I want to share how to save money on a tight budget. Are you struggling to get out of debt? Maybe saving for a big purchase, or just want to beef up your savings account? I am right there with you! We have 5 kids, and living one income it’s hard to find extra money for things like debt, vacations, or savings. I made a list of 10 ways to save money and get ahead.
First, let me say that you need an open mind about changing the way you do things. If you start off with a stubborn attitude, then you probably won’t get too far. But, if you are willing to truly consider change – you might be surprised how much money you can save. Even $5 here or there, it all adds up. Don’t wait till you can save large chunks – start small. Start with what you can. Start now.
Second, you have to be firm with yourself about actually saving the money that you save! Ok, that might sound weird, but hear me out. When I save $20 by eating at home, then I need to physically put that money aside. Whether it’s cash into a box, or electronic transfer from checking to savings – it has to be saved, or it will just disappear somewhere else. The one exception is if you are behind on bills, or have debt. Then it needs to go to one of those places, not into more unnecessary fun spending. Now on to the 10 ways to save money:
How to save money on a tight budget
1. Get new quotes from insurance, etc.
This is by far my least favorite! I used to just refuse to do it, but eventually I humbled myself and called. And while some companies didn’t have a better deal for me, some did! It’s worth it, and the worst they can do is say no.
While we are on the subject, some of us (ahem, me) hate to deal with insurance mistakes, and rather than keep calling (and being placed on hold!!), we’d just rather pay. But it pays to keep dealing with them!! Keep calling, till you reach the right person, or whatever it takes.
2. Credit union gives percentage yields.
Last time we moved, we switched to a Credit Union. For all practical purposes, it works like a bank, with regular free checking, savings, etc. But you are actually a member; part owner in the company. So you have to pay a small fee to own your share. Our Credit Union charges $5 per account. This is a one-time fee when you open your account.
The cool thing about a credit union, is that they pay you a small percentage of your balance every month. I forget the exact amount, but say – if you have 5,000 in your checking account, you will get a few dollars at the end of the month. Will it make you rich? Nope. But I say, any extra money helps!
3. Stop buying stuff & stay off Amazon.
Amazon Prime is the best and worst invention ever! Yes, it makes life sooo easy… just order food or diapers or car parts, and they arrive 2 days later! But then, there’s all those extra little items that you see and place in your cart. Things you didn’t know you needed, until Prime told you that you did. So be careful. Use the ‘save for later‘ feature, and see if you still need it after waiting for a week or two.
By the way, if you’re more of a Target gal, the same principle applies. Don’t buy things just because they are on sale or so cute. $1 and $5 items add up so fast, especially if you are doing a Target run every week.
4. Put some cash aside every week.
This only works if you are not going over your paycheck, i.e. living within your means. If you end every week by putting a few things on your credit card, then you still need to work on living within your means. But if you are not going over your paycheck, then start stashing a bit of money every week (or every pay period). Even if it is just $25 or even $10, at least it is better than nothing!
5. Recycle aluminum and glass.
Another small way to get extra cash, but hey, we will take it, right?! Some states actually pay you to return drink bottles. Our state doesn’t, but if you are in a state like Oregon or Michigan, then get that cash! In any state, you can collect aluminim cans and sell them to the recycling center for cash. It’s been so long since I did it, but a garbage bag full of cans will get you several dollars. Usually I leave this one for the kids, as an easy way to help clean up the community, and earn a few spending dollars besides.
6. Eat leftovers & waste nothing.
In our American culture, we focus so much on eating things we like, that we end up wasting tons of food. It is terrible! I understand that some food will go to waste, but to pitch perfectly good food just because we don’t want to eat leftovers…!! I tell my kids that the faster they eat it, the sooner I can make something new. However, I do try to cook appropriate amounts so we don’t have to eat the same thing for a week.
Think about it: if you have enough leftovers for another whole meal, and you throw it away, that’s like throwing away money. Say the original meal cost you $20 to make. If you toss half of it, it’s like tossing $10 in the garbage! Eating leftovers is one of the easiest ways to stretch your food budget. Also, learn how much your family eats at a meal, and try to stick closely to that amount.
