20 {Practical} Tips To Live On A Tight Budget And Still Save Money

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It’s not easy to live on a tight budget at first but when you get the hang of it you’ll later realize that it’s not that bad. 🙂

We’ll become more mindful of how we spend our money and that will make us buy or shop with better intentions in the future.

When I tried living on a tight budget because I was in credit card debt and had a lot of monthly commitments, it was difficult for me to adjust at the beginning. I would go over my budget, I would give in to my cravings, and sometimes even use my other credit cards without checking the balance first.

P/s: I share my personal story on this only on my email list, if you’re interested to know, click here. You’ll get a FREE budgeting template too 😉

But after a few weeks, I’ve gotten used to it. Not easy, but I did. I got my budget right and was able to save more. It got me thinking what if I lived like this earlier? Would I’ve fallen into debt still? My guess is a resounding NO.

So for you guys out there who are trying to save more money or fight their way out of debt, this post is for you! I’ve written 20 important tips on how to live on a tight budget that I hope can inspire you to find creative ways to manage your money better 🙂

Continue reading below if you’re serious about living on a budget!


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1. Make A Budget

Obviously! How can we live on a tight budget if we don’t have a budget to start with?

People think that living on a tight budget means to just lower your spending. Although it’s partially right, you also need to quantify your spending first so you can smartly lower your spending rather than just estimating.

First, calculate how much you make every month. List down your income minus all the taxes and deductions – that’s your take home every month. List down your other income stream – do you have a part-time job over the weekend? Or do you have a side hustle that you regularly do? List down the money you get from those things as well.

Second, jot down the things that you usually spend money on every month. Those can be:

  • Groceries
  • Electrical bills
  • Phone bills
  • Subscriptions
  • Gas
  • Outside food
  • Drinks
  • Insurance

List down everything that goes at the top of your head. One effective way to do it would be looking at your last month’s bills and receipts (if you kept them).

Third, place them all in certain categories. You can have categories like Essentials, Entertainment, Lifestyle, and Work.

Fourth, be honest to yourself. Since we’re on the topic of living on a tight budget (emphasis on “tight”), what are the things that you’re willing to completely cut off? Things that you really won’t spend a single cent on?

Fifth, edit your current budget. Since you’ve answered what are the things that you’ll cut off, erase them on your list. 

Sixth, follow your budget. The road to successfully living on a tight budget requires you to be disciplined in following it. 

When I was making a tight budget which I lived on for only a few weeks, I convinced myself not to give in to milk teas and other cravings. I kept reminding myself that I just need to save a certain amount of money and then I’ll loosen up this budget!

2. Be Creative And Try Out New Things

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Sometimes we just need our creative juices to do the same kind of activities but in a cheaper manner.

For example, if you always start your day with a Starbucks coffee, then consider making your own coffee from now on. There are tons of Starbucks coffee recipes out there that you can follow!

Why not try something new? Instead of your old routine, you can try going out on a hike, bike for a couple of miles, do some gardening, or even paint! It’s the perfect time to do the things that you didn’t have the time to do before.

When I noticed that I didn’t go to the gym more frequently, I canceled my membership and started doing yoga at home – I was hesitant at first because I love doing group sports activities but that was probably one of the best decisions I made. Not only do I get to save money but I get to save time as well since I’m doing yoga at home. 🙂

3. Monitor Your Spending

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You can’t improve something you can’t measure.

If you want to make something better you need to have data to compare it from. Just like if you want to lose weight, you need to check your weight every month. If you want to be a better student, you compare it by your grades. If you want to be a better athlete, you compare your previous numbers from your last games.

The same goes when it comes to living on a tight budget. You should still input your expenses on an app or a spreadsheet. So that you’ll know where you overspent if you max out your budget.

P/s: You can get my FREE Budgeting Template on Google Sheet here.

That’s what happened to me at first. I figured that it’s not an easy task to just gauge your budget. I needed to try it out first but what I did was instead of a monthly budget, I switched to a weekly budget.

After nailing down my weekly budget and I’m able to save money every week, I adjusted to a monthly budget. After I got the monthly down, I tried to change it up by tracking my expenses daily. Basically, I’ve tried every single time frame! 

I know listing down your expense can feel like work but it’s part of the discipline that you need to follow.

Don’t worry, if you consistently do this for weeks, that task will come naturally.

You can check out TheBalance’s best expense trackers for 2020. This will help in making this task easier. I tried using apps but for some reason, I just couldn’t stick with any. So.

