Saving Money on a Tight Budget: 8 tips to maximize savings

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If you’re already on a tight budget and feel like there’s nowhere you can dig up money to save, then I’ve got a great list of tips here to help you do just that.

Table of Contents

1. Find free and fun things to do

Just because you’re on a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice having fun! There are tons of ways to have fun with little to no money, such as:

  • Take a look at your local events calendar to find free things to do in your community
  • Learn a new skill online
  • Create a time capsule for yourself in 10 years from now
  • Check out grand openings nearby – they typically give out free samples
  • Free classes at stores – sewing at Joann’s and learning DIY home projects at Home Depot

I have a list of 100 fun and free things to do when you’re on a tight budget here!

2. Sell unused things around the house

One way to save up money fast is to sell unused items from around your house.

You may have more to sell than you think! Check out your attic, closets, storage closets, dresser drawers, and cabinets to find items that you haven’t used in a long time and wouldn’t mind parting with to sell.

Here are a few popular platforms you could use to sell your household items:

  • VarageSale
  • Mercari
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Craigslist
  • OfferUp

If you have a closet full of clothes you’re not wearing anymore, I have a great post here to show you how to sell your clothes, including the best platforms to use to get top dollar.

3. Ensure you are on a strict budget – and stick to it

When money is tight, it becomes absolutely ESSENTIAL to create and stick to a budget. Overspending when things are tight can be detrimental to your finances.

List out all of your monthly expenses and start adding them to your monthly budget.

This will give you a complete picture of where your finances are so you can start making changes. If you see that you are spending too much in one category, it may be time to find new options to lower the amount you spend on that budget category.

For example: when we listed out all of our expenses and added them to our monthly budget, we saw that we were spending way too much on restaurants and fast food. It was putting us over in our budget every month. We ended up having to remove that budget item entirely while we were paying off debt.

Here is a complete guide to budgeting if you are new to it and want to get started.

4. Store your extra change around the house

We use a piggy bank. Hear me out.

Piggy banks are an awesome asset when you’re using cash to pay for things and have floating change around the house and your wallet!

We never felt it when we added our spare change to our piggy bank, but we ended up saving $30 and $40 at a time.

Here’s a post with tons of different piggy bank options, from practical to pretty!

5. Use cash envelopes instead of your card

One method we used to save a lot of money was to use cash envelopes instead of using plastic. Statistics show that, when you use cash instead of a card, you actually end up spending less.

Statistics of cash vs credit card usage. Ways to save money on a tight budget
Statistics of cash usage versus credit card; data acquired by NerdWallet

Can you believe the difference in the amounts spent using cash versus a card? The average transaction is almost $100 higher for those who use a card!

That makes using a cash envelope an important action step when you’re looking to save money on a tight budget.

Here are a few of my favorite cash envelopes:

If you’re looking for a full list of great cash envelope options and a more in-depth look at how they work, I wrote a post here to walk you through it.

6. Try to shop around whenever possible

I know it takes more work to shop around instead of heading to a one-stop-shop store. But when money is tight and you need to save money, it’s important to find the best deal possible on items you need.

One thing I like to do is check the unit price when I am shopping. It gives you the best information you need to compare prices across different stores.

If you’re bad at remembering unit prices for items you always need, it helps to keep track of the prices in a notebook or a note-taking app on your phone.

7. Try a no-spend challenge

A no-spend challenge is an amazing way to save tons of money, especially when you feel like you’ve already dialed back your spending.

Here’s how it works: take a look at your budget and mark down all of the expenses that are necessary. Budget categories like:

  • Mortgage/rent
  • Utilities
  • Phone
  • Food and gas

That list isn’t everything, but it gives you an idea.

From there, you dial back everything else that’s not essential. Here are some budget items that many others dial back during a no-spend challenge:

  • Eating out
  • Buying new clothes, household items, technology gadgets
  • Trips to the coffee shop

Basically, anything that is not essential to living should be cut during a no-spend challenge.

Here’s a great post explaining exactly what to cut, how much you could save, and different versions of the no-spend challenge to see what’s right for you.

8. Use cash-back apps and browser extensions

Here’s a tip that is so easy to use: when you’re doing any shopping, take advantage of the cash-back apps and browser extensions out there.

My absolute favorite way to get cash back (mostly because it allows me to be lazy!) is to use browser extensions. Here are a few of the extensions that I currently (these are cash-back and coupons) have installed on my browser and am loving:

  • Honey
  • Mino
  • Rakuten

I’ve used Ibotta a lot in the past and have received over $100 cash back, simply from uploading my receipt to the app!