Looking for ideas to save money but it seems hopeless because your budget is so tight?
It can be SO hard to save money on a low income, I should know! There was a while there where my husband and I were NOT managing our finances very well, living on one income, and slowly sinking further and further into debt. It felt like we couldn’t afford our daily expenses, let alone put any money away!
If you’ve been wanting to start building a nest egg but don’t know where to start, these ideas are for you.
None of these suggestions require you to have a lot of money and they’ll help you stretch your dollars as far as they can go. In fact, I do lots of these things in my own life and they’ve worked great for me!
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Ideas to Save Money on Food
1. Cook at Home
Cooking at home is a HUGE money-saver. Since we’ve started cooking at home and eating out less, we’ve been able to save between $100- $200/month. That money can go straight into savings!
One really easy way to start cooking at home more is to use a slow cooker. It’s so nice to dump the ingredients into the pot in the morning and come home to a yummy meal for dinner.
2. Batch Cook
Batch cooking basically means preparing a double or triple batch of supper and then freezing the leftovers. Doing this will save you money on groceries, reduce food waste, and it’ll give you a quick, easy meal for when you’re feeling tired and wanting to eat out.
If you’re going to batch cook (totally worth it IMO) you’re going to need some freezable, food-saving storage containers that can be used in the fridge or freezer.
I generally have two go-to food storage solutions. If I’m going to be storing something longer term (month or two) and want to ward off any thought of freezer burn, I use my Food Saver. I love the vacuum seal function!
If I’m separating my cooking into personal sized portions or will be using the food in a matter of a couple weeks, I use my go-to, glass storage containers.
If you’re looking to save money, check out what you have to store food in at home first. If it’s looking pitiful it might be worth your investment to buy some better options.
3. Meal Plan
If you want to stick to a grocery budget, meal planning is pretty important. Making a plan helps you buy what you need to get you through the week, and nothing more. Without a meal plan, you’re more likely to overspend, waste food, and not have all the right ingredients in the house when meal time comes around.
Check out this simple, effective meal planning tool that you can stick on your fridge:
4. Make a Shopping List
Ever gone to the grocery store and just bought whatever looked good? Yeah, me too. But, that can be expensive and unhealthy. If you go shopping ONLY with a shopping list, you’ll be able to avoid unnecessary purchases and you’ll save money.
Shopping according to your list will take some willpower and some planning.
Creating a shopping list can be a frustrating process when there’s more than just you in the household. I.e, having a husband or older child that uses the last of something and doesn’t let you know. If you find yourself in this situation, here’s something you might want to check out.
It’s pretty basic but it can get you pointed in the right direction.
5. Grocery Shop Online
Online grocery shopping is another great way to save money on food. It typically costs $3-$5 to be able to pick up your groceries, AND it’ll save you at least that much money by helping you avoid impulse buys and stick to your list.
6. Buy Produce in Season
Have you ever noticed that some produce is insanely expensive at certain times of the year and super affordable at other times? That’s because food gets expensive when it’s not in season and cheaper when it IS in season.
Take a few minutes to brush up on what produce is seasonal right now in your area of the world, and buy what’s cheap at the moment.
Plus, you can always buy extra and preserve it for when it’s out of season.
7. Take a Lunch to Work
Eating out for lunch every day can add up quick – even spending just $8/day adds up to $160/month. If you need to save some money, bring food from home and it’ll cost much less than buying a lunch.
Plus, you can even get some cute and handy lunch kits that’ll make it much easier to prep and take your lunch.
8. Make Your Own Coffee
If you have a daily Starbucks habit, you’re wasting your hard earned money! To save a few bucks, try making your coffee at home instead of buying it on the way to work.
You can often buy the exact same brew from the coffee shop or grocery store. All it takes is a little effort to get your favorite coffee for a much cheaper price.
Even if you only do this a couple times a week the savings can add up. Plus there are so many cute options for to-go containers.
9. Join or Start a Food-Buying Club
If you’re really dedicated to saving money on food, think about joining or starting a food-buying club. These clubs allow people to buy food in bulk and divide it up to share the savings. You can find out how to join a food-share here.
10. Use Coupon Apps
You don’t need to clip coupons to get awesome savings on groceries, instead, you can just download a handy app to do the work for you. My favorite app is Checkout 51, but you can find all sorts of great grocery apps here.
