Is it possible for us to live on $460 a week?

Is it Possible to Live on $460 Per Week?

I have been following your site for a few years now. I have a pretty difficult question for you. My husband is a youth pastor and makes $460 per week. We have three children with one on the way.

We want to save and budget better but don’t know how to on such a small amount. We do not have cable, or internet at home and the only thing we do that we do extra is eat out due to our crazy ministry schedule. Any help or suggestions would be AMAZING!!! -A very stressed wife

My heart goes out to you in the stress you’re experiencing! I wish I could hug you in person and tell you it’s going to be okay.

You might have some tough days ahead of you, but you are going to survive. So don’t lose hope, okay? That’s the first step to your success.

Here are some practical ideas and suggestions that I thought of for your particular situation:

1) Get On a Strict Written Budget

It’s easy to feel discouraged when you only have a little bit of income coming in, but I know many, many families who are surviving on $460 per week or quite a bit less. So it is entirely possible.

But a budget is imperative. Even if you feel like you don’t have enough coming in, you need to maximize the mileage of every penny you’ve got and a budget is the best way to do that.

I highly recommend reading The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Your library should have a copy. It will walk you step-by-step through the basics of setting up and sticking with a written budget.

2) Prioritize Your Basic Necessities

Once you have your budget put together (and I’d heartily encourage you to sit down and get it done by this weekend, if at all possible), really go over it with a fine-toothed comb and consider what your basic necessities are. These will be things like food, shelter, transportation, and clothing.

What are the barebones payments/purchases that you must make to survive? Make these items your top priority in the budget before considering spending money on anything that is a non-necessity.

Often, when you strip your budget down to the barebones, you’ll realize that you actually have more wiggle room than you first thought you did. And that’s always an encouraging thing!

3) Cut Everything You Can Possibly Cut

Taking the time to consider and determine your basic necessities will prepare you for this step: to cut out as many expenses as you can. It sounds like you’ve already cut many things — like cable and internet — but you could definitely cut out eating out, as painful as it may be.

Find creative ways to make meals at home more doable by using the crockpot, having freezer foods and snacks at-the-ready, and prepping ahead for the week on the weekends. It’s not a fun proposition to give up eating out, but remind yourself that it’s a short-term sacrifice you are making for the good of your family’s budget and for long-term success.

4) Experiment With Ways to Bring In Additional Income

If you can carve out a few extra hours each week, put these toward doing things to increase your income. Sell anything you have that you don’t need on Craigslist, eBay, or in a garage sale. Look into the possibility of doing house-cleaning, teaching classes, or babysitting. If all else fails, there’s always the option of getting a newspaper route.

I encourage you to read The Other 8 Hours and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think if you’re feeling like you just don’t have any extra moments in your week to put toward income-earning possibilities.

5) Don’t Give Up Hope

As I said in the beginning, your attitude will make or break this situation.  A can-do, committed, creative attitude will take you worlds further than a frustrated, complaining attitude will. And I promise you’ll enjoy the ride a lot more, too.

Choose to bloom where you’re planted — even if it feels like it’s among thorns!

What advice do the rest of you have for this reader? Please chime in with encouragement and practical tips in the comments!

photo from Big Stock

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  1. Roberta Dunaway says

    There are a lot of assistance out there for a family of soon to be 6 with in income of under $25000. Some National programs are WIC, SNAP (foodstamps), Medicaid (if you don’t have insurance), Lifeline (phone discount), HEAP (heating assistance), food/clothing banks and I’m sure more than I am aware of as well as local assistance for your area.

    Check into couponing, maybe start a coupon box at your church for everyone to share the coupons they aren’t going to use for others to use. Ask those that receive the paper at church to pass along the coupons they aren’t going to use to you.

    Look into gardening full scale or containers to help with fresh veggies you can grow most herbs year round in the window.

    Crock pots can be your best friend especially when there are crazy dinner hours. Have picnic dinners instead of eating out meet hubby at a park eat, and let the kids play for a bit while you catch up on the day before the evening events start.

    Maybe suggest one night a week before a super busy evening at church that they start a potluck dinner night where every family attending can have dinner together. At my church Wednesdays are the super busy nights as we have Awana for 3yr-6th grade (avg 40 kids), choir practise plus a new members class.

