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How To Live On $20,000 A Year & Go To College

How To Live On $20,000 A Year & Go To College

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Can you imagine trying to live on $20,000 a year? Add to the milkshake by adding a college schedule, putting away money in a savings account and being older than 25 summers... could you do it?

Is it possible to squeeze in a part time to full time job to pay the rent, utilities, food, medical bills, cell phone bill, clothing care, bus / car transportation costs and maybe the occasional 'Me Time' life outing?

Too many people choose to live complaining that they can not go to college. Yes, you can. In today's world, opportunities are available if you stop telling yourself you can't. Yes, you voluntarily choose to be poor. But what you get in return is more than a diploma and the potential for a better job.

You gain insight into what you are capable of doing.

You learn that money truly doesn't buy happiness.

You come to the understanding that there is a world of opportunities available if only you look for them.

Lastly, you discover who your genuine friends are.

You can live this way because it won't be forever. In one to four years you will have your certification and or degree. Money savvy individuals and families live beneath their means. This is why they stay on "top", why they are successful. The average American mindset is to live beyond their means. If they make $20,000 per year, they will spend $24,000 per year.

Living beneath your means provides a level of freedom because it puts you in the position of deciding what is important to you. You get to decide how you spend your "extra" money. When you live beyond your means, the decisions are already made for you.

If you've never been poor or if you have always been able to financially depended on someone else; living on $20,000 or less a year may seem like a ludicrous idea. It can be done if you make a commitment and understand that all the little costs add up.

  • The $1 soda pop
  • The $3.50 to $5 cup of espresso coffee
  • The $3 to $5 lunches

It all adds up and take away from your goal of living beneath not beyond your means. Here are some original or maybe not so original suggestions

Extra income(s):

Bring laundry to baby-sitting jobs (and yes, always ask permission first).

Here-and-there gigs: freelance writing, work-study, baby-sitting, mystery shopping, resident manager (read: it sucks but you'll receive free or discounts on your rent), paid medical research and writing for community papers and or online zines.

Put your wallet (credit card) away:

Brown-bag my lunch every single day and don't forget to include a mid day snack.

$1 menu at decently healthy fast food places such as El Pollo Loco

Buy a water filter or water pitcher with a self contained water filter and drink water not soda.

Keep walking past the friendly barista staffed joints and make coffee at your office.

Look up the local bus transportation and see if you can take one or two buses to work / school. Chances are that you'll spend a lot less money on a monthly bus pass than you would on gas and parking

Free Stuff:

Combine coupons and rebates to get items for free such as toothpaste, shampoo and other toiletries

Samples and Try For Free coupons

Exchange spent ink cartridges for reams of printer paper at places such as Office Max. See a candy dish? Take a piece for midday snacking. You'll save up to $3 per snack.

Make Money:

Sell the stuff you no longer need and or on items you won and received for free.

Questions to ask yourself:

Do I really need this? - Often you will find you don't.

Can I make do with a 99-cent Store item? - My 99-cent clock-radio wakes me up every morning just as efficiently as a nifty looking alarm from a brand store such as Target.

How can I get it free, or almost free?

Craigslist - Free and gently used items

Thrift Stores & Resell Shops - I am a thrift store Goddess! I have found the most amazing designer and 'one of a kind' clothing apparel, not only for myself but for friends. I'm sure if I gave it enough thought, I could make money at my treasure hunting and that's exactly what it is... treasure hunting. Resell shops are on average, boutiques that resell catwalked designer clothing apparel at a fraction of the costs. Vogue magazine lists it for $300, boutique resells it for $100 or less.

More on Thrift Stores - A lot of thrift stores continually have 50% off color tag sales. In addition, when clothing doesn't sell at department stores or if there clothing has minor damage mistakes, they're given to the thrift stores. I bought a brand new tags still on the $75 Lip Service jacket for $5 because there was a small hole in the jacket. I fixed it and I love the jacket.

Church & Community Rummage Sales: Not only is it inexpensive and often better quality, but most C & C rummage sales wash the clothing before the sale.

Gifts: Don't give anther gift thats obviously from Target, Wal Mart, K Mart, Macy's, the Mall...

I like giving personal gifts that I remembered hearing the person previously mentioned they either needed, wanted or had fond memories of XXX. Where else but at a thrift store, rummage sale or even a yard sale can you find a treasure from the person's childhood that doesn't cost "antique" / "collectible" prices?

Sometimes, I give only a card specifically bought for them. Why? Because words should be more valuable than a trinket.

Say Good Bye:

Cable TV/Satellite service: Save $50 to $100 a month

Energy Suckers: Unplug electrical appliances that still draw current, even though they are "off". The worst offenders are TV sets, VCRs, anything with a remote control. You see, in order to respond to the power on command from the remote control, part of the set still must be "on" in order to receive commands from the remote. While the drain may only be a couple of watts, the fact that the drain is continuous makes it all add up.

Nationally Advertised Products: Most of the time, brand products are just as good and sometimes better than the two million dollar spent ad campaign products.

Pre-packaged garbage bags: Use the paper & plastic bags you carried your groceries in.

Expensive Heat / Air Conditioning Bills: Buy a thick warm blanket in the June (50% to 75% off) for the winter and buy tank tops, t-shirts and floor fans in November (50% to 75% off) for the summer.

Cigarettes: Save up to $4 per pack Two packs a week = $8 Eight packs a month = $32 Ninety Six packs a year = $384

Free and inexpensive things to do for fun and relaxation:

Volunteer for performance organizations

Go online and look for the free events in your area

Start a meet up or group Get Together for parks, variety of meeting places or take turns seeing movies at someone's home.

Things aren't perfect. Sometimes we have to live with less to have more in the future. Keep in mind that each little step in the right direction is another step away from the wrong one. Can you live on less than $20,000 a year and or attend college? You can if you choose to. Do what you can for now, always mindful that our real treasures lie in another place.


  1. Poor thing. I made $5000 last year and that's what it looks like this time around too. I would love to make $20,000 per year.

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