Money is something we can’t live without, but for those of us on a low income, dealing with household bills, running a family, and simply living comfortably can be difficult. Furthermore, while we know we should put a little money aside each month, this can be difficult when every dollar seems to disappear from our bank accounts as soon as it arrives.
To help you make the most of your money, and for guidance on living on a low income, here is some advice you might find helpful.
Help with health care
We all fall ill, but health insurance and medical bills can be costly. The temptation is to avoid seeking the help we need when we worry about our finances. However, help is available.
Medicaid is a government program providing health coverage for those who fall below a particular income level. To see if you qualify, apply online at ePass or drop into your local DSS office.
You should also go online and apply to Rx Outreach for prescription help. Instead of paying too much for your medication, this service is an affordable option for anybody who is eligible.
We all need to eat, but a little bit of planning and careful spending can help us with our shopping budget.
For starters, don’t spend money on expensive branded products when you can get a similar item for cheaper. Then think about what you are buying. Making a weekly food plan will save you money in the supermarket as you will know exactly what you want to buy for your meals. Avoid buying too many treat items that you know you can’t afford, and buy foods that are in date, and which won’t go off before you get a chance to eat them.
Take advantage of special offers and coupon deals. However, make sure you are getting a good deal as sometimes offers can be misleading, and you may also find cheaper items elsewhere.
Learn to cook. Instead of processed meals and frozen products which can be expensive, being able to cook your own food with fresh produce is going to save you a significant amount of money. You can even cook more than you need and store leftover food to use for later in the week.
You should also consider enrolling in the federal Food Stamp Program, now known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Running for over 40 years, the program is designed to put healthy food on the tables of low-income families, so it is worth your while checking to see if you are eligible.
Decent housing is a fundamental need for everybody. However, when on a low income you may not be able to afford the accommodation you desire. Of course, you should only pay for what you need, so if you are a single person, consider the space you need to live in. A four bedroomed house may not be necessary unless you have a family to accommodate as well.
Beware of dodgy landlords when you rent. Cheaper rental accommodation may suit your bank balance, but if the property is falling apart and poses dangers to your health, you shouldn’t live there.
The sensible choice is to sign up with the HUD Public Housing Program. Established to provide safe and decent housing for low-income families, there are a variety of rental properties on offer to suit any family situation. Living in accommodation that is managed by public housing agencies is a much better option than renting privately, as any major upkeep of the property will be covered.
Managing your bills
The sight of the mailman can be enough to put us in a cold sweat, as the prospect of another household bill is something we may not be able to afford.
Your priority should be sensible living in your property. Make it a habit to reduce the risk of a high bill by not wasting energy. For example, don’t leave your appliances plugged in when you are not using them. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Only use the washing machine when you have a full load of clothes, rather than wash several smaller loads during the week. A few simple practices around the home will save you money.
You should also check price comparison services for your utility companies. Don’t pay over the odds to the provider you have always been with, when somebody else may offer you a better rate on the energy you are using.
Finally, when you are stuck, and you don’t have the means to pay your bills, don’t hide your head in the sand and ignore them. Speak to your utility company and explain the situation. They may offer you a solution to pay installments, rather than covering the whole bill at once. Your local government can also help, including services that will pay for some of the costs you are facing.
Try and avoid debt
When living on a low income, there is the temptation to take out credit cards or bank loans to help us pay for things we need, and for the items we desire but know we can’t afford on our monthly income.
Should you already be in debt, consider consolidating your loans into one easy to pay monthly plan. Shop around local banks and credit card companies to find low or zero interest options, and transfer your existing debts over to them. Not paying interest on your loans will ensure you pay off your debt earlier.
When you have paid your debts, cut up your credit cards so you’re not tempted to use them again. Sometimes you need to make sensible choices in your spending, so only use your income rather than falling for attractive loan offers. You will save yourself money in the long run, and reduce the stress that comes from falling into debt.
Using the advice above should help you avoid getting into financial trouble. You may not be able to buy everything you want, but it should be possible to cover everything you need to live a normal life.