11. Bring Your Own Grocery Bags
Most stores charge for plastic grocery bags now, so if you really want to save some cash, bring your own (like these 5 star rated reusable grocery bags).
Or, check out these reusable grocery and produce bags. (While the produce bags don’t save you money, you can help out the planet!):
12. Do Meatless Meals
Meat is one of the most expensive parts of a meal, so you can save some money by cutting it out. You don’t have to go completely meatless, but choose one or two days a week when you’ll go meat-free.
Look into ways to use beans and other meat alternatives. You’ll be surprised at how tasty your meals are.
13. Get an Instant Pot
If you’ve ever found yourself running out of time to cook the meal you want to before dinnertime, you might need an Instant Pot. It can cook up meat quick and tender, and it makes one heck of a one-pot meal. It’s a bit like a slow cooker….but faster.
An Instant Pot will also save you from going into ‘I just can’t make supper tonight – let’s eat out’ mode as often AND it can cook up (super cheap) dried beans deliciously and have you looking forward to those meatless meals.
Ideas to Save Money on Household Items
14. Quit Paper Towels
Paper towels are one of those things that lots of people feel they can’t live without! But, people lived without them for most of history. They just used rags or cloths. Even though paper towels aren’t a huge expense, every little bit counts.
If you need something to replace those all-important paper towels, check out these reusable paperless towels:
15. Clean with Vinegar
Instead of spending money on brand-name household cleaners, fill a spray bottle with vinegar. It’s safe on most surfaces, and it’s CHEAP!
You can make it smell a little better with lemon peel or different essential oils. Just look up so tips and recipes online.
16. Cancel Cable
Canceling cable might be a tough decision, but it could save you a LOT. If you pay $85/month, that’s $1020/ year that you could be saving! So bite the bullet and do it.
Netflix is a great, cheaper alternative. Plus there are so many other streaming services like Amazon Prime and Disney Plus. The only trick is to figure out which streaming service will give you the best bang for your buck.
There’s no point in cutting cable just to sign up for five or six streaming services that will end up costing you the same amount overall.
17. Negotiate Rates for Internet, Phone, Etc.
When was the last time you called your internet provider to try and get a good deal? Sometimes all you have to do is ask for better rates, or let them know that you’re looking at using another provider – they may just have a better deal for you. You can try getting better rates for phone and other services as well.
18. Turn Off the Lights
That’s right, your parents knew what they were talking about when they told you to shut the lights off! It’ll save you money and it’s easy to do once you get in the habit.
19. Air Dry Your Clothing
You can save money on your monthly utility bill by quitting the clothes dryer. Just put up a string with some clothes pegs, or buy an indoor clothes drying rack to set up in your laundry room.
20. Wash Laundry in Cold Water
Save your hot water heater some work (and save some money on utilities) by washing your clothing in cold water. And, bonus, it’ll make your clothes last longer!
21. Turn Down Your Hot Water Heater
Speaking of saving hot water, who really needs burning hot water coming out of the tap? Turn down the temperature on your hot water heater so you’re not wasting money making your water way too hot!
22. Sell Your Stuff
Okay, technically selling your stuff is more in the ‘making money’ category, but if you need some cash quick, put something up for sale on Craigslist or Varagesale.
23. Stop Replacing Broken Things
Before you go out and replace something that breaks in your home, think about whether or not you REALLY need to replace it. Some things are essential, but some things you can do without – and going without can save you money!
24. Refund Bottles and Cans
It’s easy to throw away those juice boxes and pop bottles without thinking, but collect them and you could be a decent sum. So designate a place for keeping empties, make a habit of it, and start saving.
Ideas to Save Money Through Your Budget
25. Stop Using Credit Cards
Did you know that using credit cards makes you more likely to overspend? So if you really want to start saving, stop buying things with your credit card!
26. Negotiate Interest Rates for Your Credit Card
If you haven’t tried to negotiate new rates for your credit card recently, give your provider a call and see if they can give you a better interest rate than you currently have.
27. Sign Up for Customer Rewards Programs
There are so many awesome customer rewards programs out there that let you save money or get cash back while you spend. My favorite one is PC Optimum from Superstore. Wherever you like to shop regularly, find out if they have a program that could save you money.
28. Do a Week Long Spending Freeze
If you’re having a hard time with long-term changes, try committing to not spending ANYTHING for just one week. You can eat at home, invite friends over, ride a bike to work, and walk to the store. If you’re really dedicated, you could probably save $100!
