Having a tight budget is rarely easy. It likely requires a little bit of sacrifice, discomfort, and a lot of patience. For many, setting a strict budget is understandably tricky. Where do you start? What should you eliminate? How long should you even enforce this budget? It can all be tricky to navigate. Below are some helpful ways to save money on a tight budget.

Related: You Need a Budget: 6 Reasons To Start Today

Lifetime membership: a great way to save money while on a budget
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Why You Should Implement a Tight Budget

Tight budgets are used for a variety of reasons. Want to save up some money for a future purchase? Tight budget. Is your income low, or have you recently been unemployed? Tight budget. Are you trying to pay off a large expense? A tight budget is often the answer to a variety of financial challenges.

The beauty of a budget is that it can be implemented by anyone of any age at any time. You don’t have to be in late adulthood paying off a mortgage or a new college student trying to save their pennies; even children can get in on the action and learn responsible financial wellness when taught about setting guidelines for and implementing a budget. 

The reality is this: if you’re earning money, it’s wise to implement a budget. How strict or “tight” your budget is will depend on your circumstances, purpose, salary, etc. 

As you navigate the ups and downs of setting and maintaining a budget, it’s important to recognize areas where you can save money. By following these ways to save money on a tight budget, you’ll be able to responsibly stick to your budget without cramping your lifestyle.

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#1: Stop Buying Brand-Name Products

This can be a tricky one for people to give up. Well-known products with big brand names are sometimes the “norm” when it comes to purchasing. Brand name products are associated with the pretense of luxury; why buy the generic brand cereal when the well-known and highly-commercialized brand is more expensive and makes you look a tad more bourgeois? 

This mentality applies to all sorts of products: toilet paper, toothpaste, tennis shoes, bread. People often feel that they have to buy the commercialized, brand name product because it reflects their social and/or economic status. But in all reality, if someone comes to your house and is judging your character based on what kind of toilet paper you use, maybe they are the ones with a problem.

Stop buying brand-name products. They are usually almost exactly the same as generic products. Start buying generic brands of food, clothing, etc., and you’ll notice that all those little expenses add up. Sacrificing the better brand for a short amount of time will ease the pressure on your bank account and give you more wiggle room in your budget for other necessities.

#2: Create a Weekly Meal Plan/Shopping List

Impulse buying is a very real thing, especially when you’re grocery shopping on an empty stomach. When you go to the store and aren’t sure what to buy, everything suddenly becomes an option. This can lead to massive spending and impulse buying things you don’t need or would have reconsidered if you had gone to the store with a plan in mind.

To avoid this debacle, consider creating a meal plan and shopping list at the beginning of each week. Take inventory of what you have in your fridge or pantry and write a list of only the necessities and an occasional snack. By planning your meals ahead of time and having a specific list that gives you purpose when going to the store, you won’t wander aimlessly and wonder how you ended up with 32 bags of semisweet chocolate chips and 12 cases of cream of chicken by the time you get home. Do yourself a favor and plan ahead; your budget will thank you for eliminating all of that unnecessary spending.

#3: Speaking of Food…Drop the Takeout

Did you know that ordering takeout is actually more expensive than preparing meals at home? It sure doesn’t seem like it, especially when you’re craving your favorite fast food joint’s burgers and fries. Don’t be fooled though; fast food is designed to be addictive, and frequent purchases can quickly add up. 

Consider setting aside a designated day when you’re allowed to get takeout, or reserve eating out as a special treat for birthdays, get-togethers, and holidays. Cooking from home is also healthier for you, so your budget and body will thank you later.

#4: Be Mindful of How Much You’re Spending On Utilities

If you’re paying for your own electric, gas, and water bills, then you know that expenses rack up, and fast. To be more mindful of how you’re using your utilities to avoid overspending, you could:

  • Take shorter showers. Excessive uses of hot water drive up charges to your utility bills.
  • Turn off the lights whenever you leave a room. This will lower your electricity bill.
  • Turn off appliances (stoves, showers, ovens, etc.) as soon as you are done using them to avoid wasted resources and money.
  • Abandon your morals and lead a medieval lifestyle. They only showered twice a year in tubs; hence, water bill solved. You could also replace your house or apartment’s lighting fixtures with tallow candles; your electricity bill will certainly significantly decrease.

In all seriousness, observe your utility habits and seek to cut down on how much water and electricity you use. Upon investigation, you’ll probably find that you can cut back in some areas, chopping significant spending and better aligning your lifestyle with your budget’s needs.

#5: Find Alternative Forms of Entertainment

While it may be soul-harrowing to sacrifice, discontinuing your Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming service subscriptions will significantly decrease your monthly and annual spending habits. As you decide to temporarily cancel your subscriptions to media content, your budget will thank you.

So, what to do with all of your newfound free time? YouTube Movies regularly offers free movies, often rotating through a variety of options. You can also begin reading a new book, writing, sketching, hiking, or running. Consider getting a public library card or a membership card for your local recreation center; the expense will be significantly less and will help keep your mind and body in tip-top shape.

The Bottom Line

No matter what stage of life you’re in, it will be easier to implement a tight budget and achieve your ultimate financial goals when you follow the above-mentioned tips. For more ideas, information, and other ways to save money on a tight budget, peruse some of our other great blog posts.

Related: Do More, Not Less, With a Budget