How to Live Cheaply: 21 Budgeting Tips for Cheap Living

How to Live Cheaply: 21 Budgeting Tips for Cheap Living

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We’ve all been there. Sometimes life circumstances change or a decision to go back to school or change jobs can mean that you are going to have to cut back your spending and stick to a strict budget.  The trouble is that it can be hard to know how to cut back effectively to get you through from paycheck to paycheck.

If you are struggling with a reduced budget and really need some help to figure out where to save money or where you can supplement your reduced income in practical ways, never fear!

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Making changes to your lifestyle can feel overwhelming and you might even feel a bit depressed about having to do so. Fortunately, making cheap living possible doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on things that matter to you.

If you are struggling with where to cut back, we have compiled a list of 21 ways to live cheaply to help you to get your budget on track and your spending in check.

How to Live Cheaply: 21 Budgeting Tips for Cheap Living

1. Educate Yourself:

Making a budget requires skill and sticking to a plan with regards to your finances can be hard if you aren’t well informed about the best ways to budget.

If you are struggling with how to make a budget or if you don’t even really know what one is, there are lots of great resources out there to help you to make one.

Shop YouTube for videos about budgeting, or use budgeting software or app that will help you get the ball rolling.

If you are wanting to delve deeper into the many ways to make a budget, this great list of books about personal finance can help you to jump into budgeting with both feet and learn how to live cheaply.

online learning for free as a way to live cheaply

2. Cut Back to One Car:

Americans are often guilty of choosing to spend money on excess or luxury because they believe that they cannot live without a frill or a convenience item that costs a lot of money.

Cars are expensive, from insurance, to maintenance, to parking fees and so on.

If you and your family truly don’t need to have two cars, you can save yourself a lot of money. If you are trying to cut back and save money, cutting back to one car can save you thousands of dollars every year.

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An added benefit is the healthy option to walk or to ride a bike for shorter journeys that you would normally have taken in the car.

3. Quit Eating Out so Much:

It’s easy to get trapped into a cycle where you are eating out more than you are eating in.

Especially if your commute is long and boring, it can be tempting to just stop in someplace for a quick dinner on your way home, or to save the time you would need to cook by grabbing a pizza.

The trouble with eating out is that there are lots of hidden expenses involved that people tend to overlook. When you eat out, you almost never are just paying for the food that you order.

You also have to pay for drinks and then you have to tip your server. The food item that you ordered might have cost $15.00 but then you got a $2.00 drink and left a $3.000 tip.

The cost is even larger if you are not eating alone when you go out. It is easy to see how eating out frequently can add up to additional expenses that mount up over time.

4. Create a 30-Day List:

If you are having issues with impulse purchases or last-minute decisions to splurge on things, make yourself a 30-day list.

This list will have things on it that you want, but don’t need, like a new TV or a subscription to Hulu.

If you still want to buy the items on the 30-day list after a month has passed, you can buy them then.

Often, waiting a month will reveal that most of these items were really not necessary to your happiness or your daily life and you will be able to pass them up.

If you have been wondering how to live cheaply, this type of intervention can really help you to save money.

5. Find Free Entertainment:

Having fun is often expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.

There are lots of clever ways to have fun without spending a dime. Have a reading marathon with your kids, or play football outside with your friends.

Pack breakfast in a backpack and hike to a hill to watch the sunrise. Have fun on a playground or pick out a board game and sit down with your family to play it.

The possibilities are endless if you look outside of the normal options like going to the movies, hanging out at bars or shopping.

6. Get Rid of Cable:

Along the same lines as finding ways to entertain you and your family for free, getting rid of cable can save a lot of money.

Most cable contracts cost hundreds of dollars a month and there are many other ways to find entertaining things to do than to just sit in front of the television.

Not only will dumping cable save you lots of money over the course of a year but it will also make it possible for you and your family to spend more time together talking or doing something like playing board games.

7. Cancel Your Gym Membership:

It’s important that you still take care of your health, but you really don’t have to have a gym membership to do so.

You can go running outside, play sports in the backyard with friends, or go hiking in a public location.

It can be a nice change of pace to go running outside or to do something physical with friends for a change and your pocketbook will thank you. 

cancel your gym membership as a way to live cheaply

8. Quit Smoking:

Quitting won’t be easy, but cigarettes are very expensive and honestly are just bad for your health.

The other benefit of quitting smoking is that you will be much less likely to have health expenses like doctor’s visits or emergency room bills if you quit.

Once you see how much you can do with all the money you are saving by quitting smoking, you will be glad that you did so.

When people ask how to live cheaply, this type of change is one of the first things that should be suggested.

9. Sell the Clutter:

If you have things sitting around in your house or your garage that are just taking up space and that haven’t been used in the past year, you should consider parting with them.

Say you bought an exercise bike but it has been sitting collecting dust for the past two years.

Selling it will remove some clutter from your home and will also bring in a little bit of money that you can pop into your savings account.

You will feel lighter and less burdened when you don’t have a lot of stuff lying around that you aren’t using and your bank account will thank you for parting with the things you aren’t using.

10. Do Things Yourself:

Does your showerhead need to be replaced?

Maybe your yard needs a new fence.

You could hire someone to do it for you, but many household tasks and projects can be learned quite easily by spending a little time online watching how-to videos or by asking someone you know to show you how to do it yourself.

The cost of materials to replace broken items in your home or to build a deck is minimal compared to the expense of paying for the labor to have someone do it for you.

An added plus is the sense of accomplishment that you will feel when you have successfully completed the task all by yourself.

11. Buy Used:

This tip applies to clothes, household items, and cars.

