How to Live on $1.25 a day

by Ragtimelil

I get so annoyed with the articles on “how to live well on half your income.” They obviously haven’t tried living on my FULL income. Here’s how I do it.

Ok I didn’t say how to live WELL. I’m just talking survival. I don't have a magic wand here. And actually, when I get my social security check, it comes out to $20 a day. I foolishly squander half on rent and utilities at the RV park and then most of the other half goes for truck payments and car insurance.
I try to live as cheaply as possible, camping in my 25 ft. trailer in an RV park. I drive as little as possible. I conserve as much as possible. Still, it's a challenge to survive on my one check a month.

This article was updated 8/20/12 with the addition of Cooking and Heating, Washing Clothes and Gardens and Eggs.

Stocking Up

Border Collie LookOne of the first things I do is to get a big bag of dog food. No way am I telling the dogs that I’m out of food for them when they give me that look. I’d like to have them on a natural diet, but I can’t afford to feed myself enough meat and healthy food. They’ll have to go with dog food for a while longer.

I get some supplies that I know I'm going to need and don't want to run out of - like toilet paper. Might as well get while I can and not panic later.

Some Things to Stock Up On

Country Value Dry Food for Adult Dogs, 50 Pound Bag

Country Value Wholesome Nutrition for Dogs is designed for non-working, yet active, adult dogs. The Dog Formula is formulated with 21% protein and 10% fat to ensure adequate lev...

$94.31  $39.64
Scott Bath Tissue, 1000 Sheet Rolls, 20-Count

Giving you five times more sheets than most other brands' regular rolls, it lasts and lasts, making it a value that you and your family can count on

$30.59  $12.09
French Market Coffee & Chicory, City Roast(Dark Roast), 16-Ounce Cans (Pack of 3)

Greetings from New Orleans! In 1890, the first can of French Market Coffee & Chicory roasted, blended and packaged. The Bartlett and Dodge families, incorporated as the American...

$31.02  $28.98

The Ugly Truth

Now I’m left with about $40 for the month for food and gas. Driving is very important. You can’t get to the food pantries unless you can drive or can hitch a ride. You might not be able to hitch a ride when you need it so having gas in the car is pretty high on my list of needs. I don’t go very far so I can just about live with $5 a week for gas.

That leaves about $5 a week for food. Naturally, I get what I can at the food pantries. It’s mostly canned goods, dried beans, rice and pasta I still have to buy things like paper products, butter, milk, coffee and any basics like sugar, soap, toothpaste and so on.

That starts to get a little tight, but luckily I’m not too far from a big grocery store so I’m not paying convenience store prices. They are almost double the price on some items.

Helpful Items

Briggs & Stratton 85013 1+ Gallon Gas Can

This spill proof fuel can holds up to 1.25 Gallons of fuel and is made of durable plastic.

$16.99  $9.83

Cooking and Heating

One thing I do to conserve propane is cook as little as possible. I get dried beans and rice from the food pantry, but I also get canned beans. Canned beans only have to be heated up. I eat a lot of sandwiches, and way too much bread, but I don't have to cook it, unless I make toast or grilled cheese sandwiches. Cereal is always good too when I can get it.

I've tried cooking in the truck but it wasn't too successful. I'd like to try a real solar cooker when I can afford the materials to build one. In fact, I'd like to have a lot more solar power. I just have to have the money for the materials to build the equipment.

Cooking in a camper heats things up too. Not cooking helps keep things cool, although once winter comes, I'll be cooking more to help keep things warm.

Since I don't have running water, yet, I don't have a hot water heater either. I sometimes heat water on the stove, but I try to remember to fill my solar shower bag and use that for washing. It's amazing how hot it gets on sunny days. I can take a shower and have enough left over for dishes.

Passive Solar Energy House Projects: A How-To Guide

A practical beginners guide to passive solar energy concepts, complete with pictures and diagrams. Learn about solar and wind energy; build a solar oven to cook with the sun; ma...

View on Amazon

SOS Sport Solar Oven Combo - Solar Oven, 2 Pots, Thermometer, Manual, Recipe Booklet, WAPI (Water...

The Sport Solar Oven will help you become prepared for an emergency. It is also good for camping trips, beach parties, fishing trips, back yard barbecues and everyday cooking. Y...

View on Amazon

Coghlan's Camp Shower

This lightweight, non-toxic PVC Coghlan's Solar Heated Camp Shower stores enough water for 3-4 showers. Compact and easy to use, includes cord for hanging, you will never take a...

