Need to save some extra dough? Start with these effective, easy ways to save money on a tight budget.
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It’s always smart to live within your means. Spending less than you earn and living on a budget are some of the most important fundamentals of personal finance.
Embracing frugality will help you build a cushion to protect your family against the inevitable unexpected expenses of life.
It will help you avoid falling into debt and give you more money to pour into investments that will ultimately lead you to the dream of financial independence.
Of course, there are times when money gets particularly tight and living stingy becomes a top priority.
For example, if you lose your job, have your hours cut significantly, or get hit with a ton of medical expenses, you’ll need to take a closer look at your budget and cut out anything you don’t absolutely need.
Table of Contents
Proven, Easy Ways to Save Money When Money is Tight
Here are some ideas on expenses you might be able to cut if you need to find some extra wiggle room in your budget.
Subscriptions And Memberships You Don’t Need
Most of us have signed up for some kind of subscription service that we had every intention of using, but for whatever reason, we just never got our money’s worth.
Maybe you subscribed to the Food Network Magazine expecting to become a master chef, but years later all you have is a giant stack of magazines sitting in the corner.
Perhaps you dutifully pay your Costco membership fee every year even though you live alone and only shop at Costco once or twice a year.
What about your AAA membership that you don’t really need since your lease agreement already includes roadside assistance for free?
Do you need to spend twenty-something dollars every month on a bark box subscription? We all love to pamper our pets, but will your pup really think you love him less if you buy less expensive treats at the supermarket?
And of course, there is the most commonly under-used subscription of all time: the gym membership.
Every year thousands of people sign up for an expensive gym membership with high hopes of finally losing weight and getting back into shape.
January always seems to be the most popular time for gym signups. Everyone wants to turn over a new leaf in the new year and lose the extra pounds they put on during the holidays.
The funny thing is that after the first few weeks of the new year, most new members stop going to the gym. But many don’t actually cancel their membership. They just keep on paying their monthly fee and telling themselves they’ll start going to the gym “tomorrow”.
If that sounds familiar, do yourself a favor and ditch the gym membership. Just watch free workout videos on Youtube or start walking which has many amazing health benefits.
Or use some of your savings to buy a treadmill or exercise bike to keep at home. Of course, you do actually have to use it!
See Related: Ways to Make Money from Your Bike
I love to take the family out for a nice dinner at a restaurant. My wife and I both enjoy cooking, so we actually don’t mind preparing meals at home.
Plus, when you cook at home you know exactly what you’re eating.
But even though we cook a lot of meals at home, it’s still nice to have a break once in a while and let someone else serve you a meal instead. There’s something to be said for enjoying a fine-cooked meal prepared and served by someone other than yourself.
But taking a family of five out to eat is anything but cheap. Even if we just go to the local diner for some burgers, the bill will run me at least $75 to $90. If my wife and I decide to have a beer or two, or if we order an appetizer, we’re instantly paying over a hundred bucks for dinner.
That’s okay as an occasional treat but we certainly can’t afford to do it too often. Unfortunately, far too many families are spending more than they can afford at restaurants. A report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the average family spends over $3,000 per year on dining out.
If you can afford to pay for all those meals in cash that’s one thing.
But if you’re using credit cards to satisfy your need to eat out, you’re on a dangerous road that could lead you deeper into debt.
Use a tool like Personal Capital to track all your cash flow and expenses for free. You can manage your money in less than 10 minutes per month.
See Related: Top Alternatives to Mint to Manage Your Money
Your Food Bill
So, I just told you to limit how many times you dine out to save money. Does that mean your monthly food budget is automatically going to increase? Not necessarily.
Even though you’ll be cooking at home more often, there are still ways to do it without spending any more money. In fact, if you’re smart about it you can actually cook more dinners at home while also trimming your grocery budget.
I know that sounds hard to believe, but trust me on this one. It is possible as long as you learn how to meal plan.
When my wife and I first started planning out our family meals on a weekly basis, we noticed an immediate and dramatic impact on our grocery bill.
Don’t believe me? Here’s how we did it:
It all started with an argument when we both came home after a long day’s work and there was no dinner planned. We were both cranky and neither of us wanted to run to the store to pick up something that we could quickly prepare. We had already done that twice that week and we were just fed up with last minute trips to the supermarket.
We ended up ordering from the local pizzeria and it cost us about forty bucks. That was the final straw.
We decided right then and there that we’d start planning out our meals a week at a time. We’d do all our shopping in one big trip and buy everything we needed to prepare dinner each night of the week. We also left room on the schedule for an occasional treat of pizza or Chinese food.
