When I talk to people who are trying to squeeze a little more money out of their already tight budgets, there are usually some things they are overlooking. It’s like anytime you stare at something for too long, it kind of stops making sense. Having a fresh set of eyes and new ideas for ways to save money might just be what you need.
While that’s good news, it might mean making some sacrifices that you aren’t excited about at first. My wife and I were both teachers…you’ve heard how little teachers make…and we had to get creative with how we saved money to put towards our student loan payoff.
That led to living with my wife’s parents and starting this blog, but we also cut as much fat as we could from our budget so that we could live an amazing life down the line.
I’d make that sacrifice any day.
When you have a tight budget and are looking for more ways to save money and thinking about how impossible or restricting they might be, think about why you are doing it. The goal is that it won’t be forever, but what you learn are ways to save money that will help you for years to come, even as you reduce your debt and see your income grow.
Here are 7 easy ways to save money on a tight budget:
1. Rethink what’s necessary
You’ve all heard the wants vs. needs debate, and we all know that there are just a few essentials humans need to survive. The thing is, we live in a time where our needs go beyond the simplest definition of food, water, and shelter.
Still, there are a lot of “needs” that aren’t as necessary as we’re led to believe.
I’m not going to tell you that one of the ways to save money on a tight budget is moving into the woods. I couldn’t do that, so I’m not going to tell you that you should.
What I will tell you is to look at what you’re spending money every month and think about how necessary it is. Or, are there other ways to get that service or product at a lower cost?
Here are a few necessities to rethink if you are looking for ways to save money:
- Instead of cable, try an online streaming service.
- Have a huge data package on your phone? Choose a smaller data package and use free wifi when you have access to it, like at work or home.
- Instead of shopping for new clothes or household items, try a thrift store.
- Go down to one car.
- Remember that your house doesn’t need to be that warm in the winter or that cool in the summer.
2. Negotiate your current bills
This is one of the ways to save money that will make you feel like a boss. There is nothing more satisfying and empowering than calling to get a lower rate on something you’re already paying for.
I think we forget sometimes that we can usually pay less for the services we’re already paying for, but the reality is that you can easily save money by calling to negotiate a lower rate on your current bills.
Every few months I actually call our internet provider to see if there are any new promotions that we could be taking advantage of, and usually, there are.
The thing with this one is that those promotions only last for a few months. If this is one of the ways to save money that you’re going to try, make sure you keep track of when that promo is over so you don’t end up paying full price.
Another one is car insurance. It’s a must-have expense if you have a car, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay as much as you’re currently paying for it. Calling your insurance provider and asking about discounts is an easy way to save money for sure.
Most of these industries are pretty competitive and they want to keep you as a customer. When you call to negotiate for lower rates you can even lean into it hard and threaten to leave them for a different company. Be willing to hear them say that “nope, you’re paying the lowest rate possible.” So you’ll have to be prepared with a response.
3. Change how you go out to eat
Eating out is really freaking expensive, which makes it something you should reconsider if you’re looking for ways to save money.
There are actually some pretty small changes you can make in your restaurant habits so you can still eat out occasionally while saving money at the same time.
One of the largest costs when it comes to dining out is the drinks. This is especially true for alcoholic drinks– you could buy a bottle of cheap but decent wine for the cost of one glass at some restaurants, plus you get the whole bottle! Even non-alcoholic drinks can cost a fortune when you’re eating out.
Restaurant portions are usually pretty big too, so things like ordering appetizers and dessert might just be overkill for your diet and your budget.
Or, instead of going out to eat for dinner, go out for lunch. There is a restaurant we frequent pretty often that offers the same exact dinner meals for lunch but they cost like $8 less. This kind of thing makes me a little angry, but whatever… I’ll just stop in for lunch and pocket that difference.
I’m going to go ahead and put this out there too– dining out is luxury. I know it feels easier sometimes, but there is nothing necessary about dropping $50 to get a meal. That’s several days of groceries for many people.
4. Get rid of your car payment
I talk about this one a lot on M$M because getting rid of your car payment isn’t just one of the easiest ways to save a couple hundred dollars a month, it’s also one of the smartest things you can do.
Thinking we need a new car has become a standard expectation for adults, but it’s ridiculous.
New cars are insanely expensive. But when you consider that they start to lose value the minute you drive them off the lot, a new car payment becomes one of the stupidest things you can get if you are looking for ways to save money.
Ready to get rid of your car payment? Read How to Get Rid of Your Car Payment: The Ultimate Guide.
5. Do a no-spend challenge
One of the hardest things about saving money on a tight budget is that it really doesn’t feel that fun. I’m not going to sugar coat that at all. Like I said in the beginning, finding ways to save money is about making sacrifices.
To make the best of it, why not turn your saving journey into a game.
What I mean by this is to challenge yourself to eliminate all of the extra spendings you do for a specific amount of time. This could be like a no-spend week or month.
That’s no extras of any kind for that period of time.
If that sounds too hard, then challenge yourself to cut out just the things that are really eating into your budget. If you like to drive-thru coffee, challenge yourself to go a month without it.
Typically, the things we can’t live without are just things we’ve turned into habits. Quit the habit and you’ll save money.
6. Keep track of your money
This shouldn’t surprise me anymore, but every time I hear someone talk about how impossible their financial goals are and then mention in the same sentence that they are clueless about their expenses, I literally have to take a step back.
If your finances feel so tight that you are considering something as extreme as getting rid of your phone for a year to make some cash, then you had better already know what’s going on with your money.
Tracking your spending and budgeting is a financial must have for any family or individual. You can use whatever you like to help, but you just have to do it.
Finding ways to save money starts by knowing what’s coming in and what’s going out. It will also tell you where you should start saving.
There are a TON of free and low-cost budgeting apps on the market today, and they take a lot of the work out of budgeting.
My favorite is Personal Capital. One, it’s free. But, it really gives you a clear overview of your financial picture. There is basic stuff like budgeting and pulling your transactions for you, but they also have investment tracking, a retirement planner, and net worth tool.
7. Start a side hustle
If you’ve cut all of the extras out but are still looking for ways to save money, then it might be time to start earning more. Sometimes there are only so many ways to save money before you just need to make more.
I’ve done a lot of articles on M$M about side hustling because it’s been how I went from high school band teacher with $40,000 of student loan debt to the guy on the internet who tells you about ways to save money.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite side hustle posts:
- Running Facebook Ads for Local Businesses ← this one is my favorite side hustle for 2020!