Saving money on a budget

Saving Money When Money is Tight

We’ve all heard of the importance of having money saved for emergencies or layoffs. The question is, how do you save money when you are living paycheck to paycheck? I’m not a financial expert, but I learned a lot about stretching and saving my money when I was in college and starting out. I still use most of these tips today and I hope that you will find some that will help you.

The first thing is you have to make this a priority. This can happen for you in different ways. Some set a goal to save $100 and when they reach that they get to have $10 for something fun. Others set their goal and it has a reason – buying a new car or money down for a house. My original goal was to get to $100 and then make an extra payment on my student loan to see it go down faster. Once my debt was gone, I set goals to make it so that my checking account was always above $1,000. Once that became a constant a new goal was set. Today I pay off my credit cards every month and owe a little bit on my car. That is a long way from where I used to be. Here’s how to get started on that road.

Coupons, Rebates, Points

Coupons, rebates, and point redemptions all seem like a pittance, but when you start adding them up over time, they make a difference. I started by putting the value of each in a jar. I would count it all up every few months. It took me a little less than a year to get to $100. My initial goal was to have an emergency fund. I started by taking my $100 and buying a CD at the bank. I was nervous so I got one that was only for 3 months, but my $100 made some money, not a lot, but it was working for me and gave me confidence.

Credit or Debit Card Rewards

Most credit and debit cards have rewards today. Maximize them. I always turned in my rewards points or cash back into payments, but I never allowed myself to apply them to the minimum amount due. My rule was they always had to be above that. This improves your credit rating as well because it shows that you pay more than the minimum amount due. That’s another good habit to get into. I got into the habit of always paying at least $1 extra each month. Of course, the ideal is to pay them off every month, then the credit card is paying you via the rewards to let you use the money. You can keep your cash in a bank account that earns a little bit of interest while it waits to be used to pay off the credit card bill.

Surveys for Cash

Have you heard that you can do surveys and make money? I had and thought it was a scam, and some are. It’s also harder to qualify for the survey if you’re a single college student, there are lots more for people who have children. But there are also a lot of places that aren’t scams. I did surveys and I also have been able to do reviews. Companies or people send you their product for free (if you’re paying even shipping and handling it’s probably a scam) in return for an honest review. Do a little bit of research to make sure it’s legit. Here’s one that is: Register with us | Branded Surveys | Branded Surveys (

I also enjoy it has a lot of ways to earn points, you can do surveys, click links, scan your receipts, “clip” coupons, and just shop and earn points. You can also refer people and earn points (no, there aren’t any affiliate links in the article). The nice thing is the best value for your points is often to get a cash payout (like a PayPal deposit or prepaid MasterCard). I don’t have time to do all the surveys and things anymore, but I still use it to shop through and I save up my points and redeem them when I need to buy a birthday gift or almost all of my Christmas shopping is done with points redemptions.

Quit Paying for Insurance You Don’t Use

Shop around for your car and house insurance. Keep in mind that if you have a loan there may be rules. A lot of car loans require you to have replacement insurance on your vehicle. I’ve driven cars that I wished someone would steal because they were worthless. There really was no point in having hardly any insurance on them. There are lots of corners you can cut on insurance. Knowing that you aren’t carrying as much insurance on your car can also make you a more careful driver because you know it will cost you to get in an accident. In today’s world, it only takes a few minutes on the computer to compare prices and possibly save hundreds of dollars.

Rent it Out

Do you have something you aren’t using, but don’t want to get rid of? How about that jogging stroller that you don’t need right now? Offer to rent it out to someone who wants to give one a try before buying, or maybe they’re just here for the week on vacation and don’t want to travel with theirs. Maybe you have golf clubs but don’t have the time or money to golf right now. Rent them out. Do you have an extra room in your house that just collects stuff? Have a yard sale for the stuff, and then rent the room out. People are often looking for a camper to rent or a trailer to haul things, if you have one, give it a try. I’ve even seen people rent out their board games and puzzles.

Extra Earnings

Let your boss know you’d love to work overtime. You can pick up a second job. Three is hard, I’ve done it, and you get really tired, but it can be done. If you have a car or even a bicycle when the weather is good you can do deliveries. If you have children to deal with you may want to take on yardwork or housecleaning and involve them. Since the Airbnb craze, I’ve picked up extra work cleaning and you can make some good money and there’s no one there to care if you have a child with you.

Change Your Value

If you want to earn more, you need to be worth more. Begin investing in yourself. We offer some classes here at Box Elder Family Support Center that can get you started. A lot of programs are free to those who are working to improve their job skills. Many companies will reimburse you upon completion or pay for part of your tuition. It is way easier to increase your education now with so many programs online that you can do at your own pace.

If you have a skill or talent, make it work for you. Maybe you know how to change your own oil. You can go to people’s homes and change their oil for a fee. Do you love fishing? Get a license to teach or guide. Are you crafty? Put your items on Etsy or sign up for a local craft fair. Develop your own podcast or YouTube channel and you can earn advertising money. Yes, these are things that take extra effort and time, but they are worth it, they are investments in yourself!

Change Your Attitude

Turn off the TV, quit paying for cable and all those snacks you eat in front of it, and get up and get moving. You will be healthier, and you can do something that earns money. Learn to ask yourself at least three times, is it a want or a need? Walk away from something before purchasing it. If you really need it, you will still need it next week. Just because it’s on sale, doesn’t mean you need it. We’ve all heard these things before, but that’s because they are true.

Learn about money. How to make it work for you. Learn how to avoid paying interest, but earn it instead. There are classes offered for free at community centers and we have some. Remember, we offer free childcare so that makes it an even better deal! While you’re learning you may even decide to become a financial coach, that doesn’t require learning about investments and it’s much easier to learn the ropes. Momentum is everything, set a goal and get moving. Maybe your goal simply needs to be to learn about options. The real goal is to move forward and start making progress.

Are You in Trouble?

Yes, there are times when you’ve waited too long and now you’re in trouble and need some serious financial help. It happens, don’t give up, there are options. Did you know that you can call your credit card companies and negotiate for a lower interest rate? It may require closing your account, but there are some who will do it. I know because I did it. Yes, you have to swallow your pride, but you’ll live.

You can also sign up for a Debt Consolidation Program. These programs close all of your credit cards, negotiate with the credit card companies for you, and you make one payment to them each month that they divide out between your debts. You’ll still wind up swallowing your pride, but you’ll save a lot of money. It’s also pretty hard on your credit score, but it’s better on it than filing for bankruptcy.

Do You Want to Be Extreme?

There are some who want to take it to the extreme and pull out all the stops. Some people decide to buy nothing for a specified time, usually a year, but some do a few months, and others more than a year. You can choose to join with other folks who are of the same mindset, and they barter and share in an organized fashion (there are apps and groups) so they don’t have to purchase anything.

Others decide what must be purchased, such as some food, heating and light, housing; and anything beyond that they go without or find a way to trade or earn it without spending money.  Here are a couple of roommates who decided to give it a try, it might give you some ideas of corners to cut without going big.  The Buy Nothing Year: How Two Roommates Saved More Than $55,000 (

Bottom line, there are options, there are choices, but they all start with you. You have to decide that you want to change. Invest in yourself and in a life that is less stressful. There was a time in my life when I wondered how I was going to pay the bills. I can’t say I’m rich, but I can say that I made changes, and I am now wealthy. To me, wealth means knowing I can pay my bills, feed my family, and find joy in life. I’d love to see you be wealthy, too.