Each week we consult the supermarket flyer to see what’s on sale and build our weekly menu around those items. Then we post the menu on a whiteboard in the kitchen so everyone knows what we’re having for dinner each night.
This simple act of planning out meals and shopping for everything at once has benefited us in a number of ways:
- By planning ahead and taking advantage of sales and coupons we significantly cut our grocery bill
- Fewer trips to the store mean fewer opportunities to spend on unplanned purchases
- Having a weekly menu for dinner means no last-minute scrambling and unplanned take out orders.
- Knowing what’s for dinner every night means less stress and arguing over what we should eat
See Related: 10 Best Cashback Apps to Save
According to a report published by Consumer Reports, the average monthly cable bill is a whopping $217. That’s an awful lot of money to spend just to watch TV.
Just do the math for yourself. If you’re paying $217 a month that comes to $2,604 a year!
Even if you cut your cable bill in half, you’d save $1,300 a year. That’s enough to pay for a nice vacation or a DIY project that would give your home a whole new look.
One easy way to trim your cable bill is to ditch cable altogether. There are plenty of entertainment options outside cable including Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.
Of course, you’ll still need to pay for a speedy internet connection to stream all that entertainment, and many streaming services come with their own monthly fee.
But you can get literally thousands of hours of viewing for about $12 a month on Netflix. If you ask me that’s a pretty good deal.
And maybe cutting back on TV will be better off for you anyway. You can use that time to do something fun with your family, start a do-it-yourself project, or read a book.
You can even start your own blog or take a class to increase your skillset and make more money.
Financial Wolves Tip: Use Trim to cut your cable bills. You can use it for free and the app will analyze all your subscription and cable bills. Then, analyze what bills can be trimmed out.
Your Morning Coffee
I’m a complete coffee addict and I absolutely love my morning coffee. I’m actually not sure how well I’d be able to function without my daily dose of caffeine.
If you’re the same, then stopping at Dunkin or Starbucks every morning for a cup of coffee is a habit you might be reluctant to give up. But your wallet will surely thank you.
Let’s say you spend an average of $5 per day on your morning coffee habit. If you do that five days a week, it adds up to $100 a month for coffee.
You can splurge a little on good quality coffee and make yourself a killer cup of Joe to take on the road.
See Related: How to Drastically Cut Expenses
This one might be a little controversial but hear me out.
If you’re out of work, have suffered a decrease in income, or are struggling to get out of debt, you really can’t afford to be buying gifts for other people.
Just think about how all that post-Christmas debt makes you feel. Then add in birthdays, communions, weddings, anniversaries, and graduations. If you have even a mid-sized family you’re dropping some serious cash on gifts.
And are those gifts really remembered? Or are they just more “stuff” that takes up space?
If you’re struggling to get by it’s time to put a stop to all that gift-giving. Have a heart to heart with your family and explain that you just can’t afford to splurge on gifts anymore.
I know pride can sometimes get in the way and you may be embarrassed at first, but for all you know they’ll be grateful.
They might be having the same financial struggles you are and they’re just too proud to speak up.
Of course, if gift-giving is really important to you, find a way to compromise. Set a strict dollar limit so you can better budget for gifts and keep spending under control. Or do a Secret Santa where each person participating only has to buy a gift for one person.
This way everyone is happy and you don’t have to feel like the Grinch.
See Related: 11 Top Jobs That Pay Tips
Services You Can Do Yourself
My brother-in-law pays a landscaper $35 every two weeks to have his lawn cut. That saves him a few hours every other week, but I think $70 a month is pretty steep.
Don’t get me wrong, I do sometimes consider hiring a landscaper…like when it’s the dead of summer and temperatures are in the nineties.
But for the most part, I don’t mind doing the lawn myself. It may not look perfect, but I get the satisfaction of having done it myself and a hell of a good workout too.
Think about some of the services you currently pay other people to do for you. Is there anything you could do for yourself and pocket the money?
I keep my hair cut pretty short so a few years back I purchased a hair clipper so my wife can buzz me every few weeks. That saves me a $17 haircut again and again.
- Can you wax your eyebrows, color your hair, or give yourself a pedicure at home rather than going to the salon?
- How about giving the dog a bath in the shower rather than paying the groomer?
Maybe even learn how to change your own oil instead of taking your car to the mechanic.
There’s not much you can’t learn how to do by watching a few YouTube videos. There’s a step-by-step tutorial for just about anything you can imagine.
You can save a ton of money with nothing more than a little elbow grease and a willingness to try something new.