Seniors aren't the only ones who have to live on a fixed income


December 28, 2004

Fixed incomes are usually associated with senior citizens who rely on social security or pension checks that remain constant each month. However, many others live with an income that stays the same from year to year, especially when they don't get bonuses, raises or commissions. At other times, you may find that your income is fixed for a short period of time, such as during a maternity leave or when an illness makes disability checks your form of income.

In all these instances, budgeting, creating a financial plan and cutting back on expenses are ways to make fixed incomes more manageable. Here is some information to keep you on track.


Whether fixed or fluctuating, know exactly how much income you have each month. Surprisingly, many people haven't a clue how much they make, which is why they may have the propensity to live beyond their means. Look at your paycheck, keep abreast of investments and carefully monitor any other incoming funds.

On the flip side, also know how many fixed expenses you have. These include rent, mortgages, utilities, insurance, etc. Once you add up your fixed expenses and deduct them from your income, you'll know just how much you have left for variable expenses, like luxuries, food and so on. You've just created a budget.


Here are some frugal ways to get by:

• Reduce the amount of detergent, toothpaste, shampoo, dishwasher liquid, etc. that you use. You can save a lot by only using how much you need.

• Buy generic whenever possible. Many grocery items (like potato chips and seltzer) are manufactured by one company and then packaged with a brand name or generic wrapper. They're the same, but since you're not paying extra for advertising, the generic is cheaper. Also, let your physician know you'd like generic options for prescription drugs.

• Bulk buying and coupon clipping may seem like a good idea, but make sure you are actually getting a bargain and will use the product.

• Rely on the local library for magazines, newspapers, CDs and DVD rentals. This way, you won't have the added expense of subscriptions but can still keep abreast of the latest flicks, music, news and other information.

• Shop around for deals. Sometimes the best deals are just waiting to be found. This includes airplane tickets, hotel rooms, clothing and appliances, among other items.

• Take care of your big-ticket items. Make sure your appliances and vehicles are in top shape. An unexpected repair can be costly enough to blow a hole in any budget. Take advantage of periodic servicing to prevent disasters.

• Drive sensibly. Don't risk an accident or an insurance hike due to carelessness.

By following some of these tips, you'll find that it is easy to learn how to live on a fixed income, whether temporary or long-term.


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