Let’s face it: it’s easy to get down on yourself and your situation when you’re walking around with a padlock on your wallet.
Sometimes budgeting can feel like you’re Rapunzel: up in your tower, solemnly watching your friends and all of the other villagers down below running around and spending, spending, spending. And what do you get to do?
But that doesn’t have to be the case!
See, there’s always a couple of ways to save money each month; you just have to think outside the box a bit.
From renegotiating on bills and paying credit card debt off faster, to making coffee at home and eating out less, I’ve put this list of ideas together for you to achieve your financial goals (yes, even on a tight budget!).
Create A Monthly Budget
Creating a budget is key to determining if you’re saving as much as you could be, and what your spending limit is to live within your means. Some simple math will tell you just that!
First, find your total monthly earnings by adding up all of your sources of weekly/monthly income. Then, you’ll want to create categories (groceries, gas, entertainment, etc.), and allocate funds for each one. Don’t forget to include one for savings as well! Add up your total monthly expenses.
Your magic number comes from deducting your monthly expenses from your monthly income.
If you find you’re spending more than you’re making each month, take a look at those expense categories again and see what you can cut back on (or cut out completely).
Pay Yourself First
It’s always a good idea to get your monthly bill payments out of the way as soon as you get paid.
But if you’re in the position to set aside a little from each paycheck first (for your savings, emergency fund, or whatever), then do so! Then, that money can’t be spent on something else later on.
When you have an amount you can afford to portion for this (whether it’s $25, $50, or $100), set up auto-transfer so that money will pull from your checking account and go into your savings each pay day.
Or, you could use auto-pay to do the same thing once a month on the day of your choice.
Plan Your Meals in Advance
This is a super helpful option if you’re prone to filling your cart up with everything you see at the grocery store — especially if you don’t figure out what it is you’re buying first.
By creating a weekly menu ahead of time for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, you’re shopping for those specific ingredients and only buying what you need.
You could also save a little more money here by basing meals on what you already have at home, or by planning meals around weekly sales at the store (this is where couponing can come in handy, too).
Cut Back on Eating Out
Sure, celebrating the end of a week by eating out every Friday is nice, but your money’s life is short-lived when you’re always buying breakfast before work, then going out for lunch with a friend, and ending the day at a restaurant or ordering pizza for dinner!
Each individual total may not seem like much, but don’t forget: all of the little costs add up BIG time.
Stick to your budget by cutting back on the amount of times you go out to eat, or get rid of this expense entirely by cooking your own (healthier and cheaper) meals.
Brown Bag Your Lunch
This one goes hand-in-hand with cutting back on eating out: you could potentially save a few thousand dollars every year by making your own lunch!
You might be skeptical, and that’s OK — let me just show you some simple math.
So, on average, let’s say you’re spending $10-$15 at lunch every weekday. That’s $50-$75 a week, and about $200-$300 a month.
Girl, that’s $2,400-$3,600 a year just spent on lunch. And that’s just an example with only YOU in the equation; so it’s even more if you’re continuously buying lunch for your husband and kids!
If you already love cooking, make a little more to have leftovers at work, or take advantage of meal prepping: make food in bulk at the beginning of each week and then portion it all up so you’ll have lunch each day. This is extremely helpful for other meals as well, so you’re not tempted to spend money later on!
Make Your Own Coffee
That daily $5 coffee sounds pretty cheap, but that’s almost $1,700 a year, when you could’ve made it at home (and even bought a couple extra ingredients to make your favorites)!
Buy your favorite beans, grounds, or blends to brew your own coffee at home.
Experiment with your at-home coffee by getting a bottle of flavored coffee creamer; using spices like cinnamon; stirring in condensed milk; adding vanilla extract — and so much more! There’s so many ways to spice up your day-to-day coffee routine at home so it doesn’t get boring.
Don’t Buy Bottled Water
This is another cost you probably don’t think about that can add up.
Invest in a good, reputable pitcher with a filter in it; get a filter that hooks up directly to your faucet; or just buy a refillable water bottle. Some of those bottles come with filters, too!
By doing this, you can help your wallet, and the environment.
