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Need to learn how to live on a tight budget? Read how me and my husband made it work for our family! Living on a small budget is possible, and if we can do it, you can too.
When my husband and I decided to move back to our hometown, we found ourselves in a place we’d never really been so far in our marriage — living on a very tight budget. Jobs just didn’t pay as much as they did where we’d been living the past few years.
This is also the time we found out we were pregnant with our first baby, and that meant life was going to get even crazier. We had to figure out if I was going to be able to stay home with the baby or if I’d have to go back to work.
I was pretty shocked when I wrote all our bills down and looked at the numbers (aka, a budget.) Our entire monthly income matched our monthly expenses. There was no money left over, no wiggle room. No wonder money had been feeling so tight!
We knew that if we were going to be able to afford me being a stay at home mom, we had to make some pretty big changes. We also knew though, deep down, that we would find a way to make this work.
So what did we do?
We figured out a plan. It didn’t happen all at once, and there were so many times I looked at the numbers and just walked away. But eventually, we learned how to make a tight budget work for us, and I know you can do it too! So keep reading and let’s get to work.
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Start With a Budget
You need to know the exact dollars you’re working with. If you’ve already got your budget written down (maybe that’s why you’re here after all) then great! If not, take a few minutes and write down every single bill you pay for the month. Estimate how much you’ll need for gas money and food. If you have no clue how much you usually spend on this stuff, you’ll want to go do my highlighter budgeting real quick.
Next, add up all your income you’ll receive for the month. Subtract your bills and expenses from your income and see what’s left. And there’s your budget! Not too bad right?
If you’re in my shoes, you might not have anything left over once you subtract your bills. That’s OK, this is just our starting point. If this number is negative, breathe. We’ll figure this out too! It’s important to know exactly how much you need to make up the difference and give you some breathing room in your budget.
Lower Your Expenses (Be Ruthless!)
Seeing how tight our budget was was pretty scary, and a little depressing. After all, we weren’t over here blowing our money on crazy stuff. We don’t even have cable! I knew I had to get our expenses lowered, but I really didn’t know what more we could cut.
I took some time to examine each bill on our list. I found that we could save $10 a month on our phone bill just by enrolling in auto pay. That was an easy one! I had subscriptions I could cancel (did we really need both Netflix and Hulu?) I could drop some data on our home Internet and save at least $10 a month there.
Then of course there’s water and electric. I knew we could be better about turning the thermostat up, only washing clothes when we had a full load, etc.
Even if you don’t think you’ve got much to lower, try anyway. All the changes in our budget added up about $10 at a time, but when combined together, they made a big difference.
Examine Your Food Budget
99 percent of the time, food is something we can all spend way less money on. Especially my generation (hello millennials!) Most of us didn’t grow up learning how to cook, and it shows. We love to eat out! It’s one of my favorite things to do, and it’s one of those things we used to spend a huge amount of money on.
Lunches out at work, dinner out for date nights, meeting up with family and friends at a good restaurant. These were all common to our lives when we both worked full time making pretty good money.
And then there’s the money spent on groceries. My husband and I would usually spend about $100 a week at the grocery store just on the two of us. Ever since our income got lower though, things had to change.
We started taking meal planning seriously, and I started actually reading the grocery store flyers that came in the mail. We buy what’s on sale that week, and we save a ton of money especially on meat that way.
And now we only eat out on occasion. I read somewhere to never eat out when you’re by yourself, and that really stuck with me. I always come home for lunch instead of grabbing some fast food. We eat dinner at home most nights, and as a result, going out to eat feels like much more of a treat!
Bring in Extra Money
If you’ve got your expenses as low as they can go (for now), it’s time to look at the other side of the coin — income. I realize finding ways to make extra money can be harder than finding ways to lower your bills, so that’s why I start with slashing your expenses first. Sometimes people can find enough money just by doing that that they don’t have to worry about bringing in money to replace their salary!
But if you’ve trimmed down your budget as much as you can and still need more money, it is possible to supplement your income. You just have to think a bit more outside of the box.
If you’re trying to figure out how you can quit your job so you can become a stay at home mom, figure out how much money that’s really going to take. Look at how much you’ve already saved by slashing your expenses. Do you still really need to replace your entire salary? Probably not. You’re also going to have more time when you aren’t working 8 hours a day. That’s time you can be using to further lower your expenses, make more meals from scratch, etc.
An easy way to supplement a little extra money is by taking surveys. Set a quota for yourself, like 3 surveys a day, or 30 minutes a day that you’ll take them. This is easy money that can be used for gifts, groceries, or even date nights.
If you need a lot of extra money, consider working part time for a while. Waiting tables has the benefit of getting cash every day and usually working flexible hours. You and your husband can rotate shifts so one of you always has the kids and you won’t have to pay for childcare. You could also watch a few kids in your home and help other moms out with childcare.
Sell, Sell, Sell
You might need to make some pretty drastic changes to your budget, including selling anything with a huge payment tied to it. If you and your husband both have car payments, that can easily be $800 to $1000 a month you’re paying to drive! It may take a while, but give your vehicles a good bath and list them online for sale. If you can get a little more than what you owe on them, you can take that money and buy something for cash. It may not be the prettiest thing to drive, but you’ll have a way to get from point A to point B without breaking the bank.
You can also sell smaller things around the house to get some quick cash. I finally did this with some college textbooks that were just sitting around, and I made $35. Not much, but the site paid shipping and made it super easy. When you’re living on a tight budget, every little bit helps!
You can sell just about anything on Craigslist or the Facebook Marketplace. Take an inventory of stuff you don’t need and list a few items for sale. Do this often. You’ll clear a ton of clutter and get some much-needed cash in your pocket!
I hope this post has helped you learn how to live on a tight budget.
It’s possible. And not only possible — you can live a great life on a small budget. By budgeting, lowering your expenses, bringing in some extra money, and selling stuff you don’t need, you can make living on a tight budget work for your family.
What are some ways you make a tight budget work for your family? Comment below, and don’t forget to pin this article on Pinterest for later!