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Minimal or Subsistence Living and How to Do It

I've lived with less than a thousand a month for many years. Mostly, it's all I had. Sometimes it's out of choice. Now it's a way of life.

How You Can Live With Practically Nothing, but Still Have Something

With the current state of the country, many people are learning how to live minimally. Over the years, I have learned how to accomplish this through research and experience.

Our family took a turn for the worst when our father got lymphoma. He wasn't really able to work, and when he could, it was very limited. Being fairly young at the time, I didn't really know how we survived, but we managed. The thing that stood out in my mind is what our father taught us: finances.

After leaving the family home to try to make it on my own, I found life was like how I imagined it but with a different twist. For the first year, I was 20 pounds underweight. I remembered, after too long, what my father taught me and started putting it into practice:

  • Always live within your means.
  • Live realistically.
  • Sleep on it.
  • Set goals.

These things, among many others, put me back on the track of actually making money and moving up to a healthier state. If you're paid hourly, it will be fairly easy to figure out what you make every month. If you aren't, look at your bank account (if you have one), and look at what the records are for the past three months' average. Take the total, and try to aim for at least 200 dollars below it.

List out what you need every month or bi-weekly if you need to. Get a paper and write down everything you need for that month (needs, not bills). The latest iPad is not a need. That new toy is not a need. That new whatever is not necessarily a need. I know it sounds harsh, but you need to be harsh. Could you live without it? Would you or someone else literally die? Or would it make life really, really difficult? If not, it's probably not a need. Try and be as harsh as you can here. It's cut and dry, black and white. If you can live without or do without, go without.

After you have listed out what you need, choose one item (you can list by priority). Focus just on the one you chose, not everything else. One item at a time. This is one of the key factors to not getting really stressed out. With each item or thing accomplished, cross it off. The simple act will tell you that you are going somewhere. You are achieving your goals.

Speaking of goals, it is really good to set them. In a month, what do you what to have done? In a week? Today? Write it down. Plan each night to have a journal of some sort where you write down what you have done to further that goal. This makes you accountable just enough to help motivate you a bit. It would also be good to daydream a bit and imagine where you want to be in three months, six months, one year, three years, five years, 10 years, and 20 years. If you get really stressed out like I was (and still am a bit), just focus on this month. Can't do a month? Focus on the week. If you can't do that either, what about today, this hour, this minute, this second? Whatever it takes, just one moment at a time.

If there is something you want so badly, sleep on it. If you don't want it the next day, then don't buy it. If you still do, wait a week (if you can). If you still do, and you can't live without it (figuratively), and you have the money, bills, and needs taken care of, buy it. It is recommended that each month you set aside money for yourself. Twenty dollars is what I did for myself. I even saved it and had it roll over to the next month to buy bigger things. Technically, a lot of financially secure people say that you should pay yourself first. We agree. We tried it out. We were a lot happier, and we weren't as stressed out.

So, that's it for the financial side of things. If you want to really reduce, then make, grow, and raise your own. If you live in an area or can move to an area where you can have livestock, poultry and/or a garden, why not, right?

If you grow your own food, that will save you so much money with how much food costs right now. It's not that hard, either. Even if you live in an apartment. We grew peas and other foods like tomatoes in pots. We lived in a suburban neighborhood and just cleared a 5x5 plot in the landscaping and grew some food there. We saw some growing food on the side of their house with little pockets. Some with hanging buckets. Be innovative. Lots of things can turn into pots, and you can just dig up some dirt from somewhere. You can even make your own compost and use it with your organic waste.

With livestock, you will need to spend more money than with a garden. Horses are really expensive, and we don't recommend them; they tend to eat more than they save. Same with cows, goats, and sheep. But if you have access to a very large field, then it is a whole lot more economical.

One thing that we have saved with is chickens. We know that eggs are fairly cheap (right now...), but these are fresh and so much better. Not only eggs, though. If you raise chickens for meat, which isn't hard, you can raise all your meat. Not only is it so much healthier, but you don't have to spend money on meat. One thing we learn with meat chickens is to make sure you can do it before buying a huge flock, and it makes it easier if you don't think about it. It is sacrificed so you can live. It can be honored (like the Native Americans did). It makes me feel better than I can do the deed. Don't get me wrong, I was born in the city. I wasn't raised with this. I had to learn to survive. You can, too. Just take a deep breath (not of chicken fumes) and let it out of your mouth. If you still can, try again another day.

Our neighbor buys piglets and raises them on spoiled food practically. Any milk that's leftover or spoiled, she gives to them. They have iron stomachs, so they will eat almost anything. Pigs (if you can have pork; I'm allergic) are very economical. Just do your research on the health of pork and pigs.

That is pretty much how I survived some of the toughest years of my life, how I continue to survive, and how it has been helpful.


Karen on February 20, 2016:

Good solid advice! There are so many ways to live well with very little money.

ritchie on January 29, 2014:

Thank you for sharing this.

Such great information :).