Eat Less Meat
Meat can get pretty expensive, and isn’t the best for our health when we eat it every day.
By going meatless at least once a week, you can lower the risk of certain diseases and save money, even on healthcare costs!
There’s plenty of delicious, healthy, meatless meals out there that include plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, vegetables, and whole grains.
Who knows — you might even find your new favorite dish!
Buy Off-Brand Items
Most generic or off-brand items are absolutely similar to their brand-name counterparts. They’re just less expensive!
SOME could be hit-or-miss; oftentimes there’s no noticeable difference, but occasionally, you can tell. Either way, these cheaper, off-brand alternatives to your favorite household items/groceries are worth trying!
Cancel Your Unused Memberships and Subscriptions
You’d be surprised at how many people don’t realize they’re still paying for services that they don’t use anymore through auto-pay!
Canceling unused or rarely used monthly subscriptions — like streaming services, gym memberships, and tanning salon fees — is an easy way to save good chunks of money every month on that budget of yours.
Get creative and think of FREE ways to do some of these things you’re paying for. For example, you can always exercise at home with YouTube videos or even go to the park a couple days a week as a family!
Lower Your Bills by Renegotiating Contracts
You could save money by making calls to your service providers (cable, internet, car insurance, landline, etc.) and attempting to get better rates on your contracts.
Research the competitors in your area, use comparison sites to look at your current provider and a competitor side-by-side, and then renegotiate with each service for a lower rate!
Note that some bills are easier to reduce than others; if it’s an industry in which you could easily leave for a competitor’s services, you probably have a better chance of getting your bill lowered.
Pay Off Your Credit Card Balances in Full Each Month
Interest can sneak up on you if you let your credit card balances transfer to the following month instead of paying them off completely! (Not to mention, interests vary with each card provider and your credit score.)
If it’s near impossible to pay off your credit card bill in full each month, it’s probably best to stop adding to the damage that’s been done, and use cash instead.
Lower Your Credit Card Interest Rates
If you’re carrying a large balance on a credit card with high APR, you could request the issuer to lower your interest rate. You may have an even better shot at this if you have a positive payment history and low credit utilization ratio!
You could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on interest payments if you’re able to pay less interest rates, depending on your credit card balance.
Save Your Windfalls
While it may be tempting, try not to spend any extra money you earn like work bonuses, tax refunds, etc.
Instead, save up! Add that money to your savings, emergency fund, or use it to pay off debt.
Extra money like that can particularly come in handy if you have high interest credit card debt; paying this off can save you money on interest payments!
Save Money for Your Holiday Expenses
Creating a budget for your holiday expenses can help you avoid falling into the pit of holiday debt. If you carry a balance from holiday shopping, you’ll be making interest payments over the course of the debt — that’s obviously something we’re trying to stay away from!
Deciding how much you’ll need to save in advance (weekly or monthly) will allow you to have what you need later so you’re not adding yet another expense to your credit cards down the road.
Earn Cashback Online
If you do most of your shopping online, this could be a good option for you.
Save a little money by signing up for the best cash back apps and sites. You’ll be given a percentage of the money you spend on the things you would buy online anyways!
Some of the best cashback apps for online shoppers include Rakuten, CheckCashBack, Drop, Ibotta, and Checkout 51.
Buy Certain Things in Bulk
Buying in bulk allows you to get the best deals per unit. Maximize your savings even further when certain items are on sale, or by using coupons!
Toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, canned food, and other non-perishable groceries are just a few examples of items that are cheaper when bought in bulk. Fresh items and dairy products can also be bought in bulk if you plan on using them immediately.
Downgrade Your Services
If you weren’t a fan of the earlier suggestion of canceling rarely used services, you could probably save some money by at least downgrading!
Pay less on your cable, internet, cell phone plan, and so on by only paying for the service packages you need or will actually use.
For example, if you’re paying for extra TV channels that you never watch, it might be beneficial to your budget to downgrade your cable package.
Cut Your Cable
Nowadays, cable isn’t the “be all, end all” TV option.
If you choose to save money by canceling your satellite TV subscription, you’ve got plenty of other options, such as on-demand online TV and video streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and so on).
