10 Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget (That Really Work)

This page contains compensated links. Read the disclosure for more info

How do you save money when you’re broke? Is it even possible to wring another cent out of an extremely tight budget?

Finding ways to save money on a tight budget can feel insurmountable, but it’s possible to do so and come out the other side of this challenging time with some super-useful, frugal life skills.

Unfortunately, tough times happen. Maybe you lost your job or have an unexpected bill pop up.

How you choose to respond to tough situations is the difference between losing everything or becoming a thriving money-saving machine.

I truly believe the right attitude has the power to change the outcome of any experience completely.

Choosing to see the positive in your tough situation and then utilising that to your benefit will see you come out on top.

10 Ways to Save Money When Times Are Tough

Here are a few of the things I’ve been able to do with more time to save money:

1. Activate Your Survival Budget

You’re not stressed about money because your survival budget is waiting in the wings, right?

If not, it’s time to get started on that. I always keep my survival budget visible – that way, it’s not such a shock to the system when I enter financial survival mode.

Related: Why I Have Two Budgets and You Should Too

2. Seek Out Extra Funds

Taking paid surveys is a great way to boost your income when money is tight.

With Opinion World, you can earn cash and gift cards for answering questions and surveys. Join Opinion World Here

If you’ve been putting off submitting your tax return, now’s the time to get that done. I’m always pushing the deadline as owning rental properties makes tax time a paperwork nightmare.

This year, I got our tax documents to the accountant a whole month earlier than usual because tax refund = cash I need now!

Check out this post for more ways to make money online.

3. Meal Plan and Shop Accordingly

Cooking your own meals instead of buying takeaway saves a lot of money. Naturally.

When you have extra time, you can also do a pantry and freezer audit and schlep around all the different supermarkets to maximise your grocery budget.

Related guide: 10 Ways to Save Money on Groceries in New Zealand

4. Try out New Recipes

So you have one sausage, a can of lentils and half a cabbage in your fridge. Don’t freak out!

Just hit up Supercook to see what interesting creation you can come up with.

How to save when you have no money - seems impossible, right? Well it isn't. You just need to think outside the box. Check out this smart money saving tips article and give your budget some breathing room.

5. Compare Costs

There is so much competition for your dollar these days. It makes sense to shop around for major purchases. But who has the time, right?

Well, now, you do! Allocating some time each day to scope out your top sites means you can save big if you have to make major purchases.

Please note I don’t recommend making major purchases when times are tough, but washing machines tend to break down at the worst possible times.

I needed a new laptop – for work – and could watch a few websites over several days to compare costs.

I finally pounced when the lowest-priced retailer had a one-day-only 15% off sale. That saved me over $120.

6. Actively Declutter

When you are home all day, allocating ten minutes each day towards decluttering is easy.

You might choose one drawer or shelf and be ruthless in your actions.

I aim to donate old books and clothes weekly to my local charity shop.

Every time I remove a bag of stuff from my house, I feel a slight weight lift from my shoulders. It’s truly liberating.

7. Plant and Cultivate a Productive Garden

Gardening takes a lot of time, but it can be a big money saver when done right.

Plus, nothing tastes as good as veggies from your own garden.

Anyone can start a simple garden – and starting with seedlings is perfectly OK so you don’t lose motivation. There are some great tips for beginning gardeners here.

8. Take Advantage of Off-Peak Offers

Keeping healthy is very important during times of financial stress.

Now might be a good time to try out a new form of exercise. It’s also the perfect time to take advantage of off-peak trial offers for health clubs and gyms.

My husband got a free one-month gym trial pass that can only be used during business hours.

9. Make Every Dollar Work Double Time

You still need to eat and keep warm, so although I don’t advocate any unnecessary spending during a tough time, you want to make any money you absolutely need to spend work double as hard.

The best way to do this is by checking cash-back apps and websites like Kiwiwallet and Cashrewards before you make a purchase.

It could also be shopping second-hand, swapping items with a friend or selling an item as soon as you’ve used it.

Related: Five Questions I Ask Myself Before Making a Purchase

10. Sell Unused Items

When you’re working full-time and bringing in a solid income, it’s easier to donate items to charity rather than sell them.

But if you’ve got time on your side, you can make a bit of money.

Photographing and writing enticing descriptions for items to sell online does take time, but the funds can provide a useful boost to a tight budget whilst also getting rid of unused junk in your home. Win-win!

A tough time needn’t spell the end of your dreams of financial freedom.

But focusing on the here and now is important when money is tight.

Try to think of this period as a chance to hone your frugal life skills.

That way, when your finances start to turn around, and more money comes in, these frugal habits should be well established.

Just like buying produce in season is always smart, doing what you can to improve your financial situation will ensure a more positive financial future.

Whether you are hustling to increase your income or cutting costs like a champ, the important thing is always to be moving towards your goal.

 Ways to Save Money

About Emma Healey

Emma is a recognised family finance and budgeting expert and founder of Mum's Money. Her advice has been featured in Stuff, NZHerald, Readers Digest, Yahoo Finance, Lifehacker, The Simple Dollar, MSN Money and more.