What I use to track my spending now is via Google Spreadsheet. Other than the fact that I love Google, I use their spreadsheet because it’s the app that I’m familiar with. Plus, it’s convenient! 

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Also, if you’re a fan of Google Sheet like me, I would recommend checking out Tiller Money. It’s like my budgeting template on steroid PLUS all is personalized & automated – how cool is that?! It’s a paid subscription though – $75 annually but it’s worth it. Trust me. Check them out.

4. Look For Other Ways To Earn Money

Side Jobs: How to Earn Big in Your Free Time | HubPages

If you want to live on a tight budget to save more money, one of the most effective ways would be to increase your income.

Not only are you now a frugal-master but you’re a master who’s savings is going through the roof exponentially!

In my Make Money blogs, I’ve written 16 blog posts on ways that you can make money.

If you’re a college student who’s looking for a side hustle:
  1. Freelance – When I was in university, I was a freelance makeup artist. I enrolled in a makeup artistry class to level up my skills and knowledge. Although I wasn’t doing it full time, it was a good experience to have. Plus, if you’re a freelance, you can cherry-pick your jobs depending on your schedule! Below are some of my posts that can help:
  2. Social Media Influencer – If you have a ton of followers on your social media (which a lot of students have), you can try contacting your beloved local stores and ask them that you can post their service or restaurant in exchange for some dollars or free food! Many brands settle for this because it’s much more cost-efficient and it’s much more targeted than a radio or tv ad!
  3. Blogger – This one of my most favorite past time since high school and I brought it until I was already working. And since I’m biased, this would be my number 1 recommendation to you! If you want a full detailed post on how to monetize your blog, you can read my post about affiliate marketing.
  4. Selling Printables – this is pretty new to me but I’ve found love in making printables! Thanks to Suzi (another fellow blogger) who created an amazing course to create and sell printables even when you’ve never made one before. I learned to make my first EVER printables from her and if you want, you can check out her course Printables by Number here.
If you just want to make some money in the comforts of your own home:
  1. Sell unused things– See those old clothes you got there? The ones you haven’t worn for a year? This is your permission to finally let go of them! It’s time for you guys to part ways. Your gadgets are no exception as well! They’ve been collecting dust for years now, this is your opportunity to earn some money from them.
  2. Rent out that extra roomIf you’re living alone in a two to three-bedroom apartment, try renting the empty rooms out. It’s not an easy task to do especially if you’re a lone wolf but it’s a sure way to rack up some cash! I know because I tried this in college. I had “tenants” although I was a tenant myself, I saved a lot of cash from that rent money.
  3. Virtual Assistant  – Being a virtual assistant needs time and a little bit of skill in some applications. But since you’re only doing this as a source of extra income, you can apply as a part-time VA. What’s great about being a virtual assistant is that they are always in demand.

5. Differentiate Needs And Wants

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If you included a non-essential category in your budget, then that’s completely up to you! What’s under the non-essential category would be usually your cravings.

Basically you are separating your wants and needs. 

A really tight budget has no allowance for the person to have some “wants”. The budget revolves around only the essentials or “needs”. Needs would be food, home, water, and transportation. Anything else from that would depend on each person.

When you eat out, do you still order dessert or just have a snack at your home? Do you need to take a cab for that 15 mins walk?  Is that bag of chips on your grocery cart needed?

Wants and needs really vary from people to people. So make sure, to be honest with yourself in considering if you should add a “wants” category on your list.

6. A Change Of Lifestyle

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For a tight budget to work, you really need to go out of your comfort zone. If you stay in that place, you always get the same results and not progress. But if you want to live on a looser budget but it’s borderline tight, then I have the hack for you! 😉

If you think that retail shopping is a “need” for you since it helps you relax, then I’m all for that sister! Here’s a hack that you can do though, you can cut back on your retail shopping about 50% of your usual spending. In that way, you still get happiness juice and you’re still saving money.

Another way that you can do is to thrift shop. It’s not so bad to shop at a thrift store as most people think. Some stores have good clothes and quality and texture. You just need to really take your time to find them.

For some people, it’s not clothes. It’s going out with their friends. I understand that 100%! Some people get energy or feel alive when they’re out with their friends. 

Your friends can be an outlet for your happiness after a long tiring week at work. But here’s another hack for you, why not introduce game night to them. Wherein you go to different houses every week and play. It’s lighter for your pockets and you still get to hang out with them!

7. Grocery With A List

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If there’s one thing on everyone’s budget list, that’s monthly groceries.

