If you find yourself scrambling for money each month, try these easy ways to save money on a tight budget. You’ll learn some good habits and have some extra cash.
With 60 percent of the U.S. population living paycheck to paycheck, finding ways to save money on a tight budget is an extremely useful topic. But it’s not just something for folks who are struggling financially, in fact, the people that stick to budgets the most are the ones who don’t have to struggle month to month.
Believe me, I don’t start this article that way to make people upset or turn them away. I am here to help in any way possible. But I do believe that hearing the truth is the most effective way to understand changes that need to be made in your everyday life decisions.
Finding ways to save money on a tight budget isn’t hard at all, but actually following through with the plan is by far the hardest part. I know when I was 22 years old, it was easy to say I was going to cut back on eating out and going to the bar on the weekend. Yet, four nights a week I was ordering food, and every Friday and Saturday people knew exactly where to find me.
My harsh comments to begin this piece are strictly motivation. And if you have already made it this far, that means you are likely ready to make adjustments to your life in order to start saving more money. Not only will finding ways to save money on a tight budget give you more financial freedom, it will also give you the feeling of accomplishment and drive you to bigger and better things.
Keep reading for some easy tips on ways to save money on a tight budget.
Choosing How You Eat:
Perhaps the easiest way to save money on a tight budget is just looking at the way you eat. There are a number of different factors that you can adjust to help save some extra cash each month.
The first part is just eating at home. Even for two people to eat out and be somewhat cautious of what they are getting, you are unlikely to escape for under $30 a meal. I would argue that even one of the more expensive meals you can make at home wouldn’t be any more than $10-15.
That means if you are eating out three times a week between all meals and cut it back to once, you could easily be saving more than $100 a month. That right there is enough to possibly pay a cell phone bill or even an electric bill which could be a huge help.
The second part of finding ways to save money on a tight budget when it comes to eating habits is helping your grocery store tendencies. One of the best habits we have adopted in our family is creating a menu for the week.
Not only does this take away the famous “what do you want for dinner?” dilemma that all families face, but it also helps keep you focused at the grocery store. When you go to purchase items and don’t have a plan, it’s very easy to get sidetracked and get a ton of extra stuff you don’t even need.
If you want to go next level, investigate grocery pickup. A lot of stores now offer it as a free service and there is no markup on your groceries. You want to talk about stopping nonsense purchases, I think I lost 10 pounds after we started picking up our groceries. There is no wandering down the cookie aisle, no donuts that are on sale that are too good to pass up. This strategy helps you buy only what you need and can often cut your bill by five to ten percent.
The final piece of saving money via the grocery store is couponing. I don’t mean you need to go collect 100 coupon ads and try to get $400 of free stuff you’ll never use. I mean coupons for stuff that you actually need and just need to cut them out.
I know where I live, each month I get a nice packet of coupons from multiple stores and it’s usually tailored to what I buy. Stores have access to everything with loyalty programs, and they want you to come back, so they discount what you actually want.
The key is to not buy extra items because you have a coupon. Truthfully, that is what the grocery store wants. But if you can stay disciplined and stick to your script, coupons can be very effective.
Finding ways to save money on a tight budget may not be the most fun, but it certainly makes life easier. In a time where grocery prices have already increased at least five percent because of nationwide inflation, finding a way to cut costs can be tremendous. In my family, by cutting back eating out to roughly once a week, ordering our groceries, and couponing, it’s safe to say we save at least $400 a month as a family of four.
Change Office Habits:
For about the last 16 months, I have been completely working from home. That is going to soon end, and some of the bad office habits I had before could easily come back. One of the first months that I was fully at home, I was doing our budget and noticed a chunk of extra money left over.
Maybe some of you are really good, but I was eating lunch out at least twice a week and buying coffee on the way to work at least another three days a week. We are talking about at least $40 a week or $160 per month that is just going down the drain.
If you want ways to save money on a tight budget, look at your work environment first. This somewhat ties back to my first point, but just make sure to pack your lunch every day. Find a friend who also packs and go sit in the cafeteria or outside and enjoy lunch with them. You still get away from the work and don’t spend the money.
