Surviving - Richmond,TX

Updated on October 09, 2011
M.L. asks from Spokane, WA
18 answers

Could (or does) your family (of 5) live on $680 a week comfortably and build a savings? We do not qualify for any assistance. This is take home pay, after benefits and taxes. We live very basic, live in a small 50 yr old house, but even that is $975 a month (which is low for our area), we have two older vehicles, we don't go out to eat hardly ever or go to movies or any other kind of entertainment, we have reduced our car insurance down very low, I shop wisely and coupon, we eat healthy, we only buy clothes and items we need second hand... and we are still having a hard time surviving and are unable to build any kind of savings and it worries us like crazy. I do have internet only b/c I also work from home and need it, but it is basic. We do not even have basic cable for tv or any kind of monthly memberships, our phones are very basic plans, not even texting or anything. I am very careful with saving water and electricity but b/c this house is so old, it sucks up a lot of energy. We can't do anything about that b/c we are renters. So, how can we cut expenses even further? It makes me sad I can't let my sons play soccer (though they really want it), we had to cancel our ymca membership (even though we qualified for a discount)... I am just so stressed right now. Hubby is looking for a second job (he is a college grad and in a great position, just makes very little pay) and I do some work as well, but it feels like we will never really be successful, or able to own a home or give our children any type of fun or activities. We can't even afford to give them much of a Christmas, and we really do not like asking for handouts. Our friends tell us we have budgeting problems, but we budget the best we can with what we have. We have absolutely zero credit card debt, but we do have a lot of student loan debt, that is almost $800 a month, that is seriously a huge impact for us, and we pay it, but all it ever seems to do is just dock interest! Ideas?

***AV you are right on, my hubs is a public servant in the govt... and we have subsidized and non-subsidized loans, so one accrues interest and the other doesn't. We filed for hardship before last year when my husband was laid off, and have since worked out a better payment plan... and this is it. We used to have a savings, but we used it all when hubs lost his job and in transferring to a new place, since the new employer didn't help with that, traveling for job interviews, sudden medical bills....

I can do in home childcare to help, but only part time and only one child, per our landlord's rules for liability issues, so I wouldn't make much. So that isn't a great answer either since most people around here need full time or have more kids.

My husband's truck is a 1992, paid off, very little gas, insurance, selling it for him would only give us an extra $100 since that is all it's worth, so it isn't worth it to sell.. He only uses it for work, he travels a lot, so I need a family car so I can work. My car is a 2004... we JUST bought it b/c my 1999 vehicle (which was paid off) exploded, like totally dead, we only got $500 for it. We spent too much money fixing it and had to buy a new vehicle. Even still, our new car is a great deal and the monthly payment and interest and insurance s extremely low. We really have no option to have a working vehicle with our family and for work. We don't have public transport here.

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answers from Honolulu on

Ok, I am going through my tips and tricks from when we lived on 18000 a year with 2 kids and had to pay 600ish in rent every month.

Dried milk... It is cheaper and if you can't stand to drink it, at least cook with it!

How old are the kids? Cloth diapering M. be a good idea. I sewed my own diapers and covers. Much cheaper!

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answers from San Francisco on

Before or after taxes? I assume it's after, and my answer is no, we could not live on that.

It's more expensive to live here, but still, we couldn't live on it, let alone save anything. You are doing very well to be able to live on that.

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answers from Dallas on

we currently live on that or a little less (depending on overtime) per week & we are a family of 5 soon to be 7 (expecting twins!). we budget very carefully we dont save much but are able to save a little, are able to give our kids nice christmas's & birthdays, & are able to take a small vacation every year or so as well as traveling to visit family (we go see hubby's family once a year & go to see mine who are closer twice a year)

first I would say that first you should check into consolidating your student loans & check into the william d ford program, it will base your payments off of your income & should make it much lower than what you are currently paying per month. also you can utilize deferments through that program, if/when needed.

also when we receive our tax return every year we pay our car insurance for the whole year (which gives us an even lower rate), & anything else that we can pay in advance like that we do like our computer virus support etc.

other that its hard to say where you could cut back without knowing your budget but basically we prioritize & budget accordingly.

