Whether you’ve decided not to spend any money for a short period (by doing a spending freeze), or there just isn’t enough money to make ends meet, everyone encounters a time when you have to stretch your budget to make the money you have last until it replenishes and the budget resets.
This may involve getting creative and even slightly tweaking your lifestyle to stretch every dollar you have.
If you are starting to question whether or not you’ll make it to the next paycheck, here is how to stretch your budget when you’re tight on money.
Identify Your Budget Busters
The first thing you need to do is determine what your budget busters are in your budget. It might be clothes, food, shopping, or something else. This is where your efforts should be focused on.
In our home, it’s our restaurant budget. I hate cooking, and when life gets busy I want to eat out so I can spend time chatting with everyone instead of cooking (and then cleaning up afterward).
That means when I see that life is going to get busy (such as having 4 volleyball games in one week), I try to get ahead of the days by planning out what our meals are going to be. It might still be going out to eat, but only if we have enough money in our budget and going to a less expensive restaurant such as Steak N Shake instead of Panera.
We also stretch our at-home dinners by turning leftovers into a new creation for lunch the next day, and finding cheap but filling meals.
We also try to keep our meals fun so we don’t get bored eating at home!
Whatever your budget buster is, you can get creative to find a way to manage it. That way you’ll easily make it to your next paycheck.
Cash Is King
When you need to stretch your budget, cash is going to be easier to work with. When you can physically see how much you have to work with, it can be easier to manage.
Use the cash envelope system to divide the remaining dollar amount of your budget into cash and put it into specific spending envelopes.
Focus on the most critical categories first, and then work your way down to the ones you could do without.
This will help prioritize your budget, and help keep you from overspending.
Look For Good Deals and Use Coupons
Coupons will help you stretch every dollar. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying groceries, or birthday gifts, you can use coupons for just about everything!
Think of coupons as free money. If you have a $1.00 off coupon, it’s the same as keeping one dollar in your pocket instead of spending it.
You shouldn’t use coupons on items you weren’t planning to buy, but if you were going to get the item anyway, deal or coupon could help you stretch those dollars further!
Get Rid Of Anything Considered Nonessential
If you are finding yourself in a situation where you don’t want to spend money because you fear you won’t have enough, you need to start eliminating anything that is considered nonessential.
Warning, Truth Bomb ahead: Fabric softener is nonessential, Netflix is nonessential, and as much as I hate to say it… Starbucks is nonessential too.
Still want to watch movies without Netflix? Here’s how to get FREE Redbox movies!
You may look at your grocery budget and think that this is an essential category, but when it comes to crucial, that does not include snacks or juice/soda drinks. You can survive on just water and without snacks (homemade cookies anyone?), even if it stinks for a few weeks!
Look For Free Activities Or Events Near You
If you are busy with free events and activities, you won’t be tempted to spend money!
There are so many freebie services or activities where you can listen to live music, have fun with your family, and even watch movies.
You can get new movies from your library, watch a movie in the park, or find a free streaming service to make movie nights at home.
You can attend a festival or free concert by looking at your community’s event calendar (this is the Tampa Bay Area one) for a list of events near you. To find yours just google Community Event Calendar (and your hometown).
Your options may be limited, but the more you sit at home, the harder it will be to resist the urge to spend (or want to go to the mall). Plan for some free activities to keep you busy, and have some fun!
Just be sure to bring food with you and prepare the kids that you are not buying any popcorn or souvenirs while you are there.
If you are thinking that you’ll need to stretch your budget, first you need to identify those items causing you to bust your budget, use cash to help you immediately not overspend, look for coupons to use instead of your own cash, plus get rid of those nonessential expenses (you can suffer for the short-term) and keep busy so you don’t spend! That way you’ll stretch your budget as far as it can possibly go!
YOUR TURN: Which budget-stretching strategy are you going to use first? Let me know in the comments below!
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