Budgeting for Fixed or Low-Income Families: My Personal Journey and Advice

For the past 11 years I have been on a fixed income, with a family this not easy nor is it recommended. If you can avoid a fixed or low income, by all means, do so, after all a greater quality of life is essential to spiritual, physical and emotional self. However, the reality is that due to substantially raised costs of living around the United States if you make under 30,000 dollars a year and have a family you are struggling to meet your obligations in rent, utilities and more than likely shop at Walmart regularly because you believe that lower cost is saving you money. The real test is going from comfortable to strict in budget, which is difficult when single, even more so when you have a family!

My goal is to show you how to prepare in a way that allows for eating better, building supplies, gaining more knowledge and still meeting your obligations. I believe firmly that you can, in fact, raise your individual or families quality of life by simply doing what I am going to show you. It is important to note that my approach is not a quick and easy save, rather it is a journey like all good things in life. Everything takes time to be well done and of course if you take the time necessary it will mean that much more as well. We are going to look first at budgeting based on an income of $15,500 dollars. This is the current fixed income I live on and support myself, two children and still prep regularly including but not limited to actively seeking new training in medical, firearms and even food preparation.

Form local groups or get to know your neighbors. Lower-income families need to have support to do better for themselves. It is essential to understand that I firmly believe that to gain support one must also be willing to lend it! This means that I am not suggesting you seek out charity for the sake of charity, but rather look at generating acquaintances and friend groups that benefit you as much as you benefit them. As an example, my knowledge and active abilities which allow me to trade that for items or abilities I cannot and do not know or need to know have allowed me to have work done on my vehicles for the cost of parts. I than gift a bottle or two of spirits that they cannot make themselves. With that, it is time to look at eating as a part of prepping.

Eating better, this is essential to a healthy life and a greatly improved quality of life. How do you eat better, when you have an annual income that is less than most people will make over the course of 3 months in the United States today?

  • Buy local and look for programs that have large amounts of greens, vegetables, and fruits for little or no cost. We have two locally in Arizona called the 3000 club and Produce On Wheels. By attending one or both every week or even every other week I have been able to not only keep ourselves well fed with vegetables and fruits but also the chickens and canning which simply benefits us even more as a result! And this is all for $20 and a few minutes of time on a Saturday.
  • Reduce your carbohydrate intake, a large amount of food manufactured these days is carbohydrates. While pasta, rice and grain-based products can seem to be inexpensive; the reality is the overall health costs will in fact cost you more than simply reducing your intake of them. Regardless your income you can easily gain excess weight if you have limited mobility and bad diet!
  • Even if you live in the city, you can have a garden, once you begin growing your own greens you will find that your taste and desire for them increases. I am most definitely a lover of meat-based products, I enjoy steaks, hamburger, ham, bacon, venison, chicken and fish. However, whittling down the amount of animal products we eat and replacing with greens can, in fact, have a large impact on our health and weight.
  • Buy or barter local, grass/pasture fed for your meat, you will pay more on average for small cuts of meat if you buy local. However, if you have other individuals you trust around you, you can look at group buying a full beef, pigs and more and by doing so actually save money in the long term.
  • Alcohol and cigarettes; in moderation, good alcohol can be beneficial and is definitely fun to drink, however, if you are unable to control yourself I would suggest staying away from this. Cigarettes are a habit that has no long-term benefits, nicotine has anti depressant properties but for anyone who hunts and is active we know that long-term heavy use of these reduces our chances to capture prey or continue being active.
  • Avoid all fast food and cut your eating out down to once a month or less! This alone has been a significant factor in my reducing weight and feeling healthier in the last few months. Additionally, it has reduce expenditures and allowed for a greater amount of healthier food options in shopping.
  • Coupons, use them, learn to use them and do not be afraid of the people who get mad while you are using them (though for manner reasons alone I suggest waiting till after 7 pm to use them in a major store simply to avoid the rushes and prevent issues.) My wife has been a coupon using lady for years and is struggling to teach me her craft! With coupons and knowledge of how to use them appropriately, you can easily save hundreds of dollars every month! (just do not get caught in the trap of addiction with coupon use). M.D. published a good article on using coupons a few months ago that you’ll want to read.

Next, we need to look at ways to build supplies while staying within our budget, this part has become increasingly easier for myself and my wife as we have been more willing to look for the deals while still maintaining quality especially in life-saving items.

