Living on $13,000 or Less: The Power of Change

Change is a good thing. While hard it was the key to this family living on $13,000 in a year.

How our family lived on $13,000 during graduate school-without food stamps, medicare, or subsidized housing. This is part 12 of the Living on $13,000 or Less series. Click through if you missed earlier posts.


Ugh! I’m so sick of this! Money, money, money-everything takes money. Okay, maybe not air. Good thing I don’t have to pay to breathe…

Sound familiar to any of you? Every once in a while, I give the drama diva’s a run for their money—in crazy, over the top, dramatics. Lack of funds can be so frustrating. Luckily frustration empowered me to get up and move. When I’m comfortable I’m lazy. Frustration apparently equals  a desire for change with me. So if any of you are frustrated or just plain better than me (motivated without pain), I’ve compiled my most helpful changes into a list. Be proud-change doesn’t come easy for this gal.

Try new things

When you don’t like your status quo, it’s time to change something.  You can’t do the same thing over and over and get a different result. If you want a different result, it means you want to do different things (aka-change). Different means change.

Quite honestly I struggle immensely with change, but it makes a huge impact on our budget. Just the thought of entering a new store makes my stomach churn. Really, I have to watch my breathing to ensure other’s don’t feel the stress waves emanating from me. If I hadn’t faced that fear to enter WinCo though, we would have shelled out an extra $100 a month!

I also started to frequent Walgreens, only because of a fantastic diaper deal. My first trip I bought 80 diapers for less than $6! Plus they gave me the coupon back! Turns out Walgreens store coupons last for a year, with unlimited transactions, and they ran a diaper sale every few weeks! I bought 3 months of diapers for less than $40! For a whole year I bought diapers for $0.05-$0.07 each!

*This is NOT a current deal.

Change is a good thing. While hard it was the key to this family living on $13,000 in a year.


Slightly easier was cutting utilities. The hardest step was to ask our landlord’s to remove the swamp cooler. This dramatically cut our heating bill as we could finally close that window. Plus the heater never went above 65. We put plastic over the windows, and stuffed blankets/towels in front of exterior doors. Somehow I never got around to making that draft snake, guess those towels really worked.

We wore lots of longs sleeves, sweaters, and sometimes cuddled in blankets. I strategically did any baking in the morning so it would battle the chill. Our home typically warmed up by afternoon—so the added heat  later in the day wasn’t as helpful.

During the summer we made do with 2 box fans, a tall rotating fan, open windows and prayers. On those uncomfortably hot days I’d chase Sunny around with a squirt bottle. Her cute giggles and extra curly hair were totally worth it. 🙂 Our snacks were popsicles and dinner was prepared with little heat (salads and the crockpot were my best friends). I made sure we stayed hydrated and our freezer was well stocked with homemade ice/popsicles .

Change is a good thing. While hard it was the key to this family living on $13,000 in a year.

Be flexible

If you’ve read about my less creative days you’d know I wasn’t very good at bending my mind. According to my younger self there was only one right way to do anything. I’ve since learned (thank goodness!) the power of flexible thinking. Not being set on one thing gives you freedom to pick and choose.

Before we moved into our current home, many places tried to strong arm us into a high priced contract. They thought they had the upperhand because they assumed we needed a new place immediately.  Luckily we were on a flexible contract.  We shopped around until we got what we wanted—for the price we wanted.

Change is a good thing. While hard it was the key to this family living on $13,000 in a year.

  • Stockpile

Put yourself in the same position with your other purchases. Create a flexible lease on your pantry items by stockpiling your groceries. Having a stash means, if you don’t like the price of beans this week, you don’t have to get them.  This food cushion allows you to cherry pick the best prices while still eating the way you’d like.

  • Flexible on brand

Being flexible on brands really helped.  Most store brand fruits and veggies are canned with the same contents, as the name brands. They’re lower priced because they don’t spend as much on advertising or labeling. Not being tied to one brand gives you freedom to buy items on sale more often, hopefully with a coupon.


  • Flexible with time

Like the food stockpile I do the same thing with my crafting.  I have a craft stock pile (just ask the hubster, oh boy!).  When I plan a sewing project I try to give myself 3 months’ time to buy materials.  This way I can buy the different fabrics and notions on sale. Yes, I start on Halloween projects in July, and Christmas in September.

Plus being flexible on when to buy gives me time to research different materials. I’m amazed at how often an hour on Google will save me extra work and cost. Being flexible, allowing yourself time to shop around, or just mulling over different ideas—will help you and your pocket book in the end.

While I don’t care for the sensation of frustration I’m very grateful for the skills it induces me to learn, and the fears it helps me over come. Thank heaven for the creative process and our ability to problem solve! Let’s go out and solve another small problem today!



What frustrates you today?


Want more from the ‘Living on $13,000 or Less’ series? Check these out!


This is part 11 of the
Living on $13,000 or Less series. Click through here to read the rest of the series.