By taking on cheaper cable alternatives or cable replacement services, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars every year!
Learn to DIY Things
You’ll love this one if you’re crafty and enjoy hands-on work!
“DIY” stands for “Do It Yourself”; meaning you can make or do almost anything you want or need for way cheaper instead of buying the actual product or service.
With just a little bit of research, some YouTube tutorials, and a couple products (some you may have on-hand already), you could make your own makeup, change your air filters, fix that leaky toilet, paint your own decorative canvases, or make your friends’ holiday gifts — instead of spending a good amount of money on each!
This could turn into a new hobby for you, and you could even have fun DIY parties with friends.
Sign Up for Reward Programs
Save money on your everyday purchases if your local grocery store has a reward program.
If your store gives 5% back on a rewards program, and you spend $500 a month there, that’s an easy $25 a month that you otherwise wouldn’t have had. It may not seem like much, but a little is a lot when you’re on a tight budget!
Try Grocery Store Apps
Some grocery stores have apps that include coupons and deals for use at their stores.
By downloading and searching through the app, you could end up saving money on items you were going to purchase anyway, or even plan new weekly meals around what’s on sale!
Most of these stores also offer discounts exclusively to their app users. Depending on the store and if you have a rewards card through them, you might be able to add the card onto their app to save more money.
Maximize on savings even more by using third-party coupons along with the in-app discounts.
Make a Grocery Shopping List
Shopping without a list usually means you’re tempted to buy more things you don’t actually need, because you’re spending more time looking around in each aisle. Money — wasted!
Easily avoid impulse purchases by creating a list before heading to the store, stick to it, and don’t browse.
Shop Sales After the Holidays
Save tons of money on seasonal items when they go on sale at the end of each holiday season. Most stores have major discounts on an assortment of seasonal decor and gifts after the holiday passes.
That way, you’ll have everything you need for next year already, without paying full price!
Grow Your Own Herbs and Vegetables
This is another option that could turn into a new, family friendly hobby.
Save money by growing your own fruits and vegetables! It’s a rewarding activity to literally be able to eat the fruits of your labor, and in turn, cut back a bit on grocery bills each month.
Jars of seasonings can get expensive too; luckily, most herbs are pretty easy to grow. If you go the indoor route, they’d bring life to your kitchen on a windowsill!
Find Free Activities
Save money on entertainment by attending free events and activities in your area!
Use event tracking sites like Eventful; download the Eventbrite app for freebies on your phone; and read local magazines to learn about free upcoming events.
Quit Unhealthy Habits
Sometimes this is easier said than done, but if you’re willing to put your mind to it, this could benefit your budget and your health!
By cutting back on (or quitting entirely) drinking and/or smoking, you could save thousands of dollars per year.
Just to put it into perspective: if you spend $5 a day on smoking, that totals about $2,000 a year.
Cut Your Water Bills
You could pay a little less on your water bill each month by doing a couple of simple things.
Lower water consumption by turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth; install low-flow showerheads; spend less time in the shower; run full loads of dishes and laundry; and finally get around to fixing that leaky pipe.
Turn Off the Lights
This one’s simple! If you’re leaving a room or leaving the house, turn the lights off. Get into the habit of turning them off when you know that particular room or area won’t be in use.
Doing this can also extend the life of your light bulbs, so you won’t have to buy more as often!
Change Your Thermostat
Pay less on your monthly energy bills by lowering the thermostat a few degrees in the winter, and turning it up a few degrees in the summer.
Lower your thermostat when you leave the house and when you’re asleep to save money, too.
Personally, I never thought about this one, but appliances and devices that are plugged in and sit on standby still consume electricity.
Unplug computers, TVs, printers, coffee makers, phone chargers, and so on when they’re not in use to cut down on your bills even more!
As you just saw, there’s plenty of ways to cut costs, lower bills, and save money on a tight budget. What’s even better — this obviously isn’t an exhaustive list. Your options are limitless!
Get creative with saving by learning some DIY skills; make simple habits of doing certain things around the house; or be a little more straightforward by renegotiating with your service providers.
Whatever route(s) you choose, you’re sure to be able to keep some money in your pocket here and there. Good luck!