The second way to save money in the kitchen, is to eat everything. If your recipe called for 1/2 can of something, don’t toss the other half – figure out how to use it up before it goes bad. Half of an onion can be wrapped and used next meal. Half jar of pasta sauce can be used for a small, quick pizza. Maybe you baked 8 potatoes and only used 6 for supper. Use the extra potatoes to make hash browns for breakfast. Figure out how to stop wasting good food. It takes a bit more time, but we can all improve.
7. Keep track of cost as you shop.
It is super easy to run up 200 or 300 dollars every time I go to WalMart. I planned to get milk, eggs, potatoes, and flour, but somehow I end up with a cart full of food — and there went my budget!
When I was a young wife and we shopped with a small amount of cash, I learned to keep track. I carry a pen and paper (usually my grocery list, but you can keep a small notepad in your purse), and as I place items in my cart, I mark down the dollar amount on my paper.
I always round up to the nearest whole dollar, to account for tax. I use tally marks to keep track, it takes less space than adding all the various numbers.
This way, I can see when I am nearing my grocery budget and reminds me not to pick up that pack of discounted donuts!
You might like this bill organizer from Amazon! (affiliate link)
8. Just eat less.
I dare say many of us are trying to lose weight, or wish we would be thinner. Just eat less. Yes, It really is that simple! If you consistently eat less, you will eventually lose weight.
Well, when we are talking about saving money, this is often overlooked. We think losing weight costs money. Eating healthier may cost more, but losing weight never needs to cost!
I like to think of half-size portions. If you normally eat two eggs and two pieces toast, try eating just one egg and one piece of toast. If you normally drink the whole 20 oz bottle of Coke, drink half and take the rest home to place in the fridge for a different day. When you are dishing out pasta, try to take only half as much as you normally do, or half of what you actually want to take. This method will save you pounds and dollars. Win!
Of course, use common sense – if you are thin or nearly at your goal weight, you can’t eat half all the time, or you will become malnourished. But if you have a fair amount to lose, then this should be ok for awhile.
9. Make your own baby food.
I love buying baby food in the cute little glass jars! It is just so handy to pop one into your diaper bag to take along, and they close so you can save for later. Super handy! But after your baby is a bit older and can manage food that has more texture, then you can save a ton by grinding your own baby food.
This is old-school, but I love it because you can use it to grind up food and use it as a dish. You can throw it in the dishwasher and it is just super easy to use! No electric needed, just place it on the table when you sit down for dinner. Place a few chunks of whatever you are eating into it, grind, and it’s ready! If the baby is younger, you can pour a tiny bit of water from your glass into the ground food to thin it out a bit.
My daughter’s pediatrician told me that it is better to just serve baby ground up food from the family diner table, so they aren’t as likely to develop food allergies. (Obviously, I am not a doctor, so talk to your own pediatrician.) I also like this handy baby food grinder because it is very portable. I grind cooked vegetables, sweet potatoes, avocado, pasta, soft chicken or ground beef, casseroles, fruit, and more!
10. Ditch pride and embrace thrifting.
Ok, maybe you don’t like the idea that some other person wore this article of clothing before you. But you know what? Bleach is .99 cents a gallon, and it will wash many loads of thrifted clothing! Maybe shoes are too gross for you – I understand. But shirts, pants, and coats? Those just need a good washing and they are fine.
Don’t allow your pride to keep you in debt. No one will know it is thrifted if you don’t tell them. (although I have been known to brag on a particularly great find!) You can find popular brands at thrift stores, for a fraction of the cost. I once bought a Pendleton wool vest for a few dollars, another time I found a brand new Wrangler shirt with tags. Bog boots, Adidas, Brooks, Nike, and more. All for just a few dollars each.
Here’s an article from LifeHack on thrifting: 20 Amazing benefits of thrift shopping.
You might enjoy this post: How to frugally feed a family of 6 without using coupons.
I hope this article has sparked some ideas on how to save money! I know there are dozens more ways to save – what is your best tip to save money?? If you comment your favorite money-saving tip, I may make another collection and post them!