How We Lived on Less than $1,500 a Month for Over a Year

2015 was the year of survival for us. My husband’s business had barely started at the beginning of the year, and my blog was making pennies per hour that I put into it. Our income potential was slimmer than ever before in our marriage, but we were blessed to be able to cut back on all our expenses to the bare minimum.

Our family of 4 survived on less than $1,500 a month for over a year. Click through to find out how we did it!© aquarius83men / Dollar Photo Club

The average amount we lived on throughout the year was less than $1,500 each month. That is less than $18,000 for the year. In other words, we lived in poverty since we are a family of 4 and we lived on less than $24,000.

But, honestly, we didn’t live like we were in poverty. At least not the way I think of poverty. We had food on our table at every meal and we had a roof over our heads the whole year. The only issue we really had was that our car didn’t work so great and we had to stay home much of the time.

I honestly believe we were only able to get through on such a low income because of lots of prayers, our own and those praying on behalf of us.

You see, the year before when my husband had a full time job, he was making more than twice what we lived on this past year, and we were still struggling to figure out how we were going to pay for everything each month. I was even dipping into savings.

Now that we’ve been through an entire year of extremely low income, I don’t think we’ll ever struggle again like we did when we were actually making a decent income. We know better than to spend money on the frivolous things in life.

As my husband’s business was in its first year, it didn’t bring in much money, especially the first half of the year. My husband was only able to withdraw about $625 (average) each month throughout the year. The rest of the money that we lived on came from our savings and a few other side hustles. So from these sources (and the help of others) we made it through the year without losing our house and with food on our table at every meal.

Fortunately we received a nice tax refund last year that gave us more padding in our savings. Because my blog wasn’t making much, I wasn’t able to contribute to our income.

It really doesn’t matter how much money we had, though, because we are incredibly blessed.

Our family

Our family in June 2015

How Our Family of 4 Lived on Less than $1,500 a Month in 2015

Let me warn you that you won’t see any of our actual expenses listed here because I feel like that’s much more personal than how much income we had to work with. To give you a better idea, our house payment was a large chunk of that $1,500 amount, which is why we are currently house poor.

I didn’t write this to make anyone feel sorry for us. We own up to the decisions we have made and know that they are for the better. Instead, I want to share this with you so you can do better than we have and so you can be better prepared for times of trial in your own life.

In essense, we did three main things that allowed us to live on less than $1,500 a month in 2015.

We Prioritized

The main thing we did to live on such a low amount of money was prioritize our expenses. Our house payment was numero uno, then came food, utilities, and all the other little things. The easiest way we prioritized was cutting out anything that wasn’t a necessity. You can easily find out what your needs vs wants when you are put in a position like this.

We Lowered Our Expenses

Once we knew the expenses that were most important to pay first, we tried to figure out ways to lower them. Most of them were already as low as they could get, but we were able to do a few things to lower our utility bills and our grocery budget.

The one expense that ate at me the whole year was our small amount of debt (it was less than $3,000), because we could only pay a little bit more than the minimum payment since we had to choose between that and buying food. It’s really annoying to pay interest, but sometimes it is necessary. 🙁

We Did Without

Finally, for the most part, we just did without when it came to the rest of our expenses. We drove our car rarely and never bought clothes (thank goodness for grandmas and aunts!). We turned on the TV only a handful of times, and we even got rid of it at the end of the year. Now we just use our computer and YouTube if we want to watch something. When there was a birthday party or a wedding, we had to unfortunately decline (except for my own brother’s wedding, of course!). Although, I did realize toward the end of the year that we should still attend but be more creative.

Basically, if you were our friend or relative you really didn’t see us much last year. We were homebodies, and all because staying home really does help you spend less money.

It really came down to these three things when we were trying to pay for our bills last year. I wouldn’t say it was the worst year ever, but it was pretty bleak when I thought about everything I couldn’t do. Fortunately, when I did my one month spending freeze challenge in October, I was able to step back and consider my circumstances and really see just how blessed our little family is.

We are going to be okay, because we have people surrounding us who love us, and we have a God up above who is watching out for us.

