Saving money in tough times can be difficult. It is hard enough dealing with what put you in that situation.
Unemployment, unexpected medical costs, an appliance or automobile breakdown are all things that can put you in a difficult spot if your budget is tight.
While I recommend preparing for these situations by generating alternate income sources and saving money for emergencies, sometimes life throws the unexpected at you.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to get you through tough financial times.
I don’t like to refer to cutting back on things as saving money when it is being done to get by. However, these methods can be used to save money as well.
And hopefully, prevent you from getting into a difficult position financially in the first place.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links, I may receive a commission at no cost to you. Please read my disclaimer for further details.
Needs vs. Wants
When you start to consider where to cut costs in your expenses, you need to define what your necessities are. This exercise will also help you save money from your salary.
Necessities are what you need to survive, so this shouldn’t be very different for people.
Typically, your necessities include:
- Electricity and heat
Best Budget Planners to Organize Your Finances
Best Personal Finance and Budgeting Apps
How to save money on necessities
While your necessities likely make up a large portion of your monthly expenses, there are opportunities to save in most areas.
Without food, you won’t last very long. However, a lot of people overspend on food when they shouldn’t.
Making meals at home and taking lunch to work can save you a lot of money over eating out. Additionally, buying generic brands can keep money in your wallet when shopping.
Whether you buy our rent, your housing is likely your most considerable expense.
While it is challenging to change your living situation to save money in tough times, downsizing is something to consider if your housing costs are too high.
If you have a larger home and some extra space, you could also consider renting out a room on Airbnb for people to stay, or on a site like StoreAtMyHouse or Neighbor for people to store their things.
Electricity and heat
While you may not be able to make substantial cost savings on electricity and heat, there are some things you can do to lower your bill each month.
Unplugging things around the house when they are not in use can help cut down your electrical consumption. Chargers and small appliances that aren’t in constant use can still use some electricity when they are plugged in and not in use.
Lowering your thermostat in the winter and using more clothing and blankets to keep warm can help save on your heating. Additionally, sealing cracks around windows and doors can help keep the heat from escaping.
And along with downsizing your house, a smaller house = lower utility bills.
If you are in a financial crunch and really need to buy some clothes, I recommend checking out Goodwill or another thrift store.
Thrift stores often have quality clothing (and other household items) for a considerable discount compared to buying new.
And whatever you do, you don’t need that new, expensive name-brand item when you are in financial trouble.
Wherever you shop, however, consider using a cash back app to save you additional money.
The ability to save money concerning your transportation costs depends on your living situation.
If you live in a large city, you likely don’t need a car and can either walk or use public transportation.
However, if you live in the suburbs or a rural area, you may need a car to get around.
If you need a car, there are different strategies for saving money.
First of all, when you get a car, try and find a low-mileage car that is less than 3-years old. Buying a slightly-used vehicle will save you a lot of depreciation costs while still having a newer, more reliable vehicle.
Depending on your use, another option is to rent it out when it isn’t being used. There are sites like Turo and Getaround that will let you rent out your car and make some extra cash.
While insurance probably isn’t something that comes to mind initially as a necessity, it is.
If you don’t have adequate medical, home, or car insurance, and something happens, it could have a catastrophic impact on your finances.
While I recommend you never go without these when needed, I also recommend you periodically shop around to save some money in tough times.
You can often find better deals on auto insurance. Additionally, if you don’t already, consider getting your home and auto insurance from the same company. They typically provide a discount for multiple policies.
What about your wants?
When you need to save money in tough times, you need to consider cutting your wants severely.
Tough times call for tough decisions.
Wants can be anything that isn’t a necessity, but here are some of the big ones:
- Cable TV/Streaming services
- If you are struggling financially, this should be at the top of your list.
- If you really need some TV in your life, you can buy an over-the-air antenna for less than a month’s worth of cable and get all of your local channels for free.
- It is hard to live without being connected these days.
- However, if your phone plan includes unlimited data, you should be able to get by for a while without a dedicated internet service provider at home.
- Cell phone
- First, you don’t need the latest and greatest phone. But you should also shop around for cheaper phone plans.
- There are also several cheaper, pre-paid plans available for you to consider.
- Eating out, ordering in, alcohol and other vices
- All of these should be phased out to save money if you are struggling financially.
- Honestly, the only thing you should be drinking if you really need to cut back is water. And besides, it is probably healthier than what you drink normally.
- Simple home/auto maintenance tasks
- While I recommend getting the necessary maintenance done on your car and household equipment to maintain their reliability, some of the upkeep you can take care of for much cheaper by yourself.
- A simple example is replacing an engine air filter.
- An auto repair shop will probably charge you anywhere from $30-$50 for labor to do this.
- Instead, buy it online or at an auto parts store and replace it yourself.
- It is a simple thing to do, and there are YouTube videos to walk you thru it step by step.
- Impulse buys
- It can be so simple to add a few extra items when shopping on Amazon or walking around in Target.
- You need to make a conscious decision to think about each item and decide if it is something that you really need now.
- Most likely, it isn’t, and you should remove it from your cart.
Using a tool like Trim can help you eliminate recurring subscriptions that you don’t need. It can also help to negotiate lower bills for several services, including cable, internet, and medical.
Living Stingy – Is It Worth It to Reach Your Financial Goals
Best Cash Envelope System Wallets for Budgeting
Borrowing Money from Family or Friends – A Better Way to Do It
Best Places to Dumpster Dive for Profit
Saving money in tough times can be difficult
While some of this advice may sound a bit drastic, when you are in despair financially, you need to make tough decisions to get through. But it is important to save money. A good understanding of your liquid net worth can also help improve your financial well-being.
And even if you don’t need to save money for tough times right now, you can use some of the recommendations above, along with passive income streams, to build emergency savings in case you need it later.
Do you have other advice for saving money in tough times? Have you had to do it yourself? Please share in the comments below.