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How to Thrive on a Restricted Income

Written by David Jones on April 20, 2016

Let’s talk fixed income. It is the reality for millions of people in this country. According to the NCOA:

“22% of married Social Security recipients and 47% of single recipients aged 65+ depend on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. (Social Security Administration)”

That’s just Social Security recipients over 65. That doesn’t include the Social Security disability recipients. Now add to that, the SSI recipients, state welfare program recipients, and supplemental aid programs such as food stamps.

If you think that covers all of the people on a fixed income, think again. There are retirees living off of payments from life-long investments. Expanding our definition to any restricted income, there are the millions of service workers getting minimum wage, or incomes that are insufficient for any form of extravagance.

However you define restricted income, there are an awful lot of people living on one. You might very well be one of them. The question you might be asking yourself is how could anyone possibly thrive on such an income. Here is at least part of the answer:

Buying Second-hand

Some things should be purchased new in box, or bag, whichever the case may be. Some items are meant to only ever be used by one owner. After which, they need to be recycled. It goes without saying that you should never accept a used toothbrush. With that unpleasant thought as a primer, you can probably come up with an additional quick dozen things that should never be used and passed on to the next person.

But there are even more things in the world that can and should be confidently reused by someone else. Pre-owned cars, smartphones, and televisions come to mind. But it is not just consumer electronics that can be passed down to the next person. A quick glance at swap.com adds well cared for baby clothes to the list.

Of course, mothers of more than one child already know this. When one child grows out of a piece, it is made ready for the next one. Not all clothing items make the list of recyclables. But most do.

The money saved by shopping second-hand affords many opportunities to thrive on a restricted income.

Brand X

The #1 shipping tablet in the world is no longer the iPad. It’s also not the Galaxy anything. It is the nameless, white box Android tablet. These machines don’t even have names. They cost a fraction of what name brand tablets cost. Full disclosure, they’re also junk.

But that is not true of most off-brand products. Many of these products are made in the same factories, by the same companies with valuable brand names. You are probably not going to be able to tell the difference between the breakfast cereal with a cartoon animal on the front, and one without.

No one cares about the logo on your jeans or shoes. Be prepared to pay a 60% markup on household painkillers. With other items, the markup can be much greater. The money you save by getting rid of brands will fiancé a movie night or two that you couldn’t afford before.

Redefine What It Means to Thrive

If your definition of thriving is derived from “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” then you need a new definition. We could all stand to reconsider what it means to be happy, and what it takes to get there and sustain it.

Is thriving when you can afford to pay full price> Or does it count when you have to use coupons to reduce your bill for the same items? If you and your family read books, threw the frisbee, and played board games together instead of the latest nausea-educing, VR monstrosity, would that be thriving? Of course it would.

A fixed, limited, restricted income is not a theoretical proposition to be pondered by the elite. It is the constant reality for millions of good people in this country. Yet despite not having the means to vacation every year, they manage to thrive by buying second-hand when it makes sense to do so, ditching brands for value, and redefining what it means to thrive in the first place. You can too.

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