    Doing surveys can bring in a little bit of relief I do them for a couple different companies some you earn points to redeem for gift cards and others will send you a check when you reach the minimum $10-25. I make $200-300 a year spending a couple hours a week doing them. It isn’t a lot but could give you some “fun” money each month to rent a video and pick up a $5 pizza or two. Maybe you could have access to the computers at the church to do surveys and to print coupons?

    Check into your local library for books, magazines, movies for you and the kids for some free entertainment. They probably have pre-school story time which may include a craft and snack for the kids. You could probably make use of the computers while the kids are at story time just let them know you will be upstairs if needed before it is over.

    The pet sitting idea was a good one. Let the congregation know that you are willing to house/pet sit for them. When house sitting you’d go over after the mail/newspaper run to bring it in and check the house over, switch up the lighting, etc. For pet sitting you might need to go over 3 times a day for a dog but a cat could be taken care of when bringing in the mail. And they would probably even let you bring the kids to play for a while with the animal which would create some “movement” in the house too.

  2. Jennifer says

    Thank you so much, Crystal and other readers, for the practical insights and uplifting words! Thank you to the stressed wife who was willing to write in the question and look for help–I hope some of the information will be as helpful to you as it is to me.

    In reading the comments, I thought of some great frugal and encouraging posts and tutorials at Particularly, there’s a post on ways God provides in tight financial times. There are also recipes for making laundry soap, yogurt, granola, tea…

    As others have said, may God bless you and your family as you seek His direction. Thank you again.

  3. Rebecca says

    A source of income for you could be school bus driving. Maybe your children could stay at home with your husband or, depending on the company, they can go with you to work. I know the company I work for provides free training as long as there is a promise to work for them at least one year. I work two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. Each company is differant so you would have to check out your local bus company. Just a suggestion.

  4. Carrie says

    Dear Youth Pastors Wife,

    I can totally relate to what you are going thru, my family is on a very tight budget also. I have a few suggestions that may or may not help, so here goes and good luck. We shop at Costco, at first I did not think that it was worth it, but when I do grocery shopping I am lucky enough to do it for all month long. Even though you are buying bigger packages it comes out to being so much cheaper in the end especially on things that you use alot of such as TP, detergent etc. We buy all of our meat at Costco and it last all month long. We break up all the meat and freeze it into individual packages and then just pull out a package of meat for dinner. If you dont have a Costco in your area try Sams Club. We dont have a land line we all have cell phones, that also helps save money. Check around for auto insurance, something that alot of people dont know is if you dont drive alot then your insurance will be lower. I have shopped all around and I found that GEICO is the best. If you have cable I have found that if you talk to a supervisor and tell them your situation they can give you special pricing for a year on your cable/internet services to keep you as a customer. Lastly, now let me finish on this one. We do mystery shopping. Now I know that there are alot of scams out ther but I have been doing mystery shopping the Best Mark since may and have made money doing this. They pay you by check every 2 weeks and it comes with out fail and I have never ever had a problem with them. I have done 20 shops. Trust me the extra money comes in handy at the end of the month when we need a few groceries. It does not pay alot but like I said its extra money and for us its worth it. Both myself and my husband do it and for every person you refer you get a $5.00 bonus. You may want to look into it. Good luck and may the lord continue to bless you

  5. says

    Hello! You can so do this!

    I know it’s a different country but that is considered a good salary for most South Africans :)

    I just want to add one thing – I haven’t read all the comments or even 10% :) but just always tithe from your gross salary – God will meet your needs!

  6. Jennifer says

    If you or your spouse, or any of your parents served in the military, you may be eligible for insurance and banking through USAA. For us, it’s the least expensive auto insurance around here.

  7. Daniela says

    I think all of the suggestions are very good -especially cutting out the eating part (although I know it is painful to do so). As much as your husband might love his job, it really might be time to look into another option (or to do this on the side in a different capacity). A family of this size really could use a higher income (I say this with all the respect in the world)…but sometimes life calls for us to have to use our transferable skills in an industry that can support a family.

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