Published On April 07, 2020 | Last Updated July 21, 2020
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In this post: Living on a tight budget means thinking about how you spend every penny. Follow these practical tips for cutting expenses while still enjoying life.

tips for living on a tight budget

When your monthly income and your monthly expenses are perilously close together, money is constantly on your mind.  I know.  I’ve been there.

Living on a tight budget means you always have to think about how you spend every penny, to make sure you’ll have enough to last the month.  The stress and anxiety can be a heavy weight.  Enjoying life is at the very bottom of your to-do list.

Then you get all kinds of useless advice for saving money, such as don’t eat at restaurants, and make your own coffee.  Yeah, we got that.  Thanks.


Here are what I hope are more useful tips for saving, and living, while you’re pinching every penny.

Common Advice:  Review your subscriptions

We’re commonly told to review all our subscriptions, and unsubscribe from those we don’t need, like Netflix and Amazon Prime.  But what if those were luxuries you never had in the first place?

Better Advice:  Reduce your services

Go through your basic services, and see if there are less expensive plans available.


You may think you can’t live without garbage service.  But can you cut it back?  Look for a plan that picks up your trash less frequently, for less cost.

Is there someone you can share the service with?  Bring your recyclables to a community drop off center.  Split a trash can with your neighbor, or a family member.  You can both save a little money.

Phone & Internet:

If you have a landline, can you get by with just a cellphone?

Can your cellphone data also serve your internet needs for a while?  Canceling your phone or internet can be big money savers.  

Reduce cell phone bills

Check out the discount cell carrier Twigby, which could cut your cell phone bill by a significant amount.  I haven’t tried this plan myself yet, but I want to.  I learned about it in this helpful article:

Six Monthly Bills that Almost All of Us Overpay

Common Advice:  Eat out less often

Is anyone else tired of being told to pack your lunch, and make your own coffee to save the expense of eating out?

Better Advice:  Stretch your home cooked meals with inexpensive ingredients

When you’re already packing your lunch every day, the next step to save more money may seem like eating Ramen noodles for every meal.  But there’s a healthier option.

Choose inexpensive side dishes, like rice, pasta, or potatoes.  You need healthy carbohydrates in your diet anyway, and these are very affordable options.  Adding them to your meal can help you feel satisfied, while stretching the more expensive ingredients, like meat, a little farther.

Also consider what you can grow at home, even if all you have is a pot on the back porch.  Squash and potatoes are really easy to grow, and can produce a lot of yield.


Common Advice:  Rent movies instead of going to the theater

Wait, weren’t we supposed to cancel those movie streaming services?  Now we’re watching movies at home anyway?

Better Advice:  Check out what your library has to offer

When is the last time you even stepped foot in a library?  You might be surprised at what is available for free.

Even if you can’t go out to the physical library to pick up a book or movie, you can probably sign up for a library account online, and get access to:

  • eBooks
  • Audio Books
  • Streaming Videos (with a surprising selecting of titles)

While you may not get the latest blockbusters, you can access a lot of free entertainment.

free entertainment

Common Advice:  Don’t buy stuff you don’t need

OK, this is good advice.  All those little “treats” to yourself, because you deserve it, add up.  And the good feeling you get in the moment fades quickly.

Better Advice:  Be grateful for what you have

At the end of every day, write down three good things that happened that day.  This was one of my favorite tips from Jean Chatzky’s book, The Difference.

I transformed this practice a bit, and now I enjoy ending (and starting) my days by naming things I’m grateful for in my life.  This brings focus to the abundance of what we have, rather than focusing on lack of what we can’t afford.


Take Care

If you’re pinching every penny right now, I’m sorry for your struggles.  I know it’s hard.  It’s scary.  Maybe you even feel lonely, or ashamed.  You’re not alone.

Find time to take care of yourself.  In just a few moments each day, breath deeply and calm your mind.  Take walks in the sunshine.  And focus on what you have to be grateful for in your life.

If you have a moment to help others, please share your tips in the comments for living on a tight budget.  

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2 Comments on Tips for Living on a Tight Budget

  1. Living on the “thrift” ideas:
    Exercise at home not at a gym.
    Do your own mani-pedi.
    Plan chores together so you only have to drive out once.
    Shop at Thrift and Dollar stores–it’s like treasure hunting.
    At home entertainment- puzzles, crosswords, movies, yard games, board games, neighborhood walk/”I spy” game.
    Clean out closets or drawers and reuse or recycle items.
    Check with family and friends who may have and not need the items you do.
    Have pot luck dinners with family and friends- bring one item each and there will be plenty to share plus the benefit of visiting, too.

    • Great tips, Marge! I like the one about cleaning out closets, and remembering to use what you already have. I was cleaning out my kitchen recently, and found enough “like new” duplicate utensils to create a nice gift basket. All I need to add is a pack of pasta and jar of sauce! Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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