6 Ways To Save Money on a Tight Budget

When you're already on a tight budget, it's not easy to find additional ways to save money, but it's always important to set aside at least a little for the future, no matter how much income you're currently bringing in. Here are six ways you can save money even when you're working hard to live on a budget.

01 of 06

Change Your Television Service

Close-Up of Male Hand Using Remote Control With Television in Background
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One of the easiest ways to find money to put in your savings account is to cancel your cable or satellite TV service and switch to a cheaper alternative. Many of the largest pay TV providers raised rates for 2020. And it's now pretty simple to get a wide variety of entertainment options from a streaming service that charges as little as $30 a month—though $50 or so is more likely.

Netflix, probably the most well-known cable alternative, can be accessed directly on your TV—for $8.99 to $15.99 a month—so long as it has or can download the Netflix app. You can also watch Netflix through a video game console or Blu-Ray player.

02 of 06

Look at Your Food Bill

A Woman Holding Fruit in Both Hands at Grocery Store
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Another way to save money is to change the way you eat. Probably the best thing you can do is to stop or greatly cut back on eating out. It's so much cheaper to eat leftovers from last night's dinner than to go out for lunch. And the cost of dining out tends to rise faster than the cost of groceries. In the 12 months ended in July 2019, prices for food purchased to eat at home rose by 0.6%, while the cost of eating out increased by 1.8%.

You could also consider giving up or cutting back on meat. Though produce can be expensive too, especially if you purchase fresh and organic options, meat typically costs more per pound. You can also save money by buying frozen or canned fruits, beans, and vegetables.

03 of 06

Cut Every Category Just a Little Bit

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When you're pinching pennies, you may have already cut all the unnecessary items from your budget. A next step might be saving $5 to $10 per category in your budget and setting that money aside.

You can often save another $5 per week at the grocery store by dropping two or three items off of your list. If you conserve fuel by consolidating trips, taking public transit, or walking when it's feasible, you can cut back on the amount you spend on gas each month by even more than $10. Similarly, you can adjust your thermostat so that you are paying less in heating and cooling costs.

04 of 06

Switch to Cash for Your Daily Expenses

Customer at Grocery Checkout Receiving Change From Clerk
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While it may not be practical to pay your rent or utility bills in cash, switching to cash for other expenses can help you cut back on your spending. Using cash places a harder limit on your spending and helps you become more aware of your choices.

Groceries and entertainment are two prime categories for going cash-only. So are clothing and the rare outside-the-home meal.

05 of 06

Work on Paying Off Your Debt

A Female Hand Holding Credit Cards
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High-interest debt, like credit cards, can eat up your monthly income. You may be surprised at just how much you are paying in interest each month if you are carrying a balance on your credit cards. The average annual percentage rate on credit card accounts that were assessed interest in November 2019 was 16.88%.

Taking steps to pay off your credit cards as quickly as possible will free up additional money in your budget and make it possible for you to do more things with your money. If you want to be more comfortable and save, getting rid of your debt is an important step.

06 of 06

Find a Way To Cut Back on Big Expenses

A Woman Sitting on a Hardwood Floor Surrounded by Bills
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Take a look at the big items in your overall budget. Is your car payment too much? Can you find a cheaper place to live that is still nice? Could you move in with roommates to save on rent?

These options may be the last steps you take as you look for ways to increase your savings, but they really can help you save a good amount of money on your bills each month. The lower you keep these costs, the easier it will be to stick to your budget.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is an emergency fund, and how do I save for one?

An emergency fund is money you've tucked aside for just that—an emergency—such as a protracted, serious illness that keeps you from working, or job loss for some other reason that leaves you with no income. Experts recommend that you set aside three to six months' of living expenses. It can be a long-term project if you're living on a tight budget, but every little bit saved can help. Make it a habit to tuck at least a small portion aside out of every paycheck in a dedicated, interest-bearing account so it will earn you a little money while it's accumulating.

How much money should I save a month?

It's recommended that you save a minimum of 20% of your income, but that can be a significant challenge if you need almost every dime to make ends meet. Saving something, however little, is always better than saving nothing.

How do I create a savings budget?

Start with a list of all your bills and all your expenses. Don't overlook bills that only come due once or twice a year, such as insurance premiums. Count everything you spend: money you put to both groceries and entertainment, as well as clothing and gas for your car. Now subtract that from your earnings. The difference is how much you should strive to save. You'll have to cut back somewhere if the result is a number less than zero.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Consumer Reports. "Cable TV Prices Are Climbing for 2020."

  2. Consumer Reports. "Video Streaming Services That Let You Cut Cable TV."

  3. Netflix. "Choose the Plan That's Right for You."

  4. Netflix. "How Can I Watch Netflix on My TV?"

  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Food for Thought: Changes in Consumer Prices for Food at Home and Away From Home."

  6. Federal Reserve. "Consumer Credit - G.19."

  7. FINRA. "Start an Emergency Fund."

  8. TIAA. "How Much Should I Save Each Month?"

  9. Consumer.gov. "Making a Budget."

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