and when to use your coupons and shopping strategies. About.com has all sorts of threads on money-saving and financial planning; try looking up “frugal” in your search engine and you’ll be amazed at the wealth of information out there.

I am making my own laundry detergent now. It uses three ingredients and takes about ten minutes. I make a general purpose cleaner using water, small amounts of bleach, and a few drops of dishwashing detergent. Works like a charm, and tons cheaper than the store brands. I drink more tea and water than milk, which I love. I have recently converted to dry milk (don’t tell my son), but I am adding a little vanilla flavoring to it and making sure it’s refrigerated. We’ll see how that works – but most everything is an acquired taste. He refused to drink it years ago when I tried to convert and made it up in a pitcher, but when I put it into a milk jug, he drank it just fine.

We live near the Gulf Coast, so the weather here is temperate. I office out of a small room upstairs, so I don’t bother using a/c or heat in the house while I’m working, which is most of the day. The few minutes I come downstairs for lunch or whatever just aren’t worth it. I make sure things are turned off as much as possible, but I need to get power strips for the tv. I listen to radio a lot instead of running the tv for background noise.

I am using leftovers like crazy. I try not to throw out food, and I’m using beans and pasta as meat stretchers. I have a great recipe for chicken and bean tacos which has become a favorite here. I have a black thumb, but right now I am nursing some lettuce and beets through the winter with a makeshift row cover when the frost threatens. You can always grow indoors if your climate won’t allow outdoor gardening. Check for lists of what’s most profitable to grow in your garden and concentrate on those. The price of lettuce ticks me off, and we eat a lot of salad greens, so I’m growing those and some herbs right now.

One thing I’ve seen is buying clubs. See if there’s a buying club in your area, and you might be able to negotiate lower grocery prices by buying in bulk and then the group divvies up the food themselves.

On your prescriptions, check with your doctor and see if he can prescribe your medications in pill form at 2x the size needed. For example, if you are currently 100 mg of your medication, see if he can prescribe a 200 mg pill. Then split these in half at home with a pill splitter. I’ve heard this is a good way to cut costs, as you are buying half of the normal number of pills, and the cost difference is not double.

And next election time, we all need to vote in representatives that won’t spend our tax dollars like drunken sailors (my apologies to drunken sailors) and won’t use political correctness when generating legislation, but a load of common sense. Frankly, I’d be happy if gridlock shut down the capitol and/or they all went home for a year.

Good luck.

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JJ June 24, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Ma’am, please could you give me the “recipe” for your laundry detergent? That sounds as if it would be right up my alley! Thank you so much. May God bless you. (-:

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Dmitriy Kropivnitskiy January 28, 2011 at 12:58 am

Jesus, lady, where do you think you are living, Sweden?

1. Skip the cleaning lady. Paid help is for rich people.
2. Use Skype. Land lines are for wusses anyway.
3. Cable or Internet, you either need one or the other, but not both.

How old are you anyway?

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Maggie February 27, 2011 at 1:11 am

You don’t need cable, you’ve never needed cable. Aside from my university providing it for free when I lived in the dorms my first year and a half of college I haven’t had cable since I moved out of my parents’ home. My current roommate owns a tv that has a digital adapter and an antenna so we can (for free) watch local channels if we so choose, but lets be honest it’s almost all free on hulu anyway. Most stations also have their shows for free online. There’s no reason to have cable, or even a tv, when you’re strapped for cash. As a child cable was the first thing to go when my parents’ had financial difficulties. Hulu has a “plus” subscription with nearly unlimited viewing for about $7 and/or you could do an unlimited streaming netflix account in the same ballpark.

Also, when in need of objects, etc. check out freecycle.

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chris(poorjerk) April 12, 2011 at 1:04 am

REALLY? You don’t need internet. You cannot eat it. Pay your rent and your electric for 3 months and move somewhere that rent is not so stupid. I apologize if this is not a ploy to get free money from silly people, but my rent is $300 for a studio and I am on a fixed income too. One more part of my angry rant, forget your rent and internet bill. Find a local motel 6 and see if they have a monthly rate. Not enough? Go to a homeless shelter, just be sure that you don’t tell them you make enough money to feed yourself and them for the month.