29. Buy Used Items
You can save SO much money by buying used items instead of brand new. Before making big (or small) purchases, look around online or at your local thrift store for a good second-hand deal.
30. Shop In the Off-Season
This year, try buying your Christmas (or Easter/Valentine’s Day etc.) stuff right after the holiday ends – you’ll hit the sales instead of getting inflated prices that come just before the festive season.
31. Only Spend in Cash
If you’re really struggling to control spending and save, try withdrawing cash at the beginning of the week to cover all your weekly expenses. Divide your cash into spending categories, carry it around in a wallet (something like this) and stop spending when it runs out!
32. Save Your Change
It may feel like a slow process, but saving change can really add up if you stick with it. Instead of losing your spare quarters in the wash, keep track of them in a special place and put that cash into savings!
If you need some more motivation to save your change, check out these fun savings challenges. It sometimes helps to have a goal you’re working toward or to at least see what’s possible!
Save Money on a Low Income by Rethinking Your Transportation
33. Maintain Your Car
It might be tempting to put off car maintenance if you want to save money, but it could come back to bite you. If you keep up with maintaining your car, you’ll have small expenses along the way and hopefully, avoid BIG bills that come all at once. Not to mention, your vehicle will last longer.
34. Bike or Walk
If you live reasonably close to work, consider biking or walking to work some of the time. Even ditching your vehicle a couple times a week can help you reduce your gas bill!
If you’re worried about protecting your bike when you go places you can check out folding bikes like this one:
35. Take Public Transit
Consider buying a bus pass at the beginning of the month and take public transit for a month, instead of using your vehicle (at least for commuting to work). Taking transit is definitely less convenient than driving yourself, but you can save a ton on gas costs.
Another option for saving on transportation costs is finding somebody to carpool with. This way, you still have the convenience of driving in your own car, but you can split expenses with somebody else.
37. Sell that Second Car
Okay, I know it’s awesome, and sometimes essential, to have a second vehicle. However, if you’re really wanting to save money, selling that second car can mean HUGE savings. Between the money you spend on gas, maintenance, and insurance on a second vehicle, you could easily save $1000-$2000 a year or more (not to mention the money you’ll get from selling the vehicle).
38. Quit Idling
It can be a hard habit to get into but practice turning off your car when you’re not driving.
39. Don’t Speed
I bet you’ve heard that speeding isn’t safe, but did you know it can also make you burn through fuel faster? So next time you’re tempted to go a little too fast, remember to slow down to help your money-saving efforts.
Save Money on a Low Income Through Your Housing Situation
40. Downsize Your Living Space
Are you house-poor? So many people are living paycheck to paycheck because they’re in a house that’s bigger than they can afford. So take a hard look at your living situation, and ask yourself if you could downsize to save some money. Feel free to think about how SO many people all over the world live in really small accommodations with large families.
41. Rent out a Room
Don’t feel like moving into a smaller space? Consider renting out a room in your home to make a little extra money.
42. Get an Exchange Student
This is almost the same thing as renting out a room, but you have the opportunity to meet people from different countries, which is pretty cool. Get in touch with your local high school or university to ask about opportunities to host an exchange student.
43. Move in with Family
If you’re really committed (or desperate) when it comes to saving money, think about moving in with family. This option could give you a bit of a boost and allow you to put money away quickly.
44. Rent Somewhere with Flat Rate Utilities
If you’re renting, try and find a rental that includes a flat rate for utilities in the monthly cost. Once you know EXACTLY what your monthly costs for utilities will be, it’s easier to budget and save your pennies!
Save Money on a Low Income by Banking Better
45. Get a Free Checking Account
It’s easy to take your banking fees for granted, but you might be paying unnecessarily. Banks often have a free checking account available, so call up your financial institution and see if you can save a bit of money in monthly fees.
46. Go Over Your Bank/Credit Card Statements
It’s SUPER important to go over your credit card and banking statements often to make sure you haven’t been double charged for anything. Not to mention, it’s good to make sure you haven’t forgotten to cancel any monthly subscriptions you signed up for (I’ve deeeeefinitely done that). By checking your statements monthly you can save yourself lots of moola.
