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How to Save Money on a Tight Budget in 2021

For those of another generation, “Keeping up with the Joneses” is a widely-known saying. The phrase emerged during the 1950s during the post-war boom, when America’s middle class began to earn more disposable income, and in turn began to make purchases and spend money on more frivolous items. This in turn caused neighbors to want to have the same items, or show the world they could afford them, “keeping up” with their neighbors – the proverbial Jones family.

Through most of the past six decades, the fixation on “Keeping up with the Joneses” – and spending more and more money to do so – has gradually become an entrenched part of the American culture. This can be a slippery slope, as taking on debt for unnecessary purchases when your budget is tight can leave you spending more time trying to keep up with your debt payments rather than the Joneses. Even if you’re a part of a double income family, extra debt can make it difficult for you to save for the future.

That said, there are still many ways to take a bite out of your monthly expenses through small, daily changes that you may not even notice once you start doing them. Whether you’re trying to climb out of debt or simply trying to live within a budget, there’s never a bad time to save money. The earlier you do, the better off you will be. But where do you start?

The first step towards finding ways to save money on a tight budget is asking yourself a few simple questions:

  1. Do you spend more than you earn?
  2. What can you afford to spend?
  3. What are you willing to give up to save money?
  4. Why is it important to save money?

Finding Motivation

Once you have answered the above questions, it’s time to start thinking about why you need to save. So, what are your reasons to save money? What goals are you looking to achieve?

success go get it written on a blackboard

Write out all the reasons that you’re saving. Are you saving for something big like a road trip or a down payment for a new car? Or perhaps for a special graduation or wedding present? Or maybe you just want to be able to afford college.

These are important questions to ask because the timeline of your goals will determine how you approach them. In some cases, if you need funds as soon as possible, it may make more sense to apply for an online installment loan to afford what you need as soon as possible, i.e. a car repair, an emergency expense, etc. This may be a useful option if you don’t have an emergency fund at the ready. If you’re going to need a little more flexibility, a personal line of credit may also be helpful to you. Keep in mind that these borrowing options are intended for emergencies only.

Whatever it may be that you are saving for, and whichever tools you utilize along your way, what you will need most is motivation. Try to find ways to surround yourself with reminders of what motivates you.

If it’s a trip you’re saving for or a present you’re hoping to buy for someone by the time their graduation rolls around, make it your screen saver. If it’s your dream home or a location you’re looking to visit on a family road trip, sign up for alerts on houses online or affordable places to stay while on your road trip. These types of services will provide you with constant reminders about what you’re aiming at.

So, now you’ve asked yourself, “Why is it important to save money?” and hopefully you’ve come up with an answer! Let’s talk about how you’re going to do it. Below are some suggestions for daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly changes you can make that may just be the creative ways to save money you need to spur on big changes in your financial standing.

How to Save Money Each Day

Daily planner in a notebook

1. Make Coffee at Home

It may take a few extra minutes in the morning, but making coffee at home will save you a few dollars everyday. Let’s say that you generally spend $2-$5 per day on coffee. That may not seem like much, but it adds up to about $500-$1300 per year, and that’s only if you’re purchasing a coffee 5/7 days a week. Waking up late is no excuse to buy coffee as most coffee makers have “auto on” settings that allow you to pre-set when the coffee is brewed.

2. Pack a Lunch for Work

Although it may be more convenient to just pick something up at work, it costs a lot more than preparing a lunch. Most fast food or restaurant lunches cost between $5-$15 making this a big-ticket daily item. Start getting into the habit of packing your lunch the night before and/or making weekly snacks to help you resist the temptation to splurge on expensive, prepared foods. Find a process that works for you and stick to it. Depending on your savings goals, you may pack food from home daily, or at least a few times a week. As an added benefit, most homemade lunches also have reduced calories and sodium.

3. Stop Buying Water

You can get water at home. So why are you paying for it outside of your home? Constantly buying water bottles to take to work or the gym is a huge waste of money. Purchase a reusable water bottle and fill it each day.

4. Cut Back on Driving

Is it possible to walk or bike to work? Would transit be cheaper than driving? Can you carpool? It’s important to weigh your options when it comes to transportation and see which option works best for you. Walking or biking to work is free and it’s also a great way to exercise and/or reduce stress.

5. Follow the “Daily Rule”

The daily rule is basically a way to rationally determine your needs versus wants. Before you buy an item, you should ask yourself, “Do I need this today or can it wait?” If it can wait, then put it back on the shelf. This will help you to work towards a minimalistic lifestyle where you only buy things you need.

How to Save Money Each Week

weekly planner on a tablet

1. Set Weekly Spending Limits

Some people opt to go on a ‘cash diet’ for the week. This means that they take out $50 (for example) and that’s all they can spend that week. This reduces the temptation to indulge in retail therapy or to go for a bite after work and forces you to start assessing trade-offs between the many things you want to spend money on throughout the week.

