A few years ago I was looking for the best ways to save money on a tight budget and started to put plans into action. As a father with growing kids, it was apparent that we needed to save money in anyway we could. I didn’t want to be the dad that worked 2 jobs just trying to make ends meet. These are some of the best ways to save money that I have found that helped us save a lot of money over the last few years.
1. Cut the cable TV providers out of your life
One of the best ways that I have found to be able to save money on a tight budget is to cut out our cable TV provider. Although we didn’t cut them out completely, we did save over $100 a month by getting rid of digital cable and the phone that were bundled in with our internet.
We were paying for a service with over 600 channels (who is going to watch all 600 channels?) and a phone that we never used because we all had cell phones. We made a decision to only keep out internet, and even signed up for Hulu (sometimes Netflix) for less than $10 a month. So we went from spending $170 each month, down to about $65 monthly, inlcuding the movie streaming service of your choice.
2. Eat lighter, cut out the meat a couple of nights out of the week
Many people forget how much money they spend on food throughout the week, but since we are parents of two kids, we have seen the cost of meals increase as our kids get bigger and need more food. When I suggest to cut out meats a couple nights out of the week, it really helps you save money on food because the meats are always the most expensive parts of the meals.
Some recipes that you could try for dinner without meat would be cheese quesadillas, potato tacos (don’t knock it until you try it), taco salads, soups, slow cooked chili, grilled cheese with fries, and more.
Of course I’m not suggested you cut out meat entirely. You will still need a healthy amount of protein, which can be found in beans and peanut butter. I believe you should be able to eat meat every day, just think twice about having ribeye steak and chicken wings 6 out of 7 nights of the week.
3. Compare different cell phone plans and carriers
Another great way to save money is to evaluate your cell phone bill. Yes, I know, everyone wants the latest iPhone. Do you really, really need it? Probably not. I have been just fine with my smartphone that I have had for over 3 years now. Think about what a brand new phone will do for you, and if it’s really worth it to upgrade. If it is for business purposes, then sure, definitely upgrade. What if it is so you can play the latest and greatest Candy Crush? If so, please try to resist.
Also be sure to look at your current cellphone plan and see if another carrier can offer you something at a better price. We change our cellphone carriers every few years, because honestly, “new customers” get all the good stuff. When you’re a new customer, you can get a brand new smartphone for under $100, the lowest rates, and the best deals. You may love your current provider, but I bet you will love a lower cellphone bill just as much, probably more.
4. Turn off and unplug your electronic devices
This is one of the tricks that I learned from my father, who was always saving as much money as possible. He would unplug our TV, cable boxes, video game consoles and computers when we weren’t using them. It was frustrating when we were younger, always having to plug our devices back in. It was easy to see as I grew older how much a difference this can make in your energy bill, especially if you live somewhere with high energy costs. For reference, my electric bill was about $300 on average when I lived in California and about $180 on average when living in Wisconsin.
5. Seal your windows in the winter and summer months
Speaking of the electric bill again, once of the best improvements we have found to save money on our electric bill is resealing the windows in our house in the winter and summer months. In the summer, your windows can let in warm air, forcing your air conditioning unit to work harder, thus costing you more money. In the winter, the same applies, letting in cold air from the outside will make your furnace work overtime.
Some of the biggest changes we made in our house were picking up a window insulation kit from Amazon. Some of the rooms upstairs were noticeably cold in the winter, but this all changed once we installed the window sealing kits. It’s really easy to do and doesn’t take that much time to install. Definitely worth it.
6. Go out to eat for lunch instead of dinner
We used to go out to dinner as a family, but noticed how expensive a good restaurant can be in the evenings, most likely due to the amount of people that go out to eat in the evenings. How many times have you gone out to a nice restaurant at night and have to wait 15 to 30 minutes for a table?
One of the biggest changes we made as a family that helped us save money was eating out on the weekends for lunch, or even breakfast. We have found the meals to be more affordable in the day time rather than the evenings. The kids meals are definitely for affordable as well. We plan to eat at our favorite restaurants during the day, and enjoy a nice meal at home in the evenings.
7. Use the public library for entertainment
Many people forget about the public library and how valuable it can be when trying to save money on a tight budget, because the public library can provide valuable, free entertainment when you feel like you are unable to afford anything fun to do in your spare time. I frequently take the kids to the public library near our house, and I am amazed at how empty it is most of the time.
Our library has an amazing section upstairs for kids to play and be a bit loud, so it’s nice to be able to get them out of the house and interact with other kids in a public setting on the weekends.
There are plenty of books to read, magazines, newspaper articles, and did I mention free internet? Free internet is definitely the best feature of the whole experience. I am able to stream movies and play games on my laptop. If you’re looking to find something to do on a tight budget, the public library can provide hours of entertainment.
8. Plan your meals
I currently work a full time job in the city with plenty of fast food restaurants around me. Many of my coworkers leave the office a few times a week and grab a bite to eat at one of the many local burger places. Can you imagine how much money they are spending on their lunches each week? The average price of a combo meal in my area is about $7. This meal includes a burger, fries, and soda. If someone eats at this burger place a few times each week, that’s over $20 just on lunch.
Do yourself a favor and plan your meals. For my lunches, I will buy a loaf of bread, a pack of my favorite salami, and a big bag of chips (off-brand) each week for about $10. This covers my lunches, monday through friday.
9. Start saving before the money hits your bank account
When trying to save money each month, one of the greatest assets I have found is that I am able to put away money before it even hits my checking account. The less money that I am able to see in my account, the less likely I would actually spend money that I don’t have. My job has an excellent option to automatically deposit a portion of my check directly into a savings account, which also helps my savings account grow much faster.
I usually only check my savings account every few months, and I am very excited to see how quickly it grows. It’s very motivating to see your account grow, especially when you are so dedicated to saving money.
10. Treat yourself once a month, not weekly
This goes without saying, but you should always try to minimize spending on the outside. One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to save money is that they starve themselves of entertainment, going out with friends, or having a good meal from their favorite restaurant. Not only will this make you feel miserable, but it can also cause you to “cheat” and break your saving habit, finding yourself spending all of the money you saved in the last few months.
I recommend that everyone treat themselves once a month as a reward for doing so good each month. I also recommend that you reward yourself towards the end of the month, at least from my experience, you will find it satisfying that you were able to save so much money during the month that it feels more like a reward, giving you more satisfaction for a job well done.
To sum it all up, finding the best ways to save money is all about your mindset going into it. The amount of money you save will depend on your goals and how you approach saving money. It also depend how important saving money is for you and your financial situation.
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