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10 Simple Ways To Save When Money Is Tight

collage: woman shopping/woman checking prescription prices on a laptop/woman's hand checking tire pressure on car tire/woman going through clothing racks

Financially speaking, times are tough right now for a lot of folks. And whether or not that includes you, the fact remains that financial hardship can strike anyone at any time!

Whether it’s advice you need now or could use down the road, it’s a good idea to know how to downsize your budget quickly to minimize the potential fallout. Knowing how to downsize your budget can also help you get out of debt or realize other goals, like saving up for that bucket list trip!

In this post, I’m sharing some simple ways to save money and “tighten your belt” if and when you need to. With the help of these money-saving strategies, you’ll be able to adapt quickly to any new financial situation.

10 Ways To Save Money During Times Of Financial Hardship

blond woman going through clothing rack

1. Shop Secondhand

One of the simplest and smartest switches you can make when money is tight is buy things secondhand instead of new. From cars to clothes to electronics, you can save a significant amount of money just by buying used!

To learn more about why shopping secondhand is such a smart way to save money, check out this post. And read this post to find out exactly what you should be buying used!

collage: woman looking at grapes in produce department/woman's hand taking a can of pineapple off a grocery shelf

2. Save On Groceries

A lot of our monthly bills and expenditures are fixed, so we have to find savings in other places. The grocery store offers plenty of simple ways to save money, and I’ve written about many of them over the years here on my blog!

Peruse these posts that are packed with frugal tips and tricks you can use while shopping for groceries:

money saving tips

3. Break Costly Habits

If you ever find yourself wondering where exactly your money is disappearing to, you may have costly habits that you aren’t even aware of! Saving by doing things like keeping your tires properly inflated and following through on rebates can add up over time, so avoiding costly habits is a smart way to save money.

Check out these posts to find out if your habits are costing you money:

woman checking prescription prices on a laptop

4. Save On Meds

If prescription drugs are draining your bank account, it’s well worth your time to find out if there are other options that could save you money. You can get generic prescriptions for as low as $4 at certain pharmacies, and for meds without generic equivalents, you can sometimes find coupons and discounts to lower the price.

Check out this post to learn about a simple tool you can use to compare prices on your medications.

collage: tennis shoes stuffed with newspaper/hand holding a bar of soap wrapped in an old nylon

5. Be More Resourceful

You can save money every day by making the most of the stuff you already have at home. Many of our grandmas were experts at this sort of resourcefulness, having made do with what they had throughout the Great Depression.

To learn how to reuse and repurpose 9 household items just like grandma used to, check out this post.

woman's hands putting cash in budgeting envelopes

6.Use A Budgeting System

Having a budget is an important part of managing your finances, especially when money is tight. But as a very right-brained person myself, I know how tricky budgeting can be if you’re not great with numbers and spreadsheets!

But there is one budgeting system that I always return to when I need it, and that’s the envelope system. It’s easy to get started, and maybe more importantly, it’s easy to stick with too!

Budgeting with the envelope system (or whatever system works for you) will help you understand where your money is and should be going.

woman looking at screen of big tv with Neflix on it

7. Save On Household Bills

If bills are cleaning you out each month, you may need to evaluate your monthly bills to find where you can afford to make cuts. For instance, if you have a cable and internet service bundle but don’t watch cable very often, downgrading to an internet-only plan could save you quite a bit on your monthly bill!

Learn other tips and tricks for saving money on your household bills here.

hand putting cash in a glass jar

8. Find Little Ways To Save

Saving money doesn’t have to happen all at once. In fact, there are hundreds of opportunities to save a little bit of money (around $5 or so) throughout the day! From avoiding unnecessary fees to avoiding waste, finding little ways to save can really add up over time.

Check out this post to learn about 25 easy ways to save $5!

blond woman typing on laptop while holding an open wallet in one hand

9. Don’t Waste Money

When money is tight, most people instinctively start cutting back on frivolous purchases. But there are plenty of ways we waste money on a regular basis that may not be as easy to identify!