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answers from Redding on

You said you work from home, can you write off your expenses for business? You are making someone else rich while renting from them. There are some great first time home buyer loans available, you might be able to invest in some real estate for the same amount you are paying for rent. Talk to some realtors in your area.
You are younger than me. I can tell you that the world is yours to make it what you want to. If you have a vision and a dream and truly work towards it as a goal you will get there. Most people that are well off earned it. You start out at the bottom and slowly work your way to the top.
You are supposed to pay yourself first tho with each paycheck. Put 10% in your savings account EVERY payday. 68 bucks should be going into your savings account, you will learn to work around it, and as you see the amount grow you'll feel more confident. When your husband gets a raise, you automatically start saving a little more. We live a long time these days, you have to save up for it. 68 dollars x 52 weeks =$3536.00 in ONE year.

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answers from Dallas on

We live on MUCH less then that per week, as a family of three. I know that is a big difference from a family of 5!! We do own a home, and our mortgage is less then your rent. We don't have debt or student loans, so that is how we do it. We own one car and are on the fast track to pay mine off in 3 months. We bought my car as gently used, for the same reason you did. It was a great deal as far as payments and insurance go, and we need a reliable family care that will last many years.

We are slowly building a savings. Nothing more then 15-20 a week baseline, but with little extras, it adds up quickly. I'll show you some practical ways we put extra money in savings. We ONLY budget for my husband's 40 hours a week. If he get any overtime, we do not spend that on other things. It goes straight into savings. If he gets a small bonus (not common) it goes into savings. If we get a tax return, straight into savings. I have a strict budget. My husband works a few blocks from home, so we don't spend much in gas. If we spend less then what I budgeted in gas, straight into savings. We buy big bags of fairly expensive dog food. (Our dog requires specific food, she has a stomach issue.) We got a coupon in the mail, for a free bag. That $40 we would have spent on dog food without the coupon, straight into savings. I have a budget for $200 (yes, we eat very healthy) monthly groceries. I try very hard to keep it at $150. When we get to the end of the month, if I've only spent $150...the extra 50 goes into savings. We have a VERY strict Christmas budget. I try to stay far under the budget. If I stay under, the extra goes into savings. When we moved into our home we made more money and signed up for cable, the first time we've had it. We are locked in a contract now and make less money, but our contract ends in January. When it ends, we still will put it into the budget, and out that extra into savings. Whatever we don't spend from our budget, goes into savings. I find myself often transferring as low as $2 into savings. Whenever we have a little left over from the budget, we do that. Let me tell you, those little amounts add up very frequently. I am not above transferring .50 into savings, if the extra is there. I have a checklist of things we are saving for. My son's future activities are on there. (He is 2 1/2.) Things like soccer, karate, college, etc. The college one will be on the checklist until he is there, but the others gets checked off...slowly, but surely.

Could you get a job outside of the home? I have never made much money inside the home, it's just not usually very possible. If my husband ever get too tight in the future, I will take on a weekend job. Could you do that? Are your children too young, for you to work outside the home during the week? What do you mean you won't make much for one child?!!! If you watched one child even 4 hours per day, and only charged $5.00 (you could charge more then that) an hour, you would make $400 extra dollars per month!! Imagine if you watched a child a FULL day and charged more then that!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Once you subtract the mortgage and the student loan debt...I can see that it is tight.
Is there ANY car loan?
You might want to think about renting something cheaper--if that's possible in your would know better than anyone.
Not sure of the $975 is your mortgage or rent...but seeing that the $800 student loan payment isn't going anywhere and you have no other credit card debt, it seems like the payment/rent or possibly cars would be the only places to cut. Which leaves you with an income problem. You need to UP the income most definitely. Evening or weekend jobs for you & husband in combination so that one of you can be home to watch the kids.
Good luck.
Mind boggling when you consider that "poverty level for a family of 4 in the US is about 22K and you're well over that...

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answers from Erie on

Well, we make about as much as you, but our mortgage is half what you pay in rent, and my student loans (for my relatively useless degree) are only $113/mo. We've lived without a car when we had to because we live within walking distance of dh's job(s), we also have public transportation here. We don't have savings right now, but that's because we took a huge hit 2 years ago and are just climbing out of the hole right now, we emptied every account we had--retirement, savings--so we wouldn't lose our house while we looked for work. As of January, we will be in a better position to have a savings account.
Your rent should be 25% of what you make. Those student loans are ATROCIOUS. I am so sorry that's what you had to do to get through school :( I don't know what to tell you except look for a new place to live/move to another city where the pay is better or the rent is cheaper. The cost of living here is so much less than other places, I'm still shocked at what you pay for rent. Wow.