We all had moments where we overspent on groceries. Those times that we have leftovers coming from last month’s purchases and canned goods that are nearing its expiry dates.

Since I overspend on groceries most of the time and it’s the one thing that really eats up my budget, I figured that if I’m able to only buy the essentials and buy on promos then I can really make my monthly expense smaller.

In my post on tips on saving money on groceries, #2 was the game-changer for me. Why? Because I used to go to the grocery and just wing it. And by wing it, I mean I buy whatever pops into my mind that I think I need. This action always led me to overspend and buy more quantities of food than I need.

So to fix this habit, before going to the grocery, I’d take inventory of my supplies. If you’ve read #2 on that blog, I mentioned that you can have a wants and needs category. But if you’re living on a tight budget, think twice if you should a needs category.

Bringing a list in the grocery will lead you to buy only what you need. It will prevent you from unnecessary purchases and overstocking on your items at the house.

8. Eat And Cook At Home

A massive expense that can eat up your monthly budget would be eating out too often. Sure you can reason out that you only spend $8 to $10 per day but those expenses pile up!

Again if you really want to live on a tight budget, you need to make sacrifices. From a lifestyle change to the foods you spend.

A few alternatives to eating out:
  • If you and your friends like to eat out often, offer to cook for them. 
  • If you’re trying to cook meals in advance, go for foods that make you feel full immediately. Check out Healthline’s list of low-calorie food that makes you full.
  • Date night? Cooking with your partner is a sure way to spend some quality with one another.

Meal planning is common when you want to save up money on food, if you want to turn it up a notch, plan your meals to the penny. 

Planning your meals to the penny helps with your grocery. You can go to the local grocery store and check on how much the price is for every ingredient that you need for your meal planning. 

This will make you have a rough estimate of how much you’ll be spending. If you exceed this amount by a certain dollar, then for sure you’ve overspent already.

9. Leave Your Credit Cards

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One sure way to really stick to your budget would be leaving your credit cards at home. A lot of us have been dependent on cards when we go out. 

A study showed that consumers tend to spend more when they’re using credit cards than cash. This study found out that there is less “pain” in buying things when the transaction is less transparent (paying with a credit card).

I personally believe this is true. There’s a reason as to why the majority of households in America carries an average of $8,400 credit card debt. Although I love topics on how to make and save money, I was once in credit card debt too. At some point in my life, I was careless and mismanaged my credit card.

So to help out my readers avoid the trap of credit card debt, I made a post on how to manage a credit card in 15 ways!

If you’re living on a tight budget because you want to save more money, then getting rid of your credit card is a sure way to achieve this.

10. Stick With Debit Cards or Cash

If you want to live a cashless life, then you can always go with a debit card or CASH!

For some, they would rather use debit cards over cash.

Here are some reasons why:
  1. No fees and interest rates – When you’re using a debit card, you’re getting rid of the stress about interest rates and late payment fees. Having these things get cleared out of your mind will make the process of living on a tight budget easier. Although, be sure to check on overdraft charges!
  2. Security. A fat wallet is always shiny to the thief’s eye. Plus having a debit card makes your cash safe in a bank rather than just in your wallet or closet. If you use a debit card, you’re the only one who can withdraw cash and use it if you carefully transact with it.
  3. Interest earning. Most debit cards are linked to a savings account that earns interest over time. 
  4. Rewards. Did you know that some debit cards have joined the rewards program? Check out the TheBalance’s debit cards with rewards article!
  5. No debt.  This is probably the most important point. With credit cards, you can spend on items even if you don’t have the money for them yet – which makes people spend more and carry debt. But with debit cards, you get to spend only what’s in your bank account which makes you more cautious with your spending habit.

Debit cards bring the balance between using a card and going for cash. If you haven’t thought about using debit cards as an alternative to cash, then I highly suggest you try it out!

11. Aim For Small Goals First

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When you’re starting out, don’t set big goals right away, instead go for small goals that can be achieved faster. You do this because it helps you mentally to keep going until you reach your bigger goals.

For example, you wanted to live on a tight budget so you can save $1,000 every month on your salary – that’s your big goal. 

What you can do to start off is to pay off your (bad) debts first. If you have any type of debt, it’s important to pay that first so you can really maximize the benefits of living on a tight budget.

Once you’ve paid off your debt, you can now aim to save $50 dollars every week. Since you’re constantly hitting that goal, the next immediate goal would be finding a side hustle or a job that can fit your schedule. If you’re able to do that, you’re now on the path to reaching that $1,000!