Interest charges, late fees, and fines can add up fast, and you can save quite a bit of money by simply avoiding these charges in the first place! Read this post to find out about other wastes of money and how to avoid them.

woman's hand taking cash out of a pink wallet

10. Find Hidden Cash

When every dollar counts, it’s worth taking the time to scour your home for hidden sources of cash! Check out this post to find out what kinds of valuable items you can discover around your house or on the web!

blond woman in a pink chair smiling as she looks at her smartphone

Bonus Tip: Sell Your Stuff For Extra Cash

Thanks to the proliferation of online marketplaces, you don’t even need a yard these days to host your own yard sale! If you have stuff at home you could sell for a profit, utilize marketplace sites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace to sell them.

You can learn all about hosting an online yard sale here.

Do you have a favorite tip for saving money or being more frugal?

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Bright Ideas

  • Make coffee at home and carry an insulated cup or thermos to work or where ever. Enjoy those purchased coffee drinks on special occasions. The same applies to eating lunch out. While your coffee is brewing make your lunch to take with you to work. Doing these two things on a daily basis will save you a significant amount of money immediately. All one needs is a little bit of planning. (That 10 minutes of extra sleep isn’t really going to make a difference!)

  • I save on prescriptions by using Good RX. A prescription that I have been paying $60.00 for after insurance only cost me $24.00 when using the Good RX app. Not the premium that you have to pay for, but just the app I got on my phone. Worth a try! Each pharmacy is different on each medicine, so make sure and check them out before buying.

  • Our family has always saved money by not having gym / fitness memberships. Not worth the stress of worrying about outfits to wear. Much cheaper to just also exercise at home.
    As for the cable bill we actually use Roku. My parents Roku was a gift from us kids years ago because my Dad is a total sports nut. I also have one in my room. I decided when I needed to replace my broken tv it was a better fit for my room than Apple TV. Also there’s just a one time fee. So for me it was the way to go- not having to deal with monthly cable fees.

  • My goal is to get off all meds and to travel the world while I still can. To pay for it, I will get healthier and sell off or give away much of my stuff. Since there is no set date, I have time to declutter first. What keeps more stuff from coming in is the memory of decluttering and the potential cost of either storage or lugging packed belongings as I travel.
    If I don’t get that trip in, I will still have saved oodles of money and improved my health.

  • Hi Jilee! I love your helpful blog posts! Regarding #4 Meds, I have started using the savings cards available. Such as Good RX, RX Saver (thru RetailMeNot). You can check their prices online and save even though you have insurance. I take an antidepressant and if I take it to Walgreens usuing my insurance it costs $37.00. But I can use GoodRX and get it at Walmart for $10.00! There are four or five of these med discount cards, sometimes it helps and sometimes not. But it never hurts to try!

  • The only real way to save money that worked for me was to live below my means. I grew up in poverty and spent most of my adult life under employed living paycheck to paycheck so I know how to budget, but I have to trick myself into saving by paying myself first.

    I empty my wallet of left-over cash every payday – I call it my vacation fund – but I have used it for household emergencies. I have $75 a month deposited into a savings account that ends up being my own overdraft protection.

    I contribute to my 401 K at work and I put $50 a month into an IRA. I also buy extra shares of life insurance that pays guaranteed interest. All of these contributions come out of my paycheck or checking account and I don’t even notice it except when there is an extra payday in a month and then it’s a bonus!

    The cash and savings account are immediate sources of ready cash so I am not tempted to borrow or use credit. It becomes a psychological thing, it is much easier to put $100 purchase on a credit card than it is to “break” a $100 bill – why is that?

    The insurance investment is also a form of ready cash because I can request a withdrawal and receive the money within 3 days. The retirement funds are out there growing so I am less stressed about the future.

