How to Live Comfortably on a Tight Budget

Updated on August 28, 2017
Michael Kismet profile image

Michael Kismet is a freelance writer and has a passion for finances and true financial freedom.

tight budget frugal living
tight budget frugal living | Source

How to Live on a Budget and Save Money

Can you really live comfortably on a tight budget? My parents immigrated to this country(US). They came with next to nothing, only the hope that their unborn child would have a better chance at a better life. Growing up, I watched my Mother go to work every day on a lunch truck making the bare minimum of a paycheck. Suffice it to say, we knew how to survive on a budget, I mean literally survive.

Some might be interested to know, from that lunch truck, my Mother worked her way up in the food industry, eventually worked as a head chef. Went on to open a restaurant that did not do so well. One after another she opened one and it failed. There were many factors beyond her food that she could not control. Bad things happen to good people. That is life.

However, the fourth restaurant she opened was a huge success. Twenty years of hardships and sacrifice in life had finally culminated in victory. I wanted to share that to show people, hard times don't last. I humbly learned that true success in life is a marathon, not a sprint. Within this article are five steps to live on a tight budget.

The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.

— Jacob Lew

Tight Financial Budget Planning

First thing's first, let's start with how to create a budget and take the time to figure out your situation. Many financial pitfalls occur when people don't keep proper track of their earnings, spending, and debts. I understand for many, this is the most difficult step.

Sitting down and tallying up your debts, and deducting what portion of your paycheck you can every week isn't fun. But taking financial responsibility for oneself is the first step to a brighter financial future. I wouldn't presume to lecture or judge anyone on their financial blunders.

Trust me, I've made many in my day, I use to be the Cadillac of poor financial habits. If you're dreading this first step due to being disorganized, you're in luck, cause good organization skills can be learned. Try hanging up three whiteboards, one for your income, spending, and bills/debt.

Sound simple, but by doing this, you're already on your way to better organize your finances. It will help you not only organize but will visually remind you of your financial goals. You can always look to it to find out quickly what needs to be addressed. The first step is to organize and to become aware of all the angles of your budget--and figure out a routine that will help you live comfortably on a small budget.

living on a tight budget food
living on a tight budget food | Source

How to Make a Weekly Food Budget

Here's how to live cheap and save money. Take an objective look at your spending habits within a given month. Tally up a list of general items you purchase every month. The first things that should go out the window during a budget are luxuries. Take a decent amount of time and scrutinize each purchase. Ask yourself these question about the individual item:

  • Do I really need this item to survive?
  • Am I getting the best deal, or can I find a better one elsewhere?
  • Is this an expense I can live without?

Start purchasing non-perishable items in bulk, if you're paying for something you absolutely need, such as toilet paper, paper towels, tampons, etc should be bought in bulk. This saves a considerable amount of money every year. There's no shame in this, even people who aren't on a budget utilize bulk purchases, who doesn't approve of a good deal and less frequent trips back to the market?

Take advantage of the store's loyalty program, it's quick and easy and you'll be saving anywhere from 10-15% off your items. I don't get people who are asked by the cashier if they want to sign up and save 10% on the spot, and they decline the offer. There's no scam or gimmick to it, the store wants to encourage your revisit and loyalty, that's it.

Utilize coupons. In the digital age you can get a coupon for virtually anything online, and printed out at home, or a special code you write down. Foods, personal care products, oil change, tires, whatever it is, there's a coupon floating around the internet for it. Drop the ego when it comes to adhering and improving upon your budget. Coupons are hip these days.

Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.

— Joe Biden 47th Vice President of the United States

Sacrificing to Stay on Budget

There's no tip toeing around it, living on a tight budget will require cut backs. As I aforementioned, luxuries are the first things that should be eliminated from your spending whiteboard. This will require a process of ascertaining what items to you are a necessity and what are mere luxuries.

This is quite the subjective topic, one item might be a luxury for one, and an absolute necessity for another. For example a person with a heart condition needs to have a baby aspirin daily for their heart health, another likes to take one after a strenuous workout. But this isn't just a grey subject. Here's a quick rundown of items that are not generally considered a necessity:

  • Cigarettes,
  • lottery 'scratchers',
  • fast food/junk food,
  • beer/soda,
  • fancy nail shop manicures.

Those are just a few, but you get the idea. Sticking to your budget plan isn't easy, but if you want to survive hard times you have to make the hard decisions. One day you can reflect and reminisce to your friends, your children, your grandchildren on the choices you've made when money was tight. Or even just reminisce to yourself, how hard it was to live without, and how you made it work.

how to save on a tight budget
how to save on a tight budget | Source

Budget Friendly do it Yourself Projects

We've all been guilty of it during times that could be considered good, sans budget, paying someone else to accomplish what we can do on our own. Or even things we don't know how to do, but were hesitant or downright refused to learn. While I was maintaining my budget, I picked up on a lot of skills. Skills such as:

  • Changing my own motor oil. For three days my hands were pitch black, but I saved $60, and more importantly, learned a skill that would continue saving me money.
  • Cooked my own gourmets meals, as opposed to going to a fancy restaurant or buying processed foods that are unhealthy as they are pricey.
  • Learned to make my own coffee/smoothies, saving me money from heading to the Starbucks and "Jamba" juices.

I went so far as to grow my own herbs and vegetables that were effortless to grow. I'd also like to mention that starting my own garden was highly beneficial as a fun activity and helping to reduce my stress. All budgets may have the same undertones, but not all budgets will be the same. For instance, I do not recommend changing your own oil if you're physically disabled. Good judgment goes a long way.