We were so blessed that very few things went wrong the entire year (we just had lots of car problems, but since we weren’t driving much it wasn’t a huge deal). Fortunately, no major house repairs popped up.

I wish I could say that our income has magically increased this year. It hasn’t, but I am happy to report that both my blog and my husband’s business are making more money and we should be able to start buying clothes again, driving our car, and even attending birthday parties and weddings! I also will be adding more money to our emergency fund to replenish it, and I think 2016 will be a much better year overall than 2015!

If you are in a situation like this, where your income is super tight and you really need some guidance on lowering your expenses, I encourage you to go through my one month spending freeze challenge. I think it can help you put things into perspective and figure out ways to save more money that you may not have thought about before!

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Charlee

I'm a mom of 3 on a journey to feed my family nourishing foods. Personally, I believe that you can feed your family healthy, delicious meals without spending a fortune or slaving away in the kitchen.

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing so honestly, Charlee! We’ve just been looking at how much our income has dropped – but yet, God continues to provide. Yes, we tighten things up and do without, but it’s all in one’s perspective. My Grandpa likes to say that when one has faith and family, “We’re rich already…someday, we’ll have money!”
    Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving recently posted…How to Build a Stockpile that Saves Your Family MoneyMy Profile

  2. Very admirable of you guys! Starting a business can be tough, but with your frugal priorities, you at least know there’s an end in sight and that you can find so much joy in the simple things. Personally I can’t imagine purchasing so many things because that would just add up to even more tasks and maintenance I’d rather not have! Hopefully your husband’s business and your own blog business will continue to grow! Keep us posted.

    • Thanks so much, Nina! I actually don’t know what this would be like if I wasn’t a very frugal person in the first place. It would probably be torture!

  3. Hi Charlee,

    Thank you so much for your honesty and transparency. I find so much more inspiration in reading about people who are facing a challenge and are persevering than I do from people who seem to “have it all together!”

  4. Charlee, thanks for being transparent with your story. I’m happy to hear your turning a corner and have friends and family. Best wishes with the business and your blog! God Bless you and your family!

  5. I know it is hard to be completely transparent with such personal things. Seeing the writing on the wall and soon to be in a similar situation I am learning all I can to be a better steward of my money. I have found it is helpful to own up to decisions that we made to the best of our ability however ended up being a very bad idea. The main reason for me it is easy to just lay it out and say what the numbers are is because I am hoping our lesson serves all and hopefully they can learn from our mistakes. Because of this I would love to see your actual budget and maybe even more transparency. However as a stranger I understand the myriad of reasons for not being open. Even if you choose not to be completely open, I applaud you and thank you for your example. We can do this!!!

  6. First, thank you for sharing your finding and issues with the world. It is a hard thing to do on any subject matter. Thank you for opening up a dialog for people like me that “sneak around” hoping to find more tips silently on how to make my family’s life a bit better on what I have to work with. 🙂 I understand how easily people can judge and pick you apart without knowing anything about another person truly…..That said, I do not mean this harshly, I found a great sense of God Bless in this story which we ALL can use more of. As he can work miracles, but we must too do our part. How did you work magic with your income? I did not read much to lead me into taking your challenge….While I am working within my means as well, we all sometimes look for more ways to stretch our finances. I started to read your post with a hope of a few pointers and how they worked in said areas, but found what I was already doing. To help lead us to try your challenge, and seeing how it actually helped you, just a small peek in would help. Like, tips on how to save at putting healthy food on the table, or how to cut down on insurance rates. Some of the “not so personal” personal stuff is just as important as how much we have to work with.

    • I am not exactly sure what you are looking for. Is it tips you want? I have plenty of tips in other blog posts, as well as in my challenge. I think, though, that what most people in our situation need is a change in perspective, a more positive outlook on money. The more worried and stressed out I am about our financial situation, the worse things seem. Instead, I’ve been trying hard to focus on what is good in my life and remembering that this is just one trial that I can overcome. I’m sorry this post didn’t live up to your expectations.

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  1. […] a heavy burden, and we are barely staying afloat each month because our mortgage is just too high for the income stream we actually produce each month. It was perfectly fine when we bought it, but now that my husband owns his own business and is just […]

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