How to Live Well on a Small Income: Helpful Tips and Tricks

January 11, 2019

Pennies on the Dollar

In general, it’s easier to buy nice things when money is no object. We knew that part already. But a popular modern myth is that money is the only path to living the life you really want, from material goods to free time to forming healthy habits.

And while money sure does help, it’s far from the only way to achieve any of these things. With the current state of retail and technology in the U.S., having nice things and feeling good in your day to day is completely within reach.

The only catch is that it tends to take more time to shop and live smarter. You’ll need plenty of motivation and energy to keep working toward your cost-effective life of leisure and health.

There are lots of great resources online to get started on reshaping your living space and your habits for the better.

Our list below is a brief introduction to some of the changes you can make right now to feel more content and satisfied at the end of the day.

One Man’s Junk

Human beings are fickle, and when it comes to material things we’re willing to pay a significant premium just to be the first owner of X, Y, and Z.

But for anyone who isn’t weirded out by the idea of owning something that’s been owned before, then this is one of the greatest moments in history.

how to live well on a small income

The contemporary resell market is bigger than ever. eBay is no longer the only game in town. Craigslist, letgo, Amazon, and Reverb are robust channels through which you can get rid of your old unwanted stuff as well as hunt for specific items that you can’t afford to buy brand new.

This is especially true when it comes to big-ticket items like furniture, speakers and audio equipment, and even musical instruments.

These are all long-lasting items that can remain in good condition for years and years, even decades in many cases.

Brand new, designer furniture can cost thousands of dollars. Online, used, that same furniture can go for a couple hundred bucks and the cost of a rental truck to haul it away.

Buying used also holds up as one of the most environmentally friendly ways to be a consumer. Recycle everything. It’s a win-win-win for you, the seller, and Planet Earth itself. What more can you ask for?  

Organic Food: Not Just for Rick Folks Anymore

There was a time when Whole Foods was the only place in town to buy organic produce, meats, and boxed foods.

And while the chain is still a great way to spend a lot of money on not so much food, organic has grown much further than that.

Many Kroger grocery stores and similar have started to carry organic products in nearly all departments. Even better, these organic brands tend to sell for much less than similar products in health food stores.

organic food on a small income

From cooking to snacking, eating organic offers a high level of quality that you’ll notice immediately while also encouraging you to eat healthier in general.   

Light It Up

Curating your home environment can go a long way toward improving your self-confidence and psychological health.

There are many ways to improve your personal space. For one thing, cleaning your residence even just once a week can spur additional productivity and motivation.

But in terms of upping your home decor, one of the simplest ways to change your space for the better is to put some more thought into how you light it.

Many affordable apartments have only in-ceiling overhead lighting, most likely filled with money-saving LED bulbs.

Fixtures like these tend to be too bright or not bright enough, placed poorly, and hard to reach to replace bulbs.

What’s the solution? Consider buying some inexpensive floor and desk lamps to place around your living space. More importantly, special order light bulbs you actually want. These could be low-watt Edison-style bulbs that offer a beautiful amber glow rather than a cold white light.

how to live well on a small income

Or maybe some color-changing bulbs that can be controlled with a smartphone app. Some can even be set to timers that change the bulb’s color for different times of day.

Regardless of the style, adding more light to your home can help you maintain a positive mood while staying in. And you and your guests will look better in subtle lighting as well.

One Exer-Size Fits All

Many of us like to use exorbitant gym membership fees as a covert way of avoiding working out at all. And yes, your choice of gym is probably limited by cost and just the area where you live.

But even if we don’t want to believe it, exercising doesn’t really take more than a pair of shorts, some tennis shoes, and a heaping help of motivation.

morning exercise

Apart from jogging in your neighborhood (mornings and nights are your best bet), there are many strength training exercises you can do at home, from simple pushups and situps to more complex methods that make use of free weights or a medicine ball.

There will always be a million excuses not to get fit, so you may as well jump right in the deep end.   

Cut the Cable

Cable and satellite television just aren’t necessities anymore, no matter how much those service providers would like to dispute it.

The reality of the situation is that all you really need for hours upon hours of entertainment is an internet connection.

For half the cost of traditional cable, you could subscribe to several video and music streaming services that together would offer more on-demand entertainment, and more importantly, shows that you actually want to watch, all with fewer mind-numbing commercials.  

The Social Network  

Perhaps more important than any other factor, don’t forget to take care of yourself and nurture a healthy social life.

Humans are social creatures, and taking a step out of your routine to spend time with friends can help remind you of what’s really important.

how to live well on a small income

Reconnect with some old high school buddies. Put together a monthly karaoke meet-up. Take a cooking class on the side and meet the love of your life in the process.

As a great man once said, “Adventure is out there!” Don’t let it slip by just because you thought you needed more money to live a good life.  


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