The best ways to live well on a tight budget starts with your mindset! Anyone can live the good life and stick to a small monthly budget even if you don’t have much money. Let me show you how to live on a tight budget.
1. Keep an eye on your spending habits.
Pay close attention to your bank accounts.
When beginning a monthly budget, the first step is to be aware of where your money goes. One of the best ways to keep track of a monthly budget is by using a budgeting app like YNAB (You Need a Budget) or Mint. These apps connect directly to your bank accounts and automatically categorize expenses for you. These apps take all the guesswork out of budgeting. If apps aren’t your thing, some of the easiest ways to keep track of your spending habits are manually tracking expenses on Google Sheets or Excel Budget Spreadsheets. Google Sheets is a great free way to get started with a monthly budget.
2. Shop smart at the grocery store.
Cook at home more often. The price of food is outrageous these days, so make it a habit to enjoy a cozy dinner at home! According to New Food Magazine, food prices have increased 10% in 2022 compared to 2021. Rising food prices can have a huge impact on your monthly budget. Utilize Pinterest, budget food blogs (cough cough), and good ole Google to find recipes that use the ingredients readily available to you.
3. Meal Plan
Meal planning is a great way to stretch your grocery budget even if you don’t have much money. Meal planning is an easy way to cut your grocery bill in half. Honestly, meal planning has become a favorite weekend activity. I love the challenge of using what I have to make a meal for my family. Take into account what deals or discounts are at your local grocery store. Using a meal planning template makes meal planning more fun and more simple.
4. Eat Seasonally.
In season produce and fruit tends to be the most affordable option at the grocery store. Meal plan around what produce is in season. Also, in season food is great food, too! In season produce tastes so much better than out of season produce.
5. Eliminate Food Waste
This is a great way to save on your monthly food bill. Shelf cook and use the ingredients you already have to come up with meals for your family. Incorporate leftovers into meals. Eliminating food waste is one of the best ways to shave a little off your grocery bill! If you’re looking to save more money on your grocery bill, check out my FREE MONEY SAVING EBOOK.
6. Stop eating fast food.
Fast food is tempting for sure, but it isn’t good for your health or your savings account. The time it takes to get to a fast food restaurant and wait in the drive through isn’t worth it. With food costs rising, restaurants are passing these costs along to the consumer. Save yourself the extra money and cook at home for the best prices. Great food can certainly be made in your own kitchen.
7. Eat less meat.
If you have a low income, eating less meat can come in handy. If you don’t have a lot of money, buying cheaper cuts of meat and incorporating more vegetables can be a cheaper grocery alternative.
8. Keep your gift cards handy.
According to KSL, Bankrate states that 51% of American adults have unused gift cards averaging $116 in value. That adds up to $15.3 billion dollars nationwide! Don’t be one of those people! Use your gift cards whenever you can and keep track of the balance. Need to cash in on old or unused gift cards? This page gives all the details on how to cash in old gift cards!
9.Shop at thrift stores if you’re on a tight budget.
Thrifting can get a bad rap, but shopping at thrift stores can save you a lot of money in the long run. Watch this video about finding Pottery Barn dupes at the thrift store. You do not have to spend a lot of money to have a nice looking home or a closet in style.
10. Price shop for the best deals.
Use the Capital One Chrome Extension to price match and find the best prices when shopping online. It is always a good idea to shop around before you buy. This service finds all the best deals and best prices for you, and it’s completely free to use.
11. Find the free way.
If you need something, check out a “Buy Nothing” group on Facebook in your local area. Ask to borrow from a friend or neighbor. In a lot of instances, working with a tight budget means finding the free way. Members can find free furniture and household items through a Buy Nothing group! All you have to do is pick it up! Also, a Buy Nothing group is great if you need to get rid of something. It’s true what they say – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
12. Find free events.
If you need some low cost entertainment, find free concerts in your local community. Many communities have free events and free concerts almost monthly. Take advantage of these free entertainment options.
13. Head to the local library.
A local library has so many resources. Free books, movies, and access to Libby. Libby is a free app that gives you access to thousands of audio books all with a membership card to your local library. Talk about a bargain! Libby is a great way to be well read on a tight budget.
14. Keep your eye on financial goals.
If you’re working towards a big financial goals, it can be hard to stay motivated. Write down your goal and keep it in a place where you will see it daily. Remind yourself of your “why” and stay the course.