  • Personally, I budget 15% of my monthly income specifically to this. With a monthly income of $1300, it stands to reason that to simply survive it is essential to have an extremely regulated budget. I will admit that saving money overall is quite difficult. However, it is possible to still maintain prepping and do so well. With $145 or less every month for the following extras, it takes planning and preparation to properly ensure solid approaches using quality items. (this is why I write the reviews I do).
  • Buying gas when the prices are down and you have spare funds, using the stored gasoline when funds are tight! I buy 15 extra gallons every few months and always have a half or more full tank! Store it in a well-ventilated area that is relatively temperature controlled. I use gas extension products that allow me to use this gas as long as a year to 18 months after purchase. Gasoline costs rise around elections, and weekends and are lowest after elections and from Monday through Wednesday.
  • Firearms, it takes 4 to 6 months for me to have the funds available for a firearms purchase. I refuse to do so if it means shorting our family for any reason. This is also why I am a budget shopper with firearms. As I have noted in several articles less expensive is not a bad thing much of the time. I have tested 3 different AR15 brands over the last decade to the tune of 10,000 to 15,000 rounds each, what I found was that Palmetto State Armory Freedom AR15s (their budget line), worked exceedingly well and were 90% reliable. However, I will be writing and article with my overall findings soon. It must be noted that the 90% reliability was not all firearms, this means that one of the tested firearms had issues occasionally and was replaced for one that functions, FREE OF CHARGE BY PALMETTO STATE ARMORY, all of the ones we currently have run 99% of the time which is the most you can expect. Additionally, I have saved and purchased used Glock 19 gen 3, Mossberg 702 .22lr rifles and other firearms all which function almost perfectly and which allow for easy repair should they have any issues.
  • Ammunition, some people suggest buying a box or two here and here and there as you get the money. I actually suggest a different approach for several reasons. I suggest saving for a month and buying a minimum of a case at a time from a dealer online. Firstly, you will actually save money by doing this and you will get exactly what you want and what works best for your firearms! I enjoy using The Lucky Gunner and *SGammo* for my needs, though I do sometimes shop pricing using AmmoSeek which allows me to input exactly what I need and then find the best overall prices including shipping. I can suggest defensive and hunting ammunition for your use as long as it is in the following calibers, 7.62×39/5.45×39/ .22lr/ 5.56×45-.223/.308-7.62×51/7.55x55swiss/.243/9x19luger/9x18mak/.40sw/17hmr . For practice purposes, any Walmart special will work, unless you are me.
  • Dry goods, like sleeping bags, tarps, blankets and tents or even ropes can be had for reasonable prices with a quick Amazon search. Again quality is essential, however, you can get that quality without always buying a certain name brand! Especially because most if not all of those name brands are sourcing their materials from the same factories making the off brands these days. While some people believe a cotton duck tarp is best, I have used poly-plastic tarps for years with no real negative effect. Additionally, I peruse local second-hand stores and pawn shops regularly. It is amazing what you can find for little or no money especially if you also haggle for it before buying. One of my favorite websites to use for prior used military gear is KeepShooting.com they also manufacture aftermarket magazines for one of my favorite 22lr handguns and many others!
  • Medicines, these take a whole other approach. I know people that swear only home remedies and others that do not use any home remedies, I prefer a balanced approach and while I have access to doctors and testing equipment will continue to avail myself of their services. This being said I also tend to use our local flora for many really solid home remedies that do in fact work quite well. For instance, I use apple cider vinegar, blackstrap molasses and local dark honey for a daily “pill regimen”. I also am versed in and use many other local wild plants that are amazing for their many uses. I also keep stocked several full “runs” of modern antibiotics, even though we rarely use them in our house!
  • Car and animal repairs and adjustments fall under this category as well. You may need to invest in a prepaid credit/debit card that is not attached to your bank account for saving purposes. These do not generate interest, however, they will allow you to place the cards out of sight out of mind and ready for emergencies. Additionally, you can have direct deposit of small amounts sent directly to the cards in most cases and there are several that have no charge or a small opening fee.

Gaining more knowledge, this takes an active mindset and desire to better yourself and your family overall. Knowledge these days can be had with nothing more than a mobile device or library membership. As a child, I spent many hours reading, practicing what I read and testing hypothesis based on presumptions taught me and or learned by reading and studying. I was a voracious reader, who at this point in my life have read over 12,000* books and have no plans to stop. Even with my active ability to learn and apply knowledge acquired through reading, I have found it necessary to find others who have greater knowledge in areas I wish to acquire and solicit their help or pay for it.

budgeting for low incomeAmong those who read this, I am aware of two engineers, a doctor, several nurses, a professional highly skilled dog trainer, several law enforcement (current or prior) and a plethora of mechanics and much more. I doubt that any of these trained professionals simply learned their craft by reading books at a library, though many of them have augmented their knowledge by doing so! (and this is highly recommended) Rather, it is the active engagement with qualified instructors and solid material that allowed most to learn their trade. This means that for many areas it is essential to learn the basics from others who know and then build on that knowledge gained.

