Saving on a Budget: 20 Easy Ways
Saving on a budget (especially a tight budget) can feel challenging. But when you're learning how to save money as a student, you are figuring out a way to gain financial control.
Learning how to begin saving money on a budget or on a low income is an emotional experience. The only way to do it is to let go of your pride, expand your creativity, and dive in head first.
Simply knowing you should be saving money as a student or saving money on a low income, doesn’t mean it’s easy for you. I’ve always been into saving money, and since I started at a young age, tossing a $10 bill into an old shoe box never felt strange for me.
It’s when you’re a blooming adult trying to save money as a student, when you get your first adult job, or when you consider it lame to only save $20, that saving feels impossible.
I encourage you to take a breath and keep an open mind to the 20 ways you can save money as a student or someone on a tight budget.
As always, to begin setting our money plan in motion, we have to know what we’re working with.
That brings me to the first way you can start saving on a budget.
#1 Compare your income to expenses
This a fancy way of saying know your budget.
How much money do you bring in every pay period?
When you’re saving money in college or saving on a budget you need to understand just what your income is and how much you are spending.
Do you pay for rent, subscriptions, food, utilities, help out your family, hang out, and find yourself clueless to where all your money is going?
Write it all out, get a visual representation of what you are spending and how much is left over.
If you’re strapped for cash, struggling on your tight budget, and running into obstacles when saving money as a college student, reconsider going out to spend $50 on getting your nails done or getting a hair cut.
Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t do the things that make you happy it just means you have to find a different, more efficient way to do it.
#2 Reconsider your expenses
This can be determining what it would look like to down space your apartment. Think: how could you go about moving into a new space where the rent is cheaper or maybe your lights are paid for by the building?
It can also look like determining how you can spend less on groceries if you still want to buy food out once a week.
Bringing a sandwich from home is a lot cheaper than a cafeteria meal
Saving on a budget can look like rearranging where your money is going.
Before you buy a new phone how can you make the one you have now function better?
Before you move out on your own what would life look like if you bought an apartment that cost $1600 a month as opposed to $1100 a month?
Saving money in college means making decisions that won’t cause you more stress.
Saving on a budget also means not bringing on more stress in the form of additional bills.
#3 Determine how you can make more money
So by now you’ve looked over the two most important things when it comes to ways to save money and ultimately build better financial habits.
If you can save an extra $50 simply but eliminating a gym membership go for it. But if your expenses are a bit more rigid and you can’t find any obvious simple ways to save money on a tight budget, you have no choice but to find a way to make more money.
Once you determine what side gig you can set up to boost your income, determine where the extra money will go.
Use extra money to save
The extra money you make wouldn't be used to fund your current habits that are making you broke.
This money is strictly for your savings. It’s to boost the amount of money you can save per month, so you can create a financial cushion.
Use extra money for a sinking fund
Some people can save money easily.
They have no problem laying a crisp bill away for a rainy day and they do it often.
The problem comes in when their savings isn’t considered a way to build long term wealth and security but is spent on anything.
A sinking fund can eliminate this problem. When you set $50 aside for when you want to go shopping, have a date night, surf amazon, or replace a random item, you can do it without guilt.
Don’t give up everything you like to buy, just find a way to buy it while still saving on a budget.
You have to want the thing you are spending money on so badly that you will shift your habits. This way you can have it without robbing yourself of a secure future.
Related Post: Creating a sinking fund can eliminate debt
#4 Pay off debt
Every month that you put money toward a form of debt (credit card debt, loan debt, personal debt) is another month you don’t have those funds. That $25 minimum payment can easily be put to good use when saving money in college or saving on a budget.
Paying off one form of debt can help you pay off a second form of debt faster.
You start with the highest interest debt and work your way down the list. Every time you pay off one form of debt you can use that money to pay more on the other credit card or loan that you owe.
Snow ball method
You begin with the lowest balance and work your way up the list. Same method applies when it comes to paying more on the second form of debt that you owe.