15. Manage your mortgage payments.
Before buying a home, be realistic with yourself about your monthly budget and personal finances. Buying a home is a long term commitment, so be smart about how much you can realistically spend on a mortgage payment within a pay period. The best way to save money on a tight budget is to think BEFORE you spend.
16. Exercise the free way on a tight budget.
If you’re working with a tight budget, making small changes can free up a lot of money. Gym memberships or paid online streaming workouts are great, but working out for free is a great way to free up extra money in a small monthly budget. YouTube has a library of many free and effective workouts. If you’re learning how to live on a tight budget, making do with the free resources is a great way to free up extra money. If money is tight, a gym membership should be the first expense to go.
17. Make your credit card statements work for you.
A good next step to saving money and living on a tight budget is to use credit cards to your advantage. Do not use credit cards if they ruin your peace of mind. However, credit cards can give you extra money through points on expenses you already have. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a reliable card with a great bonus offer. Treat your credit card like a debit card and only use it for normal purchases on a regular basis. Use credit cards responsibly and benefit from points. In addition, using credit cards responsibly can help build a high credit score.
18. If you’re prone to credit card debt, don’t use credit cards.
If you can’t control your spending habits on a tight budget, don’t use credit cards. You know yourself, and if you can’t manage a credit card wisely, do not give yourself the opportunity to ruin your financial goals or slash through your emergency fund.
19. Have an emergency fund.
An emergency fund gives major financial peace of mind, and it can help you save money. If something is broken, you have the money to take care of the issue upfront. You don’t have to get on a payment plan or pay interest on an unexpected expense. Most financial experts recommend an emergency fund of $2,000 or more depending on your lifestyle and location.
20. Expect the unexpected expense.
Life happens, and it is your job to be prepared for it. Keep your emergency fund near but not close. It is true what they say – expect the unexpected. Having extra money on hand for the unexpected expense saves money and time in the long run.
21. Financial Planning
A great way to start saving money is to come up with a financial plan that fits with your mindset and what you want for your life. Whether it’s pursuing financial independence or paying down credit card debt, a financial plan makes saving towards these goals more attainable. First, take good look at your priorities and plan accordingly. Having a financial plan sets you up with the right mentality to save some serious money.
22. Pay off credit card debt.
First thing, do not give a single day of your life to credit card debt. Start tackling credit card debt if you haven’t already. Make a plan that will save you money on interest in the long run.
23. Leave a little room for fun without feeling guilty.
For example, think of a budget as permission to spend rather than being rigid or restrictive. Even if you have a tight budget, making room for a little fun money can make sticking to a monthly budget feel a little bit less exhausting. You can save money on a fun date night by searching for free fun things to do or by going to look at new places and meeting new people. Also, fun doesn’t have to involve spending money! Have an at-home movie night or check out a free local museum.
24. Lower your car payment.
If you have a car payment and car loan like many Americans, it might be wise to look into refinancing your car payment. A refinance can save you money by making your monthly payment lower by securing a lower interest rate. Bankrate makes it simple to compare auto loan rates.
25. Do a “No Spend Challenge” at the end of the month.
At the end of the month when money is a little tighter, try a no spend challenge. Don’t spend any money unless it is an absolute necessity. If you’re exploring how to live on a tight budget, this challenge is worth trying!
26. Try Facebook Marketplace.
Facebook Marketplace is a great place to shop for second hand items in good condition. You can save money on furniture or baby gear versus buying brand new furniture or baby gear. I actually purchased a ton of birthday party decorations off Facebook Marketplace for my baby’s first birthday. The decor looked so cute, and I spent next to nothing on it. New things cost more so buying secondhand is such an easy way to save money.
27. Thrifty Closet
If you want to save money on clothing, try Poshmark or Thred Up. These retailers sell clothes second hand and have the best prices! New clothes can be so expensive, so I use these services often. I get the convenience of online shopping but with thrift store prices. Online thrift stores are one of the best ways to shop online if you don’t have much money. Actual thrift stores are great for your closet, too. However, if you just want to order one particular item, online thrift stores are the best way to do it!
If you’re looking to make a little bit of money or extra cash yourself, selling gently used clothes on Poshmark is a great place to start.
