How to survive on a very low income

Written by amber keefer
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It can be a real challenge coming up with ways to reduce the cost of living and stretch a limited income. With the ups and owns of the national economy, everyone needs to manage their money carefully. However, the task is more difficult for family households that have little or no money to spare. Making the most of what meagre resources you have can be hard, but there are ways you can survive economically, even on a very low income.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging


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    Share housing with another family member or friend. That way you can split the costs for the mortgage or rent, as well as the utilities. In fact, according to an article published in the "San Francisco Chronicle" (August 17, 2009), the Census Bureau's 2007 American Community Survey shows that the number of family households sharing their home with someone else was up nearly 10 per cent from the previous year.

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    Inquire about public housing for low and moderate-income families. Most communities also have privately owned subsidised rental housing. HUD (Housing and Urban Development) is a federal assistance program available to help those having difficulty paying rent. You are still responsible for paying a portion of the rent, but the program pays the difference between what you can afford and the actual rent, as long as it is reasonable. Contact your local county assistance office or the HUD field office near you for more information.

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    Insulate the home to prevent heat loss. Heat only those rooms in your house or apartment in which you spend the most time. Based on income, some households qualify for weatherization or emergency heating system repairs. Find out more about weatherization assistance programs through your state's Department of Public Welfare. In most cases, you will be placed on a waiting list. However, if your need is urgent, you may be moved to the top quickly.

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    Use public transportation instead of owning your own vehicle. You will still have transportation costs, but these should be only a fraction of the expenses you would have owning a car. It may pay off to weigh all the economic costs associated with vehicle ownership against any inconveniences related to taking public transportation. Whenever weather permits and you can reasonably cover the distance, walk or ride a bicycle to your destination to save more money.

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    Look into government financial assistance programs for which you and your family might qualify. Both the eligibility requirements and amount of assistance vary by state. If you are really struggling, your state may have a cash assistance program for low-income families with dependent children, low-income elderly, wartime veterans and the disabled. Food Stamp Programs are available to help low-income households pay for food. Many communities across the nation have food pantries and free or low-cost meal programs.

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    Apply for fuel assistance to help pay energy bills. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is available to both renters and homeowners. For more information about the program, contact your local county assistance office. Eligibility for assistance is based on a family's gross annual household income and the amount of funds available. Some states offer additional heat assistance programs to help households, which do not qualify for government assistance programs to pay heating and energy bills.

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    Find out about any free clinics in your area, which offer basic medical or dental care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) provides federal funding to health centres in cities and many rural areas throughout the nation. People who have no health insurance pay what they can afford to receive various health care services including immunisation, dental care and prescription drugs. States also offer public health care assistance to qualifying individuals and families. In some cases, coverage is free for very low-income applicants. In addition, state funded health insurance programs give low to moderate-income families the opportunity to enrol in an affordable health plan. The monthly premiums are based on income.

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    Shop thrift stores and consignment shops. Do not buy anything new. Often you can purchase clothing and housewares that look like new much cheaper than you would pay to buy it retail. Many second hand shops will only accept donations that look to be new quality. Sometimes you can even find new merchandise or name brands at extremely low prices, although you may have to visit the shops frequently to get the best buys.

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