View on Amazon

Use the Library

Another reason to have gas is to get to the local library. Not only do they have good books to read but movies for loan, for free entertainment. If I bring a book home and decide I just can’t get into it, I can just return it. Nobody says I have to read or watch everything I bring home.DVDs

 It’s important to consolidate trips to save on gas. The library is almost across the road from the food pantry and the big grocery store is on the way. I do hitch a ride with my neighbor when she’s going that way. She gets more in SS than I do and has a bigger budget for gas. I try to pay her back with doing favors for her or giving her something like a hand woven rug that I had made.

Washing Clothes

With such tight funds, going to the laundromat is an extravagance. Washing clothes by hand is free, well, almost. I used to make my own soap but have fallen out of the habit. I'm thinking about doing that again. I'd still have to buy lye. I don't have wood ashes now to make lye from.

I have used just a bucket and a plunger to wash clothes. I still do wash the dog beds like that, but I bought a table top washer some years ago and love it. The only drawback is that it doesn't hold much so I have to do laundry every day almost. It's still cheaper than the coin operated machines.

I hang clothes in the bathroom to drip and then hang them around the camper. If I wan't in an RV park, I would hand them outside. I love the smell of fresh, sunny clothes.

Down but not Out
Salvation Army Poster, 1919
Ad AllPosters

Gardens and Eggs

When I moved, I left behind a large garden I had made out of a gravel driveway. I worked hard to build up the soil using compost and rich New England soil. I had raspberries, greens, tomatoes, beans, squash, onions, garlic, and every year experimented with new plants. I happily lunched on fresh salads during the summer and ate stored food in the winter. I miss my garden.

When I can be on my own land again I will start another garden. For now, I'm gardening in containers. They actually grow really well in containers. I brought some seeds with me so it's just a matter of finding containers and good soil.

Something else I will have when I'm on my own land is chickens. I'm too grossed out by the conditions in which commerical chickens are kept. I've seen videos of the birds being released from the cages and they look like victims of concentration camps. Their eyes are glassy and they can barely move, not to mention that they have few feathers on their body. I'm still looking for someone nearby who keeps fat and happy backyard chickens and sells eggs.

I'm looking for some road stands too for produce. I like eating fresh food and supporting local growers too.

My Blessings

I was lucky enough to get a good laptop computer recently and that has truly been a blessing. It has WiFi so I’m online through the RV park. I have an Etsy shop, a Zazzle store, and I’m blogging and writing as much as I can to make some money. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m hopeful. The laptop also plays DVDs so when I get wrung out from trying to write, I can watch a movie.

I also was blessed with a decent digital camera. I can take walks with the dogs and take the camera along. It has helped with providing me with images for my articles as well as for my Zazzle store.

Dog Buddies

I don't forget my other blessings too. My sweet dogs give me love and insist I take walks with them. My friends and family who help me when they can. Even living in the park has its blessings - neighbors who look out for each other and help with things like lifting and installing air conditioners. And my online friends who send encouragement and inspiration.

Other Thrifty Articles

What you can make out of canned and dried food from the food pantry.
How to make a homemade, hand operated washing machine that really gets clothes clean.
It always happens. You are miles from home, enjoying a wonderful bike ride, when the darn wheel goes flat. What do you do now?
Updated: 10/03/2014, Ragtimelil
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Your Two Cents Worth

Ragtimelil on 09/06/2014

Thanks for the comment. I am still surviving. Some months are better than others.

Guest on 09/04/2014

Yes, those "living well" articles are really mind numbing, if not downright downers.
I also cringe at those articles suggesting the benefits of delaying forever on claiming Social Security benefits because who knows if they'll live that long? I've heard of so many instances of retirees dying shortly after retirement.
Your creativity in extending your monthly check is admirable. It's good that your destinations (library, food pantry, grocery store) are in proximity to each other.
Best wishes in your endeavors, including your online income ventures.

Ragtimelil on 02/09/2013

It's a long story. I have had them in the past. they still don't feed anyone for a month.

nubwaxer on 02/09/2013

why would you not qualify for food stamps?

Ragtimelil on 10/04/2012

Good for you. Share your tips!

MEAlways on 10/04/2012

<--frugal! Paying for a son to go to school is not easy on my teeny wage, I am always learning how to cut corners!

BrendaBarnes on 10/02/2012

Very true. I am extremely frugal but we like that luxury called food. lol

Ragtimelil on 10/01/2012

Why thank you. Yes, it's a good thing to consume less. Of course, it's also good to have enough to eat!

BrendaBarnes on 10/01/2012

Even if one has unlimited financial resources, we should be a good steward of out money. Every day I become more and more convinced that I need so much less than I have. You are a great inspiration to me.

Ragtimelil on 08/22/2012

If there was public transportation around here I'd be using it. Alas, I'm stuck with the car and that's my biggest drain on my resources.

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