The sooner you clear up debt the sooner you will have more funds to continue saving on a budget.
#5 Lay off the credit cards
Credit card usage is common in the US and so is credit card debt. The US owes nearly 1 trillion dollars in credit card debt.
For those who already have debt, begin to prioritize ways that you can get rid of it. Think about it this way, if you are able to pay off $5000 in credit card debt it means you can save $5000.
Saving on a budget 101: Eliminate liabilities. If you owe money, make a plan to pay it off and stick to it.
Going forward if you don’t have a credit yet or you don’t have debt then continue to educate yourself on how to responsibly use a credit card.
Related post: An easy guide for understanding credit cards
#6 Find a cheaper way to do activities
If you cut out your gym membership you don’t have to stop exercising. You can go for walks as a form of cardio or begin to indulge in body weight resistance training.
Staying at home doesn’t have to be boring you can definitely practice self care at home and save money in the long run.
Keep in mind that when you find a cheaper way of doing things you don’t want to compromise on quality.
An example would be if you spend $20 on a pair of shoes that make your feet hurt and you constantly need to replace them instead of saving money for a good sturdy long lasting pair.
You’re not saving money on a budget if you have to unintentionally spend more.
#7- Plan for the long run
Set financial goals. More importantly set SMART financial goals.
Figuring out how to save money in college includes thinking of where you want to be in a few years and even if you have a fuzzy idea now, begin working towards it. Determine how to save money on a budget simply because it improves your quality of life and opens new financial doors.
Saving on a budget is amazing because at the end of it you will always have money left over.
As your side hustles bring in more money, as you learn to live below your means, and determine what you truly what to spend money on, you will have an abundance of financial opportunities.
This abundance mindset can transfer and radiate through not only your life but your family and future family as well.
#8 Have no spend days
A no spend day is a predetermined date that you will not spend money. Unless it’s an emergency you will not take a cab, buy food, splurge on items and at the end of that day, week, or month you will have extra cash.
With this extra money you can save it, invest it, buy that thing you had your eye on, or leave it as a buffer in your bank account.
A buffer is money left in your account to cover unexpected fees or purchases.
#9 Find a bank that doesn’t have fees
What type of fees does a bank charge?
Banks have a lot of fees including
Insufficient fund fees
Monthly maintenance fees
International wire fees
By finding a bank that will not charge you for choosing to keep your money with them, you can save at least $8. Avoiding ATM fees can save you another $5 and avoiding an overdraft fee can sometimes save you up to $35.
These little fees matter a lot when they randomly get taken from your bank account. You can save money as a college student by not giving companies a reason to take your money without your permission.
#10 Create a budget for fun money
Spending money and saving money on a budget can feel like two completely different things but they arent.
To save money as a college student you have to become a savvy spender and predetermine how much you’re willing to spend on a certain activity.
Even eating a snack before you go to restaurant can help you save money. I noticed that when I’m super hungry in a restaurant, I’m more open to the idea of buying sides, and fizzy drink.
On a low income you can still wine and dine with your friends but you have to look at each interaction as one of a certain amount of outings.
If you set aside $100 to spend in one month for eating out, you do not want to spend $50 on one meal.
Related post: 4 Must Have Habits of Smart Savers
#11 Automate your savings
Most of us will always find a way to handle our responsibilities.
Automating $20 $50 or $100 to your savings may feel restricting at first, but it’s essential to saving on a budget.
Think of the last time you missed a day of work and had to figure out how to live off of the hours short paycheck you received.
That was one time you learned to live off of less money, and it’s essentially what you’ll be doing again.
But this time instead of having a company keep your money, the extra cash can now be used to jump start your emergency fund, sinking fund and make your life in the long run much easier.
#12 Spend cash and save your coins
When you break a $20 bill and get a ton of coins back, toss it in an old container and forget about it.
There is so much money to be saved when you’re able to forget you have it.
Saving money in college includes finding creative ways to start saving on a budget. The extra coins in your coat belong in a jar and not in someones cash register.