2. Use Coupons

It may seem like a hassle to search for coupons to buy food or other items, but they can lead to big savings over time. Coupons may also be available online and via your mobile phone so you don’t necessarily need to carry coupons around, just do a bit of research on your phone before buying an item. Grocery and drug stores issue weekly flyers that can also be searched online, or are often delivered door to door. Comparison shopping can go a long way.

3. Dry Your Clothes Outside

We all do laundry, but the electricity cost can add up. If the weather is nice enough and you have the time, try hanging your laundry on an outdoor clothesline. You will also save on dryer sheets or fabric softener and often, line-dried clothes smell fresher than clothes that are tumble-dried.

4. Rethink How you Socialize

2020 was a tough year when it came to the lack of social interaction, and a lot of people are probably feeling a strong urge to get out there and see as many people as possible when businesses start to open up again. But as we move through the year and look for ways to save money on a tight budget while still making up for lost time, keep in mind that there are ways to see your friends and/or family without spending a ton of money at a restaurant or bar. All you need is a change of location to feel like it’s an occasion. Whenever it is safe to do so, why not take turns with friends to host gatherings? Everyone can bring a snack, drinks, or a game. And if the weather’s good, how about going for a walk instead? Science has proven that being outdoors can improve both your attitude and mood, and who couldn’t use more exercise?

How to Save Money Each Month

Person smiling on their computer looking up how to save money on a tight budget

1. Direct Debit

If it is an option for you, arrange to have your bills directly taken from your bank account. A direct debit is where a company withdraws funds directly from a person’s bank account. Direct debits are typically used for recurring payments, such as utility bills or cell phone bills. The key here is that the payment comes out automatically so that you won’t accidently forget to pay on time. If you choose to use this method, make sure you record the dates that all payments will be withdrawn to ensure your salary/paycheck can cover them all. This can help you to avoid missing bill payments and getting dinged for late payments that hamper your ability to save money.

2. Check Your Bank Statements

This is something not enough people do. Check your bank statement every single month. This could help you catch any charges that you may not have realized have been going through – for example, a subscription you signed up for years ago for a small amount that you no longer use/want.

3. Subscriptions

Speaking of subscriptions, if you have a few that you want to keep, it may be worth considering paying annually as opposed to monthly. Annual subscriptions usually save you a fair bit of money in the long run and take the stress out of monthly payments.

4. Buy Discount Brands

You may have been brought up on specific brands that you are sure taste better, but it may be time to try some less costly alternatives. Try out various discount brands for a month and see how it goes.

How to Save Money Each Year

2021 calendar with january and february visible

1. Travel in the Off-Peak Season

If you’re trying to save money but still have that travel bug, try travelling off season when prices may be lower. However, be sure to do your research to ensure that it’s safe to travel wherever you’re looking to go at that time of year.

2. Download Apps to Monitor Trips/Deals

You don’t have to stop going out and doing things, you should just be conscious of the costs. Sign up for apps or email services that send you deals on the things you love so you can still have fun occasionally!

3. Make a Long-Term Commitment to Budgeting

The process of budgeting doesn’t happen overnight, and if you really want to see the fruits of your labor, you’re going to have to commit to it for the long term.

One key to budgeting successfully is to find a method that works for you. There are all sorts of budgets out there, so do some research and find something that’s a good fit for your financial situation. If you need some help getting started, check in with these budgeting guides:

How to Improve Your Chance of Success

None of these are difficult changes, but if you find your motivation fading, try one of the below techniques to keep you on your feet:

1. Involve a Friend

Involving a trustworthy friend in your goals is a great way to keep the momentum going when you’re trying to save money. It can even add an element of excitement to the whole process. If you challenge a friend, spouse or sibling to a savings competition to see who can save a certain amount first, you are a lot more likely to feel motivated and even have fun while saving. Involving others is also beneficial as it increases your sense of accountability. They may even be able to shed some light on different ways to save money on a tight budget that you hadn’t considered before.

2. Reward Yourself

It’s important to set realistic goals and reward yourself when you achieve them. The reward could be something as simple as ice cream, a night out with friends, or something else that feels special to you. Don’t get too carried away and splurge on your reward or you could undo all your good work – even a small reward can go a long way in helping you stay motivated.


In short, implementing new ways to save money on a tight budget doesn’t have to be difficult. There are many creative ways to spend less and save more on a daily, weekly and/or monthly basis to put some cash towards larger goals. You’re not going to become an expert right away; learning what methods work for you may take time and a little bit of trial and error. Take some pride in the fact that you’re trying.

Whether you are climbing out of debt or simply trying to live within a budget, there’s never a bad time to start saving and/or to start thinking about your goals and how to approach them. If you’re having short-term cash flow problems and need help handling an emergency expense, look into what types of online loan options might be out there for you. And don’t be afraid to try out some creative ways to save money to achieve your long-term goals.

Whatever it may be that you are saving for, and whichever tools you utilize along your way, it’s important to stay motivated and stick to your plan. The earlier that you start, the better off you will be.

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