What I have found to be the best approaches for this with a small fixed income is this,

  • Barter your skills and knowledge for theirs, I would not associate myself with anyone who believes what they know is so valuable that they would not be willing to exchange that knowledge or teach it for a reasonable sum.
  • If you must pay for some knowledge, seek out avenues that allow you to make payments over a few months. (lay away for education exists especially in the firearms training and legalities training world)
  • Local shooting ranges often need volunteer assistance with range master duties, they will often offer to pay for your NRA range master class in exchange for your volunteering a few hours every other month or so. (I received my RSO certifications this way)
  • Shooting instructors will often need RSO assistance on the range, and this can be exchanged for a free class or two! This assists you in making connections and finding others who are accomplished shooters, as well as opening the door to the groups that exist on every public or semi-public range I have ever been on across the United States and in Canada, the groups of advanced shooters who train regularly. (training with individuals like these will help you polish your skills and because many of these groups are people who work in various fields that require regular training it will also allow you to increase your knowledge further in those areas as well. )
  • For medical and other skilled professions I have found that if you are willing to exchange your skills they are often willing to divulge information for little or no fee. For instance due to my continued visitation of various medical professionals over the last many years I have learned how to gather information and supplies by simply asking! (I am not suggesting you beg or steal, rather I would suggest you ask the doctors and nurses caring for you or your loved ones what care is required, write it down and be specific, than ask what supplies may be needed- in many cases hospitals cannot reuse supplies that have been in a patients room, asking about these can mean you end up with added stock)
  • Seek out training groups, I have found a few over the years made up of individuals who recognize that more civilians need medical and firearms based knowledge. Some are defunct and others are non-starters, however, all have further increased my direct network allowing for the added benefit of knowledge of local and national (even international) training centers and individuals whom I can recommend without hesitation.
  • Learn to read a diagram, schematic, map and the like. Do not hesitate to use one or gather any that may be of assistance to you on your homestead or while prepping. For instance, I have a collection of maps spanning the American Southwest and much of Mexico. Additionally, I have manuals for my vehicles and several in-depth slightly outdated but still viable medical tomes as well. Buying these written works from 3 or 4 years ago will allow you to have access to amazing amounts of knowledge while avoiding the high fees associated with brand new volumes from this year. For instance, the Physicians Desk Reference from 2012-2014 is around a half or quarter of the cost of the same from this year or even two years ago! It is an extremely valuable guide to have available in print.

Meeting your obligations, the unfortunate reality of life in the United States is that our government promotes rapid inflation which quickly outpaces the value of our dollars which depending on the type of fixed income we may be on will not rise fast enough to make a large difference. For instance the real inflation over the past 10 years now has meant that while I used to be able to pay rent, utilities and buy food with some money left over for special extras that are essential for quality of life with children, I am instead forced to resort to gray market and back door dealing to continue simply paying rent.

Our house that cost $500 to rent 10 years ago now costs $1100 and utilities have increased over 200% since 2008. My income has increased by 15% overall which means that paying for the mandatory “free” insurance, taxes (yes, poor people pay taxes too), utilities and rent I am left with a deficit every month of around $250. This is before I put aside for extras and saving for just in case emergencies. The government has mandated that I am not to work given the extent of injuries, this means that I am forced to find alternative means of meeting my obligations every month while still raising two amazing children and maintaining my personal strict code of ethics.

There are many ways to generate additional income that are legal yet for fixed and low-income families will need to be gray marketed simply because of the regulations governing additional incomes. Some of those approaches have been bartering, buying – fixing – reselling items using local craigslist and other sources and there are many other avenues that may be available to you depending on your individual abilities and ethical considerations. For myself it is simple, I believe that whatever is agreed with open knowledge and consent between two individuals is always right, if something is done that has not had the consent of all involved it is always wrong. I have neighbors in a similar situation that have a yard sale every couple of weeks for a couple weeks running then take a break to stay within the law. I barter our chicken eggs and the product of my hands for items that I then resell at times.

Case in point my computer failed on me several weeks ago, I had several other partial computers I had been cannibalizing for a few years and unfortunately this one needed parts I could not afford nor did I have access too. I was partially assisted by one person (thank you) and looked around at locally available rebuilt computers and was able to purchase a computer that I am now using to write this article on. The computer is not brand new, it is, however, extremely solid and with the addition of two parts will easily run for at least two more years allowing me time to save for a new or newer one.