Eventually you’ll be able to trade it in for cold hard cash.
#13 Buy generic brands
Some food brands genuinely taste the same. You can save some money on things you already buy like vitamins, juice, canned goods etc.
But not everything can be switched. I personally do not like generic brand sugars, they cost me more money in the long run than they save me because I find them to not be as sweet.
Learn your balance.
Related post: 21 simple ways to save money while grocery shopping
#14 Buy in bulk
My family drinks a lot of coffee, when it’s on sale we buy more when we can.
A sale that’s worth taking advantage of happens when you were going to buy it anyway. Keep in mind it should not about to expire, in poor quality, and when you do the math you should save more than a few pennies.
Determine what is worth buying in bulk. If what you buy goes in the garbage or remains unused you didn’t spend money properly.
#15 Don’t go into aisles you don’t need
Make a shopping list and stick to it. If you didn’t write chips on your budget, or the overpriced juice, don’t stop and linger in that section.
Saving on a budget is sticking to your budget.
#16 Track your progress
If you head to the Resources tab in the menu you’ll be able to download your very own FREE savings tracker.
There a few saving tracker bundles offered on ETSY as well.
However you choose to track your progress just make sure you revisit it as often as you need to. It will solidify that you are saving on a budget for a purpose and its working.
#17 Hop on a family phone plan
You can shave a few dollars off your bill, save money in the long run, and have extra room even on a low income budget to spend, save, and invest.
Choose wisely who you jump on a plan with. If they are known for not paying bills you shouldn't rely on them to suddenly pay their phone bill every single month.
A family plan can save you a world of money and that’s a great way to save money as a college student.
#18 Differentiate wants vs needs
A want is something you can live without and a need is something required for you to function properly in life.
How I begin saving money on a budget will look different than how you do it.
A cellphone for me with good service is a need. I need to be able to type my papers, surf the web, and submit assignments from anywhere outside and I’m not willing to compromise my service.
However, others would consider a cellphone plan a want, and consider their biweekly self care appointments a need.
Decide for yourself what you absolutely can not live without and what you can. If you can’t find anything on your own to cut out, consult a friend, and revisit one of our earlier money saving strategies find a way to boost your income.
#19 Cut back on your expenses
Once you make your list of wants vs needs, start to make a plan for how to can cut back on or eliminate expenses that aren’t required for you to enjoy life.
For example drinking alcohol for many young adults is an expensive habit that is used more as a coping mechanism and less as an occasional event.
If you find yourself drinking to deal with family circumstances, anxiety, depression, racing thoughts, or every single hard day, you are drinking as a form of coping.
A cheaper alternative would be finding inexpensive ways to manage your moods and emotions.
Reach out to a friend
Take a nap and replenish your energy
Straighten up your room (declutter your space)
Shut off technology
Take a few intentional deep breaths and remind yourself you are safe
Consider getting a new job/ switching majors/ creating a new enviroment
Remind yourself you are not alone
Saving on a budget can also look like investing in your mental health.
Related post: Guide to dealing with financial anxiety
#20 Just start
Just do it. Right now open a savings account online and transfer $5.
Save your money in cash and take the loose bills or change and put it in a jar.
Forget how you think saving money should look like and just start the best way you can. Comparison 100% robs you of joy and if you find yourself feeling jealous of those who appear to be doing better, I encourage you to lean into it.
Why are you jealous? If you want more dates, vacations, spending money, nicer furniture, or a better attitude, pause for a second.
Make a plan and figure out how you can get yourself where you want to be. Saving on a budget or saving money in college is not as hard as you think it is.
By starting today you are jumpstarting everything you ever wanted. Everyone has to start somewhere when saving on a budget.
Related Post: The simple no budget- budget
Saving money on a budget doesn't always feel like a one way path and that's because it's not.
Take the 20 ways to save money on a budget and apply them to your own life, tweak them and make them work. You don't have to perfectly follow any plans that are promoted
Drop a comment and let us know what you've been doing to save money on a budget!
Up next: How to save money on a weekly budget