    Another tip I use is to split all windfalls three ways: 1) put it into some type of savings, 2) pay down a debt, and 3) reward myself with something fun. I used to split it 4 ways by also buying something I needed but I don’t really need anything anymore.

    • Oh, I forgot. Because of the pandemic, my grand-daughter-in-law started using the on-line shopping/pick-up services at the supermarkets and found that she doesn’t do any impulse buying, she doesn’t forget needed items so fewer trips to the store, it allows her to do a better job planning meals so they don’t eat out as much, and they have a healthier diet which will save them health-related expenses in the long run.

      She’s a lot smarter than I am.

  • OMGOSH, the envelope system!! I LOVE it. My mom taught me this system. It never failed me. I’m 60 years old, don’t use it now. Actually, we kind of do, but on a digital system now. When I was single, and not making much money, it was an absolute lifesaver! I cannot tell you important and beneficial an “envelope” system is. Thank you for putting this in here!!!

    BTW: I LOVE your choice of color combinations in your clothes. I need to look through my clothes and do this. I’m such a boring, grey, black person. LOL.

  • My cable bill for a package (internet, landline and TV) was going to go from almost $200/mo to $300 on my anniversary date. No way would I pay that! Especially since the TV is only on a few hours in the evening and on weekends. I switched to a plan they have called CHOICE which they don’t tell you about readily. You get all your local channels and then get to pick 10 other ones you would like to have. You still get On Demand. My bill is now $131./mo — far more reasonable.

    • I’ve been suggesting to my husband for years that we discontinue our $80/mo. Dish service as we only watch a handful of shows and meanwhile don’t have access to Hulu or other subscriptions that seem to have more interesting programming. We don’t have access to Cable (we tried and tried) as there’s isn’t a hub close enough to our house but our upcoming move may be a good time to switch things up and save some money.

  • We’ve been blessed thus far in that we haven’t been affected by the pandemic to the extent that many have, but we’re about to start making payments on our long-awaited dream home so many frivolities will likely go out the window for a while. My preferred “insurance” against financially tight times is to invest when we can in items that last a long time, don’t go out of style, etc., so that if/when hardship strikes we can focus on the mortgage, groceries, meds and other basics without worrying about new clothes, shoes, appliances, furniture, a car and so forth. I’m also a big fan of #5 as already knowing how to make things at home can help ease the transition.

    One idea I’ve read multiple times is to look for ways to help others even when money is tight, as there is always someone in a worse situation than we are and this can give perspective. And kindness begets kindness. Hopefully we’ll remember to put this into practice when we’re freaking about our house payments :).

  • Instead of trying to save money on meat, why not go vegetarian or vegan? You’ll be healthier and the planet will be too! I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 16 (I’m 69 now) and I don’t take any meds and I rarely get sick. I became a vegetarian because I love animals and don’t want to participate in their suffering and it turned out to be the healthiest way to live to avoid chronic illness. Kindness pays!

    • I agree that we could at least do with eating less meat and making sure it was raised humanely and not in pens or cages. It’s more expensive but this encourages people to stretch it rather than eating an 8oz steak or 6oz chicken breast in one sitting. And animals that are allowed to eat what they’re designed to digest (e.g, grass, bugs) are healthier and produce healthier food.

  • I’m always having to be frugal. I have siblings that really know how to save. My mom has found great deals on gently used items at garage sales. We live in an area where you can find amazing stuff. Also about meds . I had a really hard time with finding insurance that didn’t drain me until I found a site for folks like me with low income. It’s been great. I don’t pay much at all. It’s covered most of my Dr visits and my prescriptions meds.

    • My mom for years has done the envelope system. It’s a a great way if your trying to save for something . Sometimes I’ll use my refund money for some of the big expenses.With the envelope system you just put a little money aside when possible. Then add to certain finds as your able. It also helps me feel less guilty when I buy items for more money than I can usually afford.

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