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Kim June 9, 2012 at 4:07 am

Coming off a high income is hard, and PROGRESSIVE. Every year I amaze myself at how I can continually save money, and I learned some things from these responses on how to make some extra money, too.

Watch Livewell TV or their archived shows on the internet. I like the show “Deals”.

Eat vegetarian, vegan. It is cheap and likely will improve your health if not your disabling condition.

For a social life of caring and frugal people who believe in putting mammon in its place, attend a Seventh Day Adventist church. They have many social activities, movie nights, camps, conferences.

Use Google phone for local calls. Use tracfone $10 plan with double minutes. Use Skype for overseas or email instead.

Get a part-time room mate. Many single people are commuting insane distances, and just need a place to stay for 2 or 3 weeknights.

You can get amazing deals at pawn shops, especially electronics.

Vow to never pay retail again, even on groceries. Buy what is on sale, use coupons, price match at Walmart. The idea is to keep 90 day supply on hand of stuff you can when it is super cheap ( like 17 cents a roll for tp, 40 cents a roll for paper towels) and shop out of your pantry otherwise. Use 99 cent only, Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Family Dollar WISELY.

Cut the high end DSL / broadband. You can save $ by accepting a slower level. Takes longer to download, but not bad. Use internet as your TV.

Take a good look at your health situation. The medical world can be a leech. Have a heart to heart with your MD. What meds can you sacrifice if you make some serious lifestyle changes. Find an Adventist MD or hospital. Their health ministry is AMAZING. It is what made me change my denomination.

Try to use 10% less of everything. You won’t miss it, and it adds up.

Stop robbing God, tithe out of your poverty and watch God “magically” get stuff to you. Jesus is your Supreme Provider, not mammon. You will be a much happier person when you learn this at a heart level. He will not fail you.

IMHO you have a spiritual problem, not a financial/disability problem. Jesus is trying to get your attention. Listen with your heart.

Love you in Christ,
Kim

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anony moose October 22, 2012 at 8:07 pm

I am not one to judge but cable, beer, wine, internet, phone and cigs are all luxuries. Food, rent and clothes are a necessity. I can afford those items now, but I have financial goals I must achieve first. Temporary sacrifice for future gains.

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JJ June 24, 2014 at 5:54 pm

You’re so right, anony moose (I like that name!); cigarettes are luxuries. It sort of bugs me when people smoke like a chimney, but complain that they haven’t enough money for food or such. If they cut out even one pack a week—just one pack—they’d be astonished at how much more it gave them!

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inachu November 5, 2012 at 12:32 am

I bought an OOMA device and the unit is expensive but I have had the service for 5 years at least and NO PHONE BILL at all for those 5 years. I saved a lot by using OOMA. I suggest people switch to OOMA ASAP!

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lusomac November 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Re: Drugs and Doctors bills
Do you have Medicare? Medicare A and B should cover some medical/hospital bills, I believe: Call Medicare…
You can also sign up for Medicare Part D (for Drugs) and reduce your drugs cost considerably.

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bruce vee August 28, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Food Stamps…sign up. DUH!

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karen c November 15, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Cleaning Lady? Get some gloves and a bottle of windex. $80 electricity? Turn off the lights! Stop calling overseas! Maybe if she cleaned house she’d be tired enough to sleep at night and not have to have cable channels.

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Jay July 21, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Honestly people, we don’t know what the disability is. The cleaning lady is once a month, so maybe it’s to vaccuum or something that requires strength or the ability to stand or reach. As for the phone bill, no one needs phone service. Any cell phone can dial 911 and it’s free. As for internet and cable, switch to directv’s lowest package and drop the internet. Finally, I would recommend moving to a studio apartment or something smaller that you can save a lot on. As for food, pasta is cheap and only eat when your hungry-not because your bored or stressed.

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Lou lou August 30, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Listen up people, when one of you walk in this womans shoes, then, and only then can u judge!!!

If you have not, then stay silent!!!

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