Simply put to save money and really be independent you have to be willing to forgo designer clothing, and addictive habits like coffee, smoking and soda. We drink water at our house, and I make teas from local and traded tea gathered. We have our chickens and I trade my knowledge and abilities to local farmers, ranchers and take advantage of every single available program that exists at this time. While I detest the idea of state-based welfare, I endorse the idea of private aid and earning your way. I worked for decades and still pay taxes today (though grudgingly so) as a result I do not see my main income as a problem. After all, I earned it, unlike so many others who abuse it. However, this is not a political article, it is a guide meant to help those who may need that!

Free the mind and the body will follow…

* It should be noted that this number of books is based on my average reading speed, time that I have been reading and may be off plus or minus a few hundred. Additionally, the number will increase as long as I am able to read, for instance at the writing of this article I had just completed a 9 book series I began 3 days ago. (I love good well thought out science fiction/ alt history/alt future)

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  1. Jesse, are you urban, suburban, or rural? How many chickens do you own and how do you get around the cost of chicken food? I am likewise on a fixed income; rural with chickens. I have age and auto accident related disabilies which have slowed me down but not stopped me. Also a bookworm of mostly non-fiction books.

    Really interesting article.

    • Jesse Mathewson

      Docj, I was born and raised rural *very much recommended as it is much easier to live on less – I am currently urban multiple reasons however with health issues and education needs it works for now- I’m off all meds now and getting back into working shape for rural life –

      We have 5 chickens, averaging 4 eggs a day- we add a chicken every year or so, as they get old and need to be rotated, if we were rural we would have minimum 12 and rooster-in rural life I’ve had goats, sheep, hogs, cattle and prefer goats for small homesteads *easier care and they care for themselves plus with one buck and 3 or 4 does you can have endless milk and fresh meat annually-

      Urban life only chickens- and small terraced or indoor gardens- plus far more cleaning needed with their coops!

      My rural life we had upwards of 2 acres at a time of gardens

      (schools for kids / Montessori and a Changemaker highschool * basically Montessori type- both charter and both tax paid schools so while my kids regularly score A – son had AB honor roll last year and daughter the equivalent of Dean’s list- they are not structured like public school which sadly isnt found in small town or rural usa these days-and yes home school was considered , I was home schooled through 12th)

    • Jesse Mathewson

      Docj, I’d love to hear your approach sometime! *within reason obviously*

      • Jesse, I have lived off grid between 1980-1991 and still have alternative water supply. I have raised goats and have had a small commercial rabbitry with 35 working does resulting in sale of 3200-3300 sold kits a year.

        I have 52 acres of Ozark mountains mostly in trees. Because of Arkansas’ perennial crop of rocks, gardening is creative; a mixture of techniques.

        Because I am a Prepper and on a budget, I buy a lot of bulk at our local organic food store. Good thing I love all kinds of beans. Because I am so far from town, I also buy dehydrated veggies that I add to everything. I also dehydrate everything I can find in veggies, greens, and herbs. Also setting aside a medicinal garden area which I will dehydrate and make tinctures.

        When I retired and before I was rear ended at 55 mph, I operated a hardwood propagation nursery selling rooted plants on the Internet.

        Lots of skills learned over the years. Truck broke down, (think fuel pump) so I am “stranded” on mountain until garage gets it fixed. No problem. I have been stranded in winter storms for 3-3 1/2 weeks with no electricity or heat in 2009-2010. I now have a wood stove. I figure lack of heat might become an issue soon as I just had my 78th birthday.

        The good news is I have a daughter and her granddaughter who love this lifestyle so they tell me to take it easy and supervise. I do some supervising, but still love dirty hands. Now I read more and have begun sewing again focusing on quilting. Still doing my own canning and dehydrating. Life is good.

        • Jesse, I meant daughter and her daughter.

          BTW: I retired from teaching special education at age 71. Did not want anything to do with Common Core!!!

        • DocJ, what is a reasonable price to pay for a young bred doe. what breed rabbits do you have, so I can compare with what availble here. This is my next jump into having some rabbits to increase our meat supply., and reduce our expendatures there. Hoping to add these by fall.

          • When I had the rabbitry, I bred New Zealand’s. I did have a couple of Californians. I eventually used large French Lop bucks. Newborn same sign but grew to market size one week earlier. I also bred in groups so I could average 8 kits per nest. Larger litters take longer to grow out.

            Do not know what goats are running now. Will find out by next spring as we are planning milk goats and rabbits by that time.

