Are you struggling to make ends meet? Living on a tight budget can be stressful, whether you’ve experienced a life-changing event, have taken on additional debt, or are going through a job change.
Thankfully, we’ve researched the best ways you can make ends meet while on a tight budget. These steps will help you to go from struggling to secure in just a few steps.
1. Look at Your Overall Spending
The first step in making ends meet is to look at your overall spending and then create a monthly household budget. Write down all of your monthly bills and expenses and add up what you’re spending each month. Next, review your list and find ways to cut unnecessary costs and decrease spending in other categories.
For instance, you may have subscriptions to multiple streaming services like Netflix, HBO, and Hulu, as well as a monthly cable bill. Pick the one you watch the most, and then cancel the rest. When we first went from a two-income family to a one-income family, we got rid of cable and our landline. This saved us a ton of money, and instead of watching TV, we did more things together as a family.
Once you’ve cut out the extras, look at other bills you can possibly reduce each month. Food is a big one, which I’ll discuss in depth below. Try calling your internet provider, utility company, or insurance carrier and ask if they have discounts or cheaper plans. Most services are negotiable, so it never hurts to ask. You can also look at competitors and see if they offer lower rates on the same services. Having this information before you contact your service provider is a good tool for negotiating better rates.
If you have multiple credit cards with high-interest rates, perhaps you can consolidate all your credit card debt onto a new credit card that has an introductory zero APR (annual percentage rate). Again take some time to shop around and find better deals.
2. Take a Look at Your Grocery Bills
When we were on one income, things were tight, and one of the first things we looked at was our food budget.
Shockingly enough, we spent hundreds of dollars each month on take-out food alone. I’m not talking about our favorite Chinese spot (although that was one of them). Instead, it was the “micro” stops that were putting us over the top budget-wise
My day-to-day coffee stops or bagel shop trips with the kids were adding up; and fast.
Cutting these short trips down to once a month saved us hundreds of dollars, and it can do the same for you.
Go through your day-to-day spending and highlight your little food or snack stops.
I guarantee those stops are costing you more than you realize.
Aside from cutting down on those mini trips, there are several other ways to ultimately reduce that food bill. From buying in bulk, purchasing generic brand products, packing your own lunches, ditching expendables like paper towels, to using all the food in your pantry, you can get creative with meal planning and save a lot on groceries each month.
Not only can you stretch your food budget further with these coupons and money-saving apps, but you can also earn cash back for items you were going to purchase anyway.
3. Create a Monthly Payments Calendar
Once you prune down your expenses and you’re left with just the necessities, create a monthly calendar with minimum payments due and payment due dates. Having this information mapped out will help you avoid extra interest charges and late fees, which can be pretty hefty. Knowing when your bills are due will also help you avoid overdrawing your checking account, posing the risk of late fees and fines. If you cannot make a payment on time, call the company immediately and let them know that you’re struggling to come up with the money for the payment. Many companies and creditors will work with you and accept a lower monthly payment without adding penalities.
4. Take Advantage of Flexible Work Opportunities
If you’re still struggling to make ends meet, try boosting your wages by taking advantage of flexible side gigs. Making a little extra money can help give you some extra breathing room in your budget. The best thing about these money-making side gigs is they’re flexible, so you can fit them into your schedule when you have some spare time.
Some flexible work-from-home positions you can dive into right now include:
5. Declutter and Sell Things
One of the best ways we made our budget stretch a bit farther is by going through things our growing family no longer needed. Baby clothes, old work outfits, and even toys were a few ways we consistently made cash each month. I was even able to sell some of my old teaching supplies and furniture to bring in extra money.
While having a garage sale or selling on eBay are options, there are many other easy-to-use apps and online marketplaces that make selling your used treasures a cinch!
Below are some great sites you can use to make additional cash every month on things you no longer use:
6. Earn Gift Cards for Free
Being on a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t shop. One of the best ways you can cut expenses AND still shop at your favorite stores is by earning gift cards to some of your favorite places…for free!
Sites like Branded Surveys and Toluna work by giving you gift cards in exchange for your opinion on products and services. Gift cards that are yours for the taking include Starbucks, Amazon, and Exxon for gas.
Many of these sites are based on a rewards system, but points add up quickly, especially when you complete surveys on a variety of sites.
Here are other places where you can earn gift cards and shop to your heart’s content:
7. Use Money Saving Apps
These are some of my favorite tools when trying to stay within a budget. I started using cashback apps when we were struggling a few years ago. Every time I shopped, I received cashback in an account, and when I reached a certain amount, it was deposited directly into my PayPal account! Here’s the inside scoop on some of the best cashback apps you need to download today to make your shopping a bit less of a liability.
- Rakuten: To date, I’ve earned well over $300 via Rakuten! That’s some serious cashback at stores that I would shop at anyway. Signing up is free, and there are cashback bonuses when you refer friends.
- Shopkick: Shopkick is another amazing app that pays you back in gift cards. When shopping, you earn rewards known as “kicks,” which then turn into gift cards you can use.
- Dosh: Get up to 10% back on your purchases with Dosh. Install the app, link your bank cards, and every time you shop, you get your cashback directly deposited into your PayPal account. It’s that easy!
8. Rent Your Stuff
Another easy way to make extra money is by renting stuff you’re not actively using. For instance, if you have a spare bedroom, you can get a roommate and charge them monthly rent. Sites like Airbnb make renting a room a snap! But renting stuff out doesn’t stop there! You can rent everything from gym and photography equipment to your car, boat, RV, bike, and so much more. If you’d like to earn passive income by renting out things you’re not currently using, check out this huge list of sites that will connect you to people who want to rent your stuff!
Saving While Struggling: Every Dollar Counts
While starting an emergency fund on a tight budget may seem counterproductive, it can mean the difference between moving beyond struggling and staying financially strapped.
I used to think that if I wasn’t saving a minimum of $100 per week, there was no point in saving anything at all. One of the biggest lessons I learned when we struggled was that being on this tight budget was temporary. If I was ever going to get our family moving again, I would need to continue to save money.
Whether it’s $5 every week or $50 every other week, saving is still saving, and having a little safety net will not only feel good, it will help to cushion you if something unexpected comes up.
One way you can easily start saving money with every purchase you make is through automatic round-up programs with your bank. Many banks now have an automated savings withdrawal program that takes your purchases, rounds them up, and automatically places the spare change into a savings account. This is a brilliant way to save without doing anything at all!
Some popular banks that do this are:
Making Ends Meet When You’re Struggling
When money is tight and you’re struggling to make ends meet, it can be hard to see other opportunities. Balancing family, health-related setbacks, and other obstacles can make it seem like there are few options.
Thankfully, there are many ways to make ends meet on a tight budget. Between cutting more minor expenses that add up over time to taking advantage of flexible work-from-home opportunities, there are several creative ways you can pay your bills and meet your financial goals
If making additional money in your free time is something you’re considering, one of the quickest and best ways to get job postings sent directly to you is by subscribing to The Work at Home Woman’s newsletter. This newsletter is your weekly dose of fabulously flexible job opportunities just waiting for you.
I open this newsletter 2x a week to see what’s out there and always find awesome opportunities.
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Originally published July 26, 2021. Content updated July 2022.