How to Live Comfortably on a Tight Budget: 5 Easy Tips
How to Live on a Budget and Save Money
Can you really live comfortably on a tight budget? My parents immigrated to the US. They came with next to nothing. They only had 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 that from that lunch truck, my mother worked her way up in the food industry and eventually worked as a head chef. She went on to open a restaurant that did not do so well. She opened one restaurant after another and they 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 that hard times don't last. I humbly learned that true success in life is a marathon—not a sprint. Read on for five ways 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
1. 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 that for many, this is the most difficult step.
Sitting down, 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, one for your spending, and one for your bills/debt.
It sounds simple, but by doing this, you're already on your way to better organizing your finances. This will not only help you stay organized but will also 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. next, you must figure out a routine that will help you live comfortably on a small budget.
2. Making 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 questions about each 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?
Buy in Bulk
Start purchasing non-perishable items in bulk. If you're paying for something you absolutely need, such as toilet paper, paper towels, tampons, etc, it should be bought in bulk. This can help save you 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?
Join Loyalty Programs
Take advantage of stores' loyalty programs. They're quick and easy and you'll be saving anywhere from 10–15% on 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 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 print it out at home or save it to your phone. Foods, personal care products, oil changes, tires—whatever it is, there's a coupon floating around the internet for it. Drop the ego when it comes to adhering to 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)
3. Sacrificing to Stay on Budget
There's no tiptoeing around it—living on a tight budget will require cutbacks. As mentioned above, luxuries are the first things that should be eliminated from your spending whiteboard. This will require you to determine which items are a necessity and which are merely luxuries.
This is quite a subjective topic, as one item might be a luxury for one person 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, while someone else might just like 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 necessities:
- lottery scratchers
- fast food/junk food,
- 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 hard decisions. One day, you can reflect and reminisce to your friends, your children, and your grandchildren on the choices you've made when money was tight. You can even just reminisce to yourself about how hard it was to live without and how you made it work.
4. 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.
5. 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.
Do you believe that living on a budget builds character?
© 2014 Michael Kismet