(post contains affiliate links: see disclosure. Also, you should know that I got a free copy of More than Just Making It, but that did not change my opinions of the book. )
Are you barely getting by each month? Does it feel like one small extra expense could cause your budget to come tumbling down? I recently read the book More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated and it caused me to reflect on all the things my family has done over the years to give a tight budget some wiggle room.
Most of the things our family did were small, simple actions that in and of themselves created very small income gains that hardly seem worth it on their own, but combined these little actions created a decent amount of wiggle room in our budget.
There were dozens and dozens of these little budget stretching rain drops that were either income streams or money saving in nature, but that would fill a whole book so today I will just share 10 of the simplest ones that can create a big difference when combined.
10 Ways To Create Some Wiggle Room In A Tight Budget
Please note that the biggest thing that you can do for your finances is, of course, sticking to a budget. This post assumes that you are already doing that and if not, I urge you to do so before you do any of these 10 things. Without a budget, your money will always be tight. If you don’t know how to make a budget, More Than Just Making It has a chapter that covers that.
1. Resell At Least One Item You Are No Longer Using Each Week
Except for the homes of extreme minimalists, all homes have clutter. Guess what? Clutter can be worth money. Just last year I made over $5,000 reselling items we were not using that was clutter in our home. It isn’t hard to resell an item–especially with all the new websites and apps popping up all the time to help you reach people who want what you no longer need.
The problem is many people tend to procrastinate the chore of listing items for sale, which is why I recommend setting the goal to resell at least one item a week. Once your goal is made figure out the best time each week for you to spend time reselling and use it to do so.
When I get in the habit of setting aside Saturday afternoon to list items to sell I, in general, can list three to four things in an afternoon and that can reap me anywhere from $40 to $100 or more depending on what I am reselling. That can make some serious wiggle room in a budget each month–making prioritizing reselling worth it.
3 articles to help you with your reselling efforts:
- My Reselling Tips page with links to articles to help you sell on all types of websites and more
- How To Prepare Your Items So You Get Top Dollar
- 30 Things You Can Gather For Your Yard Sale Pile Today (you can also sell these items in other ways)
2. Take One Thing Out Of Your Grocery Cart Each Shopping Trip
This is a tip I learned from the book Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After and it can help a tight grocery budget more than you might think. Once you are done collecting the items you want to buy in your grocery cart, go through your cart and put one item back on the shelf.
You might think that one item won’t make that much of dent in your grocery budget, but this simple action makes you start questioning all the purchase in your cart and often that will lead to putting several items back. Chances are all those items were not on your list, but instead put in your cart almost subconsciously due to the amazing selling techniques of the store you shop in.
If you are wanting more grocery savings tips, More Than Just Making It has an entire chapter dedicated to them.
3 other articles that will help you lower your grocery bill:
- Visit my saving money on groceries resource page for links to all my articles with grocery saving tips
- 10 Ways Thrifty People Save Money On Groceries
- Step by Step Grocery Shopping With A Thrifty Person
3. Join And Use Point Reward Programs To Earn Gift Cards To Help With Everyday Expenses
Point Reward programs are basically websites that pay you for completing simple actions online. Some of these actions you are probably already doing like searching the web, shopping online, and printing off coupons. Pay isn’t high from these programs, but every bit helps and as I said some of the earning potential comes from things you already do so why not get paid to do them?
Here are 3 point programs that offer various ways to earn gift cards:
- PrizeRebel–here is an article I wrote sharing 9 Ways To Earn Gift Cards With PrizeRebel
- InstaGC–here is an article I wrote sharing 4 Of My Favorite Ways To Earn Gift Cards With InstaGC
- Swagbucks–here is an article I wrote that shows it is possible to earn $500 a year using Swagbucks.
These companies pay you in electronic gift cards. When my children were little I was able to earn about $25 to $50 in gift cards a month, mostly earned through three different point reward programs. Depending on how tight the budget was that month I would either cash out for gift cards for places like Walmart where I could buy groceries or restaurants like Panera so my husband and I could go out on a date.
4. Make Your Groceries Stretch Longer
For the longest time, I used to write a menu for 7 days and then shop every eight or even nine days. During that last day or two, we would get pretty creative with our meals using up all sorts of random leftovers and forgotten about cans and items in the pantry.
If that method doesn’t work for you, how about holding an “eat what you have” the last week of each month or you could do this once every three months. One last way is to hold an annual “eat what you have” month. During this month you buy just the basics such as milk, eggs and produce and then challenge yourself to make meals from items in your fridge, freezer and pantry. A month long challenge works great for those that stock up on sales.
If you do the week long or month long challenge, keep in mind that you will have to put aside some of the money you save to restock more basic items than you usually do the first week you go grocery shopping again. However, you still will be able to save some money from completing this challenge which you can either save or use to start a fund for buying in bulk when you see rock bottom sales, which in turn will lower your grocery budget every month.