        • Docj, U might be an excellent candidate for straw bale gardening! U grow in tops & sides of prepared bales – make sure u grow companion plants in each bale. It’s also a great way to rebuild poor soils or on uneven land. U can grow one bale or a hundred. It’s up to you. Fewer weeds & u don:t have to get low to the ground to weed, grow or harvest ur food. I grew three rounds of crops in one group of bales, and I’m now growing 4th planting in the broken-down soil that was once straw bales. I put 55-gallon barrels @ each end, up on concrete blocks. I keep lids off to catch rain & add water to barrels. I added faucets near bottom of barrels for on/off, & use soaker hoses, fed from barrels. We have clay for a garden, but have been rebuilding soil. U can straw bale garden ANYWHERE, even on the side of a mountain.

          • You have a good setup. I catch rain in a 300 gallon tote. Soon to be 2 totes plumbed together.

            The garden by the house and totes are dwarf trees, 5-20 gallon containers setting on cardboard filled with peppers, etc. Tomatoes are growing up a 6 foot fence. Goji berries growing in the corners. Between very young trees are 2 hills for winter squash. The center of each hill has a buried water container with a lid to water the squash. The entire area is covered in thick straw.

            The new area in Back is quite rocky. We are removing rock as we go. Some parts are for potatoes, beans, and more squash mulched in straw. The rest is planted in buckwheat. We also shred anything we can to build the soil.

            I have thought of straw bales. May try this fall. It would lift greens up which would help with back issues from the accident. I will adapt however I need to.

  2. many thanks, jesse.
    we are old, husband has cancer, daughter a chronic illness, and husband still works because he has to or we would starve.
    deep in debt due to daughter’s former need for high dollar antibiotics.
    thanks to God she is on a ‘plateau’ and has been for several years.
    with our own medical needs it is hard to pay off debt.
    waiting for insurance approval for chemo for husband.
    your advice on food is especially good. daughter wants to get us onto a mostly plant based diet.
    i eat rice and rice noodles but am going to stop when supplies run out.
    we are off gluten and a cancer doc suggested husband not eat many, if any, carbohydrates as in bread ,pasta, et cetera.

    hoping to stop cancer with diet and supplements in addition to chemotherapy.
    i just do not know how people are living these days how do they get dental care and glasses which are generally not covered by health insurance?
    we charge glasses at walmart when we get desperate for a new prescription and pay it off over time, which costs a lot but it is what we have access to.
    friend from this website is a nurse and gives me advice about husband’s cancer–God bless her!
    thanks for article. your articles are so well researched and informative.

    • Jesse Mathewson


      Hugs! And big kisses and love to you all- we are fortunate that cancer is not looming, thank you for sharing and I am humbled you find benefit in the little things I write.

      Very happy you are making healthy moves, while I’ll likely never be “vegetarian” I do fully agree with adding more balanced plant ingredients to ones diet – and of course try to avoid large scale processed foods whenever possible.

      Again big hugs!


    • Prepared Grammy

      A medical professional recently told my aunt that she needs to really limit sugar from her diet. She was told that cancer feeds on sugar. I know nothing about it. Take this information or not.

      • Sugar does, indeed, feed cancer. It also feeds inflammation. If u have any inflammatory condition such as arthritis, gout, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, etc., sugar will definitely feed the disease.

        Please do not trade sugar for dangerous artificial chemical sweeteners, the pink, blue or yellow packets. They kill brain cells, create false seizures, cause ambulation & dexterity issues, memory failure, & will get u diagnosed with & drugged for Alzheimers – when u do not have it!

        Recommended: raw, local honey; molasses (esp. blackstrap); Monk Fruit; Stevia in the Raw (NOT Purvia or Truvia); Swerve (Erythritol).

        • we use stevia and agave nectar which has a glycemic index of 4 or 5. i don’t know what that means but husband is diabetic and i put that in his tea.
          may cause mildly loose bowels in those with bowel issues but is fine for husband and daughter, who relies more on stevia. stevia is supposed to be easy to grow, too.

          • daughter just got this book at library, from interlibrary loan.
            ‘stay healthy during chemo’ by mike herbert ND

            it is easy to read and has lovely recipes.

            says body responds to wheat as it does to sugars.
            says 55 diseases can be caused by gluten, all familiar and common diseases. page 64

            grins in this book are quinoa, chia seeds, and says convenyional oils are like unto junk food. page 65.

            his book is worth reading for everyone.
            many preppers base stored food on wheat.
            other seeds and nuts should be considered, too.
            health is your number one prep. without it all else is in vain.
            take it from me, just now learning this info but you young people need to start now and avoid the common diseases, which seems possible through diet.

            we are making the switch now but it is a bit late to take action as disease is already upon us.
            hope is to turn back disease or lessen its effects with good food.

            perhaps jesse could read the book and review??