Don't forget, we're living in the information age, anything you're not familiar with, you can find out instantly. Same thing applies to doing something you've never done before, you can learn about, do the proper research, roll up your sleeves, and do it yourself. Not only do you save money and acquire a new skill, it also builds character.

Do you believe that living on a budget builds character?

See results

Treating Yourself on a Tight Budget

At the end of the month, when you've been eating spam in lieu of steak, have been reusing tea and coffee bags, and deprived yourself of that lottery scratcher, you've got to reward yourself. It's the exact principle of someone on a diet having a cheat day.

Being on a tight budget can be rough, and everyone, budget or not, needs something to look forward to. Buy yourself a steak, get the grande frappuccino, scratch that lottery scratcher with one side of your tongue sticking out, cause hey, you deserve it.

© 2014 Michael Kismet


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    • Michael Kismet profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Kismet 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      Greetings Sally, I think your mother and my mother would have gotten along swimmingly when it concerns staying afloat and surviving on a tight budget. Thank you for visiting and for your input.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      5 years ago from Norfolk

      Some excellent advice. It makes me smile a little because my mother had a favorite saying which was -' I think I could live on the smell of an oil rag'= well, I learned that I can too:)

    • fpherj48 profile image


      5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Ohhhhh Rhett.....this is sudden isn't it, but we mustn't fight our destiny. I've waited much too long and I can't lose you! Remember, tomorrow is another day..........

      Sorry....I couldn't resist. You're too sweet..Thank you.

      I do know I rock. I have a rocking chair in every room of my house. What Kind of grandmother of 12, wouldn't? Honey, I've rocked myself into oblivion.

      Trust will have a "new Favorite" every month if not more often during your tenure here. Ask any Hubber who's been here in excess of a year. It happens. OH...but I'll always be honored to have been your FIRST. Gosh, Michael, I haven't been anyone's first since I was 16. (that's between you and me )

      Hubbers are extremely unique human beings......we are ADDICTED to our "Passion"......and here at the Hub, we're fickled.....we can fall in love with a different hubber every other day. basically, we're addicted sluts. Like I said in my very first comment to you, "Welcome to Hubpages, you're gonna love it here!"

      Peace, Paula

    • Michael Kismet profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Kismet 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      Paula... I realize we haven't known each other long, but I just want to tell you're my favorite! You, and your unshakable optimism and positivity are the affirmation that tells me I made the right choice with my exodus from Squidoo.

      If you weren't already aware, you rock!


    • Michael Kismet profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Kismet 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you for your insightful input Suzette, I meant when people are faced with financial hardships, they have two choices towards the way it affects their mentality. Sort of, you don't choose your path, but can choose how to walk it.

      Bitterness can easily sprout from a seed that was planted in hard times, or it can choose to mature as best it can, from what it had to work with. I apologize, I am prone to metaphors, I just can't seem to help myself on that front. =)

      It will always be up to the individual to choose the bitterness or the bittersweet, I prefer the latter. Anger and bitterness are bad "energy releases". But Thank you for weighing in, you are most welcome to do so anytime.


    • fpherj48 profile image


      5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      OK.....What's up? I left a comment here earlier. Is your site set up so that you receive comments for your approval prior to their posting...? OR did I REALLY exit your site w/o hitting "Post Comment?"

      Arghhhhhhhhhhhh!!! I so HATE it when I do that!! I could scream! If that's what I did, I'll be angry at myself all day!

      Time will tell. If my comment isn't here by this evening, I'll have my answer......and this will have to count as my comment (It IS actually counted as a you're in good shape) It is yours truly who has the issue!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Being on a budget is tough, especially when you have a house or car emergency. Then the budget is blown to pieces. But, I don't think being on a budget builds character any more than the prosperous person. There is more to character than economy/money.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Michael.....You speak my language! One of my favorite things to do is to continually come up with new and better/easier ways to Budget-Save-Cut Corners-Pinch the Penny.....It is pretty much an obsession of mine.

      Raised this way by 2 Depression era parents who worked long and hard for all that we had, my sister and I became EXPERTS at this.

      Your terrific hub covers just about everything.......Applause. You can be very proud of yourself! I might add a few things here and there, but I've had decades of experience and I've been known to come up with some crazy-sneaky-unusual-ways to scrimp, sacrifice and be ahead of the pack. Things that the vast majority of "lazy, spoiled individuals" would never dream of doing. I say, "Good for me and too bad for them." I'm pretty good at smirking I hear all of them whine and cry about always being "BROKE."

      It does my heart good to know that someone from your generation has his head on right and solid when it comes to managing finances! 3 of my 4 sons followed my example.....then there's their baby brother....we won't go there please. Damn, he's a spoiled brat. Of course that's his mother's fault.........which is why we won't go there!!

      Kudos!! Outstanding hub!......Up+++shared, pinned, tweeted, googled

    • Michael Kismet profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Kismet 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      We definitely have that in common, coming from a budget-conscious family. But, I like to believe..that being on a budget, or growing up in a family that's consistently on a tight budget builds character.

      Our Mothers would get along so well, as far as budget innovating goes, haha. Thank you again for visiting and posting, certainly will keep in touch and visit you from time to time, cheers bud!


    • momsdoworkathome profile image

      Katina Davenport 

      5 years ago from Michigan

      Great hub! We are definitely a budget family. My husband and I come from two different backgrounds and have two different ways of looking at finances. My mom was a single mother that raised on a budget. She knew how to move money around. When things got better, way better, she still lived on a budget. We always had money for the luxuries because we prepared for it ahead of time.

      One of the things that our marriage counselor told us to do was to tally up all of our expenses to see if there was a shortfall. If there was anything left that was to be saved, if not, someone was supposed to get a second income. That strategy has saved our finances because we know where everything is going.

      Great advice!


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