How to Have a Great Life on a Tight Budget (Really)

By living on a budget, we can simplify our lives and be more able to enjoy the things that are important to us. A budget is freeing and empowering because it allows you to have some of the things you want without guilt or feeling like you’re living beyond your means. You learn how to live within your means and appreciate what you do have.

A budget is not just about money but about living an honest, wholesome life. It makes it easy for you to know where your money is going, so you can make sure everything is accounted for and in order.

The most important thing to know? The amount of money in your bank account does not determine the quality of your life.

Here’s how to have a great life on a tight budget.

desktop scene with cash and calculator

Be intentional with how you spend your money

The best thing is to make conscious decisions about buying anything, from food and clothing to technology, furniture, or even your home.

Your purchases should reflect what’s important to you. When you live on a tight budget, keep this in mind:

You can have anything you want, but not everything you want.

Make sure what you spend money on reflects your priorities.

Know your bottom-line number

First, know how much money you need for living expenses each month. This includes rent or mortgage payments, utilities (including internet), trash collection service, food (groceries and restaurants), transportation cost (bus fare and car rental), public transportation cards/subscription costs, cell phone bills, credit card payments, and other living expenses.

Don’t forget childcare costs, housekeeping services/cleaning products, laundry services/cleaning products, and medical insurance costs.

When you know this number, you’ll see that you probably have more extra money than you think.

Next, edit your expenses

Choose what things are most important, and then edit the rest of your expenses. You may need to cut back on some of the luxuries to stay living within your means. What activities do you consider indulgences? Do you have time for any leisure activities? How do you justify how you spend your money?

You may find that living on a tight budget requires you to do some juggling.

Pick one thing at a time to reduce or eliminate; otherwise, you’ll feel deprived. Remember, we’re looking for ways to live well.

Get a Referral for EVERYTHING

If you need to purchase something, ask friends and family if they have had any good experiences with an online store or service provider to help you save money. You can find family or friends discount codes for everything from apps to delivery services. It’s a great way to find the best deals.

Stop Going Out As Much

You don’t have to be a hermit. But remember that every time you leave the house, you’re probably spending money. Even if you’re just running into the grocery store to buy something you need, you’ll end up spending more than you think. Limit your shopping trips to once a week, and stop going out because you’re bored.

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Shop Around For The Best Deals

When living on a limited budget, it is imperative to shop around for the best deals in all areas of life: car insurance, home or renters insurance, groceries, and more. Don’t buy anything without comparing prices online first! Many shopping services will alert you when there are sales at your favorite stores.

Focus On Spending Money on Experiences

It’s okay to live on a tight budget: but it’s not okay to let that budget control you, so sometimes you have to spend money on experiences. And those experiences last long after the price has been forgotten! Try to spend money on things that matter: spending time with your loved ones, living in the moment, and living an authentic life.

Trick yourself into making frugal fun

If budget living is tough for you, try some tricks to make frugal living fun. For example, I love to eat out—but since it’s expensive, I’ve started using the “feel full” method by eating half of my meal and saving the other half for later in an insulated lunchbox. This way, I get the feeling of “having had a full meal,” but I save money because I’m only paying half price for my meal.

Another trick: make a sticker chart for yourself and give yourself a star every day you stick to your budget. After a week, give yourself a (free!) treat.

Find Frugal Alternatives

There are many ways to embrace living on a tight budget without cutting out all the good things in life: you just need to find frugal alternatives! For example, you can turn your living room into a movie theater for less than $150 by investing in a projector and screen. You can also grow fresh herbs on your windowsill to replace costly purchases at the grocery store.

Eat Out Less

It’s just so expensive and a temporary pleasure that you almost always regret.

Cook more food from scratch! Cooking is not only cheaper, but it’s healthier too! You can save hundreds of dollars a month by living on your own cooking.

Eating at home can be just as fun as going out. Try making copycats of your favorite restaurant dishes, making cocktails at home, and sitting at your dining room table instead of wolfing down food in front of the TV.

Price Match

If you love living frugally, make sure you take advantage of price matching in all areas of life: if you find a lower price on one of your favorite brands, go back to the store and ask if they will match that price.

Start Shopping at Costco or Sam’s Club

They have everything you need, and the quality is great. You can save a bundle on groceries this way, but you won’t feel like you’re sacrificing anything.

You’ll still enjoy name brands, fresh produce, and a clean and pleasant shopping experience without having to spend too much.

Find free entertainment

If you live on a tight budget, one of the best things is to spend time in a free park or museum. You’ll be able to get out into nature and enjoy some fresh air for free. It’s also an opportunity to learn about the world around you without having to pay admission fees!

Plenty of parks and museums allow people living on tight budget access at no cost: often, all you need is your library card or ID.

Books are expensive. If you’re living on a tight budget, every dollar counts. That’s why libraries offer such a wonderful service: free books! You can borrow any book in the library for up to two weeks and read it at your leisure; then, when you’re done, just bring it back and pick out another one.

Libraries also offer DVDs and CDs if you want to watch or listen to something new but don’t have the money to buy them.

Start a garden

It’s a myth that living on a tight budget means never eating healthy. You can save hundreds of dollars per month by cooking at home and growing food at home! If you only have a small amount of space, grow herbs or lettuce to replace costly purchases at the grocery store; if you have room for a bigger garden, try vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and squash.

Even in an apartment, you can grow fresh herbs on your windowsill to replace costly purchases at the grocery store.

Eliminate or reduce monthly subscriptions

Get rid of the things you don’t need. Try to reduce any recurring monthly bills that are not vital to living. Think of the paid apps, streaming services, digital magazines, and many other monthly things you pay for.

Cancel most, and if you miss them, you can always get them back.

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Know What’s Worth It

There’s no getting around it: sometimes, living on a budget requires some sacrifice. Don’t try to perform magic and pay for your credit card debt, mortgage, and more on a small salary.

Sometimes that expensive, huge house is something you need to give up to do the rest of the budget work.

Give Up Your Car

Does this seem extreme? It is, for some people. But it’s also one of the best ways to save money if you can swing it. You’ll be able to save more money if you live without the cost of a car payment, insurance, and gas.

This is a great way to get a lot of money into your budget, so you have more leftover for the things you love.

Focus on your health

Saving money isn’t just about buying the cheapest thing possible. To keep yourself happy on your frugal living journey, focus on keeping yourself healthy.

It’s a myth that you have to spend a lot to eat well. Just buy whole foods, avoid processed foods, and limit your sugar.

You’ll find that you have more energy and feel better overall without maxing out your credit card.

Don’t buy brand new

The best way to get things cheap is by buying them used and slightly worn. That will be better for you in the long run anyway because it will often last longer without breaking down.

(It really is true that they don’t make them like they used to!)

Find the fun in your savings account

Have you ever heard the saying “saving is as much fun as spending?” And sometimes it is. When you’re on a tight budget, you can’t always find a way to save a lot. But everyone can save a little bit.

Find the fun in checking your savings account every month. Consider printing out a fun chart or coloring page. Something is satisfying about watching the cash stack up.

More fun than blowing your money at TGI Fridays, promise.

Enjoy the little things

When living on a budget, you need to make the most of the little things. Maybe you can’t afford a vacation at a four-star resort or a brand new car. That’s okay.

Go to a farmer’s market and just walk around.

Find a hiking trail.

Do a craft.

Get some friends together and have a potluck or game night

Be there in the moment with the people you love.

Living on a tight budget shouldn’t limit your happiness

Create your own living budget that will allow you to live a fulfilling life.

This doesn’t mean living without joy.

There’s more to life than money.