How to Save Money When You Don't Have Much

Many of us have a lot of month left at the end of our money. If your regular gig and your side hustle aren't enough to cover your bills, learning to reduce your expenses and save money is critical to your success.

Learn to Cook

When money is tight, even fast food becomes too expensive. Cooking doesn't have to be complicated and you don't have to spend a lot on expensive spices and other ingredients to feed yourself or your household.

Even if you've never cooked at all, you can get good at sandwiches. A peanut butter sandwich and an apple is a cheap, quick, filling lunch. Wrap it up in a whole wheat tortilla for something fancier. If you have a single cooking pot, you can boil eggs for egg salad.

If you're just starting out, take the time to visit your local library and look for cookbooks with information on breakfast. Eggs are cheap, filling and fairly simple to make.

Meal Planning and Batch Cooking

Nearly everyone gets their grocery store circulars on Wednesday. If you can, plan your meals for the week on Thursday night and shop very early Friday or Saturday morning. That's when the markdowns are available.

If you can find discounted foods, you may need to adjust your meal plan. Bargain produce and meat need to be used up quickly, but if you shop before the weekend you can batch cook before things can spoil.

Batch cooking is simply cooking ahead. If you find a beef or pork roast on sale, cook it on Sunday afternoon. Portion it out and freeze most of it, saving some in the refrigerator to heat up when you get home from work.

By batch cooking on the weekend, you can save yourself the hassle of cooking when you get home exhausted.

Track Your Spending

Many of us have tried to set up a budget but been defeated by the complexity. Instead, try tracking your spending. Carry a small notebook and a pen with you. Every time you spend money, write it down.

At the end of the day, review your purchases. Were they worth it? If yes, mark that purchase with a plus sign. If no, mark it with a minus. Review this list and note the pluses and minuses. How can you avoid a negative purchase tomorrow, and how can you reduce what you spent on the positive choices?

If you're trying to lose weight, anything you spent on candy during your break time was a waste. Tomorrow, take a healthier snack. If you went out for a healthy lunch but spent $10.00 on a salad you could have made for $4.00, you need to make a salad tomorrow.

Take on Short-Term Pain

Many of us have debts that are dragging us down. The future will be brighter once those are paid off. Will some short-term pain help you wipe out those debts?

Short-term financial pain includes

  • taking on a roommate and being a bit more cramped

  • getting another job for a season, six months or a year

  • participating in a no-spend


None of these things are permanent; you're not going to do them forever. You're going to do them until you've wiped out your car loan or your credit card bill. If you find that these short-term projects are helpful and worth the struggle, you may want to continue them to build up savings.

Set Up a Difficult Bank Account

Take a little cash to a bank close to your home or your job and set up a simple account. Do not get a debit card for this account. If you do, bury it in your sock drawer.

Funnel your side hustle income into this difficult account. The key is to make this account easy to add to but difficult to empty. If you can cut your expenses and live on your primary paycheck, every penny from your side hustle income can go into this account. If you sell something, bank the money. If your family gives you money for birthdays and other holidays, put it in your difficult account.

When difficulties arise, you're not broke!

The Bottom Line

Saving money doesn't require you to use a fancy budget or even a phone app. Learning some old-fashioned skills and writing down your purchases is an extremely simple way to come to grips with your finances and improve your situation.

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