28. Do a “Spending Habits Check In.”
When spending money or shopping, ask yourself what your end goal is when making a purchase. Are you buying out of necessity, boredom, frustration, happiness, or excitement? Afterwards, ask yourself if making this purchase will enable you to reach the “end goal.” Getting to the root of your spending habits can save so much money in the long run.
29. The good life isn’t the expensive life.
The things that bring true joy and give us the coveted “good life” usually are things that are free or extremely low cost. If you want to save money, live the “good life” and recognize all the blessings around you. Happiness begins with gratitude.
30. Shop at discount grocery stores.
Discount grocery stores carry an oversupply from surrounding grocery stores. They pass along the best prices and the best deals to you. You can find high end grocery items for little money. Check out this page for more information on discount grocery stores.
31. Say goodbye to Cable TV.
Listen, if you haven’t already ditched your Cable TV, now is the time. Please use HULU on demand. It is so much cheaper and works great.
32. Get creative with gift giving.
Gift giving is one of those monthly budget busters. Gifts can sometimes come up as an unexpected expense. When learning how to live on a tight budget, it is important to plan ahead if you know a gift might be required of you. Make homemade gifts or find cheap ways to make gifts more meaningful. Some of the best gifts I have ever received didn’t cost a dime.
33. Don’t buy greeting cards.
Make your own greeting cards on Canva or buy them at discount stores. (Aldi has cards for $1!) Don’t spend $8 every time you need a card for a birthday party. Save that money or use the money on a gift for that person. An even cheaper option is to buy greeting cards in bulk. Need a greeting cards organizer? Make your own with a binder and my free printable.
34. Walk whenever you can.
Gas prices aren’t the best prices at the moment. Save your money and walk more than you drive if this is realistic for you and where you live. In the United States, many cities offer low cost transportation. Walking is also incredibly good for you and incredibly low cost. (See? The best things in life really are free.)
Instead of hiring a babysitter, have local friends watch your kids in exchange for child care for another date night. Helping one another can save money and build relationships.
36. Call your service provider.
Negotiate with your service provider about a lower rate. It may come to a surprise, but many service providers are more flexible on price than you might expect. Shop around for the best prices and the best deals. Wifi, Natural Gas, and Cell Phone service providers are a great first step to save a little money on a low income.
37. Use Rakuten.
Rakuten, formerly known as Ebates, gives you cash back on online purchases. It is simple to use and allows you to get the best deals on your favorite items. Rakuten sends you a check in the mail all for using their link to shop. Rakuten is a great way to make a little extra money when living on a tight budget. Just simply browse the Rakuten homepage and find the store you need to shop at. Click the link and start earning cash back! Rakuten has a great chrome extension that makes saving money on a tight budget even easier. Simply install the extension and activate the cash back! Rakuten is simple and easy to use. With Rakuten, shoppers get anywhere from 1% to 10% back on their purchase. Who doesn’t want free money?
38. Become your own esthetician.
According to Skinstore.com, an average American spends more than $320.00 per year on beauty related expenses. If you have a small budget without much money, learning to be your own beauty professional can save you a lot of money! Take a look at your beauty related spending habits. Learn how to trim hair and give yourself an at-home facial. Your savings account will thank you!
39. Consider bulk buying household goods.
Some real grocery bill busters are all those household items and paper goods! Those items can add up quickly. Next time, buy toilet paper and paper towels in bulk or on Amazon. Buying these items on a whim is more costly and it wastes time. Make a plan for the items you know you are going to need. Or be intentional about using less of those items. Use wash cloths instead of paper towels. The small changes make the most difference over a few years.
40. Buy the generic brand.
If you’re learning how to live on a tight budget, a great first step is to buy generic brand items. There isn’t a noticeable difference in quality, and it can save you so much money over the course of the year. Most of the time, the small changes can save you money in the long run.
41. Skip the big deals.
This might sound counterintuitive, but consider skipping the big deal days like Good Friday or Prime Day. While the potential savings may be high, there will always be a good deals. Do not let a good deal lead you to purchase something you don’t truly want or need. These deals are enticing and for a good reason, but at the end of the day, do you really need that item on sale?
42. Assess the potential savings.
If you’re learning how to live on a tight budget, start thinking about a purchase with a cost-per-use mentality. If you buy a low-quality item, will you be able to use it in the long run? If you invest in a high quality item, will it be cheaper in the long run because it doesn’t need to be replaced? In most cases, the durable and high quality usually lasts longer.
