Whether you are single or providing for a family, having a budget is important, because it will help you save money. Your budget doesn’t necessarily need to be written down, (although it’s certainly good to do so,) but it is important to know what your expenses and needs are to be able to streamline your actual income the right way.
However, it can be overwhelmingly stressful if your income is less that what your budget realistically needs to be.
And remember, having a budget not only takes into account set bills, such as a mortgage or rent payment, but also expenses such as food, clothing, money to set aside to save, and so on.
So what can you do if your income is not fulfilling your budget needs?
Of course, looking for additional work, asking for a raise, or changing jobs altogether are viable options, but you can also do things to save money on your expenses.
Here are 19 money-saving ideas, many of which I’ve had good success with.
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This can save you a LOT of money, and also alleviate stress. This also allows you to go shopping less often, which saves you the expense of extra trips.
If you are new to meal planning or want to get better at it, download our FREE Printable Flavorful Meal Plan Guide here.
You can successfully freeze most foods, including many already made meals that you may not finish before they go bad, or fresh produce/herbs that you wouldn’t use all of before they get old. I’ve also frozen breads, and they taste as good as new when thawed.
In most cases this is more expensive than home-cooked meals.
Some restaurants offer discounts on certain items or during specific times of the day. You may also find coupons in your local newspaper or Pennysaver. Sometimes you can find nice deals online too (just make sure they’re legit.)
If you find coupons for specific items you already buy, then great- you should use them. If they are for an item you buy, but a different brand, calculate if it’s actually cheaper than what you normally purchase before you decide to use it.
These 2 things can go hand in hand. I always estimate about how much each item will cost me, list the most important things first, and adjust where needed to match my budget.
You can always budget a set amount for items to stock up on. (I like to stock up on things that are on sale that I will definitely use within the next few months, that won’t go bad before I use them.) You could also budget a certain amount for items you may decide spontaneously to get, if you so desire.
Budgeting has saved me a lot of money shopping. When money is tight I spend less than $360 a month on groceries and household items (toilet paper, diapers, etc.- not just food) for our family of 6. And I buy relatively healthy food and rarely use coupons. Don’t underestimate the power of a good shopping budget put in action. It can be done!
When it comes to your medical/dental/vision insurance, you should not just take into account monthly premiums, but also what the plan covers and the cost of copays and coinsurance.
Some plans are cheaper up front, but don’t cover certain services, or require you pay high copays. I used to work in a medical office, and some insurances had copays around the same price a person would pay without insurance- sometimes more!! So research before you enroll or re-enroll in plans, and calculate what will be the most cost-effective solution for your specific health needs.
Just another note, sometimes you may have options to go through one or more employers, or to get insurance straight from your state marketplace (if you live in the US.) I know with our situation, one of our employer’s plans was waaayyyyyy too expensive for us to afford, so we went with the marketplace for a time, then another employer plan was cheaper so we took that, then when we switched jobs, we had to go with the marketplace plan again. So it can totally depend on where you work, what you qualify for, and the benefits available.
Personally my family doesn’t do this because we don’t want/need all of those. But for you, if you already have and definitely want to keep all of these services, it may be less expensive for you to bundle them; it’s worth checking out, right? Keep in mind that you may only be able to bundle a home phone and have to pay for your cell(s) separately.
If you have both a home and cell phone, make sure it’s worth your while to have both. In cases where there are family members at home without a cell phone, or you use your home phone for a business you run, it may be best to keep the home phone. However, some people find they can eliminate the expense of a home phone, if their cell meets all their needs in this area.
On the other hand, when it comes to your cell phone, you may be able to lower your bill by switching plans if you are paying for more internet, minutes, etc., than you actually use. Sometimes changing carriers can save money as well, but beware of additional start-up fees or a change in the quality of service you receive.
Full disclosure, my family doesn’t pay for TV channels. We do, however, pay a low monthly fee to stream certain shows and movies online, (legally of course 🙂 and to be honest, we don’t miss it. In fact, one of the things my husband and I agreed on prior to getting married was that we didn’t want to pay for TV or need it. We have a TV, we have movies and shows, but if you turn on our TV with no disc inserted, you’ll get static. And for us, that’s okay.
Do you have to go zero channels like us? No. But, chances are if you are paying for TV, you don’t watch every. single. station. So, you could switch to a more basic plan, or consider using internet to stream the specific shows/news/stations you want to watch. Many channels have a low monthly fee for their content online and/or with an app.
Granted, you may not want to pay $7 a month for each channel (or whatever it is they charge- it varies), but if you only watch a few channels, going about it this way could save you a TON of money. Depending on what you’re paying now, you could save over $100 a month, if not more.
Amazon Prime is reasonable priced for how many shows and movies you can stream, and you also get other benefits being a member. Our kids watch shows on there too, and it’s easier to control what they’re watching (versus regular TV stations, but we definitely monitor their use of it too.)
(Note: when it comes to heat, make sure it is not off or down too low if freezing pipes could be a problem where you live/that time of year.)
I have always been one to enjoy a nice long shower when I’m stressed. Fortunately, I learned the beauty of switching to baths, because I would run out of hot water. And if I hadn’t switched to baths, our water bill would be double, I’m sure. *Note* I think it is more efficient to take short showers versus baths, but if you want a longer relaxing bath or shower, a bath would be more efficient.
This goes for both the washer and dryer. Some of these are designed with efficiency settings which you can take advantage of. If not, make sure you are not using a larger or longer load setting than what you actually need for the clothes you are washing or drying.
14.) Turn off lights and appliances when you aren’t using them. My husband has got this down pat. Not one unnecessary light on in our home. Ever.
There are many second-hand clothing stores that offer gently used, but quality brands. There are also many people who will sell old furniture for a fraction of what it’s worth, or even give it away. Local ads, Craigslist, and yard sales are great places to look, just beware of scams, and search safely.
I have a family member who takes advantage of FREE curb-side furniture- aka, picking up furniture people put out on garbage night. But I kid you not, people throw out some nice stuff, and we now have some nice free furnishings, and she’s made hundreds of dollars reselling items she finds.
**I’d like to remind everyone that yes, it is perfectly acceptable to pencil ‘downtime money’ into your budget. If you don’t have a way to relax every now and then, you may just go crazy! But you don’t want to go overboard, so here are some money-saving ideas for this area.
Some options are: rent a movie and stay in, watch one you already have (totally free!), go to a cheaper movie theater (where we live we have a $2 one- yea!), and/or make movie night a movie day with a matinée- which is less $ during the day than at night for most theaters.
Many theme parks and family fun venues offer coupons and discounts, so keep an eye out and use them! From Darien Lake to Chuck e Cheese, you can usually get out of paying full price.
With the right people this is pretty much always fun, and you don’t even need to leave your home. Everyone could bring a dish, snack, and/or chip in for pizza.
Note: If there is a risk of spreading sickness in your region, you can also have virtual gatherings and play games or watch a movie over face-time or a virtual meeting.
Paying your bills on time will ensure you don’t get late fees (which are going to skyrocket with credit card bills especially,) and help you to avoid getting behind on your expenses, which can make it very difficult for you to catch up.
So those are 19 ways to save money when your income is below your budget. You can’t always control your income, but you can sometimes decrease your expenses, so that you aren’t behind on bills, and have a little extra to spend and save.
P.S. Don’t forget to grab our free Printable Meal Plan Guide so you can make tasty meals on a budget!