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answers from Washington DC on

I live in Washington, D.C. other than our home - we have no debt.

It would be tight, but yes we could pay our mortgage, electric, gas, etc. on $680 a week. It would be a VERY small savings but we would be able to contribute to it.

I hope that you wrote off your moving expenses and mileage for job hunting last year or whenever you did it. If you didn't revise your taxes for that year and claim those...

I would suggest that you go to the library and check out Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey - read up on how to tackle your financial situation and live with less stress.

I would go through all the social programs and find out what you qualify for. Ask questions. Find out about grants and other subsidies that you might qualify for.

Since your husband is a public servant - there may be specific things you qualify for. I would strongly suggest that he update his resume and keep it current and continually looking for a better paying position.

Since your landlord will not allow you to operate a day care in the home, I would look around for a job that I qualify for to earn more money. Since you work from home - can you ask for a raise? Do you have anything that you can state - "I deserve more because I have exceeded your expectations?"

Do you make a menu for the week and shop off that menu?
Are you able to grow a garden and use those vegetables instead of buying them?
Since you don't have extras...i'm not sure what else to do other than direct you to Dave or Suze!


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answers from Kansas City on

Go back and talk with your landlord. You can get insurance to cover the kids if anything happens. Maybe he would be willing to let you do it if he was confident that he is covered. OR, you could nanny for someone else with the stipulation that you can go back and forth between your home and theirs. Is your landlord really going to camp out to find out who is with you and when? But definitely talk to him again. I have bought insurance for the daycare without being licensed. The polices are hard to find, but not too expensive once you do.

I don't know how people do it. We pay 110 per month car insurance, 94 dollars per month life insurance, 830-900 per month all utilities combined, 1400 per month mortgage (Is a 15 yr mortgage that will pay out in 13 more years, and that doesn't count tithing, groceries, repairs to the home and appliances, my business expenses, my old debts, and misc. things like recyling, newspaper, vitamins, pet food, veterinarian expenses, eye glasses, and the list really is endless. NO we could not live on that even if I had no debts.

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answers from Boca Raton on

I agree with Cheryl's suggestion about Dave Ramsey - I would check out his book from the library ("Total Money Makeover").

This is off-topic but your post is one reason why I'm terrified for my sons (one of whom is a senior) to take out any student loans. People don't realize that many student loans are not discharge-able in bankruptcy. Can you imagine what that extra $800 month would do for you guys?

I just paid off my grad school loan last fall, after 10 YEARS. I refused to let my husband do it (which was probably dumb).

Wishing you luck and hope things turn around soon.

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answers from Houston on

Ask your (nosy??) friends what they would do differently than you. Sometimes seeing someone else's perspective, even if you don't agree, can help you see where you might make some tweeks. God bless and good luck. Once the student loan is paid off, life will be so much less stressful. Just keep looking towards that date.
P.S. A lot of our local sports clubs give free dues to anyone needs it. Check into it. You might have to buy shoes, but they might even have hand-me-downs.

