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What to do When Living Paycheck to Paycheck Still Doesn’t Get the Bills Paid

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Living a frugal life is all the rage these days, but what do you do when living paycheck to paycheck still can’t pay the bills? Does worrying about how to make ends meet keep you awake at night? Do these concerns cover your days with a blanket of fear? What do you do when the money just isn’t there?

I can speak to this because I have experienced all of these things at one point in my life. You can read a bit about that time in my life in Lessons I Learned While in a Financial Valley over on Money Saving Mom. In fact, right now my family and I are again living through a financially stressed time.

If we can’t change it, then what do we do? How do we get the bills paid?


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The short answer is, every little bit helps. There are all kinds of little ways you can conserve energy, reuse or repurpose things, and extend the life of something. At times you can just turn a blind eye to something that is an eyesore to you (like my duct taped couch). These are all things that can help carry you through a season of financial drought.

Of course the easy answer can be credit. Credit cards or loans are often an option, but what if these aren’t an option for you? Whether it is a commitment to not living on credit, which is the commitment that my husband and I have adhered to over the past 20 years, or a situation where even credit can’t help, credit is not an option for everyone.

At the end of the day, if you are the one to handle the stack of bills with the pile of cash that just doesn’t stretch far enough there are some little things that you may not have thought of. Together these little things can collectively bring some relief to an overstressed budget. Here are 20 of the best penny pinching tips I use every day.

  1. You can reuse trash bags. Don’t dump the trash bag until you have to.
  2. You can reuse ziplock bags. Whether these bags are for chips in your child’s lunch or freezer bags for your taco meat, you can reuse them. Everything in my freezer is labeled. So, as I pull raw chicken from a bag I simply put the bag back in the freezer to use the next time I stock up on chicken.
  3. Conserve everything. Water down your shampoo and liquid soaps, put a few drops of water in the salad dressing and shake it up when you would normally throw it away, and combine your liquid coffee creamer with some plain milk to make it last twice as long.
  4. You can cut open things like lotion tubes, sunscreen tubes, or even toothpaste tubes when you can no longer squeeze anything out. You can also do this with shampoo and conditioner bottles and just about any other bottle, tube, or container you have. Generally, you can get quite a bit from the inside of the tube.
  5. Put a water saving shower head on your showers. Careless use of water really does get expensive over the course of an entire year. For this same reason, fix leaky or drippy faucets. Make sure that the water is always turned all the way off both inside and outside.
  6. Do everything you can to preserve hand-me-downs between your kids. For awhile, one of my daughters pulled at the sleeve of her shirts just out of habit, which stretched them out in the process. With a younger sister who will need those clothes, breaking this habit was necessary to preserve those clothes.
  7. Turn things off when not in use. This applies to everything from ceiling fans and lights to electronics, small appliances, and out door lights.
  8. Use a timer for both indoor and outdoor lights. This takes having to remember to turn things off away from you.
  9. Use your heating and cooling systems wisely. You can find several money saving tips in my post 15 Simple Ways to Save on Heating and Cooling Your Home. Even if these things seem trivial, they really do add up.
  10. Be sure you utilize your crock pot. Cooking things in your crock pot uses less energy than cooking in the oven or on the stovetop. Again, think long term savings.
  11. Clean out the lint screen in your dryer with every use.
  12. Keep all air vents and bathroom fan vents free from lint by vacuuming or washing them.
  13. Position furniture to allow for the most airflow for heating and cooling. Covering an air vent with furniture is like throwing money away.
  14. Don’t overpack your fridge or freezer. Again, we are thinking about efficiency.
  15. Be sure you are using your dishwasher wisely. Run the quick or smart wash cycle and turn off the heated dry feature.
  16.  If you use your dryer, do loads back to back so it doesn’t have to heat up each time since you’ve got that residual heat.
  17. Don’t wash shower towels more than is necessary. If they are hung up after use, mildew will be kept at bay. Since they are only used to dry off clean bodies, once a week or once every other week is often all that is necessary.
  18. Avoid using paper towels. Get some sturdy kitchen rags instead.
  19. Hang laundry instead of using your dryer. Truly, this really does make a difference. You can read my post on Living Without a Dryer During the Winter Season for more on how I do this.
  20. Use candles instead of lights at night. Are you just watching television or working on the computer anyway? Don’t just turn lights on because you can. Decide whether the light from a few candles will suffice.

If you are financially squeezed beyond your limits, I know how stressful that is. There is nothing more exhausting than having to figure out how to grow a money tree or to wave a magic wand in order to make ends meet. However, these 20 tips are great tips that have helped stretch our family dollar. Put as many as you can, or even all of them, into place today and watch the savings add up.

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