Taking on one goal at a time makes you love the process even more. You’ll feel more accomplished and motivated to tackle your financial goals!

12. Clear Off Your Debts

To make the process of living on a tight budget easier, clearing off your debts will surely do that!

When I was in credit card debt, I made sure to make that as my priority. When I finally cleared it off, the process of budgeting was easier and I got to save more money. 

Paying off debt relieves you from financial stress and different financial loads. I know it helped me really well. If you’re struggling with credit card debt, I’m more than willing to help you out! I listed 18 ways on how you can get rid of credit card debt! I’ve written down old and new proven ways that you can follow and apply to your situation!

One of my favorite approaches would be number 2! It’s probably the most popular in that list as well. 

The debt snowball method tells you to list down your debt from the smallest balance to the biggest one and you’ll start paying them in that order. This method helps you with your sense of accomplishment and makes you think you’re reaching that debt-free life a lot faster!

13. Cut The Cable

Nobody watches cable nowadays. If you use your television, I’m sure you use it to watch Netflix or stream movies. Even though people are aware that they barely watch any cable, they still continue to pay it.

They disregard the thought of canceling it because the payment is cheap. But to maximize your journey of living in a tight budget, all your money should go to things that you use or bring value to you.

14. Cancel Your Gym Membership

When was the last time you went to the gym? A few months already, right? Because of this pandemic, regular gym-goers are thinking twice of whether they should go to the gym or not. But as they think about it, they are still being charged for their monthly membership.

Plus, if you’re living on a tight budget, working out at home should be your option. It makes you save money from monthly membership and transportation costs.

There are also tons of free workouts that you can follow on Youtube!

15. Read books

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Take this time to read more books. It can be a great source of entertainment and learning instead of going out to the movies.

What I love to read would be financial books (duhh!). Ever since I got out of that small debt, I doubled down on learning more about financial literacy. I learned different ideas and money management tips. I personally have learned greatly from these books – Top 6 Financial Books To Read.

Reading from different authors gave me an opportunity to get ideas that would work for me and just leave out what doesn’t. 

I really suggest that you do this because if your goal is to reach financial freedom, then having a strong financial foundation would help you to build wealth.

16. No More Impulse Buying

Impulse buying has happened to everyone. We’ve all fallen on this trap before – the trap of instant gratification but turned to regret after a few weeks.

But don’t worry, if you’re serious about your budget, you wouldn’t be tempted to buy impulsively!

On my post on how to stop impulse buying, I made sure to place “have a budget” as the number 1 tip. Having a budget will be your anchor when you go to the grocery or malls. It will be your guide on what you should buy and how much of it should you purchase.

Again, a budget only works if you stick to it!

17. Eat Leftovers

There’s no shame in reheating your food from last night. Gone are the days that you just casually throw any leftover foods!

When you’re trying to live on a tight budget, you want to spend as minimally as possible. 

Even if you’re dining outside and you don’t get to finish your food, ask for a takeout bag and reheat it on the next day. I lost count on how many times I’ve eaten leftovers every week!

18. Cut Energy Costs

Did you know that all plugged in appliances will still cost you money? Even though you’re not using your charger but it’s still plugged in, it will still consume energy. The same goes for your laptop chargers, television, portable fans, air coolers, etc.

According to The Natural Resources Defense Council, plugged but not used devices will still add around $165 per year to your bill. 

So to really save up some money, not just for the week but all year round, make sure to unplug those devices when you’re not using them!

19. Be Willing To Make Sacrifices

It’s already given that if you want to save more money and fully commit to your budget, you need to let go of some things, you need to make sacrifices.

But these sacrifices aren’t for nothing, it allows you to be in a better position in life.

20. Have Fun

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Living on a tight budget will surely bring you challenges but it will all be worth it! I know it seems daunting at first but try to make the process as fun as possible. Don’t dread the budget, look at it in a more positive way.

Think of it as a necessary thing needed to be done for you to achieve financial freedom!

The best way to make it fun for me is to have someone else to do it with you – be accountable for each other. That will surely lift your spirit up 🙂

Don’t Think Twice, Act Now.

If you’re still pondering if whether you should start a budget, the answer is always yes. Go for it.

It’s always nice to step out of your comfort zone especially if you know that what you’ll be doing it for a better future!

So, are you ready to do this life-changing activity? Let me know your thoughts below! 🙂

P/s: If you find any value to this post, I’d love it if you can share it around so that more people will also be able to learn a new thing or two 🙂

If you find the post helpful, please share it around!

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