Today’s post is written by Sarah, a former special education teacher turned blogger. She loves all things frugal and thrifty and believes in living an amazing debt-free life within your means. You can learn more about Sarah over atI Heart Frugal.
Are you struggling financially? Paying bills and staying out of debt is difficult when money is tight.
According to a recent study, 8 out of 10 Americans are in debt. And if this is your current situation, you are probably feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
You could be saying to yourself, “I need help with money.” Yet, if you are not aware of how much you are spending, you may be digging yourself further into debt.
Regardless of your bills, there is always something that can be cut from your budget when money is tight.
Nonetheless, if you are living paycheck to paycheck and you are falling short each month, you can cut these seven things to help stay afloat. Yes, it will pay to live frugally and learn to save money so you have less stress in your life.
Forget about late fees and mounting debt. With these budget tweaks, you can leave debt in the past and start building your financial future.
#1 Cut your food bill
Yes, food is certainly a need. Yet, did you know that slashing your food bill is one of the easiest ways to save money? Your monthly grocery bill can take up a huge portion of your budget. So why not spend less on food and save more for bills?
Try meal planning as an alternative to eating out at pricey restaurants and ordering take-out. Meal planning will ensure you always have what you need on-hand to make dinner and avoid last-minute trips to the grocery store where you will most likely spend money on unplanned items.
Other ways to save money on food:
- couponing apps
- shopping sales cycles
- stocking up on sale items
- buying produce in season
- only shopping with a list
#2 Gym membership
Pricey gym memberships will drop a dumbbell right on your budget. If you are tight on money, consider finding an alternative to your over-priced room of weights. The average cost of a gym membership is around $58 per month and even more expensive in higher-cost living areas. So stop wasting money and find free or frugal ways to workout!
Here are my favorite cheap workout ideas:
- running outside
- free workouts on YouTube
- buying free weights to use at home
- racing my kids
My husband and I used to pay around $50 each for our gym membership; however, many pay WAY more than this. I have to admit, we belong to a different gym now. We found a membership at Planet Fitness for $10 per month.
This is by far, the cheapest gym membership I have found and if you are paying around $100 per month like we were, that is a savings of $90 that could be going towards bills or debt. So if you must use a gym, try Planet Fitness or if you can go without the pricey gym routine that, let’s face it, most of us don’t use enough to justify the cost, try working out at home or outside.
#3 Cut bills
Of course, you will always have bills, but if money is tight did you know you can negotiate your bills? I have personally done this and making those phone calls worked in my financial favor.
Generally, the only catch is sometimes you have to be willing to leave the company when asking for a discount on your services.
For example, my cable bill increased yearly and after topping $100 I was fed up. I decided to take action and called to negotiate the rising price. At first, my cable company was not willing to lower my bill so I asked them to shut off the service.
Yet, threatening to leave worked and they ended up cutting my bill by around $20 per month. Before calling, make sure you do your research and have prices from competitors handy as a negotiating tool. And again, be ready to leave. If the company doesn’t want to work with you, you can find something better.
Other bills you should negotiate:
- credit card rates
- bank charges
- credit card late fees
- phone bill
If you need a script on how to negotiate, I suggest buying the New York Times best-selling book I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi. This book provides some awesome money tips as well as what to say when negotiating bills and what to do if they say no.
Is there a cheaper way to get around? If you are currently leasing or paying a high car bill for a brand new car each month, then you will want to consider ditching your lease or current car and looking for a cheaper used car.
Cars depreciate in value the moment you drive them off the lot so buying new isn’t the best financial decision.
Not to mention, if you are leasing you will never have that perk of paying off your car. Likewise, if you are buying new, you could be paying a huge amount towards your car bill and that money could be put to good use elsewhere, especially if money is tight. After opting for a used car, consider carpooling to and from work to save even more. I used this method as a way to save when I was a teacher and commuted 30-40 minutes to work each day. If you carpool, you will save money on gas, oil changes, tire rotations, and wear and tear on your vehicle. If you are tight on money, I highly recommend it.
Other options to consider if you live close enough to work or want to save on transportation:
- walk to work
- ride your bike
- take the bus
- become an Uber or Lyft driver and make money on your morning commute
#5 Consider downsizing
Are your housing costs eating up over half of your take-home pay? Then downsizing will make a big impact on your finances.
If you have equity in your house, you could potentially sell your house and net a profit.
After selling try buying a smaller house or renting and use your extra money to hold you over until you can get ahead on your bills.
Renting may be a better option until you can get back on your feet. When you rent, you are not hit with emergency housing expenses such as needing a new roof or fixing a leaky pipe. Plus, you will have more free time to side hustle since you will not have yard work or house maintenance to keep up with.
#6 Manicure/spa days
If you are someone who loves their mani-pedis every two weeks, consider learning to do it yourself. This is one of the easiest ways to save when money is tight.
The last mani-pedi I got was for a special occasion; however, it set me back $50 plus tip. If you are going just twice per month, that is $100 that can be added back to your account.
Feeling deprived? Why not treat yourself to a luxury nail polish such as O.P.I. or Essie. Both cost around $10 per bottle and offer fabulous color choices. You are treating yourself, but still saving $90 per month and the new nail polish bottle will last you for at least six months.
Not a fan of doing your own mani-pedi and worried it will look like your five-year-old was practicing his coloring on your toes? Try watching free YouTube videos to help perfect your craft. You will have your piggies looking beach-ready in no time for a fraction of the cost.
Are you a subscription junkie? This can take a toll on your budget and cutting subscriptions can help you save a ton when money is tight.
Many times people sign up for subscriptions they no longer use and forget to cancel since they are paid automatically on a credit card. Try making a list of all your paid subscriptions and see if there is anything you can live without.
Several times I have bought a discounted magazine subscription on Groupon and the next year was charged over $24 on my credit card for the subscription renewal. Luckily, I was able to find my subscription online and cancel for a full refund. Yet, these recurring bills are easily missed and unless you cancel, will eat up your budget.
So take a look at your credit card bill and reevaluate if your subscription is something you really need.
Ideas of subscriptions to cut:
- makeup boxes
- sock, tie, underwear of the month
- stitch fix or other clothing boxes
- Netflix (unless you use this to replace cable)
- novelty subscriptions to clubs
- beer/wine of the month
- food subscription boxes
When money is tight, there are always ways to save. Find simple areas of your budget that can be cut to avoid going into debt during tough times. Regardless of how much you are paying in bills, there are always ways to save money. Use the above mentioned to help you get back on your feet and plan for your future. Lastly, make sure to build up an emergency fund for future surprise bills.
You can learn more about Sarah over at I Heart Frugal. You can follow Sarah on social media here: Pinterest Twitter Facebook Instagram