3 other simple ways to stretch your grocery budget without using coupons:
- How to create a purse size price book
- How our family makes body wash, dish soap, hand soap and more go much further
- How our family saves money on meat
5. Regularly Use Coupon And Rebate Apps
New coupon and rebate apps are popping up all the time. How much they will save you depends on where you shop and what you buy, but on average I save about $1 or more per grocery shopping trip using coupon apps.
3 coupons and rebate apps I use:
- Ibotta–use it almost anywhere: restaurants, clothing stores, pet stores, hardware stores, movie theaters and more.
- MobiSave–deposits money into your PayPal account within 24 hours of you earning it no matter what you earn.
- Fetch Rewards — Gives you points when you upload reciepts with items produced by brands on their list of over one hundrend and fifty. Use my referral code RE9FU when you sign up and receive 1500 points when you complete one receipt.
It is a small income stream, but remember: small streams add up.
6. Keep Your Eyes Out For Free Items
Free items can be found everywhere if you keep your eyes out for them. I use free photo book codes to create memory-filled photo books my family loves. I enjoy reading numerous magazines for free. I receive free paperback books in the mail almost every month. I get free samples of toothpaste, shampoo and more in the mail frequently for free. We have a huge flower garden edged in brick that was 100% free. Free items are everywhere.
3 of my favorite places to find free items:
- Tyndale Rewards: I earn free books by doing simple tasks such as answering short surveys or reviewing books.
- Recycle Bank: I earn free magazine subscriptions by answering simple and quick surveys.
- Money Saving Mom: This site lists free samples regularly along with other great low price deals.
7. Shop Your Home Before You Shop The Stores
Chapter 9 of More Than Just Making It talks about shopping your closet in great detail. However, you can shop your home for more than just clothes. Need a birthday gift? What craft supplies do you have hanging around that could be used to create one? Need a frame for a new print? Is there an old print you’re not using anymore that has a frame that will fit? Need an ingredient for a recipe? If you google substitutions for the item, does something come up that you do have?
Shopping your home first can save a lot of money and it can save you time, which you can in turn use to save or earn more money. Proving once again that little steps can have bigger impacts than we might think.
8. Search YouTube Before Calling The Repair Man
In the last few years, this tip right here has saved my family thousands of dollars. Videos on YouTube have shown us how to replace the elements on our flat top stove. How to replace our above ground pool liner. How to fix the door on my husband’s truck. How to replace the stereo and speakers in my husband’s truck. And a few more.
Repairmen in our area charge $25 and up with most charging $50 an hour. Our wallets are usually much happier when we check YouTube for how to videos before calling the repairman. There have been a few times when we decided we just felt more comfortable hiring a professional, but those incidents have been rare. YouTubers, in general, make excellent DIY videos.
9. When Out Yard Sale Shopping, Shop For More Than Your Family
I know that families on tight budgets generally already know that shopping yard sales can help them stretch their budgets, but few are taking advantage of another way yard sale shopping can help them financially.
By taking just a few hours to search eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Buy & Sell groups and other reselling websites and apps you can get a good idea of just how much certain secondhand items go for. Pay attention to the items that you run into at yard sales a lot and that are selling for at least $20 or more than what you generally find them for at yard sales. When you are out yard sale shopping, pick these items up and then resell them and pocket the profit.
I did this for several yard sale seasons in a row and I earned enough each year to pay for a week of camping as a family. For a year or two, I gathered enough to sell a few items a week all year long and I made enough each month to pay for my children’s swimming lessons, soccer team fees and more.
The nice thing about this income stream is that you can easily start it when you have the time and stop it when you don’t.
10. Develop Thinking Outside The Box Skills
If you want to stop Just Making It and move into the More Than Just Making It category that Erin mentions in her book, then you are going to have to develop “thinking outside the box skills“. What this means is that you look at a problem that you are having financially and come up with a creative, money stretching way to fix it.
For our family that has meant buying an old moving van to move 3,000 miles instead of renting one. Not only was it cheaper, but we sold it for the same price we bought it for when we reached our destination, which drastically cut our moving cost. That is a large “out of the box” thought though, and here we are supposed to be concentrating on smaller changes.
Here are a few smaller “out of the box” things we have done to help our finances. I purchased my daughter some deeply clearance priced Halloween webbing to stuff the pillows she was making. This saved our family $20. When the springs in our sofa gave out, we placed a board under the seat cushions, screwing it into the frame. This fix gave the sofa an extra 2 years of life–saving us money while we waited for a steal of a deal on couches (we later got new, genuine leather ones for less than half price). We have fixed our vacuum hose with duct tape on numerous occasions giving it longer life (looks like that fix might finally need to be upgraded to a replacement soon–time to start looking for a deal).
Grab Your Copy Of More Than Just Making It
This book is full of more than just money-saving tips and money management know how–it has a story that will warm your heart and bring you encouragement. If you are feeling like you will never get free from your financial struggles, Erin’s story will help you erase those feelings and give you the hope and wisdom you need to rise above just making it to thriving financially. So grab your copy of More Than Just Making It today.
For a list of 52 different websites, apps, and stores our thrifty family uses to help us keep our expenses low, click here to visit our Thrifty Tools Resource Page.