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answers from Houston on

Honestly, what you are living on is extremely tight. That is about what we budget wkly for our household expenses like groceries, haircuts, Christmas savings, gas etc. We don't pay any of our bills in that amount, so to me it does seem darn near impossible, but it does sound like you have cut down to bare bones so that is good, but wow, that student loan stuff is awful. You do need a strategy to get that off your back for sure. Have you ever looked at Dave Ramsey stuff? We started with his program like 4yrs ago and even with a job change and some challenges we are debt free and able to save. We paid like 40k off in two years, granted, we had only one child at the time, it does make a difference. But he does have this budget calculator where you put in your monthly income and he gives you categories and what percent of your take home can go to each one and on category is paying off debt/saving. It's worth a look. It seems like your hubby is making around 40K ish, and that is hard. There were some amazing testimonies in his book The Total Money Makeover of people who had families living on that and getting debt free, so I say check him out and see if you can apply some of his strategies to your situation. Do you have anything you could sell to get the ball rolling? Could you sell one car to have a small savings nest egg and throw a little bit at that big student loan, and then share a car for a time to get a bit ahead? That would also cut gas and insurance a little bit. Can you hold a garage sale? I think if you and your man get to thinking on this, there is a solution for you that can lead you to a more fulfilling less stressful life, but it may get a little harder before getting better as far as some sacrifices to get out of the hole. You said your cars are older, are they paid for? If not, unloading one, could be a big relief. It looks like you are Texan like me and thankfully the weather is getting a bit nicer, maybe you can take these couple months and open the windows for some fresh air and cut electricity costs a little. In the winter bundle up and use as little heat as possible and throw extra money at debt. If all of this is done with a mindset to get out of debt, you don't have to feel you have to live this way forever. I think you do need to go out sometimes, so maybe see about saving $5 a week and when you get up to the amount it would cost your family to go have a meal out, go! Find out all the local restaurants that have kids eat free and go there. I know that in our area IHOP and Steak and Shake both have kids eat free a lot. Maybe they aren't the most happening places but it's an outing, you don't cook, the kids have fun and it works when it needs to. Just get creative. I think you do have a hard situation but I think you can tackle it. If your man can find that second job, and you could keep living as you do now and literally throw any extra at debt that would be the way to go. It is awesome you don't do credit, getting out of debt will allow you to actually live on what you bring home and will be a huge help. Also, I know you said your hubby works in a field where he is degreed but doesn't make alot, how would he feel about sales? My husband also has a degree that he doesn't currently work in as well, he has made his career in sales and loves it. So maybe think on that or throw that out and see if he has any interest in a sales position. My hubby sells to companies and really does well doing that. He loves sales bc the harder you work, the more you make, but it is work for sure!! Wish you the best, hope I gave you some good ideas and encouragement, hang in there!

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answers from Phoenix on

Yes you could. My hubby and I've lived on very little most of our marriage. In fact, we did more with little than we do with more, if that makes any sense at all.

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answers from Washington DC on

Regarding the loans - what kinds of loans are they? Can you consolidate them, maybe at a lower interest rate? When I was struggling with my loans, the school-based loan was able to work with me and I paid 1/2 for about 6 months vs defaulting. Now, this won't let you jump ahead real far, but if it's feed the kids or pay the loan, it's worth asking. And if you can get them consolidated under a better rate, then maybe that will offset the overall burden.

We could not live on $600 a week here, but we live in a ridiculous part of the country. The "joke" (which isn't funny) is that it takes 3 public servants to make a living here (teachers, police, etc). We would have to move.

Edit to add, re: Angel Food, I don't feel so bad as the article I found said it was a recent thing. Shame, b/c it was a good thing for people who used it.

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answers from Austin on

Try Freecycle. It is an online group similar to Craigslist where you can offer or ask for things for free. It's great for finding hand-me-down clothes, bikes, toys and other items that your kids outgrow and you want to pass on.

I know you can't do a whole lot about the energy efficiency of the house, but maybe you could use thicker curtains, draft blockers, and electric blankets(or mattress pads) for the winter so that you don't have to heat the house as much. For our house in the summer we use solar screens, mini blinds, roller blinds, and curtains to keep the sun out.

We have an interesting combination of phone plans since we don't talk on the phone much. We have voice over IP home phone service that goes through our internet connection. We have a second phone number(which you can get free on the internet) that goes to the cellphone wirelessly through the internet connection. We do not have a data plan for the cellphone, but it can use the same internet connection wirelessly at home(or free at places like McDonalds or Starbucks). The only cell phone minutes we use are with a pre-paid plan.

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answers from Austin on

In response to AV, Angel Food Ministries went under. There are several other food ministries in different areas.... Bountiful Basket (in some parts of Texas), and Mid America Foods (also in some parts of Texas).

I really miss Angel Food Ministries... it really helped our food budget.

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answers from Dallas on

The amount of student loan debt scares me - it is dictating how you live. You said he is a public servant in the government -- what does he do and how could those skills be adapted to another type of job that might offer a higher salary or more benefits. Maybe he needs to update his skill level at his government job to get a higher level position. You are doing so many things right, but still struggling with the burden of the student debt. Several people have mentioned Dave Ramsey -- he always suggests delivering pizzas at night for extra money. Also, check with the YMCA - they usually have scholarships to help out with the cost of sports participation. Good luck!



answers from Cincinnati on

we live on $350 a week. The only assistance we qualify for is WIC and health care for my son. However are house is owned free and clear so that helps alot! Our biggest bill is our bankruptcy which is $435 a month. Everything else is under $100 (except in the winter when the electric can get up to $200). We have not been able to save anything though.

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