    • Wasp so sorry to hear of Hubby’s cancer. Mine had it also but it was caught early and he didn’t need chemo Thank the Lord! As for paying for Chemo look around for services that provide free or reduced to people who don’t have insurance that covers cancer, call the cancer places and ask as they can help you. Also call dept of aging, social services, health dept, everyone you can think of because help is out there you sometimes you have to dig but it is out there. As for eyeglases try the Lions club as they have local groups to help those in need and also have vouchers if I remember correctly. Sometimes you have to turn over a few rocks and lots of calls (trust me I know especially with an Autistic spectrum child) but it’s worth it. Good luck and God Bless!!!

      • thanks, jd.
        will look at area agency on aging.
        they were good to my mother.

      • you can buy used Marlin 22 rifles on the cheap if you look around. the Marlin 60 70 and 795 are great bargens at full pop retail ,but you can normally find them much cheaper used.

  3. I coupon shop hit Goodwill each Monday, for there $1.79 color tag of the day I just bought my son a pair of Dockers, and Jeans for under $2.00 not a bad deal for a growing teenager. I take any and all fruit, or veggys, that are offered, to can up. I have a small garden that I get berrys, potatoes, lettuce, and I’m growing beets, things we can just eat on during the summer, I grow a lot of herbs, to dehydrate, and store for winter. I look for mushrooms, celery, on sale to dehydrate, for the winter months, Living on a fixed income we really have to squeeze and make our pennies go further and further each paycheck too.

    • Jesse Mathewson

      Mom of three, exactly!

      I learn so much from your comments and it is appreciated…I need to invest in a dehydrator- it’s on the list and may get moved up a notch or two

      • Jesse, There is one called Open country, a jerky maker. I did burn mine out after 2.5 years, but it only cost 60$. It is easy to clean, does have round shelves and it is necessary to rotate most foods during use… It might be a good place to start. look for one at thrift stores.. has a green motor on top of it.

      • M.D. had a post on ‘Solar Dryer That Works”, submitted by somebody on the blog. I built it. It works. Maybe he still has the post?

      • I use the heck out of my Presto dehydrator, around 30 bucks at wally world. It’s expandable, too. Dream of finding an Excalibur for a steal tho.

    • Prepared Grammy

      I take all of the fruits and vegetables I’m given too. I can all of it.

      • Jesse Mathewson

        Prepared grammy, right!

        • Of course, u can always dehydrate in an oven. Low temp – 170 to 225 deg. F (MAX.). prop door of oven slightly ajar with metal or THICK wooden spoon. Turn food every few hours by rotating pan in oven. Parchment paper under food recommended.

  4. Good job Jesse, Concise and to the point.

  5. Wonderful article – well written with many good ideas, suggestions, and things to consider.
    While I tend to lurk, I love to learn and hope to someday be able to share as well.

  6. Don’t forget estate sales. Go to one & get on their mail list. Have bot many nice things, dirt cheap. Recently bot lawn sweeper for garden tractor, like new $25. New? $200. U can buy rare items, too. I bot a wonderful, heavy wood quilt rack for $100. Have bot beautiful old collectibles, some useful.

    I love to shop @ Goodwill & Salvation Army, too.

    Online, I like shopgoodwill dot com.

    Use those coupons early in the day. Shop while everyone else is at work – especially Tuesdays. The shelves can be a little empty on Monday.

    Are u eligible for subsidized housing? I think u are. In the Alabama Shoals, such housing is very nice, and well-managed. Not true everywhere, I know.

    In our area, ALL children are eligible for free breakfast @ school & many for lunches. We also have a summer nutrition program through schools.

    Alabama has a nutrition program for seniors through the Local Produce program. Sign up in ur county’s Agricultural Extension Office. U then get vouchers, take them to ur local farm market, and buy local produce with them.

    Land is cheap here, and so is housing, as long as u stay in rural areas (away from Huntsville).

    There are so many ways one can live better while living cheaper!

    • Jesse Mathewson

      Living, thank you for the new links/ definitely adding to my “tool” side of links!

      Not sure, I will check eg , subsidies etc, not a huge fan of state based stuff- but, not too proud to find out for certain!

      • Jesse, pride can be very expensive, my friend. Especially to children. I come from poverty. I know.

        What u have every right to feel a certain pride in is all u have accomplished, all u have learned, how well u care for ur family, and ur generous heart in wanting to share. There. I’ve given u four (4) good reasons to give urself an “attaboy!”!

        U have obviously worked very hard just to be ELIGIBLE for the help u & ur family need NOW. The way I see it, if I have already worked to EARN it, it can’t possibly be charity. It’s cashing in on what u worked TO PREPARE FOR. I’d reap the harvest, personally. If not for myself, then, for my family. It’s yours & you have every right to claim it.

        My mother raised us alone, on a very small income. She wud not accept help from the goob or outsiders. Her pride was costly to us.