How to Save Money on a Low Income When You Have Kids
47. Use Cloth Diapers
Cloth diapers are a serious money-saver, especially if you’re planning on using them for more than one kid. The initial investment can feel pretty big, but once you’re all stocked up with reusable diapers, you’ll end up saving a TON of money.
Plus, there are all sorts of cute ones on the market today:
48. Trade Babysitting
If you want to go on a date, but your budget is tight, you should think about trading babysitting with some friends. Tell them you’ll watch their kids one Friday night if they watch your kids the next – no money exchanged. That way, both couples can go on a date and will save money on babysitting.
49. Do a Nanny Share
If you’re struggling to find childcare, or if you just don’t want to send your child to a large child-care center, consider a nanny-share. A nanny-share is when two families split the costs of a nanny, and he/she watches the children from both families. The nanny may charge more for watching multiple children, but the cost will still likely be less than hiring a nanny on your own.
50. Host a Clothing Exchange
Can’t afford to buy a new wardrobe for your growing child? Find a clothing exchange or host one in your community. At a clothing exchange, participants bring clothing they’re not using to contribute and they take home other people’s unwanted items – all for free.
Now, I know that breastfeeding doesn’t work out for everybody – and there’s NO SHAME in that. However, if you CAN breastfeed, it’ll sure save you a lot of money because you won’t be buying formula. Try and stick it out to save some money, but know your limits and definitely don’t sacrifice your sanity.
One thing that really helped me, especially with newborns, were nipple shields.
Save Money on a Low Income by Lessening Your Entertainment Spend
52. Use the Library
One super-cheap form of entertainment is reading. And why not get those books for free (or for the low price of a library card). Head on over to your local library and pick out something interesting!
53. Camp for your Summer Vacation
If you want to have some affordable fun this summer, consider going camping instead of staying somewhere fancy and expensive. Camping can be as rugged or refined as you make it, and it’s great for family bonding.
Plus after the initial investment of camping equipment, it’s super inexpensive.
Here are some camping essentials you might want to check out:
54. Find Free Activities
Before you go thinking you have to spend money to have fun, check out the free activities that your community is hosting. Depending on your location, there could be lots of free or affordable things to do – it just takes a little research.
Save Money on a Low Income Through Thriftier Personal Care
55. Get Your Hair Done at the Beauty School
Find out if there’s a local hair school near you and go get your hair cut there. Hair schools will usually have discount rates, and if you get a cut done by the more experienced students your hair will probably turn out decent.
56. Buy a Hair Cutting Kit
If you have young kids, consider getting a hair cutting kit, watching some youtube videos, and cutting their hair yourself. If you have a few kids, that haircutting kit will pay for itself in the first month and start saving you money.
57. Wear Glasses Instead of Contacts
You can save yourself hundreds of dollars by choosing glasses over contacts, AND there are some great online services like ilookglasses that will get you glasses at a discounted price.
58. Buy a Diva Cup
Instead of using disposable feminine hygiene products, why not try out a Diva Cup instead. The Diva Cup is a reusable menstrual cup that works like a charm. You can use the cup for around a year (depending on how quickly it wears out) and you’ll save a lot of money because you won’t be buying disposable products.
If you prefer to use sanity napkins, there are also several brands of reusable pads on the market. Plus, there’s even period underwear that don’t require any additional products to offer great coverage.
Save Money on a Low Income by Fixing Clothing Essentials
59. Re-sole your old shoes
Instead of buying new shoes, find out if you have a local cobbler who can resole your old shoes. This can be a good, affordable option if you have a good quality pair of shoes that is holding together but just needs new soles.
60. Buy a Sewing Machine
Buying a sewing machine has been a HUGE money saver for my family. I got a fairly cheap and simple machine from Walmart a couple years ago, and I’ve used that machine to fix SO much clothing and so many other things around our house.
If you don’t know how to sew, check out Youtube or find a local sewing expert to teach you a few things. You won’t have to learn anything elaborate – just enough to fix basic things.
Here are couple models that rate well on Amazon:
You CAN Save Money on a Low Income
Now that you’ve read through all the tips above, choose a few and write down some goals for how you’re going to start saving money TODAY! And don’t forget to bookmark this page. 😉
Once you’ve mastered a few of these things, come back and add a few more to your list. You CAN save money on a low income, so have a little faith and get to work!
What are some of the tips you’ve tried to save money. Do you do anything to save money that’s not on this list? Let us know below!