While a new car or a new sofa is nice, if you are trying to cut back on expenses, buying new is not cost-effective. Shop wisely and you can often find great deals on used items that are still in great condition.

If you still want to buy new, make sure that you wait to shop until there are sales or locate a generic version of the same item which will automatically be much less expensive.

12. Save Energy:

Turn off lights when you leave the room, wash your clothes with cold water and try not to keep your house excessively cool or excessively warm.

If you are pondering how to live cheaply and also how to help the environment, this is a great way to do both things at once. Any electricity that you use in your home will cost you money and using resources that you really don’t need is just wasteful.

Keeping the house a few degrees cooler in the winter will just mean you have to wear a sweatshirt in the house or that you will have an excuse to snuggle with your spouse under a blanket and watch a movie.

save energy as a way to live cheaply

13. Take Care of Your Things:

This may seem like a no-brainer, but taking care of your stuff is one of the best ways that you can prevent surprise or emergency expenses.

Making sure that you take good care of your car, your oven or your washer and dryer means that you will likely not have to dump thousands of dollars into replacing them when you weren’t planning on doing so.

14. Avoid Paying Interest:

If you have large balances on your credit cards, or a personal loan, consider consolidating your debt and working on paying it down.

Interest is a hard monkey to get off your back and many loan options are predatory and will not have your best interest at heart. To prevent any chance that you will buy something expensive with a credit card, do not ever allow yourself to use credit for anything other than emergencies.

If you are wanting to plan a trip, make sure that you can pay for it in cash rather than charging it on a credit card.

Using credit for small expenses can really add up without you noticing it.

Free yourself from the burden of interest and you will be able to take that money and put it into savings.

15. Create Savings Accounts for Specific Needs:

If you are saving up for a new car or a vacation or you just want to have a rainy-day fund, you should create a unique savings account at your bank for each type of saving that you are trying to do.

If you have $100.00 at the end of every month to put into savings, you can choose to split it over all your savings accounts or to send it into one bucket or another as you see fit.

Treat your savings accounts like they are not even there other than to contribute to them and you will be able to grow your savings quickly.

16. Know What you Make:

This is another tip that sounds like it’s common sense, but many people are not truly aware of what they bring home in pay every month.

To be sure that you are budgeting effectively, figure out your monthly income and make sure that your expenses each month are less than your income.

If they are not, you need to figure out where to cut out costs until you can get to a number that is in keeping with your income.

If you are struggling with how to save money and stay afloat on a low income, check out this great article with information about how to make a low income work for you.

dont go shopping as a way of living cheaply

17. Don’t Go Shopping:

Shopping just to buy something that you don’t really need is a great way to spend money that you should have been saving.

If you need something and want to go buy it, then do so, but shopping just for the sake of shopping is often a gateway to spending money on items that are not needed and can cut into your savings fund at the end of the month.

18. Consider Downsizing Your Home:

Many houses are full of spaces that no one uses more than once in a while.

If you ask a financial advisor how to live cheaply, they will often suggest this change first. While our gut reaction to the thought of living in a smaller house is often a complete dismissal of any such thought, it can be possible to live very happily in a smaller house and never notice all the rooms that you never spent time in any way.

Your mortgage will be less each month in a smaller home and you will likely also have a smaller yard to take care of.

An added benefit to smaller houses is that they cost less to heat and cool and you will spend more time together as a family in a smaller home.

19. Combine Trips:

To save money on gas, make sure that you plan ahead and do your grocery shopping for the week and combine the trip with another errand or two that you need to do.

You can pop into the dry cleaners to get your suit in the same trip as your grocery run if you just plan ahead a little.

Plus, having more free time in your week for other activities will make you really pleased that you organized your time so intelligently when you were running errands.

20. Make Minimalism Your Style:

Allow yourself to try out a wardrobe that is not as exciting.

Cut back to casual clothes when you are not as work, and reduce the number of items that you own as most of the added items in your wardrobe will likely be worn only once in a while, if at all.

You will save money on new clothes and you will find that you feel free from the pressure to dress up all the time to impress people.

frugal gifts as a way to live cheaply

21. Give Frugal Gifts:

Remember that it is the thought that counts with gift-giving.

If you only have ten dollars to spend on a gift, you can still get a thoughtful item for your friend that they will love. Your job when giving gifts does not need to be to impress everyone.

Heartfelt gifts are often more memorable than expensive ones anyway.

Consider Supplementing Your Income

If you have tried out all the above suggestions and are still struggling to find extra cash for things that you need, there are many ways to make additional income while still working at your full-time job.

Taking surveys can be a great way to earn a little extra cash and they are often fun besides. If you really enjoy reading and also like to help others with their work, there are lots of ways to get connected with proofreading and editing jobs that can help you work on your own set hours and still make money.

Lastly, consider writing for blog writers and web site developers who are always looking for someone to create content for their websites.  If you love to write, there are a million different ways to earn money by doing what you love.


Making ends meet on a reduced income or trying to increase the amount of money in your savings account can feel like a struggle, especially if you are implementing these changes for the first time.

However, with some effort and a little experimentation, you can definitely create a budgeting plan that will work for you and will not make you feel like you are missing out on things.

Choosing to save money in ways that can help others or help the environment is rewarding enough that it will motivate you to make even more choices of the same nature.

The best part about living cheaply is that you will free yourself from the bondage of buying expensive items or things that you don’t need and you will be able to spend more on investments, travel or even something like going back to school.

Taking the weight of expenses off of your shoulders will start to feel so good that you won’t ever want to stop!

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