We’ve all been there at some point – on a very tight budget. Perhaps you are trying to pay off debt. Perhaps you or your spouse are unemployed. Perhaps you are simply not earning enough to cover expenses. Perhaps you are looking after a younger sibling or an extended family member.


Life can be very difficult at times, there’s no denying that. Our current economic climate isn’t easy for many, and being on a tight budget, for extended periods of time, can be mentally taxing and physically exhausting, especially if you are working overtime trying to earn extra money to cope with your financial situation.


If you are on a tight budget at the moment, here are a few of my top tips for saving your hard earned money, and reducing your monthly expenses. All of these have certainly helped us during our tough times, and especially on our debt-free journey.


Car Insurance. Call your car insurance brokers and ask them to review your monthly insurance premiums. I have done this when money was tight for us, and I’ve been able to negotiate a better price. If that doesn’t work, shop around for a better deal. It’s surprisingly easy to switch insurers.


Carpool, cycle or use public transport. If any of these is an option for you while times are tough, use it. Public transport is still cheaper than driving, and if there is no public transport alternative where you live, e.g. no Metro bus route, then think about carpooling with colleagues who live nearby and splitting the cost of fuel.


Avoid takeaways and eating out. Groceries are expensive as it is, but takeaways and dinners and lunches in restaurant will cost you even more. Try to avoid the specials and deals on offer – it will still cost you more to eat out than to prepare a similar meal at home.


Plan your meals, cook at home and use up leftovers. Sure, this does take more time than simply ordering takeaways or buying ready-to-cook meals but, think of how much money you will be saving in the process. Every little bit counts if you’re on a tight budget. For some ideas on how to get started, check out my blog posts Meal Planning Around Specials and Meal Planning Ideas. You might also want to read about How We Avoid Food Waste in the Kitchen.


Go meatless more often. Meat is pretty pricey these days, but you can still make plenty of tasty vegetarian meals and cut down on the amount of meat you buy and consume. Your grocery bill will thank you.


Grow some veggies and herbs. Most herbs, and quite a few veggies, can be grown successfully in pots, and fairly smallish pots too! While you might need to buy some seeds, or seedlings, to get you started, you can use some soil from your garden and check if any of your family and friends can spare a couple of pots which they’re not using, so you don’t have to splash out the cash to get going.


Shop around for the best deals on everything. If you need to buy an item, look around for the best deal before you make that purchase. Even better, if you can, wait for the item to come on special so that you get the most value for your Rand.


Consider buying second hand. This could be a better, and cheaper, option so give it some thought. Even if it’s clothes, there are plenty of charity shops that stock some really nice, gently used, items for a fraction of the price in stores. For some ideas on where to buy, check out my blog post Shop at Charity Stores in Johannesburg.


Use coupons, cash-back and rewards. Some may find this a bit time consuming – hunting for coupons and freebies, keeping track of and using your rewards points, for example – but all the little bits of saving that you can get do add up. For some ideas on which coupons, cash-back app and rewards programmes I use to save on our monthly grocery bill, check out my blog post on Frugal Shopping: Coupons, Specials & Rewards.


Use your home insurance when things go wrong. While there are limitations to every home insurance policy, you’d be surprised how much cover you actually have. So before you call the repair man when disaster strikes, check with your home insurance provider whether your emergency is covered e.g. a burst geyser or a leaking tap in the kitchen.


Avoid temptation – avoid shopping malls. This is an easy one, or perhaps not? Personally, I don’t go to shopping malls unless there is something specific that I need to buy. Wondering around the malls on your days off might just lead to a purchase, no matter how small.


Unsubscribe from online store newsletters. These get delivered to our inboxes regularly, and they tempt us regularly with sales, deals, discounts and new arrivals so just hit that unsubscribe button for your peace of mind. You want to stay away from unnecessary purchases while you’re on a tight budget and as they say – out of sight, out of mind.


Attend free, or very cheap, events. There are plenty of free activities around town, and the more you look, the more you will find. The trick may be to finding them, and this may take you a while, but Google and Facebook will be your best friends until you do.


Ditch satellite TV. Think about how much time you spend at work, or outside the home, versus the amount of time you have available to watch TV. Is the monthly subscription fee worth it? Borrowing DVDs from family and friends while you’re on a tight budget can definitely see you through the tough times.


Pay less for pre-paid calls. Check out all the cell phone network providers in South Africa, and compare their pre-paid price plans. Yes, there are so many options, and it might take you a good couple of hours to sift through all of those, but in the end it will be worth it.


Check your bank account fees. Are you on the right plan? Perhaps an ‘unlimited’ plan for a fixed monthly fee might help you save a bit each month if you use your debit card quite often. If you decide to go this route make sure you check carefully what is included in the plan. Even with an ‘unlimited’ plan your withdrawals are limited, for example.


Always use your bank’s ATM. Why would you want to pay as much as R25.00 to withdraw your own money from the ATM, especially if you have a number of ‘free’ withdrawals included in your bank service fee plan?


Cancel all unused memberships. I know people most often mention unused gym memberships and magazine subscriptions here, but this could be just about anything you are paying for each month but you’re not using regularly, or you feel you could do without until your finances improve. Check your bank statements if you are not sure – very often we tend to forget about things we’re not actively using.


Use less water & electricity in your home. Don’t leave your taps running, and don’t leave the lights on in rooms you are not using. Air dry your clothes on the line outside instead of using your tumble dryer, and wash only full loads of dishwasher and laundry. When your oven or stove is on, use immediately, and when you leave your home make sure all appliances are switched off. These are just some ideas on how you can reduce your water and electricity usage at home.


Make your own gifts. Don’t let holidays and birthdays take a toll on your budget. While it’s a good idea to budget for gifts throughout the year, if you feel that you cannot afford to spend any money at the shops at the moment, try homemade gifts. Some will cost you next to nothing, while others may cost just a little bit. Again, Google can help with ideas, and what could be nicer than a thoughtful, homemade gift for your loved ones?


Please share with us some of your tips for saving money on a tight budget by leaving a comment below.


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