I blame my wife solely for getting me addicted to Starbucks. Two years ago I could have said with a straight face I’ve never had the stuff. Now, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have it at least twice a week. There is nothing wrong with a guilty pleasure every now and then, but you can make the same thing at home.
One night after the kids were in bed, I googled my drink from Starbucks and about 10 recipes popped up. I tried a few and I’m amazed at how close it is to the real thing. I’m a nerd and did the math, it cost me about $1 a cup of my homemade blend, compared to $5.50 at Starbucks.
The fight will be hard with going back to the office because we all know going out for lunch just makes the day go faster, but if you are struggling to make ends meet, packing a lunch and making your own coffee can save you a fortune each month.
Cash is King (Sometimes):
When it comes to ways to save money on a tight budget, I’m willing to break a few rules to make things a little easier. If you have the discipline, I argue you should put every single charge possible on a credit card. Full disclosure: you need to pay that credit card in full for each statement, but the rewards on most cards are great.
I know my family hasn’t paid for a flight in years (we don’t travel that often), and most times I’m able to get a hotel for free or at an extreme discount because of points.
However, if you lack discipline, and really want to cut back on spending, use cash. The fact that you can take out as much as you want to spend in a week, or even a day, is a huge factor that really helps control spending.
When I was going to the office all the time and realized I was spending too much on coffee, snacks, and eating out, I started this practice. I took out $40 each week and had to make it last the entire week. If I ran out, I packed, if I had extra leftover one week, I could carry it to the next.
If you find yourself spending in one particular category far too much, the practice of using cash on that item can be a big help. If you run out of money too early, you have no one to blame but yourself.
I eventually got to the point where I no longer needed to use cash. I weaned myself back to credit, but still held myself accountable for spending.
All the Little Things Add Up:
I have gone through a few big items you can try when finding ways to save money on a tight budget, and now I want to dive into all the little things that can be done. It’s true, not one of these suggestions will likely make a huge difference, but if you try multiple strategies, they can still add up quickly.
This is just like anything else in your life, just start slow and find one or two things to adjust at a time so it doesn’t feel like you are flipping your world upside down.
One of the best ways to save money on a tight budget is by cutting the cord. What I mean by this is canceling your cable as well as every subscription that you have. One thing that was shocking to me is how many of these things I was paying for monthly.
Between cable and all the channels that now have their own app, at one point I was paying more than $80 per month for everything. Cutting that and starting over fresh was the best thing I ever did. Now, I don’t want to act like some saint that I’m not. I used this as a refresh to find what I actually used. In the end, I ended up cutting $80 a month but adding $40 back in for things I watched.
However, if you need to save money quickly, cutting the cord completely is a great option.
Another sneaky trick that can work is finding a way to conserve energy in your house. There are a ton of different ways to do this, and they can all add up if you are determined. First of all, switch your house to LED bulbs. They are far more efficient and take up less electricity.
One of the best tricks I have learned in energy consumption is a smart thermostat. Utilizing it, I adjust the temperature of my house depending on when I am home, or not home. For instance, I let it cool down at night and during the day when I’m not home, and have it warm up from 5 PM to 10 PM while I’m actually in the house moving around.
Most energy companies run a promotion to get a smart thermostat at a very cheap price. At my last two homes, I was able to get a smart thermostat for free from my electric and gas companies.
Last but not least, if you are trying to find ways to save money on a tight budget, I have one that seems crazy, but is possible. Make sure you DIY (do it yourself) everything, especially home projects. Typically, I would understand that I’m not capable and/or don’t have time, but here’s where the internet comes in handy.
Search the internet and you can find step-by-step directions for almost anything! I was someone that struggled to change a lightbulb (joking, kinda), but now I do almost everything. I have completely gutted bathrooms, added backsplashes, and painted almost every room in my house. Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.
At the end of the day, there are always ways to save money on a tight budget, but the actions necessary to truly reap the benefits aren’t always easy. The key to saving money is not trying to bite off too much at one time. Trust me, I went into crazy mode a few years ago trying to cut my budget by 15 percent and just wore myself out. Slow and steady always wins the race.