43. Make do at the end of the month.
This sounds simple, but we’ve lost the art of making do. If it’s the end of the month, you might have to go without something you want until your pay period starts again. Wait until you have the resources to actually pay for what you want to purchase.
44. Make extra cash.
If you need a little extra cash until the next pay period, there are so many ways to bring in a little side money. Fiverr, Instacart, Doordash… the list goes on. If your monthly budget feels tight, find a few spare hours and make a little extra cash. There are remote side hustles, and you can make money from your couch!
45. Make Aldi your new grocery store.
Grocery shopping at Aldi is on of the best ways to save on your grocery bill. Aldi has several ways they pass savings along to the consumer. If you’re figuring out how to live on a tight budget, Aldi can save you so much money and help you leave extra money in your savings account! Aldi has great food selections for the best prices. According to womenwhomoney, many consumers report saving a whopping 40% on their grocery bill. Talk about the best deals with extra cash in your pocket.
46. Change your daycare.
If you have kids at home, finding a church daycare can save you a lot of money. Church daycares tend to be less expensive. I saved over $300 a month when switching over from a traditional daycare to a local church daycare. If you have a low income, these monthly savings can be such a long term benefit.
47. Cook from scratch.
Cooking from scratch is a great way to save a little bit on your grocery bill. Cooking from scratch means that you buy ingredients and not packaged products. Cooking from scratch can take bit more time, but you’ll have great food and a happy savings account!
48. Keep an eye on monthly subscriptions.
Monthly subscriptions can be sneaky monthly budget busters. Read the fine print and decide whether you actually need that monthly subscription. Is it useful or beneficial to you? What is the cost-per-use? Check in with your monthly subscriptions on a regular basis. Truebill, which will soon change to RocketMoney, actually finds subscriptions that you’re not using and cancels them for you! Using Truebill is a great way to free up extra money in your monthly budget.
49. Sell on Mercari for extra money.
Mercari is an up and coming online marketplace. You can sell basically anything! If you need some extra money at the end of the month, selling gently used items is a great way earn extra cash. If you’re learning how to live on a tight budget, giving yourself a little bit of wiggle room can help you reach financial goals faster!
50. Limit social media use.
Oh yes, I went there. Social media is full of advertisements and people claiming that you need this or that to be happy. You don’t. The easiest way to save money on a tight budget is to keep your eyes on your financial goals, not false advertisement claims.
51. Saving before spending.
The very first step to living well on a tight budget is to put money into your savings account before your checking account. A good savings goal range is 10% to 15% of your total income. However, if that amount is a little bit tough, save what you can each month. The key is to make savings consistent and automatic. This is the best way to build up that emergency fund and reach your financial goals.
52. Find an accountability partner.
Let’s face it. Learning how to live on a tight budget can be a little frustrating or lonely. However, it doesn’t have to be. Find a trusted friend to confide in. If you’re married, manage the monthly budget together and communicate clearly about financial goals and plans. Be transparent about your financial situation!
53. Become a DIY Guru on a tight budget.
If you’re exploring how to live on a tight budget, becoming a DIY guru is in your future. Learning how to do things yourself is a great way to save extra money on a small budget. The internet makes the DIY process much easier. Want to paint your fireplace doors? Learn to do it yourself.
54. Join a loyalty program.
Loyalty programs give you rewards for making regular purchases. Many loyalty programs can save you money later on by offering special promotions or coupons for loyalty program members. Other loyalty programs offer cash back on purchases made in a certain time period. Only join a loyalty program if it benefits you and your financial goals.
55. Work through money trauma and be fabulous with money.
In life, everyone has a story and a past. Sometimes, certain money topics can trigger a traumatic response. Being aware of any money trauma can help curb poor spending habits and saves extra money in the long run. Plus, you owe it to yourself (and to your bank accounts) to be the most financially stable version of you! Doing the hard work here can pay off big time and leave you feeling empowered about your financial situation. Learning how to live on a small or tight budget does not have to bring up destructive money memories. Learning how to live on a shoestring budget and learning how to manage money well can lead to healthy personal growth.
You are very wise! I’m very impressed with this list and will be sending to anyone I know that’s young, newly married, or on a budget! And when my kids get older, sharing this with them! All great tips!
Thank you, Crystal! I appreciate it so much!
These are some really great tips. We have been living off of one salary for years and it has definitely paid off in many ways. Love all the ideas to consider here!