        • Jesse Mathewson

          Living, my parents were *are* dirt poor /share croppers/ who after I had moved out began taking advantage of some things. My stubbornness is limited only by my principles and my childrens needs.

          *I will never steal (I will take back what others have taken)
          *I refuse to use anything I have not earned (hence my reluctant but sometimes needed acceptance of “state” help
          * I’m more stubborn as a physical thing in most cases

          eg , we pay almost 20% more taxes because we are married and our insurance costs more!

      • I turned in my recycling this morning. I put 15 dollars into the gas tank. I also a bit of ammo. Then I still have several dollars in my pocket. Not bad for free materials.

  7. Look at Commiefornia……..people living in tents by a river pooping and peeing outside. Some of them are working and some of them are disabled and can’t work. But they are Americans. Illegals come in and get a free ride on the back of tax payers. You and me. They charge these homeless people with a crime, lock them up for 18 hours and then take what little they have (tents) so when they get out they have nowhere to go….. Where is the outrage for American’s. These people are even flying the American flag on their tents because some are veterans and some are patriots. My blood boils.

    • You can thank the Democrats, especially Barry Soetero, a.k.a., ” Barack HUSSEIN Obama) for that. The Dems KNOW they have hung themselves by their own policies. By flooding our country with illegal aliens, they can get them to vote the Dem ticket. And THAT is their survival plan. So, they have to let a few hundred thousand Americans perish in the process. Collateral damage, right?!

  8. Great post Jesse. I went from a 60K/year job, to unemployed for almost 3 yrs to a minimum wage job. Which I am thankful to have, BTW. We’ve had to make a lot of adjustments. Kids moved back in for a bit, but contributed, so we got a few ‘luxuries’ back. They’ve recently moved out, so adjustment time for us again. I hear you on the rent. We have lived in the same house for 12 yrs, and while our rent hasn’t gone up much, we can’t find another place in our area for less than $1500/month (we pay a little over $800…city is moving in…) DH loves to tinker with small engines and is quite good at it. I tried to encourage him to start his own business when he was unemployed. I think he balked because it wouldn’t be ‘fun’ anymore if it was work. But it is something we could fall back on, as well as my medical knowledge as a former ER nurse. I think the big takeaway from your post is community building. We tend to keep to ourselves. Maybe we need to reconsider that.

    • I try not to be too brand specific. If a deal shows up like it did on Wednesday I’ll take advantage if possible. I was at a store and saw that they had a sale that ended wednesday that with a few digital coupons resulted in a 55 oz bottle of dish soap for a $1 and laundry soap for $1.50 and $1.95 for 31 uses each. While the dish soap isn’t my first choice and the laundry soap is 2 different brands they are national brands known to work and cost equivalent to genetics which I would be taking a chance on.

      • Jesse Mathewson

        Seyrey. When you can I agree – some things it becomes worse to do so, however. Agreed

      • I check thrift shops and yard sales every now and then. I once found a nice hounds tooth sport coat for 2 or 3 dollars. And it fit me which was great. It is a good addition for my sunday meeting clothes.

    • Jesse Mathewson

      Grammy, exactly! We are the only ones we can rely on, so why not find more “we’s” !!

  9. I was always good with math but I can not see how people in your situation survive. I lost my farm 25 years ago but was left with a modest home and 13 acres of land. I eventually got a job where I was able to work myself up to $40,000 a year. When I became disabled 10 years ago I was given what my SS was going to be, $2,000 a month. Even with no rent and very low taxes and owning old, paid for vehicles money was tight. How anyone can pay rent and a car payment on less money is beyond me.

    Even now with my wife’s job as a nurse, she only been working two years, medical expenses have kept our bank balance near zero. I do have a few “luxuries”. Being rural my internet service is $80 a month, $88 a month for satellite TV, $10 a month for Kindle unlimited and $120 a year for Amazon prime. I do have two obligations that are ending soon. I owe $1000 on my daughters school loan and my youngest son has finally graduated college. I pay his auto insurance and daily living expenses. $500 more a month should go a long way in funding my preps and toys.

    I have never understood coupons, most are just a few cents off on things I do not like or buy. Usually for name brands and still more than the store brands I buy.

    Jesse, how do you obtain reading material? I get steady use out of my Kindle unlimited plan, four or five books a week. While not part of the plan, except for the first one to get you hooked, I really enjoyed Eric Flint’s “1632” alt-history series.

