How to Live in a Budget

On National Dollar Day, it’s time to talk money. In today’s world, people are living on less money than they may have been used to in the past, due to job layoffs or troubles finding a job in the first place. When you do find a job, the salary may be less than you’ve previously made, which could cause you to wonder how you’re going to live on that salary. We are here to help with some budgeting tips to help you live on whatever money you receive each month. 

Set a Budget

This is the part that most people fear the most: Taking an honest look at how much money you have coming in each month and how much is going out. It’s okay. You can do it in a spreadsheet or on a piece of paper and it is truly an eye-opener. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Create a row for “Income” and list there the net income (actual money that you received) for that month.
  • Then, create rows underneath that for “Expenses”.
  • Jot down any fixed monthly costs you have: Rent; Electricity; Gas/Oil; Cable/Internet; Credit Card Bills. Put these separately underneath the net income.
  • Next, gather up your receipts (or start fresh if you don’t already do this and keep receipts) for everything you buy in a month’s time and write down a category on each one. Examples: Groceries; Eating Out (This includes coffee); Travel (Tolls and gas costs go here); Clothing; Entertainment; etc.
  • At the end of the month, tally up how much you’ve spent in each category and also list each category in expenses.
  • If, after all of that, you have money left over, congratulations! You’re living within your means. You can read on to find tips on how to keep doing so.
  • On the flip side, if there’s a negative balance at the end of the month, read on for ideas on how to live on the money you make.

Cut Back on Cable

Now, I’m not saying to go fully without cable and internet, especially if you might wind up working from home and will need that Internet connection. However, think about what you watch on TV. Do you really need HBO and Showtime? Or could you instead save money by removing those from your cable lineup? If you shell out the money for Netflix or Hulu already, you may find that you don’t need cable at all and could survive just fine with Internet and no cable TV.

Choose Generic Brands

Seriously. Nine times out of ten, and sometimes ten times out of ten, the quality and taste (for food or drink) is just the same as the name brand. So, you have nothing to lose by going with the generic brand and saving some money in the process.

Clip Coupons and Shop Sales

If you’re like me, you get a bunch of grocery store flyers in your mail every week. Instead of dropping them straight into the trash or recycle bin, take a look through them for items that you usually buy. If there’s a great sale on frozen foods that you regularly use, stock up.

Also, get a copy of your Sunday paper and check out the coupons while you’re looking through the flyers. You’ll be amazed at how much money you can save when you find coupons that go along with items that are already on sale.

Hit Up Thrift Shops

We’ve all heard the Macklemore song that extols the values of the thrift shop, and it’s true. If you need new clothes, you’ll be amazed at the very decent (and sometimes even designer) clothes you can find at thrift store prices.  You’ll also find some truly kitschy items there, too, that you might think you need in your home, but if you’re looking to save money, you really don’t need that faux gold-plated life size reindeer statue or the Rockabilly Santa. I promise. You don’t.

Sell Your Old Stuff

Do you have clothes lying around that are still in great shape, but you know won’t fit you anymore? Or your kids have outgrown them? Don’t just donate those items. Bring them to a consignment shop to sell them or try to sell them yourself on eBay. This also works well for books you’ve read or DVDs/CDs that you no longer watch nor listen to.

Get a Job

If your monthly income comes from SSI or SSDI due to a disability, we can help you get back to work.
NTI works with Americans with disabilities to help mentor, train through NTI University, and guide them along the path to a new work from home job for our Fortune 500 companies. All you have to do is reach out to us at to get started.

BIO: Mary E. Hart is the Digital Communications Specialist for NTI. She is also a freelance writer, editor and content strategist, specializing in writing copy that converts. Previously, she worked in Demand Generation marketing for UBM Tech and Ziff Davis Enterprise. In her spare time, Mary is working on the next great ghost novel.


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