  10. Jesse Mathewson

    Daddio7, several years back I bought and sold rare/antiquarian books – it funded a large library, additionally I was an avid library addict as a young person and while working was in love with several local second hand book stores and have always been a fan of second hand stores. I transferred several thousand printed books to digital before Amazon prime was big and added to that digital library as well over the years- currently it holds over 250,000 books, writings, papers and the like – I downloaded several university libraries that were made available to me while I was engaged in advanced education. And lastly my favorite current subscription is Amazon kindle reader well worth every penny as my daughter is as avid a reader as I am and my son/ dw also read a bit.

    I did contribute to project gutenberg before “liberty library” and others came about – and use some open source software to remove drms from purchased material so I can use it without getting shutdown by amazon

  11. I haven’t posted in ages and just happened to read your article Jesse. It is very touching and I admire your fighting spirit. The following information is for anyone who is a veteran, a dependent of a veteran, or spouse of a veteran. I was a Navy social worker for almost 3 decades and have a passion for seeing that vets get what is due them. Many of my fellow vets never file for disability benefits with the VA because of pride, or not knowing how to navigate the VA red tape. If you are a veteran or any of the previously mentioned folks PLEASE, PLEASE, file for compensation. Do NOT file directly with the VA as the VA is not your friend. There are a few service agencies out there that will file for the Vet at no cost. The three that come to mind are the DAV – Disabled American Veterans; the VFW- Veterans of Foreign Wars; and your local Veteran’s Services Office. Each county in the U.S. has a Vet Service Office (VSO). The VSO is NOT affiliated with the VA. It is a department of each county and is there to serve Veterans and their families. With each of these agencies, some have good employees and some have mediocre ones. The first step is to see if you can locate your health record from active duty service. These agencies can review your record with you, you give them power of attorney to file your paperwork with the VA, and they guide you through the process. These folks are your ADVOCATES!!! If you have no idea where your medical record is, still contact them and they can help you. We sacrificed our bodies and as we age, some of what happened to us on active duty catches up with us. We dedicated our body and mind to our nation’s service and the deal was they would compensate us for damages. I have known and worked cases where it seemed impossible for a Vet or family to get any type of rating and they did. While the VA does not backdate your disability pay, it will begin at the date they rate you. Even if you don’t have medical documentation but documentation in your service record of a particular duty station, if you were exposed to hazardous chemicals in that place, you may be eligible for compensation. At a VA 100% rating you could be getting around $3,000 per month plus compensation for each dependent. Financial compensation is based on percentage of rating and fortunately, unlike social security disability, does not have any limits on your ability to work or limit the amount of income you can earn. As I stated, this is my passion and so I give MD permission to pass my e-mail address on to anyone who might want to contact me for any info I might be able to offer you.

  12. I can really appreciate your article Jesse. We are in the same boat though I make a little more than you do (with hubby helping with side jobs) we can barely keep above the water as the cost of living is so high here in NY. We do what we can to keep costs way down and live within our means but by no means is it easy. Like you we find ways to supplement our income and stretch our pennies till they scream. I had a woman argue with me that it was impossible for us to live on 25,000 a yr for a family as she makes over 55,000 and can barely make it by herself so we must be lying. I told her if she can’t make it on 55,000 for herself alone then she must be doing something wrong and maybe she needed to take a hard look at her lifestyle. Can’t imagine what will happen if some bad happens and she has to live on nothing. Sometimes I wonder if God is preparing us for something so when it happens it won’t be so devastating to those of us who are used to making due with what we have.

    • Jesse Mathewson

      JD, so much agree from me! I hear people tell me I’m lying all the time, about many things. As my word/principles are really my most important personal possession it irks me and generally the try hards that say these things easily prove their inability by heading right into their Starbucks or convenience store for the smokes or store bought alcohol that keeps them poor…after we talk – *not that I discuss this with anyone but making a point*

  13. Hi everyone. I love this blog. Jesse, thank you for an excellent article. Warm regards, Wendy (NZ)

  14. I am off subject here and I apologize. I need some help, fellow Wolf Packers. (yeah, can’t stop thinking of this group as anything but…)

    We need to buy a quiet generator for my dh’s cpap machine. I am thinking solar. Found Goal Zero Yeti 1000 Lithium Portable Power Station, 1045Wh Silent Gas Free Generator Alternative with 1500W (3000W Surge) Inverter, 12V and USB Outputs on Amazon and same thing cheaper at Costco. Seems a few people have been having problems charging the lithium battery when the temperature drops below 40°. And someone else said it takes 16+ hours to charge this generator with the Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase, 100 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel. Good grief! We are talking a lot of moola here! They suggest buying two of these briefcase solar panels so it charges faster.

    Somebody please help this 70 year old non tech person out??? Is there a cheaper way? Has anyone bought another brand they love? Or a better solar panel system?

    BTW, long time without posting but I do read. Hi, M.D. !! How ya doin’?